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Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

According to a 30 June 2020 message from the Chief of Naval Operations, four littoral combat ships (LCS) were to be decommissioned 31 March 2021. Under the Navys 2021 budget proposal, the service planned to decommission the first two Freedom-class LCSs USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth and first two Independence-class LCSs USS Independence and USS Coronado. Three of these ships had made major deployments to the western Pacific and all had been used as development platforms to mature the types concept of operations. The four LCSs, all based in San Diego, would be placed in reserve status.

According to a February 2020 briefing by Rear Adm. Randy Crites, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, LCS 1 through 4 had just about reached the end of their usefulness as test vessels and were no longer worth a deeper financial investment. Those four test ships were instrumental to wringing out the crewing, the maintenance and all the other things we needed to learn from them, Crites told reporters, Defense News reportd. But theyre not configured like the other LCS in the fleet, and they need significant upgrades. Everything from combat [systems], to structural, you name it. Theyre expensive to upgrade.... when we looked at our return on investment and the cost of bringing those ships up to speed, theyre important, but in the context of great power competition they were less important...

In 2002, the Navy first requested Congress to authorize funding for the LCS program. After reviewing the Navy's plan, the consensus of the members of the two Armed Services Committees was "LCS has not been vetted through the Pentagon's top requirements setting body called the Joint Requirements Oversight Council." The Navy's strategy for the LCS did not clearly identify the plan and funding for development and evaluation of the mission packages upon which the operational capabilities of LCS would depend. Despite such serious concerns, it will not come as a surprise to many that Congress then approved funding for LCS. When the Navy awarded the first LCS construction contract in 2004, it did so without well-defined requirements, a stable design, realistic cost estimates, or a clear understanding of the capability gaps the ship was needed to fill.

Initially the LCS fielded only the most basic capabilities: a 30-millimeter gun with a range of two miles and the ability to launch and recover helicopters and small boats. By 2016 the surface package was five years late. The mine package is 12 years late. The anti-submarine package is nine years late. The Navy failed to meet its own commitment to deploy LCS seaframes with these mission packages in part because for some reason, Navy leaders prioritized deploying a ship with no capability over completing necessary mission package testing. In other words, the taxpayers paid for ships that had demonstrated next to no combat capability.

The Navy accepted delivery of LCS 1 and LCS 2 in incomplete, deficient condition, while deferring significant portions of required ship inspections until after delivery. The Navy declared initial operational capability for both LCS variants even though Department of Defense testers found the ships to be not suitable for operations. The Navy sought but did not receive waivers for LCS survivability testing, which verifies a ships ability to avoid, withstand, or recover from damage. The Navy did not establish clear deadlines for resolving deficiencies identified during the limited inspections, so corrections were allowed to lag and the fleet inherited unresolved deficiencies on both ships.

The Trimaran hull design was clearly under-powered : 113 000hp for the LCS 1 Freedom; but only 60 000hp for the LCS 2 independence (this difference were supposedly due to the better efficiency of the Independence Trimaran hull design). But the Independence variant cannot meet the speed requirement of 40-50 knots. The LCS 1 Freedom variant fell far short of its range requirement of 3,500 nautical miles at 14 knots. Both LCS variants have only demonstrated requirements for surface warfare at a reduced capability. In addition, the mine countermeasures package failed developmental testing, resulting in significant delays to provide this capability to the fleet.

From 2013 to 2016, five of the eight LCSs delivered experienced significant engineering casualties resulting in lengthy import repair periods. 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.

By August 2017 the LCS program was on a path to success after a 60-day review focused on manning, training, maintenance and warfighting capability. The review recommendations were to enhance simplicity, stability and ownership of the ships, cultivating a connection between crews and the ship. Two crews will rotate on the same hull every four to five months forming a fused crew with the mission module detachments. Those crews will be dedicated to a single mission to improve rating utilization, crew stability and maximize global presence.

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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Page last modified: 13-04-2021 11:06:37 ZULU