Debate has been raging over the merits and drawbacks of the littoral combat ship (LCS). Critics regard it as too big, too expensive, too vulnerable, and not sufficiently capable overall. Even its defenders argue that it was never designed to operate in highly threatened waters. Some advocate the development of much smaller combatants—small craft, almost—that would operate in the most dangerous areas.1 The problem with the current discussion is that it mostly revolves around ship characteristics, with little or no thought given to the strategic issues involved, or is based on a bunch of unexamined assumptions about why U.S. Navy ships would be in such waters in the first place. This is an attempt to bring strategic logic to bear on the matter of U.S. naval operations in the littorals and confined seas in the hope that it will provide insights that will inform force design, including ship and weapon characteristics, organization, and personnel management.
Cede No Water: Strategy, Littorals, and Flotillas
For future naval activity that involves closer proximity to potential adversaries’ coastlines—and thus a requirement for more maneuverable ships—the Navy should consider flotilla operations.
By Captain Robert C. Rubel, U.S. Navy (Retired)