The two variants of the Navy Littoral Combat Ship -- LCS-1 Freedom and LCS-2 Independence - side by side off the California coast.

The two variants of the Navy Littoral Combat Ship — LCS-1 Freedom and LCS-2 Independence – side by side off the California coast.

WASHINGTON: Buried amidst the hundreds of pages of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 is an unusually sharp rebuke to a high-profile program, the Navy’s controversial Littoral Combat Ship.

The defense policy bill has yet to pass the Senate, but assuming the current language stands – and there’s tremendous political pressure not to mess with the long-delayed NDAA – it will levy a host of requirements on the LCS program that go beyond the pro forma “give us a report” so common in defense bills. What the act doesn’t do, however, is slow the program down in any significant way, let alone impose the “pause” that the Government Accountability Office called for (very half-heartedly) in a recent study.

Instead of restricting spending on the program until the Pentagon gives an official, in-depth answer to Congress’s questions – the usual formula – the NDAA language makes two distinct and separate demands. The first is an official review by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, a Pentagon body composed of the vice-chiefs of the armed services and generally considered a rubber stamp – but a very slow and ponderous one.

The second, harsher requirement is for a “coordinated” evaluation of the LCS test program not only by the Pentagon’s acquisition chief but also by the independent Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, which is famous for its harsh assessments of the LCS and other weapons.

DOT&E must specifically sign off on the LCS’s survivability in combat, which is perhaps the single most controversial aspect of the relatively lightweight vessel, and one DOT&E has  criticized in the past. It also must examine the LCS’s mechanical and electrical breakdowns (“casualties” in Navy-speak), which have been a major blight on the Pacific deployment of the first Littoral Combat Ship, the USS Freedom.

But what’s the pain put on the program until it passes these tests? Not that much, in truth. The bill would prohibit spending any money for “construction or advanced procurement of materials” for LCS 25 and LCS 26. But Littoral Combat Ships 5 through 12 are still under construction, while ships 13-16 are “in pre-production phase.” LCS 17-24 are still awaiting Congressional authorization. 25 and 26 are a long way in the future, and if there’s any impact on their production it won’t be felt for years – and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time.

Congress has clearly registered its displeasure – but it’s also aware that, for good or ill, it’s way to late to stop this ship.

Comments

  • bridgebuilder78

    Oliver Hazard Perry works just fine, thank you Mabus.

    • Stephen Heckler

      And as far as I can tell the Perry-class FFG can operate in the littorals just fine as well, so its already a littoral combat ship in a sense

      • bridgebuilder78

        Yep, not to mention much more survivable.

  • ROYSTOLL2

    There is so much waste and fraud in any government spending. Why can’s that appoint an independent group to go after just that and perhaps we wouldn’t have to cut actual defense spending. When I was in the Navy, I couldn’t believe how bad it was. Just a thought.

  • Mike

    Interesting how those words “survivability” keeps showing up from the guys who “have been there and done that”.. Makes me wonder if there are any combat veterans making decisions at the Pentagon!…. I mean, all the bells and whistles in the world don’t mean crap if the damn thing gets sunk more easily that what we already have….. I’m an old ground pounder, with no Naval experience, but am I the only one who thinks those ships look a little top heavy? Just wondering…. :(

  • Gary Church

    When I start following the links to older articles I realize what a really amazing site this is and the great work done by Clark and Freedburg. In this twenty first century we the people have access to all this information to help inform us and ironically most Americans do not even care.

    Buying ships has always been a risky proposition because of the temptation to get something “better.” I remember when the Coast Guard bought new patrol boats they could not resist making them a little “better” buy lengthening the original Dutch design. This resulted in major problems and structural damage to the bow- not good to go out on dark and stormies with at all.

