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Some Unsolicited Input on the Small Surface Combatant

Bryan McGrath

Having to this point, not been asked to do so elsewhere, I figured I might as well put down a few thoughts about the future of the Small Surface Combatant, 52 of which are required by the Navy’s 2012 Force Structure Assessment, with 32 of that likely to be made up of the two variants as the LCS as we know it. Stressing survivability and lethality, OSD has directed the Navy to cease further contract negotiations after 32 hulls of the LCS, and to study a multi-mission frigate-like vessel which presumably would possess both to a greater degree.

As I wrote the other day, it seems difficult to comprehend how such a vessel would not represent a considerably higher per/hull cost than the LCS, laying additional claim upon an already insufficient shipbuilding budget. The requirement to field multi-mission capability will drive significant cost increases. The direction to the Navy was to assess clean sheet designs, existing designs, and variants of the LCS.

Up front, I will freely admit to being inexact with my language here, as I will likely mix “capabilities” and “requirements”. But here are a few attributes/capabilities/requirements that I believe are worthy of consideration by the Small Surface Combatant Task Force. It is clearly not intended to be all-encompassing:

GENERAL: The first 10 ships must be built SOLELY with technology that is at least IOC level of maturity on the date of the release of the RFP. Any exceptions to this must be approved by the Secretary of the Navy (I know ASN/RD&A is Acquisition Executive, but I would like the highest level attention paid to eliminating requirements creep), along with design changes with estimated cost in excess of $100,000.

PRIMARY MISSIONS: ASW (passive and active) ASuW (Shipboard missiles and helo launched missiles. Gun) AAW (self-defense out to 25nm)


SURVIVABILITY: Level II- (no Countermeasure Washdown, limited CPS, limited shock hardening)

COST: The third and subsequent ships must cost less than $750M (2014 Dollars).

MANNING: 150-175

ENDURANCE: The ship must have endurance equal to or greater than that of the baseline FFG, which my trusty Wikipedia tells me is 4500nm at 20 kts.

SPEED: Top speed of not less than 28 knots

POWER: The ship must be capable of generating 300% of the expected electrical load while at maximal combat readiness.

COMBAT SYSTEM: The combat system must 1) Already exist and already be operating in the US Fleet 2) optimize open-ness and government defined data and physical interfaces, and minimize integration costs



  • 3D Air Search Radar
  • Surface Search/Periscope Detection Radar
  • At least 2 SH-60 sized aircraft, or mix of manned and unmanned aircraft with similar footprint
  • Electronic Warfare Suite (ES/EP/EA)

Weapons (magazine capacity)

  • Surface to Air Missiles—25nm range
  • ASuW Gun—5nm range
  • Surface to Surface Missiles—150nm range
  • Crew-served and heavy caliber deck mounted weapons


  • LCS ASW Mission Module Capabilities (VDS/MFTA/SQQ 89 Processing)
  • Torpedo Countermeasures
  • Helo employed Torpedoes
  • Surface Ship Torpedoes

Battle Networking

  • CEC
  • Link 16

The idea behind this ship is that costs will be contained by leveraging in service and proven technology, while relying on networking through CEC/Link 16 to allow tradespace in embarked sensors. “Survivability” will be increased over that of the LCS, but not to the level of the FFG. Speed is sacrificed in favor of endurance, and the propulsion and electrical systems are up to the ship designers as long as they meet the standards set forth here.

Ten ships will be built exactly alike, with hull 11 incorporating such capability enhancements are as efficiently realized through the use of defined computer and physical interfaces.

The ship will have no role in land attack.

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