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Budget Matters 

Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program 

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By Jon Harper 



The Navy’s controversial littoral combat ship program could be cut short in the coming years as policymakers look for a platform with greater capabilities.

Current plans call for acquiring 40 LCS and LCS-based frigates. Navy officials want at least 52 of the vessels in the fleet. But questions linger about their survivability, mission packages and platform design.

“With 26 ships delivered or under contract, the LCS program again stands at a crossroads,” the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report to Congress.

The Navy has requested funding for two additional ships in fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers will soon need to decide whether to authorize a block buy for 12 more, as the Navy has proposed, the report said.

The littoral combat ship was initially expected to cost $220 million each. But the price tag has more than doubled to $478 million, according to GAO. The projected cost of the mission packages has also increased by $3.5 billion.

In addition, critical mission packages including mine countermeasures are not expected to reach operating capability until 2020.

“Congress is faced at this point in time with a basic oversight question: does it want to authorize an investment of a potential $9 billion for a program that has … capabilities that are uncertain?” the GAO said.

Although President Donald Trump has promised to grow the Navy to 350 ships, and the service has signaled a need for 355, the new administration may try to scale back the littoral combat ship program and instead buy advanced frigates that are more capable, according to Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

 “They’re not going to want to build 40 or 50 LCS-based ships,” said Clark, who is familiar with the thinking of individuals that are expected to play a role in Trump’s administration. “I think they will build as many more as they have to to keep the yards going, and then transition as soon as possible to those more robust frigates.”

Congress appears to be inclined to go along with such a plan, he said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been a leading critic of the littoral combat ship.

“Given the cost overruns, mission package testing woes and rate of engineering failures, reducing the size of this program is a necessary first step,” he said in a statement.

McCain signaled that he would be open to procuring a new type of vessel. “The nation still needs a capable small surface combatant that addresses the LCS’ critical shortfalls,” he said.

Photo: Navy

Reader Comments

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

There are a lot of critics of the LCS program that have a silent agenda. Just recently one USS was scuttled and broken up in Philippine waters and two have had their propellers damaged in the Black Sea and in Japanese waters. Shallow waters.

And more recent two war ships from other nations were badly damaged off Yemen. One to a shore based missile battery and another to a swarm attack. There was no large vessel nearby to shoot the Harpoon at. The 57mm and the Hellfires would have been devastating against those little boats and if they had gotten close then the 30mm and the 50 cal. Littoral warfare.

And finally, an all purpose frigate has to haul with it all its war making hardware and complement of sailors. Where the LCS only needs to make space for what ever it will need in that mission and nothing else. Modularity.

The ship will improve with experience but please do not fall prey to paid disinformants.

These ships were supposed to carry an over the horizon missile developed jointly with the Army that would have given them an appropriate weapon for the sort of ranges and size likely to be found in littoral waters. The Harpoon is arguably too big. But it might be added to quiet critics. More useful might be to strengthen the helipad and increase the hangar area so it can handle heavier helicopters or more.

And versatile missile batteries. If it could fire land attack missiles too those could be use for punitive strikes against rogue states or independent actors and I believe it needs better point defence and decoys.

HG on 02/05/2017 at 11:30

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017-01/now-hear-another-course-change-lcs

YouKnowWho on 01/26/2017 at 08:23

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

If the Navy "needs a capable small surface combatant that addresses the LCS’ critical shortfalls," then the last thing the Navy should do is build a small surface combattant based on the LCS.

WJ Colton on 01/26/2017 at 00:45

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

This should have been our plan all along. The LCS was a dead-end from the get-go. We don't need a "brown water" nave, we need a blue water navy. And the ships in that navy have to be as lethal as possible to survive in the modern age.

We seem to be obsessed with getting the latest new shiny toy/technology, but traditional ship design has worked for centuries for a reason. You want a 350 ship navy? But a LOT of cheap frigates. Even if, individually, they're not heavyweights, numbers have their own quality, as the Russians say.

JoeC on 01/25/2017 at 19:24

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

If the LCSs under contruction and those already produced cannot be modified to carry a weapons load capable of actually taking on something bigger than a row-boat, scrap the lot of them ... the US does NOT need to send out floating targets.

James Drouin on 01/25/2017 at 16:26

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

If the LCSs under contruction and those already produced cannot be modified to carry a weapons load capable of actually taking on something bigger than a row-boat, scrap the lot of them ... the US does NOT need to send out floating targets.

James Drouin on 01/25/2017 at 15:49

Re: Advanced Frigates Could Edge Out LCS Program

The LCS program has been plagued with engineering, crew and mission problems. The Advanced Frigate program, using existing ship design could go a long way in cutting costs and time lines. The "off-the-shelf" approach is a sound strategy, the single biggest issue is whether or not the Advanced Frigate design is capable of the long distances and speed necessary to keep up with the fleet.

RT Colorado on 01/25/2017 at 15:37

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