NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. – The littoral combat ship is coming to the East Coast next year, and officials are busy setting up for their arrival.
Q. Will the Mayport LCSs take over the mission of counter-narcotics in 4th fleet, a mission that has belonged to the frigates now rapidly leaving the fleet?
They certainly are capable of taking a lot of the mission sets that we used to dedicate the frigates to, absolutely, but I wouldn't call it a one-for-one replacement.
A lot of those operational decisions are yet to be made. Could they? Yes. Will they? I don't know yet.
Young sat down with Navy Times in his office March 18 to discuss manning, life for LCS sailors, detailing and the future of the LCS program in Mayport.
Q. What's the difference in the manning construct between the cruiser, destroyer world and the LCS world?
A. The traditional construct is a larger crew — 200 to 300 sailors — and a smaller staff, nominally 40 to 60 people. LCS changes that, in that the crew is very small. The core crew is only 50, and then the staff is much, much larger: 300-400 sailors and civilians.
Q. So there is no training officer on board, there is no career counselor on board. Those all come from your staff?
Q. With a 50-person crew, is pretty much everybody on a port-and-starboard watch rotation?
A. Each crew will craft its own watch bill, but not all port and starboard, no.
Q. How many in-port duty sections will the crew be in?
A. When the ships are here, we are going to augment them regularly. We have a very strong reserve component. In fact we have eight reserve units that will support LCS on the East Coast. So whenever we pull these ships in, we are going to augment them with reserve sailors to do things like force protection, stand watches and help with maintenance.
Q. How could a reservist get involved? If I'm a reservist and I want to get involved, who are you looking for? How does this all work?
What rates are you looking at?
Any rates. We'll take anything we can get. This is a construct that's working very well in San Diego, so, we're going to leverage that here.
Q. Officials have discussed career tracks specific to LCS, or creating a 'closed loop,' where LCS sailors will spend most of their careers aboard LCS vessels. Once you are in the LCS program, is there flexibility to leave it?
So if I'm a JO and I come to LCS on my second division officer tour, that doesn't mean I have to then do an LCS shore tour after that, correct?
Not at all. But I think you are going to want to though.
Q. The LCS world is different from the the rest of the surface fleet. other areas of the Navy. Are you thinking about making a new warfare pin for sailors and officers to reflect those differences?
I don't think we need that. The LCS fleet is not separate from the rest of the fleet, it's not wholly unique. These are ships that are going to go to sea and do what their commanders task them to do. They are going to do it as independent deployers and they are going to do it in a CSG construct.
For someone to go from an LCS where they have earned their pin to a cruiser is nothing but goodness, because the folks on the cruiser are going to need to understand LCS and they are going to bring that understanding to the cruiser. Just like folks on the LCS are going to need to understand the cruiser.
Q. Are the ship's systems easily repairable by the crew or are you going to need to rely heavily on the shore-based infrastructure for this?
It's more of a challenge in terms of man-days. If you are on a 50-person crew, you are standing a lot of watch, performing a lot of duties, so there isn't a lot of white space in your day for maintenance.
Q. One of the problems with this crew-swap model that the surface fleet has seen in the past is that sailors don't tend to take the kind of ownership of their spaces as they do when they are permanently attached to the ship. How do you get at that issue in LCS?
The 3-2-1 approach, it's a team of three crews for two ships. And those three crews, with the staff, part of their job is to maintain those ships. Talk about 3-2-1 — three crews for two ships to have one always forward deployed. I take that a step further: it's one team to maintain two ships. My commanding officers all understand that this is the way we are going to do business here, because we can't afford not to.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.