Tag Archives: distributed lethality

Missing an Opportunity for Innovation: A Conceptual Critique of Distributed Lethality

100 years ago today, in bunkers and boardrooms across Europe, the military and political leaders of a Europe that was being drowned in its own blood were attempting to solve the stagnant enigma of the Western Front. The traditional narrative of the First World War places the inability of military and political figures of the time to adapt to the previously unimaginable efficacy of modern defensive technology deployed on the battlefields of France and Belgium. While the popular narrative of the conflict usually ends with a nod to the tank and aircraft as the great mobilizers of the sclerotic armies, Stephen J. Biddle effectively argues with quantitative data, in his book Military Power, that it was in fact force employment (and the innovative tactics of the German Army) that broke the stalemate in the West and brought mobility back to warfare (see the Michael Offensive). The “modern system” of land warfare was born.

I’m reminded of Biddle’s illustration of the birth of the “modern system” when considering Distributed Lethality, not because I view the US Navy as antiquated as the armies of the old Europe, but because Distributed Lethality seems to be an intelligent effort at bypassing the tough and expensive learning curve associated with fighting the previous war by reorienting existing resources to meet new challenges. Within it appears to be the tacit recognition of the end of the aircraft carrier as the main instrument of maritime power in the types of 21st century A2/AD environments the US Navy is most likely to find itself fighting for dominance. Carriers will continue to be essential for the support of operations during the fight for dominance, and after it has been achieved in the maritime realm, but their time at the center of naval combat, contesting control of the world’s oceans, may well be over. Distributed Lethality is an attempt at defining the Navy’s future operational flexibility in the complex future of highly contested environments that preclude overuse of its most prominent investment.

At the same time, the reorientation of the surface fleet around the concept of increasing the fighting ability of individual craft within the current system may be too simple a concept to fully address the increasing complexity of the modern maritime environment, especially when that environment is seeing a proliferation of the number of actors able to potentially upset the capabilities of today’s Navy, with more advanced and capable anti-ship missiles, underwater sensors, and unmanned technology likely to be on the way. If the US Navy will have to engage in combat with a low to medium tier opponent within the next 17 years (the technology development timeline cited by Admiral Peter Fanta), then Distributed Lethality will be able to easily carry the day in the same way the Navy has been able to do in similar conflicts (maybe even at a lower price point). If the Navy is faced with a much more complex and determined threat (represented by a recent addition to the rank of top tier naval competitors, even just a regional one), then the concept of Distributed Lethality may be little more than a patch on the inadequacies of the contemporary Navy in considering the operational imperatives of facing and neutralizing that particular set of threats. It would seem to me that Distributed Lethality is, in fact, more a response to the emergence of a high tier threat (within a constricted budgetary environment) than a low to mid-tier threat, so its efficacy must be evaluated within this context.

The Navy, in its current state, could be considered the product of post-Cold War dominance (as Vice Admiral Rowden and Rear Admirals Gumataotao and Fanta explain in their Proceedings piece) and the attempts to take advantage of the concepts of network centric warfare and the revolution in military affairs (RMA) of the 1990s. This was done within the technological confines of the time period, and through the budgetary struggles of a US Navy competing for funds and defining itself within the budgetary narrative of the Global War on Terror. Its difficulties are manifest in the Navy After Next’s loss of its key platforms to cancellation and production truncation along with the discussions surrounding how the Navy will take on the A2/AD capabilities of today, let alone the future.

The US Navy now has a tremendous opportunity (in the face of rapidly evolving threats in the Asia-Pacific), that of being able to define itself within confines of its own primary operational environment, without the time and resource constraints of being actively engaged in combat. While the aircraft carrier’s time as the dominant maritime platform may be nearing the precipice of its decline, the rumblings within the military services and think tank sphere seem to point to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, and the promise of additive manufacturing in the service of US operational and strategic needs, if the effects of their application can be grasped with full appreciation. If the US is to truly begin to push towards achievements that will open up the promise of network centric warfare and increase the ability to disrupt the defensive systems of the adversary (with acceptable costs in terms of equipment, money and lives) then we should be looking for cheaper ways to do that than through the Navy’s existing platforms, whose survivability and ease of replacement is questionable within the context of type of operational environment Andrew F. Krepninevich lays out in his excellent Maritime Competition in a Mature-Precision Strike Regime.

