The U.S. Navy does not operate in a fiscal utopia where all its budgetary needs are met. It operates in a demanding environment with real adversaries and challenges, complicated by severe financial constraints. Since World War II, the Navy has dominated the air, surface, and subsurface environments, and it recently added ballistic-missile-defense capabilities. This is sufficient when engaging a near-peer adversary, but the Navy’s missions since the Cold War have “evolved to include defeating terrorists, pirates, and illegal traffickers; preparing to counter mines and armed small boats; providing humanitarian assistance/disaster relief; and building partnership capacity to take on maritime-security missions.”2
The Right Ship at the Right Time
Despite being mired in controversy from its inception, the LCS is a multi-mission platform that fills the capabilities gap the Navy faces in the littorals.In January 2011, Proceedings published an article entitled “The Wrong Ship at the Wrong Time,” which called for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program to be canceled and replaced by a proven single-mission hull.1 Since then, the LCS has remained one of the most controversial ships the Navy has ever developed. Most of this controversy stems from the typical shortfalls associated with a research-and-development vessel; however, as LCSs transition to Fleet assets, they provide significant capabilities the Navy needs. The potential of these vessels will become even more evident as the USS Freedom (LCS-1) executes and completes her inaugural overseas deployment to the Western Pacific this year. It is now abundantly clear that the LCS is the right ship at the right time.
By Commanders Dale Heinken and Jeff Miller, U.S. Navy