Military Review

LCS Program: New GAO Report and Senators' Opinions

The implementation of all projects in the military sphere is associated with certain problems. In some cases, certain difficulties or shortcomings persist for a long time, which becomes an occasion for additional criticism of the project. Finally, some projects, as they develop, cannot get rid of existing shortcomings, as a result of which their future is a subject of controversy. Such processes are especially sensitive in cases where the project has managed to reach mass production and operation of new-type products or equipment. A similar situation in the past few years has been observed around the American project LCS.

The purpose of the LCS project (Littoral Combat Ship - “Coastal Battle Ship”) was to create two versions of a prospective ship suitable for solving some special tasks. Design work was completed quite a long time ago, due to which, by now, the US Navy managed to receive several ships of two types. However, a number of problems of the two projects have not yet been resolved. Over the past years, the military and political leadership of the United States has been trying to determine the real possibilities and prospects of the LCS ships, as well as to remedy the existing situation. Not so long ago, the next stage of the project discussions at the highest level began.

Ship USS Freedom (LCS-1). Photo by US Navy

The latest events were triggered by the release of the report of the United States Audit Office (Government Accountability Office or GAO) called “Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate. Congress Faced with Critical Acquisition Decisions ”(“ LCS ships and frigates. Congress faces a critical acquisition issue ”). Auditors studied the current state of affairs with one of the most interesting modern projects of the United States. GAO experts reviewed the existing situation, identified certain problems, and also issued some recommendations.

In the preface of its report, the Court of Auditors recalls the prerequisites for the current situation. Previously, the United States Navy developed a bold concept, involving the creation of two projects of marine technology with a wide scope of application. It was proposed to use the modular architecture of ships using special equipment packages. With this, it was planned to simplify the construction and operation of ships for various purposes. Later it turned out that in practice the new approach did not allow for a reduction in the cost of ships, and also does not provide the required flexibility in the use of ships.

Despite the problems of a technical and economic nature, the naval forces still need new ships. Because of this, the question of the feasibility of continuing work on the LCS topic is currently being considered. There are proposals to abandon this program, but at the same time there is an opinion that it is necessary to change the projects in order to eliminate the identified deficiencies.

The authors of the report from GAO ​​recall that the work on the LCS project started 15 more years ago. During this time, the project has achieved some success, but at the same time there has been a significant deterioration in the appearance of the ships and repeated postponements of the deadlines for the execution of certain works. In addition, the rise in the cost of ships has led to a reduction in their number. So, it was originally planned to order 55 ships worth 220 million dollars each. Currently, procurement plans have been reduced to 40 ships of 478 million. Achieving initial operational readiness was originally planned for 2007 year, but in practice this happened only in 2013. It was assumed that the ships for various purposes will be as unified as possible, however, in practice, rapid retrofitting was impossible. The maximum speed of LCS ships of all modifications was to reach 50 knots, cruising range - up to 1000 nautical miles at 40 knots speed. LCS ships in practice show different characteristics. For some time, concerns have been expressed regarding the survivability of ships.

Currently, a pressing issue in the context of further development of the LCS project is the preparation of plans for the coming years. So, the naval forces wish to order two new ships in the basic configuration in fiscal year 2017. It is also planned to get Congressional approval to order the next batch of a dozen ships. The first ship of this series is expected to be ordered in fiscal year 2018. In the context of such military plans fleet doubts are expressed about the appropriateness of the proposed orders. The construction of ships has long gone beyond the initial estimates, and in addition, the project failed to obtain the required capabilities and characteristics.

A significant part of the report is “Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate. Congress Faced with Critical Acquisition Decisions ”is devoted to past events within the framework of the LCS program. GAO specialists recalled the progress of the project, as well as the problems that eventually led to the current difficult situation. Existing plans and proposals are also considered, and in addition, features and consequences of their implementation are assessed. Based on the results of consideration of the prerequisites and the most current situation, the Accounts Chamber draws certain conclusions and issues its own recommendations.

