Home » Budget Industry » CNO Greenert: Hagel ‘Close to a Decision’ on LCS Follow On

CNO Greenert: Hagel ‘Close to a Decision’ on LCS Follow On

The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), rear, and USS Independence (LCS 2) maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California on May, 2 2012. US Navy Photo.

The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), rear, and USS Independence (LCS 2) maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California on May, 2 2012.
US Navy Photo.

The final decision on the 20-hull follow up to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be made soon, the Chief of Naval Operations said during a defense conference in California over the weekend.

“The Secretary is very close to a decision,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert said in an interview with news service Reuters during Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan presidential library.
“It was our endeavor to provide an option which would provide a more lethal ship, one that is more survivable, with capabilities that can be back fit, and as much as feasible, not interrupt production.”

Greenert told Reuters following the decision he expected an announcement after the decision and an outline of the way ahead.

Navy officials contacted by USNI News on Monday declined to comment on Greenert’s statements to Reuters.

An artist's concept of the Multi-Mission Combatant offering based on the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship design. General Dynamics Photo

An artist’s concept of the Multi-Mission Combatant offering based on the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship design. General Dynamics Photo

Pentagon leadership issued a memo in January directing the Navy to replace the last 20 of the planned 52 LCS with frigate-like ships with more firepower than the current Flight 0 Lockheed Martin Freedom-class and Austal USA Independence-class variant.

The service was tasked to examine up gunning the two Flight 0 variants currently in production, a new design or foreign variants and present options to Pentagon leadership.

Several sources have confirmed to USNI News that the results of the so-called Small Surface Combatant (SSC) taskforce has been internalized by the service and a recommended path forward has been proffered, but the recommendation has been one of the most closely held secrets in Navy acquisition hid in a swirl of non-disclosure agreements.

An artist's conception for two variants of the Freedom-class LCS design provided to USNI News. Lockheed Martin Image

An artist’s conception for two variants of the Freedom-class LCS design provided to USNI News. Lockheed Martin Image

However, Greenert’s comments on not interrupting production suggest the recommendation could be based on one or both of the Flight 0 LCS variants.

The capabilities of the current LCS designs have come under consistent criticism in and outside the Navy but the final cost of the ships — averaging less than $500 million a hull — has also been considered an acquisition success by the service.

Given the importance the service has placed on maintaining on the shipbuilding industrial base, it’s highly likely whatever the SSC decision the Navy recommends it would take pains to preserve the Austal and Lockheed shipyards in Alabama and Wisconsin.

USNI News understands the primary difference between the current crop of LCS and the SSC will be the inclusion of a 3D air defense radar, some type of offensive anti-air missile and perhaps an over-the-horizon anti-surface missile — which both Austal and Lockheed have included in offerings for foreign military sales (FMS).

However it will be up to Hagel to approve the final plan and that consultation has been pushed back several times due primarily to the ongoing security crisis in Iraq and Syria with the advancement of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The service has previously said the SSC decision will be folded into the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) Fiscal Year 2016 budget submission, due out early next year.

  • Tony

    Please, if there is a God in heaven, don’t go with an “up-gunned” LCS hull! We looked at that WRT Saudi Arabia, and there are significant drawbacks.

    • Curtis Conway

      Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! However, it looks like the fix is in. Say goodbye to our future sailor sons and daughters.

  • Fred Gould

    Follow the money

    • Curtis Conway

      Amen!!! This is a payoff pure and simple all under the Aegis of preserving shipbuilding capacity that is building junk that cannot survive combat at sea. Where is COMOPTEVFOR w;hen you need him.

  • Jack Lawrence

    It has to get past John McCain now.
    He has been pretty scathing in his crticism.
    Personally, unless the plan is some sort of great leap to an energy platform, it looks like a fleet downgrade.

    • Curtis Conway

      If they stick with the LCS hull forms (either one) it is definitely a fleet downgrade.

  • Ctrot

    “with capabilities that can be back fit, and as much as feasible, not interrupt production”

    Sounds like they’ve decided on an LCS derivative.

