There may be times, he says, when deployed forces need a quick extraction. “When those folks leave their areas, they're usually in a hurry. We're made to sprint. This is the size of a football field going about 50 mph.”
The ship, he says, can reach top speed–above 40 kt. in a tad more than 1.15 min. It can land most Navy helicopters, and there are plans to test its ability to handle a hovering V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
With its stern ramp, shallow draft and unique bridge-wing maneuvering console, the Spearhead can operate in areas many vessels cannot. “A lot of ideas that may have sounded crazy in the past are now possible,” he says.
In some ways, the new small-ship concepts are turning traditional Navy thinking and strategy on its head. For example, the maxim used to be that the best way to hunt a submarine was with another submarine. But the automatic radar periscope detection and discrimination upgrade to the multimode radar on the Sikorsky MH-60R helicopter aboard the LCS has turned the Romeo and vessel into a lethal submarine-killing duo.
But the Navy's biggest problem now may not be finding the best way to employ or deploy LCS or JHSV vessels, but how to properly maintain current ships to ensure they meet mission needs.
Recent Navy reports spotlight the results of years of mangled maintenance, even in the prized Aegis-equipped destroyer and cruiser fleets. This year, the service embarked on a more rigorous inspection program.
To keep pace with the inspection schedule, says Rear Adm. Robert Wray, president of the Board of Inspection and Survey (Insurv), the service may have to rely more on uniformed inspectors than civilian technicians to scrutinize ships, as well as systems, equipment and components onboard (see interview with Wray on page DT23).
“Insurv is subject to budget restrictions just like the rest of the Navy,” Wray comments. “An inspection aboard a DDG [destroyer] might require 29 officers and maybe 70 technicians. Now, we'll have 29 officers and perhaps 50 technicians.”
Leveraging some of the expertise in the ranks, Wray says, the Insurv inspections should take no more time than when the full complement of civilian technician inspectors are available. “We're still going to be able see [problems],” he affirms. “The risk in my view is minimal.”