While Distributed Lethality is an important concept that should inform short and medium term planning (within the 17 year range that it takes to develop and deploy a new system), long range planning must begin now that takes into account the potential coming industrial revolution and advancements in AI and robotics that will bring about the full conceptual realization of networked warfare and unmanned systems. Their development could prove to be the real advantage in naval combat that will no longer feature a dominant aircraft carrier platform and will likely be the key to maintaining American maritime primacy in areas that have the potential to be seriously contested. Unlike the armies of 1917-18, the US Navy currently has the (limited) luxury of time and space to experiment. While the accusing finger of Kitchener, a draft notice, or more efficient bureaucracy could slowly make up for operational shortfalls during the Great War (still, at great human and financial cost), today’s strategic, technological and industrial imperatives are more exacting in terms of lost opportunities.

Ryan Kuhns is a master’s student at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. He studies International Security and Commerce, focusing on defense economics, strategy, and the social/political organization of war.

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

LCS: The Distributed Lethality Flotilla Combatant


140423-N-VD564-016  PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014)  The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) are underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) are underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the ideal platform to host a significant amount of offensive firepower in support of the emerging concept of distributive lethality. It is large enough have greater endurance and to support capabilities beyond that of the average missile combatant. Its modular approach to embarked capabilities allows for more potential offensive systems to be employed aboard than in similar ships. Deployed as a dispersed flotilla of networked combatants with other organic means of communication, it has the potential to deliver significant amounts of ordnance against a variety of targets. The dispersal of the LCS flotilla complicates and dissipates enemy counter-targeting abilities. LCS is the ideal combatant to carry forward the concept of distributed lethality into the next decade.

LCS’ Size and Modularity Brings Advantages

Ambassador class missile combatant
MH 60R on LCS
MH60R on USS Fort Worth, 2014

As described by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in his 2013 history of the LCS program, the ship was always designed as a compromise between smaller, but less capable and globally deployable small combatants, and the larger, and more capable, but more expensive FFG-7 class frigate.1 Compared to smaller designs such as the Ambassador III or dedicated surface warfare corvettes like the Israeli Sa ar V, the LCS’ size and modularity offers advantages above those conventional small combatants. LCS’ has greater endurance then smaller missile combatants like the Ambassador (21 days verses 8) which enables it to remain at sea longer in support of surface warfare missions. The Saar V is more heavily armed then the baseline LCS seaframe, but supports only one rotary wing asset, and lacks the modularity to accommodate future sensors, weapons, and associated systems.
Both LCS seaframes, in contrast support two rotary wing assets (one MH-60R and one Firescout Unmanned Air Vehicle). The MH-60R in particular supports anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions, as well as extending the host ship’s sensors, weapons and communications capability far beyond those of a conventional missile combatant like the Ambassador.
The modularity of LCS also supports the embarkation of a more diverse set of capabilities than those hosted by mission-specific platforms like the Ambassador and the Saar V. An LCS might support a number of unmanned surface or subsurface vehicles separate from its Fire Scout UAV. Mines, additional munitions, and additional command and control equipment could also be supported depending on the desired mission. As the Spruance class destroyers later hosted Tomahawk cruise missiles, LCS’ modularity could support an array of heretofore undetermined systems and new capabilities in the future.

Keeping LCS Simple, but Lethal

Possible cruise missile arrangement in LCS-1 variant
LCS mission bay
Expansive LCS-2 mission bay

Although not presently suited to the Distributive Lethality mission, the LCS could be modified into a potent surface warfare platform with the addition of cruise missiles such as the Kongsburg/Ratheyon Naval Strike Missile. Both LCS producers (Lockheed Martin Corporation and Austal USA) have also said their respective ships could be outfitted with larger 76mm guns in place of the present 57mm weapons. While cruise missiles are a requirement for the Distributive Lethality mission, further weapons, sensors, armor and armament add little to that mission capability and increase costs which the Navy estimated to be from $60 to $75 million dollars per ship.2 This money might be better spent in additional LCS platforms as the original aim of the LCS program was to increase the size of the U.S. surface combatant fleet.
Application of additional weight for armor and warfare capabilities not related to Distributed Lethality limits the opportunity for mission package improvements in the future and could limit the number of offensive weapons the LCS can support in its current length and displacement. As reported by the GAO, LCS already has relatively tight weight ratios for further additions to the sea frames outside mission module improvements.3 Every warship is a compromise of virtues, where armament, fuel capacity, speed, survivability and other factors must be carefully balanced to achieve desired operational goals for the class. An appropriate balancing of such issues for LCS should be in favor of offensive capability to avoid the need for a costly redesign of the sea frame to support significant additions. The cost of the LCS sea frame has steadily decreased from nearly $700 million to approximately $440 million.4 Three can now be built for the cost of one DDG. This is not the time to increase the cost by redesigning the ship to fit an expanded armament. Such a process defeats the concept for making the LCS the “low” component of a new high/low mix of surface combatants.

