More trouble for LCS program

The USS Independence of the General Dynamics Independence Class and USS Freedom of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

The USS Independence of the General Dynamics Independence Class and USS Freedom of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

Two new (and lengthy) reports out on the littoral combat ship (LCS) program. The first at 108-pages is complied by the CRS, the second, a 60-page GAO report. They provide a good background of the program so far and raise some questions.

The fact is that the Big Blue is trying to make one class of now just 32 ships (in two variants) take the place 77 legacy hulls: 51 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates (most of which are already gone without replacement), 14 MCM-1 Avenger Class mine countermeasures vessels, and 12 MHC-51 Osprey Class coastal mine hunters. That’s a big gamble to make on such an unproven design.

These ships, which are not fully outfitted yet and each is fairly unique as they come off the ways with an ever-evolving series of tweaks, are pushing the Naval architectural limit for weight allowances, which is a bad thing in a new vessel expected to be multi-mission/multi-role/plug and play wonder platforms.

Also the GAO report found that in USS Freedom‘s recent 10-month deployment to Singapore, multiple problems arose. For instance the ship lost 55 days to a variety of mechanical issues that had to be corrected. Further, the GAO raised questions about habitability on the ship with increased crew size (from 40 as designed to well past 50 as deployed). Even with the increase in bluejackets on deck, the report still mentioned that the ship was heavily dependent on contractor support, requiring five days in port with flown-out contractors aboard for every 25 deployed. Then there is the fact that the lightly armed and short-legged warship that isn’t had a hard time being deployed on worth-wild missions in the far-flung 7th Fleet West Pac area of responsibility.

So it would seem there are some bugs to work out.

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