Littoral Combat Ship Program
Department of Defense reduced the purchase of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) due to "frequent critical system failures" and being "unsurvivable" in combat. Policy changes were announced in January 2014 by Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox after the Pentagon received its final fiscal year 2015 budget guidance from the White House. The Navy was initially supposed to purchase 52 LCSs, but due to technical problems and budget cuts the fleet will now receive only 32 warships. Three of them were already in use, and the fourth was due to commission in April 2014. An additional 20 were under construction or on order with the two contractors, Lockheed Martin and Austal USA.
As of mid-2001 the Office of Naval Research was considering construction of a Littoral Combat Ship with a displacement of 500 to 600 tons. The LCS would have a draft of about three meters, an operational range of 4,000 nautical miles, and a maximum speed of 50-60 knots. The cost per ship might be at least $90 million. All of these numbers soon changed.
On 6 January 2002, Adm. Vern Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations, proposed buying 10 new ships and 210 new aircraft annually within six years. This would have taken an increase of $10 billion in procurement funds over the existing budget, which was to buy five ships and 88 planes. Clark also called for developing a fleet of new warships, including the small, fast and relatively cheap Littoral Combat Ship. The service's 2003 budget proposal would permit the purchase of just five ships, half the total the Navy needs just to sustain today's fleet of around 315. With the 30 to 60 littoral ships Clark advocated, the total force would reach between 345 and 375.
The Defense Planning Guidance in May 2002 directed the Navy to pursue a new class of small, stealthy "Littoral Combatant Ships" to support troops ashore and to conduct anti-mine, intelligence and reconnaissance operations. The Navy planned to build two "Flight Zero" LCS vessels to refine the new class' concept of operations. More detailed mission modules are to be developed for the Flight One LCS that was hoped would appear soon after 2007. The Navy wanted to buy eight of these ships through 2009, with the first in 2005.
Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal were in competition for a contract to build 10 of the new warships. 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. Butthe Navy would like 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 was expected to pave 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 will 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.
According to the DOT&E, the accelerated acquisition timeline for LCS left very little time to apply any lessons learned from the construction/operational testing of Flight 0 ships to Flight 1 hull and mission package designs. The two Flight 0 hulls were different designs and their construction schedules overlap. Hull #1 was to be delivered approximately nine months prior to hull #2. The final design of hull #3, the first Flight 1 ship, was to start a few months after delivery of hull #1 and prior to the delivery of hull #2.
Upon completion of LCS 1 and 2, Navy intended to conduct an operational assessment based on a variety of critical factors. Incorporating lessons learned from the operational assessment, Navy would hold a full and open competition to select a single design for procurement in FY10. Future seaframes will include a government-furnished, open architecture combat system. The LCS Program Office will be given the resources to provide intense oversight of these construction contracts, providing rapid and detailed visibility at every step.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|