In the final part of the report, the authors point out that the naval forces really need the LCS program. The required ships, as shown by the project and the results obtained, can be used with some success by the naval forces. At the same time, the most serious problem of new projects is the difficulties of an economic nature, which have already led to a significant cost of the entire program in general and each ship in particular.

To date, two basic questions have been formed that the Congress will have to answer in the near future. Solving these issues will allow you to continue working on the program, obtaining certain results. The first question concerns the financing of the construction of new ships in 2017. Now in the shipyards involved in the LCS project, there are several ships at various stages of construction. The appearance of an additional order for another ship may result in additional loading of shipbuilding enterprises with the possible appearance of corresponding unpleasant consequences.

The second question relates to a more distant future and specifies a greater number of ships. In 2018, the United States Navy expects to begin ordering a series of 12 LCS ships in different versions. If this proposal is approved by the legislators, annual allocations for the construction of ships will be required over the next few years. At the same time, the Congress will retain the ability to control the program by changing its funding. However, in this case, there may be some new problems, first of all, a shift in the timing of completion.

In this situation, the US Congress has a very important role, since it is he who will have to make the final decision on the start of certain works, as well as on the amount of their funding. In the near future, congressmen will have to re-examine the situation and make their decision. Depending on their decisions, existing proposals will be implemented in their original form or will undergo certain changes.

Ship USS Independence (LCS-2). Photo by US Navy

The report of the US Accounting Chamber has been published and is now available to all comers. Over the past few days, this document has become a topic of mass discussion. In addition, recently the topic of further development of the project Littoral Combat Ship was again raised in Congress. The current situation with the project once again became the reason for the terrible statements and demands for its clarification. The venue for such speeches was a special meeting held in Congress last Thursday of 8 December.

On the progress and results of the meeting writes the American conservative publication Washington Examiner. In the article “Pentagon's top tester: Littoral ships have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission '” (“Pentagon's main test: LCS has no chance to complete an 30-day mission”) by Jamie McIntyre published by 12 December, there are some interesting quotes of responsible persons and other relevant information.

At the beginning of the article about the meeting are the words of Senator John McCain, who criticized the entire course of the LCS project and outlined its main mistakes. In his opinion, the failures of the LCS program, as in the case of other unsuccessful developments, were the result of the inability of the responsible persons to define and optimize the requirements for the project, errors in financial planning, technical assessment and risk assessment. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the military department began to buy ships and special equipment for them before the possibility of their joint operation was confirmed.

Senator Lindsay Graham, who also represents the Republican Party, was more rude in terms. He stated that the LCS program had completely failed. To get rid of existing problems, he simply advised someone to dismiss.

An important statement was made by the head of the Pentagon's department for field tests and evaluations, Michael Gilmore. He stated that the group of eight ships of the Littoral Combat Ship type, which the United States Navy possesses, is not distinguished by high combat capabilities. According to M. Gilmore, the chances of ships successfully performing combat missions during the 30-day period tend to zero. In the course of such work, failures of one or several systems are possible, leading ships out of combat.

The representative of the Chamber of Accounts Paul Francis became the author of another bold and even frightening statement. He described the current situation as follows: 26 ships have already been ordered, but nobody knows until now whether they can do their job.

The US lawmakers once again discussed the problems of the LCS program and, perhaps, now have some considerations regarding further work on similar ships and on resolving the current negative situation. However, so far no information on this has been disclosed. Apparently, real steps - if they appear - will be made only in the future. What exactly the congressmen will do is still not completely clear. In a recent GAO report, it is proposed to start a way out of the situation by solving two questions about the construction of new ships, which may become the latest representatives of their project.

The program Littoral Combat Ship was launched in the first half of the two thousandth. The aim of the work was to create a promising combat ship capable of operating in the coastal zone and solving a wide range of diverse tasks. In order to facilitate the "development" of a particular specialty, it was decided to create a basic platform on which to mount a set of appropriate weapons and equipment. In this case, it became possible to replace outdated ships of several types for different purposes. From a certain time within the framework of the general program, two projects of ships were developed at once, which had significant differences.