Distribution plus Speed Equals Survival

LCS at speed
Speed equals life

A squadron of LCS employed as part of a Distributive Lethality scheme will rely on their dispersed deployment pattern to reduce susceptibility to opponent targeting. The ships’ high speed, although often derided by critics is also a useful means of escaping enemy detection. An LCS capable of 40 knots can move away from a missile launch point faster than other U.S. combatants and potentially increase the area of uncertainty an opponent must consider in launching weapons down a return bearing.
An enemy would be forced to weigh significant risks in confronting such a force. An opponent might detect and attempt to eliminate one element of a distributive LCS force, but the remaining units might launch a devastating counter-salvo against therm. Such a response could cause significant harm to an unprepared, massed adversary force.
A basic LCS sea frame equipped with a moderate surface to surface missile capability could be a potent addition to the distributive lethality concept. Using means from fleet-wide networks to bring your own networks (BYON’s) created by groups of ships, a distributed LCS squadron operating as an anti-surface warfare (ASUW) formation could be a significant threat to opponent surface formations. The LCS’ larger size and rotary wing capabilities allow them to spend more time at sea, and see further beyond their own sensor horizon than smaller, dedicated missile combatants. LCS’s modularity allows the ships to bring additional weapons and capabilities to the fight beyond those of even heavily-armed corvettes and light frigates. These advantages suggest that LCS squadrons should be in the vanguard of the future distributed fleet.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. 

1. http://awin.aviationweek.com/Portals/AWeek/Ares/work%20white%20paper.PDF, p. 13.

2.  http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/12/upgrades-will-let-navys-lcs-operate-more-dangerous-waters/101172/

3. http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665114.pdf, p. 29.

4.  http://news.usni.org/2015/04/01/navy-awards-2-lcss-to-austal-1-and-advance-procurement-funding-to-lockheed-martin

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

Airborne Over The Horizon Targeting Options to Enable Distributed Lethality

This article was submitted by guest author Michael Glynn for CIMSEC’s Distributed Lethality week. 

The Navy’s surface warfare community is committed to remedying its lack of anti-surface warfare (ASuW) punch with the concept of Distributed Lethality. “If it floats, it fights,” is the rallying cry.[1] Dispersed forces operating together pose challenges for an adversary, but also create targeting difficulties we must solve.

The detection range of shipboard sensors is limited by their height above the waterline and the curvature of the earth. Since it appears doubtful leaders would call on a ship to steam into visual range of adversaries, airborne assets are most likely to provide over the horizon (OTH) targeting.

In a January 2015 article in Proceedings, Vice Admiral Rowden, Rear Admiral Gumataotao, and Rear Admiral Fanta reference “persistent organic” air assets as key enablers of Distributed Lethality.[2] While a completely organic targeting solution offers opportunities in some scenarios, it has limits in high-end contingencies. In empowering the surface force, let us not ignore inorganic air assets. Distributed Lethality is far more effective with them.

TASM: A Cautionary Tale

During a January 2015 test, a Tomahawk Block IV test missile received in-flight updates from an aircraft and impacted its target, a mock cargo ship near the Channel Islands of California.[3] “This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost,” said Deputy Secretary of defense Bob Work. “It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile.”[4]

But this test did not solve the fleet’s ASuW problem. Nor was it the first time the service had used Tomahawk in an anti-shipping role. To understand the difficulty of OTH targeting, we have to examine the final days of the Cold War.

In the late 1980’s, various ships and submarines carried the radar guided Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile, or TASM. The TASM boasted a range of over 200 nm. But because TASM was subsonic, it took as long as 30 minutes to reach its target. In this time, a fast warship could steam as far as 15 miles from its initial location. Additionally, neutral shipping could inadvertently become the target of the seeker if the enemy vessel was not the closest to the missile when the radar activated.

