Maintaining LCS Forward
LCS was designed for a small crew — just 40 people
— to keep total ownership costs down. That core crew
size has grown, as operational needs have shown that
it is difficult to maintain a high tempo of operations
with a small crew, even with the high degree of automation. The mission packages and aviation detachments each have their own crews, but altogether these
highly automated ships, when fully manned, have
only 70 personnel aboard.
LCS operates forward with rotational crews to
increase operational availability. During the overseas
deployments of USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth to
the Western Pacific, the ships successfully swapped
This crew rotation increased the ship’s operational availability, allowing it to participate in a number
of theater security cooperation maritime exercises
with allies such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Because of its small crew, most LCS maintenance
must be carefully synchronized and conducted in port
at support facilities by teams comprised of contractors
and Navy personnel. These shore-based maintainers
conduct planned maintenance system checks, voyage
repairs and provide logistics support.
An EPF could provide an expeditionary alternative to
the limited number of forward operating bases by providing maintenance support beyond the ability or capacity
of the on-board LCS crew. Staging from an EPF, technical
experts could service multiple LCSs in the same area.
The EPF could be outfitted with containerized shops to
conduct micro-miniature electronic repair, motor rewind,
pump repair parts and equipment, watertight door repair,
filter cleaning equipment, valve maintenance and repair,
diesel engine, gas turbine or waterjet repair, as examples.
The EPF has the capacity to provide logistics and
maintenance support, including maintenance equipment, parts, supplies, personnel, food stores, and
medical/dental and other facilities to support LCS
crews on theater security cooperation or humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief missions.
Operating in support of LCS, an EPF could carry
replacement mission modules to update systems or
reconfigure LCS for new operational tasking.
The EPF has troop berthing in addition to crew
quarters, and a passenger deck that can accommodate
312 people. In addition to its own 40-person crew, EPF
feasibly could berth a rotational LCS core crew, the
personnel to support the LCS mission modules, and
a sizeable fly-away team for maintenance and repairs.
When the turnover is completed, EPF could return the
departing crew to port.
“It does seem a natural fit that an
EPF fitted out with several modular
repair shops, high-demand spare
parts containers, extra people,
spare boats and even aviation stores
would be a great asset to support a
group of LCSs operating in a particular area, and extend the logistic
‘legs’ of LCS,” said retired Rear
Adm. Mark “Buz” Buzby, who commanded Military Sealift Command
and is now president of the
National Defense Transportation
Association. “Given its existing C2
[command and control] facilities
and expandable capacity, an EPF
could easily support a Task Group
Commander’s operational staff and
relieve crowding on the LCS, yet
run with the group as the tactical
“It’s an idea that is begging for
some CONOPS [concept of opera-tions], and a trial in an upcoming
COMTUEX [composite training
unit exercise] or JTFEX [joint task
force exercise],” he said.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 16 SEAPOWER / JUNE 2016
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy and USNS Millinocket
transit the Pacific Ocean during Pacific Partnership 2015. Navy officials are
planning to use the expeditionary fast transport platform for the Continuing
Promise mission in 2017 with newly developed Navy field medical capabilities.