LCS Program - 2008 GAO Review
The GAO an assessment of selected weapons programs in March 2008, with entries for the baseline LCS program, as well as 3 of the modules. These modules were the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Mine Countermeasures (MCM), and Surface Warfare variants (SuW).
In the report the Navy identified a total of 19 critical technologies across both LCS seaframe designs. Fifteen of these technologies were fully mature, and another 2 technologies were approaching maturity. Two other technologies, the overhead launch and retrieval system in the Lockheed Martin design and the aluminum structure in the General Dynamics design, remained immature.
The Navy identified the watercraft launch and recovery concept as a major risk to both LCS seaframe designs. This capability was essential to complete anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions planned for LCS. According to the Navy, industry watercraft launch and recovery designs were untested and unproven. To mitigate this risk, the Navy was conducting launch and recovery modeling and simulation, model basin testing, and experimentation. The Navy was encouraging the LCS seaframe industry teams to adopt similar approaches. Final integration of watercraft to each LCS seaframe design was not expected until the third quarter of FY09, after the Navy had accepted delivery of the first two LCS seaframes.
In addition, while the Navy had identified the aviation landing/retrieval system as a mature technology, it was concerned that this system could potentially not be qualified for use on the Lockheed Martin seaframe and could, in fact, result in damage to aircraft. The Navy had developed a system qualification and certification plan to mitigate this risk and intended to conduct pierside testing and training of the aviation landing/retrieval system in the first quarter of FY09.
In the GAO report the Navy was cited as expecting the first two LCS to exceed their combined budget of $472 million by over 100 percent and anticipated lead ship delivery would occur nearly 18 months later than initially planned. As a result of these challenges, the Navy canceled construction of the third and fourth LCS and deferred construction of additional seaframes. The Navy planned to use funds previously appropriated for construction of the fifth and sixth LCS seaframes to pay for cost growth on the remaining two ships under contract. The Navy continued to modify its acquisition strategy for LCS.
The delivery of the first ASW mission package was scheduled for February 2008. The critical technologies and design both continued to mature according to the GAO. The program office identified 12 technologies as critical for the package, 5 of which remained immature. A production representative, deployable package would not be delivered until FY11. The program tracked design drawings, a measure of design stability, for only those portions of mission systems that required alteration to deploy from LCS, as well as those for the containers in which mission systems were to be stored and transported. The design was not complete at the time of the critical design review. Neither the critical technologies nor the design of this package were expected to be fully mature until after they have been demonstrated as prototypes aboard the second LCS ship. The program office did not track critical process control data or use other production metrics.
The technologies that required further development at the time of the 2008 GAO report included sensors for submarine detection intended for use on unmanned platforms. If they failed to develop as expected, it could increase reliance on the manned MH-60R helicopter, which had reached full maturity, or the unmanned surface vehicle and its towed array sensor, both of which are nearing full maturity.
The first two ASW mission packages, expected to be delivered in FY08, would consist largely of prototypes or low-rate initial production items. According to the program office, these mission packages were not considered deployable and would be used only to demonstrate performance and concepts of operation from LCS seaframes. The mission systems delivered in these packages would eventually be upgraded to production representative, deployable systems. The first mission packages could also be delivered without some of the software needed for full functionality. The third mission package, expected for delivery in 2011, was expected to consist of fully mature, deployable, and production representative mission systems. According to program officials, the final number of anti-submarine warfare mission packages to be procured and the concepts of operation that guide their use were under review.
LCS mission modules program officials added to the GAO report that they defined production of a mission package as the support container procurement, assembly, checkout, and verification of readiness for issue of the mission module components that constitute an integrated package. They contended traditional manufacturing processes and metrics might not be applicable to the production of a mission package.
These officials also stated that the the first two ASW unmanned surface vehicles were designed and built under a contract to build a total of four. They planned to transition production responsibility to a program of record in FY09 for future mission packages.
