The US Naval Institute’s news service reports, that the Navy intends to decommission all nine currently completed and commissioned Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) including one commissioned in 2020 and three commissioned in 2019.
Does this make any sense?
We are told the Freedom Class cost as much to maintain as a Burke class DDG. I have to wonder if we are talking total operating costs? Does that include manning? Fuel? Manning is a very large part of the operating cost of a warship, and even with two crews per ship, the manning for the Freedom class (2 x 75) is about half that of a single crewed DDG (303 to 323).
Also sighted in the report is the decision to terminate Raytheon’s AN/SQS-62 VDS program that was to be the primary sensor for the ASW mission module and was expected to equip the new FFG has been cancelled. On the FFG it will be replaced by the CAPTAS 4.
While it showed promise in early testing, the Raytheon-built AN/SQS-62 VDS suffered stability problems and had towing issues with the Freedom-class, several Navy officials have told USNI News. As a result of the poor performance, the Navy announced it had terminated the mission module on Monday.
The report seemed to suggest that because the VDS was not working, the Freedom class could not be used in the ASW role that was intended.
“With no mission module and unexpected costs for the repair to a complex combining gear for the Freedom-class ships, Navy officials said it wasn’t worth keeping the ships in commission.”
Elsewhere I have seen Navy officials quoted as saying the two decisions, while announced almost concurrently, were in fact unrelated. It also would not account for the decommissioning of nine ships because, only a third of the completed or funded Freedom class (after Freedom was decommissioned) that would have remained were expected to have the ASW mission. That meant, at most, five ASW equipped ships.
It also would not make sense because, while the CAPTAS 4 might not fit the LCS, it is only one of a family of related towed array systems. There is a lighter, modular CAPTAS 4, as well a other smaller and lighter members of the CAPTAS family, that could have given these ships a significant ASW capability. A question remains, what is to become of the Independence class LCSs that were to have been equipped with the ASW module?
These ships were built by Marinette Marine. Marinette also has the contract for the new guided missile frigate (FFG). If the Freedom class LCSs were returned to Marinette to be fixed, it might delay completion of the FFGs, which must certainly be a higher priority than fixing the Freedom Class ships. That could be a reason. Still the repairs could be done elsewhere.
One thing is for sure, this decision will save the builders of these defective ships a huge amount of money, in that they will no longer be required to fix the problems they created. Could this be the real reason?
Some good may come of this debacle:
It appears six, as yet uncompleted Freedom class LCS, will be retained. They are to be split between 4th and 5th Fleet. That probably means three in Jacksonville and three forward deployed in Bahrain. The ships in Jacksonville will probably do a lot of drug interdiction patrols for 4th Fleet. Still three ships could not continuously support more than one ship underway, whereas the norm has been two ships for some time now.
Adoption of the CAPTAS 4 may open up the possibility of use of other members of the CAPTAS family including, perhaps, application to cutters.