During the implementation of the LCS program, Lockheed Martin developed the design of a ship of the “traditional” single-hull structure with a length of 115 and full displacement of 2840 tons. The ship was proposed to be equipped with a combined power plant with diesel and gas turbine engines, providing the maximum speed of 45 units. The ship was supposed to carry rocket and artillery weapons for various purposes. In addition, the need to carry a helicopter and transport goods.

The second version of the project was created by General Dynamics. Such a ship has a length of 127 m and a displacement of 2640 t. A characteristic feature of this version of the LCS is the hull, built according to the scheme of a trimaran. The use of a combined diesel and gas turbine power plant with jet propulsion is proposed. Armament and target equipment are selected in accordance with the intended role of a particular ship.

LCS Program: New GAO Report and Senators' Opinions
The construction schedule of the new LCS ships given in the GAO report

The lead ship on the project Lockheed Martin, named USS Freedom (LCS-1), was laid in the middle of 2005 year. The ship USS Independence (LCS-2), built on an alternative project, laid at the beginning of 2006 year. The lead ships of the two projects became part of the US Navy in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Subsequently, the construction of ships was continued. To date, contracts for two types of 26 ships have been signed. Several contracts have already been executed.

10 September 2016 was handed over to the customer by the ship USS Montgomery (LCS-8), which became the fourth ship designed by General Dynamincs. Three other ships are being completed at the wall or tested. Two more are being built. October 22 US naval forces received the ship USS Detroit (LCS-7) - the fourth, designed by Lockheed Martin. Three other ships of this project are launched and one remains in the assembly hall. Thus, in the ranks there are already eight ships, six more will enter service in the near future.

According to existing plans, a total of four dozen LCS ships of two types, differing in composition of weapons and special equipment, should receive a total of US Navy. In the near future, Congress will have to decide on the future fate of 14 of the remaining ships, which have not yet become the subject of a contract. According to fleet command plans, two ships should be ordered in the 2017 fiscal year. At the same time it is planned to receive permission to order a series of 12 latest ships. The construction of the first one will begin in 2018. However, such plans have not gone further than the draft military budget and need to be approved by Congress.

In accordance with existing contracts, over the next few years, the US Navy will have to receive 26 ships of two projects. About 14 billions of dollars have already been spent on developing projects and paying for these contracts. Completion of the planned 14 ships can cost around 6 billions. According to the results of this, the fleet will receive all the required ships, in theory capable of solving a wide range of tasks. At the same time, at the moment, the state and capabilities of the LCS ships are far from fully satisfied with the military. Because of this, already built equipment may need additional modernization.

At the moment, the program Littoral Combat Ship looks very interesting. It was based on the original proposal, which allowed to save on the construction and operation of equipment. Subsequently, the development of projects was faced with serious problems of various kinds, because of which not all the tasks were solved. Moreover, over time, some new problems have appeared. As a result, as P. Francis aptly put it, 26 ships were ordered, but no one knows if they can do their work. What will be done next and how the US military and political leaders plan to get out of this situation - time will tell. Perhaps, the conclusions and proposals of the Accounts Chamber, expressed in a recent report, will help him in this.

On the materials of the sites:

Report of the GAO "Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate. Congress Faced with Critical Acquisition Decisions ”:

Washington Examiner article "Pentagon's top tester: Littoral ships have a near-zero chance of completing a 30-day mission '":

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  1. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 13 December 2016 17: 00
    As I understand it, the main problem with LCS is one: conceptual. Initially, the ship was created in order to crush and reduce zusuls. That is, the presence of the enemy of something that could reach the LCS was considered unlikely. So, you don’t have to worry about normal air defense and survivability - long live light alloys and the only RAM as air defense.
    On paper, everything looked just great. But all the raspberries were spoiled by the chaotic heretics ... pah, the Hussites, who suddenly brought down a strict concentration of one simple fact: now even the zusuls may have coastal defense with RCC. And the burning HSV-2 Swift made the navy think about it ...
    1. GSH-18
      GSH-18 13 December 2016 18: 54
      They can’t choose an option, and that’s what the loot is. Fortunately, the system of cuts worked out better than the program of action in a nuclear attack good laughing
      Give me drank amerobyudet — bigger, fatter, bolder! bully
      1. Octopus
        Octopus 13 December 2016 22: 16
        Quote: GSH-18
        Initially, the ship was created in order to crush and reduce zusuls

        Honestly, Alexey, I expected something more substantial from you.
        It is quite obvious that the Zulu, and, by the way, many visitors to this site, would be much more impressed by the "soft power" in the form of the opportunity to see the American floating museum.

