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Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

After a series of mechanical breakdowns, in September 2016 all US Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) were ordered to stand down while engineers reviewed the vessels and retrained crew members. In August 2016 USS Coronado was forced to return to Pearl Harbor after experiencing an engineering failure while en route to the Western Pacific. "The extent of repairs and any operational impact is unknown at this time," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a press release. "An assessment of the casualty will be completed upon return to Pearl Harbor." This was the latest in a series of embarrassing setbacks for the US Navys LCS fleet.

In light of the widespread problems, the Navy ordered all LCS ships to halt operations. "Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command," Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement.

The Navy announced 08 September 2016 it would implement several key changes to the projected 28-ship littoral combat ship (LCS). To facilitate these changes across the class, the Navy will eventually homeport Independence-variant ships in San Diego and Freedom-variant ships in Mayport, Florida, 24 of the 28 LCS ships will form into six divisions with three divisions on each coast. Each division will have a single warfare focus and the crews and mission module detachments will be fused. Each division will consist of three Blue/Gold-crewed ships that deploy overseas and one single-crewed training ship. Under this construct, each division's training ship will remain available locally to certify crews preparing to deploy. Few homeport shifts will be needed since only six LCS are currently commissioned while the rest are under contract, in construction or in a pre-commissioned unit status.

Beginning in Fall 2016, the Navy would start to phase out the 3:2:1 crewing construct and transition to a Blue/Gold model similar to the one used in crewing Ballistic Missile submarines, patrol craft and minesweepers. The LCS crews would also merge, train and rotate with mission module detachment crews, organizing as four-ship divisions of a single warfare area -- either surface warfare (SUW), mine warfare (MCM) or anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The first four LCS ships (LCS 1-4) will become testing ships. Like the training ships, testing ships will be single-crewed and could be deployed as fleet assets if needed on a limited basis.

On 29 December 2010 the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and Austal USA each a fixed-price incentive contract for the design and construction of a 10 ship block-buy, for a total of 20 littoral combat ships from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2015. The amount awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. for fiscal 2010 littoral combat ships is $436,852,639. The amount awarded to Austal USA for the fiscal 2010 littoral combat ships is $432,069,883.

Both contracts also include line items for nine additional ships, subject to Congressional appropriation of each year's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program requirements. When all 10 ships of each block buy are awarded, the value of the ship construction portion of the two contracts would be $3,620,625,192 for Lockheed Martin Corp., and $3,518,156,851 for Austal USA. The average cost of both variants including government-furnished equipment and margin for potential cost growth across the five year period is $440 million per ship. The pricing for these ships falls well below the escalated average Congressional cost cap of $538 million.

In September of 2009, Congress authorized the Navy to downselect between two LCS designs and award one industry team a contract to build up to 10 ships. But the Navy wanted to do a 10-ship buy with each ship builder, Austal USA in Mobile and Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, adding twenty LCS ships to the Navy's fleet.

A meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board paved the way for the Navy to award a $5 billion contract. The Navy postponed the meeting a few days to the DAB could consider new information received from the contractors, who submitted final offers with prices good until mid-December 2010. Under the November 2010 proposal, the Navy would split its buy equally each year between Lockheed and Austal USA. Two ships would be awarded under the FY2010 budget [which began October 2009] and two in FY2011 [which began October 2010], with four ships year each from FY2012 through FY2015. One key issue that would be put off appears to be the choice of combat system. Each team created its own system, with virtually no commonality between the two types. Under the new proposal, each team would continue to build ships with their original combat systems.

On 27 May 2004, the Department of Defense announced that Lockheed Martin Corporation - Maritime Systems & Sensors, Moorestown, N.J. ($46,501,821) and General Dynamics - Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine ($78,798,188) were each awarded contract options for final system design with options for detail design and construction of up to two Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).

One of the designs, the Lockheed design, is a high-speed semi-planing monohull. The other, the General Dynamics design, is a slender, stabilized monohull, more commonly known as a trimaran. Each of these meet the performance requirements of the top-level requirements documents and achieve objective levels in several key performance parameters.

Both designs achieve sprint speeds of over 40 knots as well as long-range transit distances of over 3,500 miles. The sea frames of each design can accommodate the equipment and crews of the focus mission packages and effectively launch and recover and control the vehicles for extended periods of time in required sea states. The methods by which they launch and recover both aircraft and waterborne craft are different in the two designs, and the treatment of re-configurable internal volume in the two ships are quite different.

Small Surface Combatant (SSC)

The more lethal and survivable Small Surface Combatant (SSC) proposes to meet a broader set of missions across the range of military operations, and address the Navy's top war-fighting priorities. It was intended to feature an improved air defense radar; air defense decoys; a new, more effective electronic warfare system; an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile; multi-function towed array sonar; torpedo defenses; and additional armor protection.

Production of the new SSC was slated to begin no later than fiscal year 2019, with no gap between production of the last LCS and the first SSC. A significant advantage to this approach is the ability to enhance naval combat performance by back-fitting select SSC improvements to the LCS fleet.

The modified Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class will be designated as frigates, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced at the Surface Navy Association January 2015 symposium. "One of the requirements of the Small Surface Combatant Task Force was to have a ship with frigate-like capabilities. Well, if its like a frigate, Lets call it a frigate" Mabus said. "We are going to change the hull designation of the LCS class ships to FF. It will still be the same ship, the same program of record, just with an appropriate and traditional name. As the existing Flight 0 LCS are modified and back fitted with additional capabilities, they could earn the FF label, he said. Mabus said the name change came after consultation with Navy leadership, including Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA). Mabus said he often had confusing conversations about the LCS ship class. "Its not an L class ship", he said. "When I hear L I think amphib, so does everybody else".



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