The program office identified 11 technologies for use in the fully capable MCM package: four vehicles, five sensors for hunting and sweeping, and two weapons for neutralization. All technologies were mature or approaching maturity at the time of the GAO report. Five had previously been assessed by the GAO in a review of Airborne Mine Countermeasures, a capability dependent on successful integration of new systems with the MH-60S helicopter. Difficulty scheduling and conducting some system tests with the helicopter could affect plans to field MCM systems with the package according to the GAO. Tests identified technical challenges with a cable the helicopter uses to tow MCM systems. If the cable continued to malfunction in testing, fielding of airborne MCM systems could be delayed.
Although the MCM package had yet to be fully demonstrated aboard LCS, the Navy planned to make full-rate production decisions on several MCM systems. These systems were scheduled for tests that would assess their suitability and effectiveness, but the Navy planned to conduct these tests aboard other ships, not LCS. LCS featured a new automated launch, recovery, and handling system that was fully integrated with the seaframe. However, the Navy would not be able to test MCM systems with it until a seaframe was delivered in FY09. As a result, the Navy could not necessarily fully understand the suitability of new MCM systems to operate from LCS according to the GAO.
Although the Navy expected to deliver MCM packages in FY09 and FY10, they would continue to be configured with prototypes and low-rate initial production articles as they became available. The package would not be configured in production-representative form until the third package, expected for delivery in FY11, the same time the design was to be stable.
The Navy continued to refine concepts of operation for LCS and its mission packages. While initial packages were expected to meet the Navy's weight requirement, as of the 2008 GAO assessment they lacked some systems required for full mission capability. The fully configured package was expected to exceed its weight requirement by about 10 percent. The Navy was exploring ways to reduce weight while maintaining capability. If desired weight reductions were not achieved, the Navy could be forced to reduce MCM capability or accept a reduction in the ship's speed and endurance. This would affect earlier packages the Navy planned to backfit to be fully capable. Also, the crew members needed to operate the MCM package may exceed seaframe capacity. Navy mission planners and operators estimated 19 mission package and 23 aviation detachment crew would be needed per ship to complete planned missions, seven more than capacity.
Program officials responded to the MCM portion of the GAO assessment, noting that design stability would be achieved at completion of the Technical Data Package for the first production MCM package planned for delivery in FY11. Mission modules and systems were undergoing extensive testing in ways that do not require the ship. Surrogate platforms were being used to test some systems. Crew workload had been reassessed. The original estimate of 19 had been reduced to 15 mission package crew members, and the aviation detachment would increase from 20 to 23 to meet the mission requirement.
The program office identified four technologies for use in the SuW mission package. Of these the manned MH-60R helicopter, unmanned Vertical Take-off Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, and 30 mm gun system were considered fully mature, while the non-line-of-sight missile system remained immature. While the program office considers the 30 mm gun itself to be mature, its integration with LCS was not complete.
The Navy relied on the Army's Future Combat System for development of the missile system and would work with FCS to integrate it with LCS. As a result, the first SuW package, currently scheduled for delivery in June 2008, would not include the missile system. The first missile launcher would be delivered as a prototype without missiles in the second mission package in 2009, and missiles would be delivered with the fourth mission package in FY11. Should this technology fail to develop as anticipated, LCS would become more reliant on its guns for self-defense and upon the MH-60R for striking targets at greater distances.
The first two SuW mission packages were scheduled for delivery in FY08 and FY09. However, at the time of the GAO report in 2008, neither of these were complete or deployable. For example, the first package would contain only a prototype of the 30 mm gun system. The first SuW mission package delivery with all key systems present in production representative variants was not expected to occur until the fourth mission package in FY11. According to program officials, the quantities and concept of operations for the mission package were not yet finalized.
Program officials added to the GAO assessment that the delivery strategy for the SuW mission package included an incremental capability approach that delivered mature mission modules first, such as the 30mm gun module, followed by the delivery of the missile capability, after its technology maturity had been achieved. The Army was leading the development of the missile system and the Navy continued to work closely with the Army on its integration into LCS.