Not good enough! US could sell ‘ugly warships’ to allies designed to fight China in SCS

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Earlier this month, US Navy Chief Admiral Michael Gilday advised the House Armed Services Committee that nine Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), some of which were recently commissioned, are scheduled to be decommissioned in due to unsatisfactory performance.

Although he attempted to outmatch the Chinese naval fleet, Admiral Gilday had justified plans to get rid of these ships in fiscal year 2023.

“I refuse to put an extra dollar against a system that wouldn’t be able to keep up with a high-end submarine in today’s environment,” he told the Committee.

Now Admiral Gilday has suggested the navy could sell some of the ships to friendly and allied nations, including countries in South America. He made these comments during bear witness before the Defense Subcommittee of the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations while responding to an alternative.

Freedom-class littoral combat ship – Wikipedia

The Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget request reveals that nine Freedom-class LCS will be decommissioned by the end of 2024. In addition, two Independence-class LCS will also be decommissioned around the same time. , in accordance with the long-term force plan. .

Navy Estimated FY23 Budget Indicates Ship Decommissioning Will Save Service $391 million. However, this would fund only a fraction of the $3.2 billion cost of the nine littoral combat ships.

This is probably where the idea of ​​selling these ships to friendly countries comes in. Although Admiral Gilday suggested the ships might be sold, he gave little information on how this process would unfold.

Admiral Gilday told the hearing that the decision to decommission the nine Freedom-class LCS – which are fairly young ships and cost billions to develop – was made to “stratify” the range of Navy capabilities. He argued, however, that the ships could prove beneficial to the navies of US allies and partners.

“There are countries in South America that could use these ships that have small crews. Instead of just looking at scrapping them as one option, I think there are others that we can look at. .

With the stakes high for the United States in any conflict that may erupt in the Indo-Pacific region (against China), the US Navy understandably wants to focus more on the quality of operations its ships are designed to undertake. Admiral Gilday admits that the LCS failed in anti-submarine operations.

Since the LCS was built to operate in shallow areas like the South China Sea, they were welcomed and praised as part of the US deterrence against China. However, the downgrading of so many in such a short time is an admission that expensive surface fighters have fallen far short of expectations, CNN reported.

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Littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords operated in the southern South China Sea near drillship WestCapella in 2020 – US Pacific Fleet

The US Navy plans to decommission the ships to free up funds for a more capable and combat-ready fleet in the face of growing Chinese threats, particularly following US President Joe Biden’s pledge to counter the Chinese military if it was to attack Taiwan. .

A US Congress report has already admitted that the biggest threat to its security at sea, China, has the largest navy in the world in size. The millions of dollars spent to build these useless Littoral Combat Ships could thus be recovered by reselling them to allies with offensive objectives limited to those of the US Navy.

Why decommission the Freedom-class LCS?

Admiral Gilday’s suggestion to sell the ships to friendly nations came in response to Senator Jerry Moran asking for clarification on why the Navy wanted to decommission the Freedom-class LCS.

The senator wondered if “other uses” of the vessels could be determined given their previous role in combating drug trafficking.

Moran supported his argument by citing collaborative activities in 2021 between the Dominican Republic Navy and the USS Sioux City (LCS-11) in the narcotics trade.

“One of nine Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships was involved in joint exercises with the Navy of the Dominican Republic, these exercises, as I understand it, were successful and they banned drug traffickers.

Marines who are interested in acquiring Freedom-class LCS will want to make sure they are combat-ready. However, Admiral Gilday made no presentation to potential buyers based on the ship’s capabilities.

He explained that the Navy’s decision to decommission the Freedom-class LCS was based on a review of their “combat value,” or lack thereof, in the context of the fleet as a whole.

Admiral Gilday went on to explain the ship’s shortcomings and its non-utility to the US Navy – a precedent widely known and acknowledged by the service and politicians in recent years.

According to Admiral Gilday, the “combat value” of the Freedom-class LCS was ultimately determined by concerns over its long-in-development anti-submarine warfare (ASW) suite. He said the ASW equipment designed to “plug into” Freedom-class ships is “simply ineffective.”

Additionally, the LCS program was a non-starter in several regards aside from its inability to counter hostile submarines. There have been several recorded instances of the ship breaking down, with one of the most famous occurring in 2020 when the USS Detroit ran aground in South American waters due to a propulsion system failure.

The Freedom class suffered several high-profile mechanical failures, including problems with the propulsion system and the very complicated “combining gear”. according to the war zone. In the case of the propulsion system, the US Navy said last year that it would take years to fix the problem on the Freedom-class ships, with associated costs of tens of millions of dollars per ship.

Additionally, the over-the-horizon anti-ship missile that served as the “main battery” for surface combat was retired ten years ago.

Who will buy the “disappointing” LCS from the United States?

Taiwan has been considering acquisition of soon-to-be-retired littoral combat ships (LCS) from the US Navy, Deputy Defense Secretary Alex Poe said in April this year. Additionally, he had also expressed interest in purchasing the decommissioned US warship USS Independence, an LCS with only 11 years of service.

Taiwan needs hulls to compete with China’s large fleet size advantage, which continues to expand. Littoral combat ships could be a good choice for the littoral combat environment he is likely to experience. Taiwan has already made it known that it intends to employ asymmetric warfare against China.

Taiwan is already testing anti-ship missiles on several of its Coast Guard high-speed vessels. Compared to ships used by Taiwan for this purpose, the Freedom class would be a significant improvement. It’s possible they could become useful assets to Taiwan if the price was right, especially as they would be deployed on shorter missions closer to home.

USS Indianapolis (LCS 17)
Littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (via Twitter)

However, all this depends on the reliability of the ship, which has been abysmal. Furthermore, potential buyers of Freedom-class LCS in South America or elsewhere would be required to cover the exorbitant costs of simply operating these vessels, which are, by any measure, extremely expensive to operate.

Additionally, with no ability to deploy anti-submarine capabilities, other mission packages in limbo, and a lack of capabilities in other primary mission areas, the Freedom-class LCS offers little operational value compared high operating expenses.

So while the Navy Chief‘s suggestion to the committee is worth considering, there must be a detailed plan drawn up by the Navy Chief to make the purchase of the ship seem like a profitable venture, even to the buyers. already interested.

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