Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)–The Navy’s Rodney Dangerfield

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has taken a lot of criticism, including editorials by Phil Ewing at Navy Times Scoop Deck (some of the most recent here and here). Ridicule of the program has become a regular feature of at least one Naval blog.

Perhaps most telling, in answer to Congressional inquiry, the GAO has completed an evaluation of the program and it isn’t complementary, finding that many of the decisions have been questionable, including the decision to deploy the ship on a law enforcement patrol, and that there is still substantial risk that these vessels will not fulfill their promise. Hopefully the Coast guard can learn from the Navy’s mistakes. You can read the entire GAO report it is here:

Navy’s Ability to Overcome Challenges Facing the Littoral Combat Ship Will Determine Eventual Capabilities

It is fairly long at 55 pages, but in addition to the criticism, its the best overview of the program I’ve seen.

How can something like this (or Deepwater) happen? One commentator has an explanation. Are loss of accountability, personnel assignment policies, and careerism at the root of the problem? Are these problems for the Coast Guard as well?

29 thoughts on “Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)–The Navy’s Rodney Dangerfield

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  2. Does this effect the Coast Guard as well? You bet. Two sides of the same coin. Contributing factors? Lets see. The country’s maritime policies have gutted the shipbuilding industry. The bureaurocratic blight – no one will stick their head out and say what needs to be said. Lawyers – you can’t sneeze without JAG approval. PC – ’nuff said. Mission creep.

    Our budget is going to be decreasing while our commitments are growing. Someone (or a great many someones) has to have the nerve to throw out all the extraneous crud. I weep when we spend more on diversity programs than on weapon systems.

    • “I weep when we spend more on diversity programs than on weapon systems.”

      The Coast Guard wants to trade beads for land in New London so they can build, in part with a new parking lot for cadets, a “diversity center” at the CGA. Of course, the CGA stopped teaching naval ordnance at the CGA in 1972. Then diversity meant different beers at the party.

      Ironically, part of the new building plan is to construct and indoor firing range so the cadooles won’t have to suffer from adverse weather while shooting their air rifles.

  3. Bill,
    Your comment of Sept 4th is inflamatory and incorrect. The overall pln is sound for the Riverside Park project. Among other things it includes a proposal for a Professional Development Center. A new facility to include updated simulators, used for both cadet education and continuing professional training, and expanded room for operationally targeted courses targeting our fleet. I’m disappointed in your comments, they belong in CG report not here.

  4. Chuck,

    One might wonder how a GE LM2500 might have fared aboard LCS-1. Why oh why did the USN approve usage of a gas turbine of different manufacture from those already in use? Was it the Rolls-Royce turbine itself or some unfamiliarity with its characteristics (as compared to the LM2500 series) which led to its failure?

    The LCS program just keeps on giving us all of these valued gifts, doesn’t it…

  5. There is some talk that the Littoral Combat Ship may be on the chopping block.

    This could make the OPC all the more important as a possible exportable low-end combatant.

    How useful they could be as warships would depend a great deal on the continued development of suitable modular sensors/weapons and the allowance of adequate reserve weight moment in the design.

  6. Good grief, these losers are built by Lockmart! The same fine folk that have made flight services such a joy to deal with.

    • Actually there are two competing designs by different builder, but it seems to be a forgone conclusion that Lockmart will win the contract, if there is one, since the Navy has said both designs meet their criteria and price will be the determining factor, in spite of the fact that the other design cost only a little more, is far more fuel efficient, a bit faster, and has more room.

      • Picture of the drastically overweight LCS-1 in a relatively calm sea state.

        Notice that this expensive warship is riding a tad low in the water. Yet, she still doesn’t carry her full loadout of UAV’s, manned helo’s, two internal well deck VBSS, etc. CONSTRUCTION FLAW: This craft depends upon Speed to run away from terrorists in Boston Whalers. BIG MISTAKE: But by being overweight, by around 300 tons with full deployment loadout, she is unable to achieve her raison d’etre: high speed. This hull form is a “semi-planing” hull and must rise up, bow up at a 6 to 10 degree angle, in order to achieve high speeds.

        KILL THE PROGRAM: Because LCS-1 and soon LCS-3 will be over weight when loaded up for deployments, they will not be able to achieve semi-planing and thus, high speed.

        NAVY’s “solution” ? Don’t load them up with two helo’s, some UAV’s, (which still don’t yet have their 2 large, heavy antenna’s installed), torpedo’s, guns, dual VBSS RHIB’s in the well deck, and all those conex boxes containing the “mission modules”, which are quite large and heavy.

        QED: This design is DOA, and NAVSEA PMS-500 fully realizes this and they still cannot get the next LCS-3 slimmed down to meet weight standards. LCS ! Overweight, just like the country that designed and built her.

  7. This week is critical in this program. The Navy is trying to get the congress to approve a major change in procurement strategy and buy twenty ships of two different designs, with two different combat systems. The Contract offers were originally only good until Dec. 14, but have been extended through Dec. 31, but since Congress will close down for the holidays Friday and will not resume until January, if they are going to approve the purchase they have to do it this week.

    Congress has a lot to do before recess and they seem to be balking:

    Seems there might be some feeling they are getting “the bum’s rush” since this is the second time there has been a major change in procurement strategy under this program that the Navy tried to push through with tight deadlines.

  8. Chuck,
    Question, how come the US Coast Guard isn’t looking into buying the LCS designs and swapping out the engines on the LCS for the ones the US Coast Guard use. I would think the US Coast Guard could buy into the LCS ship design minus the engines and trade the Navy’s engines for the ones the US Coast Guard wants. would it make sense if the US Coast Guard brought into the Design and trade engines in the design.

    • The LCS hull designs are optimized for speed. They have disadvantages at lower speed, so if you used the same hulls and less power, you would still have the lower speed disadvatage, but not the advantage of high speed.

  9. Chuck,
    Do you think the US Coast Guard will be looking for off the shelf OPC that is being used by other navies around the world.

  10. A lot of the shipyards in the US are owned by or are associated with ship building companies in other parts of the world. As or August (
    there were nine companies that have expressed an interest in the project: AUSTAL, Bath Iron Works, Bollinger, Marinette Marine, Nassco, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Todd Pacific Shipyards, and VT Halter Marine, Inc.

    I’d be very surprised if some of the proposals aren’t adaptations of existing designs. Even if they start that way, they may look very different when finished. They will certainly use US Navy supported weapons and sensors. It doesn’t take too many changes to end up with a completely different looking ship. The Gunboats Erie and Charleston were identical to the 327s in their engines and hull form below the waterline, but they looked very different:

    Erie Class:

    Early 327s:

  11. When one looks at the travesties of the LCS procurement, the LPD-17 procurement, and the Air Force tanker replacement, it explains why the Coast Guard’s failures with Deepwater doesn’t get the public scorn it so richly deserves.

    As a former sailor, I’m embarrassed that the sea services have apparently become inept at designing ships that work.

    As a taxpayer, I’m appalled that there are no longer any consequences for squandering so much of of the public treasury.

  12. Now reported that USS Colorado (LCS-4) an Independence class LCS, has had a major machinery casualty, just as it was due to deploy for an extended period to Singapore, following RIMPAC participation. This is the fourth major machinery casualty to an LCS since December. The other three were all on Freedom class ships. This is the first on an Independence class.

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