    • Gary Church

      The Coast Guard also could not resist modifying their 270 foot cutters but this time they shortened them which resulted in big problems. Because of the wave intervals in the north atlantic a ship has to be longer than 300 feet to “ride well” and this has been known since world war 2 at least. Someone (or some committee) decided to cut a section out near the bow of the new design; I have no idea why. I just know for a service that goes out in bad weather as a primary mission they have repeatedly bought ships and modified them NOT to do that mission well. It is weird but this goes for all the services which have repeatedly failed to acquire systems that were needed. When I entered the military the big scandal was the DIVAD division air defense weapon. The soviets had great success with their ZSU tracked guns but we had nothing comparable and failed to ever field something as good or better.

      • Gary Church

        And the biggest failure of all, which Freedburg has written about, is the failure to provide a heavily armored infantry carrier like the Israeli Defense Force has used for decades. Someone will write a book about it one of these days. It is an even worse scandal than the V-22.

        • William_Eldred

          William L Eldred
          V-22 will be the workhorse plane of the next century. It outperforms its mission statement with every mission.

          • PolicyWonk

            The V-22 certainly had its development problems. These, however, seem to be a relic of the past. A more recent surprise is that the Japanese announced they are going to buy 17 Ospreys (a surprise, considering the opposition to them being based on Okinawa).
            An Osprey also landed on one of Japan’s “helicopter destroyers” in recent joint exercises with the US.
            This purchase (the first real foreign sale – taxpayer gifts to Israel don’t count, IMHO) is inspired by China’s recent diplomatic belligerence, and Japans need to quickly send troops to reinforce their islands should China get carried away.

          • Gary Church

            That mission statement being ” a part made in every congressional district that matters.”

  • Don Bacon

    No way can DOT&E sign off on the LCS’s survivability in combat,

    from the Jul 25, 2013 GAO Report, Table 1:

    Concept

    LCS’s capability against adversaries
    ——————————-
    Early (2004-2008)
    Primarily developed for use in major combat operations.

    Will gain initial entry and provide assured access – or ability to enter contested spaces — and be employable and sustainable throughout the battlespace regardless of anti-access or area-denial environments.
    ———————————-
    Current (2011-2012)
    Current LCS weapon systems are under-performing and offer little chance of survival in a combat scenario.

    Not to be employed outside a benign, low-threat environment unless escorted by a multi-mission combatant providing credible anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine protection.
    ————-
    GAO wants:
    1. GAO’s near-term recommendation is for Congress to “restrict” — i.e. withhold — the money the Navy has requested in the 2014 budget to build four more LCSs until the military provides several key reports.

    2. When the current multi-ship, multi-year “block buy” contract expires in 2015, the Navy should reduce the rate at which it buys Littoral Combat Ships to the “minimum” required to keep the production lines alive until thorough testing is completed. keep the rate at the minimum sustained rate of between two and two ships a year until operational testing [ends], so we might be in violent agreement.”

    • Larry A. Altersitz

      As a landlubber by trade and a member of God’s Chosen Branch (Field Artillery), I think ALL Navy ships are woefully underarmed for firepower projection and lack any serious means of defense against a massed attack by “dumb” munitions.

      Remember seeing the pictures of the Navy off Somalia in 1993, cruising around, looking mean and tough? Had Aidid been counseled by a competent Redleg, a coordinated volley of 122mm rockets fired from technicals or trailers with rocket launcher tubes could have made a lot of folks wish for adult diapers. Fire direction is the hard part of gunnery; monkeys who could match up elevation and deflection settings to pictures on a TV screen, then press a button when the green light appeared, could do it. You can’t fire expensive missiles at cheap targets for long. Has CIWS been live tested at Ft. Bliss or White Sands against such an attack?

      Littoral ships, correction ALL Navy ships, need to have simple, cheap, robust and plentiful defenses against massed “dumb” munition ambushes from land. An IOWA BB can shrug off small stuff, but a lucky shot (several down the exhaust stacks, e.g.) might give damage control parties a real good workout. The ammo ship in the Gulf war that was narrowly missed by a Scud is another warning that we won’t always be lucky. The visuals on the ‘net and TV will do a lot of psychological damage to any Administration’s plans for intervening somewhere.