Therefore, TASM could only reliably be used when there was no neutral shipping around, or in a massive conflict where collateral damage considerations were minimal. The Navy sought to remedy this by developing OTH targeting systems known as Outlaw Hunter and Outlaw Viking on the P-3 and S-3 aircraft. But with the demise of the Soviet Union, massive defense cuts and the evaporation of any blue water surface threat led to the retirement of TASM.

OTH targeting is not a new problem. To solve it, airborne platforms are critical. Let’s examine the organic and inorganic assets that can fill these roles. We will then discuss how inorganic assets offer the most promise.

Organic Assets: Benefits and Limitations

The surface force is equipped with rotary and fixed wing assets to enable OTH targeting. From a sensors standpoint, the MH-60R is most capable. Its inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) can identify ships from long range, but it is limited in altitude and radar horizon. MQ-8 UAV’s offer increased endurance over manned assets. Their maximum altitudes are higher, but still constrain sensor range. The RQ-21 fixed wing UAV rounds out this group. It has solid endurance, but very limited speed.

The limited speed and altitude capabilities of these aircraft mean that the area they can search is small. Also, they must operate well within the weapons engagement zone of their targets to identify their prey. If these sensors platforms are radiating, a capable adversary will hunt them down or lure them into missile traps and destroy them in an effort to deny our forces a clear targeting picture.

Large Fixed Wing Assets: Increased Capability

While not organic to a surface action group, fixed wing aircraft bring speed, altitude, and persistence to the fight. P-8 and P-3 patrol aircraft offer standoff targeting and C5I capabilities. So too do the MQ-4 UAV and the E-8 JSTARS aircraft.

The carrier air wing brings blended detection and OTH targeting capabilities. The E-2 lacks ISAR identification capability, but does boast a passive electronic warfare (EW) suite and the ability to coordinate with the powerful EW system onboard EA-18G aircraft.  Additionally, the latest E-2 model can pass targeting quality data to surface ships to allow them to engage from the aircraft’s track, significantly increasing the ship’s effective missile envelope.

These platforms are expensive and limited in number, but their altitude capability and resulting sensor range allows them to standoff further from the enemy, radiating at will. Additionally, their high dash speed allows them to better escape targeting by enemy fighter aircraft. Their speed, persistence, sensor coverage, and survivability make them logical targeting platforms. They are far more capable and enable better effects than shipboard rotary assets and UAV’s.

Stand-in Stealthy Aircraft: The Ultimate Targeting Asset

The ultimate platform to provide targeting updates to long-range ASCM’s would be a stealthy UAV similar to the RQ-170.[5] Such an aircraft could receive cueing from other platforms, an onboard EW suite, or its own low probability of intercept (LPI) radar.[6] Able to stand in, it could provide visual identification, satisfying rules of engagement. It could provide target updates via a LPI datalink to inbound weapons. These technologies have their roots in the “Assault Breaker” initiative that led to the creation of the Tacit Blue test aircraft and the rise of modern stealth technology.[7],[8] Similar radars, datalinks, and low observable platforms have been proven and are flying today in various forms.[9]

Cost of a new platform is high, but their ability to get close and persist while unobserved is very useful and provides high confidence visual identification to commanders. Their survivability removes the need to provide airborne early warning (AEW) and high value airborne asset protection. Their stealth frees AEW aircraft and fighters to focus their energies elsewhere.


The concept of Distributed Lethality offers promise, but will be limited if its scope is confined to only utilizing capabilities resident in the surface fleet. It is best to pursue organic capabilities while also integrating inorganic assets when planning how the fleet will fight the conflicts of tomorrow. Let us pursue solutions that incorporate forces from many communities to best meet future warfare challenges.

Lieutenant Glynn is a Naval Aviator and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He most recently served as a P-8 instructor pilot and mission commander with Patrol Squadron (VP) 16. He currently flies the T-45 with Training Squadron (VT) 21. He is a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell. The views expressed in this article are entirely his own.  

Recommended photos illustrations:

[1] Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “’If it Floats, it Fights’: Navy Seeks ‘Distributed Lethality’,” Breaking Defense, January 14, 2015, http://breakingdefense.com/2015/01/if-it-floats-it-fights-navy-seeks-distributed-lethality/.

[2] Thomas Rowden, Peter Gumataotao, Peter Fanta, “Distributed Lethality,” Proceedings Magazine, January 2015, Vol. 141, http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2015-01/distributed-lethality.

