Tag Archives: USNI Proceedings

Nihil Novi Sub Sole

LCS: Screening The Battle Force from Littoral Threats

Using historical examples and parallels to predict the future can be dangerous, but is better than operating in a vacuum. It can also serve to break down to relatively simple and illustrative terms sometimes overwhelming complexities, in contrast with the more sophisticated analytic tools available.  The simpler method further helps to mitigate the marvelous talent of the human mind to justify whatever it is we want justified by framing the arguments in easy to follow logic.  What does this extended introduction say about LCS’ future development?  LCS has quite a long story, which CAPT Carney Powers tells in the pages of Proceedings’ September issue.  But if we draw a line between the past and present and try to answer the simple question, “What is LCS?” in no more than 10 words, my attempt would be something like this:

LCS screens battle force from asymmetrical threat of the time.

100 years ago, in 1912, the asymmetrical threats to a battle force were the torpedo, carried by the already well established flotillas of torpedo boats, and the rapidly maturing technology of submarines.  In this respect LCS is similar to early destroyers, which were basically outgrown torpedo boats.  Its mission was defined in the most direct way by the French name of this new class of ships – contre-torpilleur.  They were better fighting small and agile torpedo boats than cruisers, which formed the battle-force screen of the time, but they lacked seakeeping and range to keep pace with the fleet.  With time, due in part to the growing threat from submarines and later aircraft, destroyers evolved into two subcategories – escort and fleet destroyers.  In his recently published interview, Dr. John Lehman points to the problem of LCS’ inability to deploy with Carrier Battle Groups as a similarity with the early destroyers, and calls for a battle group-deployable frigate program that would replace the FFG 7s.  As FFGs were never intended to be a part of Carrier Battle Groups there is a danger that his idea would end  up as an attempt to procure fleet destroyers at the cost of escort destroyers, or using contemporary nomenclature to buy DDGs for the price of FFGs.  

Another way to look at LCS could be as a drone carrier.  Norman Friedman recently made this kind of parallel.  During the interwar period, the U.S. Navy searched for more scouting capabilities by pursuing many ideas in parallel.  One of them was a seaplane tender like Curtiss AV-4.  The task was to put at sea a maximum number of possible scouting planes.  Today we speak about autonomous vehicles but the mission is similar.  Quite contrary to destroyers, sea plane tenders disappeared from the seas.  What is the difference between these two parallels?  Contre-torpilleur is a statement of mission, screening the battle force, while seaplane tender is description of capabilities.  Capabilities will naturally evolve with stated mission and technology.  The art is to match both at given level of evolution.  Our ancestors used to say nihil novi sub sole.  Translated into modern language and applied to the Navy we can say that managing the fleet is not a mysterious science but an art of applying already invented ideas.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland. His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country

Crowdsourcing the Next Navy

When we think of navies, we think of tradition.

Source: Navy History and Heritage Command

The peculiar lexicon of Sailors (scuttlebutt, trice up, and wildcat come to mind), the boatswain’s pipe and lanyard, and the Beaux Arts architecture at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis are all audible or tangible indicators of the Navy’s reliance on tradition. As a result, innovation often seems antithetical to naval culture. An account from Geoffrey Till’s chapter in this book illustrates the Royal Navy’s resistance to the Aircraft Carrier:

No greater modification of any [of Her Majesty’s] ships that I proposed would have had the smallest chance of acceptance at that time. Prior to the First World War, the navy had no war experience for a very long time; and a long peace breeds conservatism and hostility to change in senior officers. Consequently, revolutionary ideas which were readily accepted when war came, were unthinkable in the peacetime atmosphere of 1912. Circumscribed by the then existing limitations my proposal was the furthest one could hope to go. – Lieutenant Hugh Williamson, RN (Page 192)

Fiscal austerity is forcing naval leaders to think about innovation: how do we use scarce means to provide the strategic ends we need? Over at Small Wars, the USNI Blog, and others, the term “disruptive thinker” has surged to the forefront of military professional discourse. At issue: do our military institutions produce and value disruptive thinkers and disruptive thoughts to foster innovation? The US Navy, however, beat everyone to the punch with little fanfare. Back in February, it quietly instituted a program to solicit disruptive ideas for development and potential adoption. In a US Fleet forces Command message (DTG 290708Z FEB 12), the Navy announced a new concept development program run jointly between Fleet Forces and the Naval Warfare Development Command. The message goes on to say:


In January, I published an article in Proceedings jointly authored with a Chief from my previous command. He received the Fleet Forces message and phoned me immediately to push our idea through this program. I was initially skeptical: would our idea disappear into an invisible morass of bureaucracy? Would we ever receive feedback? Is this just a relief valve for unorthodox concepts?

Today, I can say firsthand that this new concept generation and development program is one of the most open and transparent processes I’ve ever seen. Action officers at the O-5/O-6 level worked with me to submit a concept proposal and have kept me regularly updated regarding its potential adoption. Senior officers and civilians at Fleet Forces (many of whom finished careers in the Navy and Marine Corps) are hungry for new ways of fighting, or of manning, training, and equipping the fighters. Junior officers and enlisted Sailors are a focus of this initiative.

For those disruptive thinkers out there, the Navy is waiting to hear from you. Cultures change – even ones that value tradition as much as the Navy. That’s because no one cultural narrative ever fits perfectly: the US Navy places great value not just on tradition, but also on independence and decentralization. We already crowdsource warfare. This model equally applies to peacetime innovation.

For more information, see the governing instruction. Those with appropriate access can go to HTTP://FIMS.NWDC.NAVY.SMIL.MIL/PORTALS/CONCEPTS/DEFAULT.ASPX to submit proposals. Also, the Naval Warfare Development command is holding a Junior Leader Innovation Symposium in Norfolk on 6 June. Registrants can attend either in person or virtually.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or any other agency.