      • Don Bacon

        What does the Navy know about artillery. They don’t even partake of Redleg punch on a St. Barbara’s Day dining-in.
        The dining-in is one of the more common ways to celebrate Saint Barbara’s Day. It involves only Redlegs and selected guests. . Reading the legend of Saint Barbara is an important part of every celebration. Inductions into the Orders of Saint Barbara and the Artillery Order of Molly Pitcher are traditional parts of most celebrations. They re­quire proper planning and coordina­tion to ensure flaw­less perfor­mance.

        Field Artillery Punch Ceremonies — President of the Mess: On this auspicious occasion of Saint Bar­bara’s Day, it is only proper that we give special recog­nition to the new gunners who have joined our ranks since the last celebration.

        Master of the Punch: Artillery punch has a long and glorious history. It has been enjoyed by artillerymen, wherever they gather; at socials as a source of courage, or at any time a true Redleg feels the need. Artillery punch is a substantive brew of medical value. It will cure what ails you, or it will ensure you don’t care. We wean our children on it and carry it in our thermos jugs to ward off the winter’s chill. In a pinch, it is an effective bore cleaner for the cannon, lubricant for the breech or propellant for the missile.

        Master of the Punch: The base, ladies and gentlemen, traces its heritage to the Mecca of all Field Artillery­men, Block House, Signal Mountain, where every Redleg learns to cut a charge.
        Charge 2 is the champagne, which signifies the quality of the artillery the King of Battle. As it is well-known, we artillerymen lend dignity by our mere presence.
        Charge 3 is good corn squeezin’s, which remind us of our American heritage as citizen-soldiers who served honorably and well at a moment’s notice.
        Charge 4, quality scotch, represents our British heri­tage. It recalls our noble allies with whom we have fought many rounds and with whom we guard freedom today.
        Charge 5, a cognac, represents the French, who contributed so much to the winning of our national freedom and who have pro­vided many fine artillery pieces for our Army.
        Charge 6 is a blended bourbon to serve as the catalyst that binds our punch together. It repre­sents all the servic­es, all the men of arms and all our allied nations. And it serves to re­mind us of our com­mon bond, and that no one arm can do it all. We must have a com­bined arms team on the field of battle.
        The Final Charge is a red elixir representing the color of artillery and reminding us of the blood shed by so many in the pursuit of freedom.

        Master of the Punch: [Takes a large soup spoon and stirs the punch, takes a small sip and states:]
        This punch is not quite right something is missing. What have we forgotten gentlemen?
        Designated Mess [Holds a sock]
        Member: This represents the basic soldier, without whom we could do nothing and these [Waves women's hose] represent the ladies who make all things worth doing. . .

        • Larry A. Altersitz

          I always like fellow madmen of the scarlet persuasion. Been annoying the FA Journal since 1979 with my rants.

          Will forward your recipe to my Camden Light Artillery Association; The CLAA is the descendent of the 1Bn, 112th FA (155 SP), 50th Armored Division, NJ Army National Guard and two WWII SP battalions (228th and 157th) from whom we claim lineage. We trace our start back to the West Jersey Company of Artillery in 1776.

          I’ve seen other Artillery Punch recipes with more spirits and their ‘raison d’etre’ for inclusion. Usually done ONLY at Dining In events. We have our Dining Out in early March, award Honorable St. Barbara and Molly Pitcher medals and have a good time.

  • Don Bacon

    The LCS has three “Mission Packages” — anti-surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

    On paper, the new capabilities and updates of existing functions will greatly increase the Navy’s ability to rapidly undertake some of its most dangerous jobs.

    However, the mission packages have experienced delays of up to four years in fielding because of design problems, cost overruns, and manufacturing delays, according to the Government Accountability Office.

    Surface warfare? Its firepower falls far short of foreign ships one-fifth the size. Its RIM-116 lacks the range to protect other ships. Its 57mm gun is short-ranged and cannot support troops ashore.

    Mine countermeasures? The Pentagon’s top weapons tester has found problems with its abilities to find and withstand mines — which is a big problem for a ship that’s supposed to be the Navy’s minehunter of the future.

