LCS Program - 2010 GAO Review
In March 2010 the Government Accountability Office found that seventeen of 19 critical technologies for the LCS seaframes were mature and had been demonstrated in a realistic environment. For LCS 2, the trimaran hull and aluminum structure were both nearing maturity. The Navy could not provide data on design completion for either LCS 1 or LCS 2. The Navy identified watercraft launch and recovery as a major risk for both designs. Acceptance trials for LCS 1 showed it may not meet stability requirements if critically damaged. To increase LCS 1 buoyancy, the Navy added internal and external tanks. Challenges for LCS 2 included completing required endurance testing of the main propulsion diesel engines and addressing pitting and corrosion in the waterjets. The Navy modified its acquisition strategy for future seaframes. After selecting one design, the Navy planned to award contracts for the next 10 ships in fiscal year 2010.
The Navy identified watercraft launch and recovery-essential to complete the LCS antisubmarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions-as a major risk to both seaframe designs. Watercraft launch and recovery systems have not been fully demonstrated for either seaframe. On the LCS 1, the Navy is conducting dynamic load testing, but integration with the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle-a physically stressing system to launch and recover-is not scheduled to occur until after the ship's shakedown cruise. For LCS 2, factory testing of the twin boom extensible crane revealed performance and reliability concerns that were not fully addressed prior to installation.
In addition, program officials report the LCS 2 main propulsion diesel engines have not completed a required endurance test, in part due to corrosion in each engine's intake valves. As an interim solution, the Navy has installed new intake valves, which enabled the ship to complete acceptance trials. LCS 2 has also experienced pitting and corrosion in its waterjet tunnels. The Navy has temporarily fixed the issue and plans to make weld repairs to pitted areas during a future dry dock availability.
The Navy could not provide data on completion of basic and functional drawings-a metric of design stability-at the start of LCS 1 and LCS 2 construction. The Navy used a concurrent design- build strategy for the two seaframes, which proved unsuccessful. Implementation of new design guidelines, delays in major equipment deliveries, and strong focus on achieving schedule and performance goals resulted in increased construction costs. LCS 1 and LCS 2 still require design changes as a result of maturing key systems. At the same time, shipbuilders are constructing modules for the next two ships, LCS 3 and LCS 4. At fabrication start for each ship, approximately 69 percent (LCS 3) and 57 percent (LCS 4) of basic and functional drawings were complete.
Starting construction before drawings are complete could result in costly out-of-sequence work and rework to incorporate new design attributes. Incomplete designs at construction also led to weight increases for LCS 1 and LCS 2. According to the Navy, this weight growth contributed to a higher than desired center of gravity on LCS 1 that degraded the stability of that seaframe. Acceptance trials showed LCS 1 may not meet Navy stability requirements in a damaged condition. In response, the Navy added internal and external buoyancy tanks. For LCS 3, the contractor has incorporated a design change to extend the transom by four meters to improve stability. In an effort to improve affordability in the LCS program, the Navy modified its acquisition strategy for future seaframes. The new strategy calls for selecting one seaframe design and awarding one prime contractor and shipyard a fixed-price incentive contract for construction of up to 10 ships between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2014.
Navy officials report that the earned value management systems (EVMS) in each of the LCS shipyards do not yet meet Defense Contract Management Agency requirements. Under the terms of the LCS 3 and LCS 4 contracts, the shipyards must achieve EVMS certification within 28 months from the date of the award. Until those requirements are met, cost and schedule data reported by the prime contractors cannot be considered fully reliable.
According to the Navy, the LCS program continues to deliver vital capability with the recent commissioning of LCS 2. The Navy stated that LCS 1 now meets the damage stability requirement with the addition of external tanks on the rear of the ship. The shipbuilder incorporated additional stability improvements to the design for LCS 3. In the continuing effort to ensure the delivery of affordable LCS capability, the Navy said it revised the acquisition strategy in 2009 to down select to a single design in fiscal year 2010 and procure up to 10 ships in a block buy. The winner of this competition will also be responsible for developing a technical data package to support competition for a second shipbuilder to build up to 5 ships in fiscal year 2012-2014. Construction continues on LCS 3 and LCS 4. To address corrosion of the waterjet tunnels, the Navy stated that electrical isolation of propulsion shafts from the waterjets is being incorporated and a plan is in place to renew the corroded metal in the waterjet intake tunnels.
Operation of the MCM, SUW, and ASW packages on the LCS requires a total of 22 critical technologies, including 11 sensors, 6 vehicles, and 5 weapons. Of these technologies, 16 are mature and have been demonstrated in a realistic environment. In the past year, the Navy removed three critical technologies from LCS mission modules due to changes in future ASW packages.
The Navy has accepted delivery of two partially capable MCM mission packages; however, the program has delayed the procurement of the fiscal year 2009-funded package due to technical issues and the resulting operational test delays. Four MCM systems-the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), Unmanned Sweep System (USS), Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS), and Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS)-have not yet been demonstrated in a realistic environment, and two others-the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Remote Minehunting System (RMS)-cannot meet system requirements. ALMDS has been unable to meet its mine detection requirements at its maximum depth or its mine detection and classification requirements at surface depths. RMS demonstrated poor system reliability, availability, and maintainability in a September 2008 operational assessment, and program officials report the system is currently undergoing a series of tests to try to improve its reliability. Program officials also reported that the cable used to tow certain airborne MCM systems had to be redesigned following test failures with two systems.
The Navy accepted delivery of one partially capable SUW mission package in July 2008. This package included two engineering development models for the 30 mm gun, but did not include the Non-Line-of- Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) launcher or missiles. Integration of the gun with LCS 1 was completed in January 2009. The gun module design appears stable with 100 percent of its drawings released to manufacturing. According to program officials, NLOS-LS was tested in August 2009, but was unable to fire due to a malfunctioning sensor and battery connector. The program expects delivery of the second SUW mission package in March 2010. It will include the 30 mm gun module and the NLOS-LS launcher, but no missiles.
The Navy accepted delivery of one partially capable ASW mission package in September 2008, but plans to reconfigure the content of future packages before procuring additional quantities. According to Navy officials, recent warfighting analyses showed that the baseline ASW package did not provide sufficient capability to meet the range of threats. The current package will undergo developmental testing and the results will inform future configuration decisions.
The first package underwent end-to-end testing in April 2009 and will undergo developmental testing in fiscal year 2010. During the 2009 end-to-end test, the Navy found that the USV and its associated sensors will require reliability and interface improvements to support sustained undersea warfare.
Recent changes to the LCS seaframe acquisition strategy may necessitate changes to the LCS mission module acquisition strategy and testing plans. For example, the new seaframe strategy calls for the program to select a single design in fiscal year 2010. According to program officials, the first mission modules will still be tested on both seaframe designs, but future mission modules could be tested on one or both seaframe designs.
The Navy stated that early packages will be delivered with partial capability, with systems added to the packages as they reach the level of maturity necessary for fielding. According to the Navy, the USV, USS, OASIS, and RAMICS have not entered production or been demonstrated in an operational environment. However, ALMDS and RMS have to date achieved a majority of their key performance requirements. The Navy stated these systems will be available in time to support planned retirement of legacy MCM forces. According to the Navy, it has initiated a program to address RMS reliability.
The Navy noted that the program recently declared a critical Nunn-McCurdy cost breach and is under review by the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics). Further, the Navy stated it has resolved technical issues related to the helicopter tow cable and the associated systems are ready to resume testing, while mission package acquisition and testing strategies have been updated to reflect seaframe acquisition strategy changes.