[3] “Tomahawk Hits Moving Target at Sea,” Raytheon Company, February 10, 2015, http://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/tomahawk_moving_target_sea.html.

[4] Sam LaGrone, “WEST: Bob Work Calls Navy’s Anti-Surface Tomahawk Test ‘Game Changing’,” USNI News, February 10, 2015, http://news.usni.org/2015/02/10/west-bob-work-calls-navys-anti-surface-tomahawk-test-game-changing.

[5] “RQ-170,” U.S. Air Force Fact File, December 10, 2009, http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/FactSheets/Display/tabid/224/Article/104547/rq-170-sentinel.aspx.

[6] Aytug Denk, “Detecting and Jamming Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) Radars,” Naval Post Graduate School, September 2006, http://dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a456960.pdf.

[7] Robert Tomes, “The Cold War Offset Strategy: Assault Breaker and the Beginning of the RSTA Revolution,” War on the Rocks, November 20, 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/11/the-cold-war-offset-strategy-assault-breaker-and-the-beginning-of-the-rsta-revolution/.

[8] “Northrop Tacit Blue,” National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, March 9, 2015, http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=353.

[9] Kelley Sayler, “Talk Stealthy to Me,” War on the Rocks, December 4, 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/talk-stealthy-to-me/.

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

Weaponized Hovercraft for Distributed Lethality

This post was submitted by guest author John Salak for CIMSEC’s Distributed Lethality week. 

Distributed Lethality is a concept that offers the Navy an opportunity to transform our force structure to both enhance and expand mission capabilities to meet our national military objectives. It takes our contemporary carrier-strike group model centered around the striking power of the carrier – and re-distributes that offensive power across an up-armed fleet, and across the battlefield in distributed SAGs. Transforming that concept into reality may call for a little out-of-the-box thinking on how the Navy can achieve a larger footprint that is both scalable to a conflict and adaptable to a variety of missions. Better yet, in an era of significant budget constraints, it would be achieving those capabilities by utilizing existing technologies and assets in platforms, weapons, communications, and sensors in a new combinations that significantly transform tactical employment.

One of those out-of-the-box ideas started out as a way of indirectly enhancing LCS mission capability by utilizing off-board systems to increase the defensive and offensive perimeter with remote weapons platforms. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), a foundation block for distributed lethality, is one of those key technologies for extending the reach of LCS off-board defensive and offensive weapons. Utilizing off-board weapons platforms at a significant distance from the ship effectively buys time in the kill chain for early engagements in a defensive mode, and quicker strike in an offensive mode. As an example, selection of the Vertical Launch capable Hellfire Longbow for LCS opened up the potential to outfit smaller off-board craft with the same weapon and forward deploy those craft to extend the LCS weapons radius. Another foundation block of distributed lethality, the battle space sensor network, eliminates the need for local sensor capabilities on the off-board platform to develop threat and targeting data. CEC provides the communications mechanism to integrate the off-board weapons and fire control with C2 assets to select and engage with the appropriate asset. While the idea was initially applied to enhancing LCS capability, the same concept and capability can be extended to any Navy capital ship with the C2 assets to control an engagement.

The LCS is a pretty fast ship, so off-board weapons platforms have to be not only as fast, but preferably much faster in order to maintain that extended footprint as the LCS force maneuvers. Helicopters (manned or unmanned) are the obvious answer, but they come with their own set of limitations for payload capability, time on-station, and a host of other resource limitations.

So what is the best solution for this high speed, large payload, and high endurance off-board craft? If we look at the Navy’s LCAC hovercraft/air cushion vehicle (ACV), the answer to this providing this new, unique capability becomes apparent. The LCAC is designed to carry payloads up to 70 tons at design speed. Like any ship or aircraft, high speed and high payload usually require significant amounts of propulsion power. In the case of LCAC, what if that power was diverted from payload capacity to increased speed with the end result being a craft capable of near helicopter speeds with 10 times the weapons payload of a helicopter and 4 to 5 times the mission endurance?  We call this modified craft the Fast Air Cushion Expeditionary Craft (FACEC), with a speed capability in the 85-100 knot range and weapon payloads up to 35-45 tons. This high speed craft would use its open cargo deck to provide the capability for utilizing reconfigurable strap-down modular weapons loads, much like an aircraft, matched to specific mission needs.