        Yes, I mean Iowa.

        Moreover, the Zulus are much cheaper just to take on a salary. Our western partners understand this no worse than our eastern partners. As a matter of fact, they only indulge in fireworks just before the election, or when they completely turn up.

        Perhaps I am expressing myself too broadly, but here, rather, a philosophical problem. Our American friends are faced with a situation where modern technology + unlimited money allows you to build anything at all... As a result, the question "Why the hell did we do this?" Over and over again, wunderwafli, with all their fantastic capabilities, become "technology demonstrators." I must admit that I don’t remember when the partners did something that really worked well. Perhaps Burke, and those with reservations.

        In relation to this device, the phrase
        The aim of the work was to create a promising warship capable of operating in the coastal zone and solving a wide range of various tasks

        KVM comprehensively describes the situation. No one understands why this ship is needed. And I never understood.
        1. Alexey RA
          Alexey RA 14 December 2016 10: 04
          Quote: Octopus
          It is quite obvious that the Zulu, and, by the way, many visitors to this site, would be much more impressed by the "soft power" in the form of the opportunity to see the American floating museum.

          It’s good to be healthy and rich. The problem is that there are few museums. And for all the centers of instability (inflated, by the way, by the same Yankees), they will not be enough even in the USN.
          Quote: Octopus
          Moreover, the Zulus are much cheaper just to take on a salary.

          The problem is that salary does not guarantee anything. For not only the United States has money.
          1. Octopus
            Octopus 14 December 2016 21: 02
            Quote: Alexey RA
            The problem is that there are few museums

            This is not a reason to build ships with the characteristics of pre-war leaders for the indicated price.
            Quote: Alexey RA
            for all foci of instability (inflated, by the way, by the same Yankees), they will not be enough even in the USN.

            The fleet is not needed to fight the natives. And what they built is definitely not gunboats.
            Quote: Alexey RA
            For not only the United States has money.

            But banks capable of making a dollar payment are only in the United States. And everyone who is interested is in the know.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 14 December 2016 01: 19
      "Everything looked great on paper. But all the raspberries were spoiled by chaos heretics" ///

      China and its growing fleet spoiled raspberries. At some point, the admirals realized that the new ships would have to fight near Singapore, the straits, and deal with the Chinese.
      And the armament of the ships is weak. Against terrorists and smugglers. And it needs to be thoroughly strengthened.
  2. Scharnhorst
    Scharnhorst 13 December 2016 17: 17
    On paper, the speed is impressive! It’s just not clear: why does the country need two corvettes with different hulls and unified weapons? ... for a price tending to half a million green? ... As they say, a flag in hand and a drum around the neck! But McCain is still beautiful!
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 13 December 2016 17: 48
      Quote: Scharnhorst
      It’s just not clear: why does the country need two corvettes with different corps and unified weapons? ... for a price tending to half a million green? ...

      Duc ... there was such a budget and there were two such monsters on it - Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics - which was cheaper to divide the order in half. Otherwise, they would still be protesting the victory of any one .... smile
  3. burigaz2010
    burigaz2010 14 December 2016 02: 01
    Hehe and who spoke about ours drank? Americans as always ahead of the rest!
  4. Berkut24
    Berkut24 19 December 2016 13: 03
    "It was based on an original proposal that made it possible to save money on the construction and operation of equipment."
    ... And so it is in everything - in aviation, in space, in the navy and in the ground forces. As a result, the "cheap modular substitute" always becomes more expensive than what is going to be replaced. I would put a monument to the F-35 "For the ruin of a potential enemy"
  5. 4thParasinok
    4thParasinok 25 December 2016 20: 34
    it’s a pity that they removed the cons for the articles, for a waste of time you need to immediately set -50 ...