Tags: littoral | ship | problems | navy

Defense Dept. Guts Littoral Combat Ship Program

Image: Defense Dept. Guts Littoral Combat Ship Program Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence

Friday, 17 Jan 2014 02:10 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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The U.S. Navy’s controversial, $32 billion Littoral Combat Ship program is in doubt after a directive from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to scrap 20 of the planned 52 vessels, The Navy Times reports.

The publication cited unnamed Pentagon sources who confirmed that questions about the ships’ deficiencies combined with looming budget cuts contributed to the decision in a Jan. 6 memo from Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox.

The small vessels are built for missions close to shore – the littoral zone – and don’t carry a large cache of weapons and sensors.

Since the first ship’s commissioning in 2008 – the USS Freedom – there have been numerous technical failures. In 2012, the Project on Government Oversight reported that Lockheed Martin’s USS Freedom had at least 17 cracks, myriad design flaws, and had “repeatedly been beset by engine-related failures.”

Since then, two more ships – the USS Independence and the USS Fort Worth – have been commissioned, with a fourth scheduled for April.

Lockheed Martin and Austral Ltd. have contracts for 20 additional ships. Originally, all 52 ships were to be built by 2026, but the list of problems after just three commissions is growing, reports Stars and Stripes.

Some of the issues include “questions about the vessels' manning, mission, firepower, defenses and survivability as costs have soared amid Pentagon budget cuts.”

Last year, Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of naval surface forces, criticized the vessel for lacking the firepower it needs and asked the Navy to consider a ship with more “offensive capability,” according to Bloomberg.

“A confidential Navy report in 2012 warned that the ships may not be able to perform their missions because they’re too lightly manned and armed,” according to Bloomberg. “A congressional audit last year found the ship lacks the robust communications systems needed to transmit critical data to support facilities on shore."

Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog told Reuters that the “defense department is not going to discuss a budget that as yet to be presented or decisions that haven’t been made.”

The littoral combat ships, which carry no more than 100 people, were thought to be a way for the Navy to increase its fleet size during a period of historic lows.

The Navy identified the need for littoral vessels after recognizing threats spawning in regions with shallow seas.

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