— Austal USA (@Austal_USA) March 3, 2016
Mobile, Alabama. Pronunciation: MOH-BEAL
I found the above photo posted March 3rd on Twitter under #MobileAL, and thought it striking. Uniquely illustrative of the America few actually see. The image of tranquil Mobile Bay, relatively sleepy downtown Mobile, and then atop—probably due to its novel trimaran hull, it sorta appears to levitate ON not *in*—the somber, gray bay waters like some demonic silver monopoly game piece, a behemoth Cylon-lookin’ war machine, warship USS Montgomery (LCS-8).
The LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) program was supposed to make small, maneuverable Navy SEAL-type amphibious strike ships, essentially next gen swift boats with huge firepower relative to their slight profile. Initially the LCS project was promoted as small, easy to churn out quickly, and at roughly 1/6th the eventual $600 million+ cost per Leviathan beastoid the design bloated into. Instead of light, quick, and responsive, truly littoral (near-shore ops, coastal by definition) ships, it ballooned into a heavy corvette after many re-designs. Great enough a shift to warrant re-classimg the ships from LCS to FF, fast frigate, and permanently so in 2019 as even beefier, heavier-armor bulky versions are laid down and launched.
Jobs for the city of Mobile are a big positive. And it’s not that i don’t want badass navy warships, I just object to design bloat as much as its parent, mission creep. More importantly, effectively switching from swift boats with serious teeth intended to deter international traffickers and beat down Somali pirates, to a plan for behemoth frigates primarily equipped to take on Big Bad warships, hold their own in ship-to-seaside-fort and ship-to-ship battle vs. some formidable heavy metal, i.e. Russia and the PRC’s growing fleets of high-tech vessels… is indicative of a very different kind of world. Geopolitical expectations have significantly shifted.
Back to the image above: a rare and honest juxtaposition. The warm, steamy mellow port city of Mobile in back, cutting-edge deathbringer in front, moving out from the homefires. Open your eyes and most important changes are there in plain sight…