While the skeptics maybe already firing up their keyboards to mention the problems with Patrol Hydrofoils (PHM) and numerous other past attempts at very high speed naval craft, this is a varied approach. The key difference in this case, and why LCAC has been successful, is the craft was not designed as a ship, it was designed as an aircraft that flies 3m above the water. With all ship based designs, one literally brings along the kitchen sink as part of the weight/speed/power trade, and that has consequences in mission endurance/range, speed, and weapons payloads. With LCAC the kitchen sink, along with everything else not essential to mission performance, gets left behind to the benefit of speed, payload and endurance.  The trade is LCAC requires a host carrier ship for long range transport, crew accommodations, maintenance, fuel, and weapons.

The FACEC conversion of an LCAC would be optimized for high speed by significantly reducing that 70 ton payload capability to a range sufficient for any weapons modules that would fit on the deck. The envisioned weapon payload modules, such as a 24 cell LCS VL-Hellfire, 4 cell Naval Strike Missiles, Harpoon, APKWS, and even MK-41 VLS modules can be combined or swapped out to meet specific mission tasking. Layered weapons capabilities would include remote control guns and self-defense systems. The ability to shoot from the LCAC platform has been demonstrated in the past with efforts such as the GAU-5 based Gun Ship Air Cushion and rocket launched systems such as DET/SABER and the MK-58 lane clearance system.

greek hovercraft with weapons

The utilization of a very high-speed air cushion craft as forward deployed weapons platform/picket in a CEC network provides some interesting engagement scenarios for an opposing force. The speed capability makes rapid deployment and maneuver 50 to 100 miles forward of the main force a practical reality. The off-board weapons capability cannot be ignored in any attempt to engage the main force if the FACEC are deployed in sufficient numbers. The opposing force must either concentrate on taking out small, relatively low value assets or risk being attacked or neutralized by those same assets if they engage the main force directly.

Being an ACV, the FACEC is not restricted by any shallow water maneuvers, which opens up large operating areas that make the A2AD much more difficult for opposing forces. The speed and maneuver capability of FACEC would make it nearly impossible for any surface based vessel like a corvette or fast patrol boat to outrun or hide in an engagement. Being an ACV, the FACEC could hide anywhere there is enough space to park it, including on land, for fire and evade scenarios. In areas of the world where restricted maneuverability is a constraint, FACEC enables the weapons systems to venture into those areas while safely leaving the command ship behind.  Need an AEGIS ashore battery?  Send a FACEC loaded with a pod of SM-x equipped MK-41 VLS on an erectable base and park it anywhere you have a clearing.  Running a mission against a large force of small craft? Send a FACEC with 48 VL Hellfire Longbows and a remote control 25mm gun. Need something to reach and touch the enemy at 100 miles? Send a FACEC with NSMs and/or Harpoons.


The astute observer might be wondering about that host ship carrier mentioned earlier. The USMC is already looking for more lift capability and more Lxx type host ships that carry LCAC are not in budget. The additional lift problem is addressed by utilizing a type of commercial off-shore platform support vessel capable of ballasting down to launch and recover the FACEC craft. A 105m craft has been identified that would be an ideal support platform for two embarked FACEC, while providing crew accommodations, maintenance, fueling and most importantly the ability to store and swap out the modular weapon systems. The ballast down capability allows FACEC operations similar to those currently conducted by LCAC and MLP ships. There are also potential alternate missions once the FACEC are launched, such as USMC AAV transport in support of expeditionary operations. In an era of shipbuilding budget pressures, these commercial PSVs are envisioned as another component of the MPS force, and eventual resale as commercial ships once their mission need ends. The FACEC/PSV combination makes a great hunter/killer combination with quick reaction capability.

With the commencement of LCAC-100 production, the U.S. Navy will have eventually have a significant fleet of legacy LCAC available for FACEC conversion. By utilizing existing assets and modifying them for high speed operations, adding CEC comms, along with repackaging some existing weapons to make modular swap outs possible, the Navy has an opportunity to transform force utilization in the littorals. If you want distributed lethality at its best, here is your express pass to get it.      

Mr. Salak is employed by BAE Systems. His background includes 28 years of LCAC engineering support, development of LCS off-board systems for mine warfare, C4N systems for the ONR T-Craft, and 12 years as a USN P-3 crew member. 

CIMSEC is and always will be free for everyone, but we would be grateful for those who wish to provide a modest regular donation to support our operations.