Any Port in a Storm

The Navy is hawking the advantages of its littoral combat ship (LCS) and exploiting the overexposed Somali financial freedom fighters to underscore increases in LCS orders. 

Any port in a storm. 

Navy officials recently announced the service might order 64 or more of the swift, shallow-water vessels, up from the 55 planned. “Concerned” over the challenges posed by Somali pirates, officials opined if the Navy had its LCSs (now), these darlings of the sea could go a long way in dealing with the pirates. 

The USS Freedom (LCS 1) is coming off what has been seen as a successful maiden voyage. But does it make sense for Freedom and her sisters to go mano a mano with boatloads of Blackbeards? 

Recent estimates put the pirates’ booty at $30 million. That is a mere 30 million ducats in total ransoms collected by Capt. Jack Sparrow and his Somali shipmates. While the LCS has maintained its heading on its planned brown-water capability, costs have ballooned from $220 million nearly $600 million a ship. It seems ill-advised to dispatch a big-bucks vessel with her crew of 40-50 into the shallow waters off the Somali or Kenyan Riviera. (Hot pursuit or not, even ‘Nam swift boat guru and former presidential candidate Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) just expressed similar concerns.) We’ll crawl out on a boom here and guess that several smaller and heavily armed boats might make more sense. 

Freedom’s Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, mothership to the USS Independence (LCS 2), still are vying for the America’s Top Model crown and the right to build the 55 or 64 vessels. Both companies have been courting potential purchasers like Saudi Arabia. (Maybe the Somalis are interested, too.) 

The ship reportedly has achieved speeds just over 47 knots (the Navy quotes 45) and can enter shallow (20-foot) water. The two designs differ and offer their own advantages. Lockheed uses a high monohull while General Dynamics boasts a trimaran hull

Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va., will be home to the Freedom until she moves to a permanent berth in San Diego. 

Sixty-four of these vessels will push the Navy well past its goal of 313 ships and closer to 340. It seems the Navy will bilk (uh, milk) this pirate “crisis” for more than it’s worth.

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