    ASW? The ship’s water-jet propulsion is acoustically loud, sonar will be a problem, a towed array would slow the ship’s speed considerably and the small crew is not able to maintain helicopters. And if the LCS did spot a sun, what would it do against it?

    The LCS vision was that mission packages would be quickly swapped out in an expeditionary theater in a matter of days. GAO: Mission packages can be swapped within 72 hours if all the equipment and personnel are in theater, which may take significantly longer. An LCS executing a package swap could be unavailable for between 12-29 days

    • PolicyWonk

      Don,
      The LCS by itself is far more lightly armed than even a WW2 PT boat. Even with the Surface Warfare package its ability to cause harm to anything other than a non-naval opponent isn’t all that great.

      The 57mm gun failed miserably in Canadian testing (causing no discernible damage to a target with a military-grade hull), and its lucky for the ship that was shooting the 57mm gun that the target ship wasn’t shooting back.
      The mine-hunting package finally completed a successful round of tests more recently. On the happy side, every ship can be a mine-hunter at least once :-P

      The bottom line for survivability w/r/t to the LCS lays in the sea-frame itself, which is built to the lowest navy standard (level 1 – slightly better than commercial). This is in stark contrast to the OHP-class frigates, and for that matter, common fleet oilers, both of which were (or are) built to the navy’s level-2 standard. For a ship that is supposedly designed to venture into harm’s way, with zero ability to attack anything over the horizon (let alone attack anything of significance), and little protection for the crew – one needs to ask: What’s the point?

      At $400M USD/sea-frame, not counting any of the “mission packages”, LCS seems to be little more than a corporate welfare program. Other navies, in contrast, have built vastly more capable and stealthier designs, with full military hulls, far more base armament/protection, even with mission packages, for 1/3 less than what US taxpayers are paying for LCS.

      This explains why all of the other navies that initially expressed interest in LCS have since walked away. The reports from the GAO and US navy’s own review board indicate the correctness of choices made on the part of these other navies, and seemingly a justification for courts-martials in ours.

  • BubbaLama

    Inferior armor, lackluster propulsion, worthless weapons packages and poor overall design. Little Crappy Ships are as useless as the USS Panay when it comes to littoral force projection.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    It is not too late to stop this ship. In the DOD’s zeal to “run things more like a business,” they need to revisit the chapter on, and so aptly named, sunken costs. They need to quit throwing good money after bad.

  • William_Eldred

    When OLIVER HAZARD PERRY was designed and built, Naval experts of the time called it a worthless expenditure of good money, that had no capability in the modern Navy of the day. The class as a whole never developed a mission, but somebody had to do all that fighting of the War on Drugs, which those “platforms” – because that really is all they were, so FFGs stayed and has done much of the police work for the Drug Czar, fulfilling “police presence” and the world’s most expensive drug busts. The only less effective ship than the LCS in the new Navy of today’s overpriced, under-armed and ineffectively-manned hulks is the big one — ZUMWALT (DDG-1000). It already looks like an abandoned hulk, more closely resembling the MONITOR of Civil War days. than a truly capable Man-0f-War like TICONDEROGA or ARLEIGH BURKE. The fact is that the Navy has extended the DDG 51 shipbuilding program while continuing to fritter away billions of dollars on DDG-1000, and LCS with hugely disappointing results, blown budgets, waning capabilities in air, mine, amphibious and surface warfare, and more expensive ships with less and less seapower. At least the back-up plan works.

    • PolicyWonk

      Well, when compared to the LCS classes, at least the Zumwalt’s are loaded with destructive power. They do cost a lot more ($3-4B), and what mission they will be used for remains to be seen (the same is true for the LCS).

      The LCS isn’t much of a warship by design (and implementation). As lightly armed as a coast guard cutter (with a presumably much more aggressive mission), with no over the horizon attack capability, and a weak sea-frame, means that upgrading these platforms into something survivable in combat is almost a waste of money. The other nations initially interested all walked away, or built far more capable ships of the same size for a lot less.

      The DDG-1000′s – are real warships through and through. How successful they are (lots of new technologies are being tried at the same time) as a class remains to be seen.