    • Curtis Conway

      yes it does. The fix is in? This is money payoff for the blood of our sailors when they have to go to the Arctic, or just steam in the Big Pond in heavy weather. Haven’t seen the Survivability Issues fix yet! I guess that is like the fire test results for the DDG-1000’s superstructure we never saw . . . just before they switched to Stainless Steel.

      • David Teer

        Yep yep, it sucks but that is what happens when politicians with limited military knowledge try to direct the military. Cut the navy’s budget then have them build more. Something has to give, if you want more ships then they have to give up capability. If you want capability then you have to reduce the number of ships.

        • ed2291

          No disagreement, but it looks like we are going down in both capability and numbers. Remember the 600 ship navy? We are now below 300 and still shrinking with no realistic plans of holding the line even at 290 ships.

          Having 3 types of unsuitable ships that start low in capability and will probably never be financed to make up for lost capability (because there are 3!) does not give me confidence.

          The purpose of the Navy should not be to satisfy and enrich multiple politicians and shipbuilders.

          • David Teer

            600 ships ended with the wall falling in 1990. It would be nice to have a couple hundred burkes and ticos on the open water. But with foreseeable threats being mostly asymetrical that is where most of the limited funding and resources are going to go.

            The biggest problem with the LCS are the minesweeping and sub hunting mission modules not being ready. The LCS will probably never live up to the Avenger, Osprey or Perry class, because those ships were mission specific.

            Realistically most major military acquisitions going forward will have to be multimission capable. The LCS will be able to perform her main missions, but will never excel at any one of them.

          • ed2291

            Again no disagreement in theory, but If the mine sweeping and ASW modules are not available and the Marine ground support is unconvincing (We just need to be able to drop off SEAL teams, no gunfire support) then the LCS is not multi-mission. As far as I can see, she is not even single mission. Further having 3 types with 3 training pipelines and 3 supply pipe lines makes this whole concept much more expensive than needed.

          • Curtis Conway

            Amen. About that wall falling . . . every Tom, Dick and Harry tinned horned dictator has started doing all manner or things around the globe how that the ‘cop is not on the beat’. We have terrorist cutting peoples heads off, Putin pushing every neighbors border and launching (burning up an old and bad) ICBMs two or three times a month exercising his troops and replacing his old stock with upgraded items, as we think about upgrading ours, and the Chinese are treating the South China Sea like their back yard even in other countries Economic Control Zones. The wall falling only involved the old Soviet Union relationship, and THAT threat was replaced by many more who seem to relish flexing their muscles . . . AND . . . by and large US Navy is not on assigned patrol stations around the globe, the South China Sea being a case in point. .

          • David Teer

            The modules are just behind schedule a few years. The mine hunting system is scheduled to enter service next year and the sub hunting in 2016. I cant argue cost since I do not know the total program cost for the Perrys, Avengers, Ospreys, and various coastal patrol ships we have used.

          • ed2291

            David, I hope you are right and the LCS turns out to be just fine. I would love to be wrong about this, but still do not see the need for three ship types. Multi-mission ships are not new and with increased technology are more possible than ever.

  • Thomas Peavy

    We have seen this folly in the McNamara Navy with the all missile ships and light armor. History should speak loudly. Our ship had little to no defense from some forms of attack given the weapons systems and thus was limited in the role it could play in a combat zone. Welding mounts for 50 Cal. machine guns to the Bridge Wings offered slightly more close in protection. Common sense and versality of the platform would favor a Frigate type ship and provide survivability in combat.

  • Secundius

    Instead of “scaling down” an LCS to perform the role of a Perimeter Action Ship, against “swarming boats”. Just build the Ambassador III class Fast Missile/Gun Boat to function in that role. With 41+ knots capabilities and displacing just 500-tons, with a cruising range of over 2,200-nm. They fit the role “perfectly”.

  • DWinslow

    I hope they can find some money to also upgrade the first batch of 32 ships.

    • Curtis Conway

      Upgrades to existing LCS is irrelevant if they do not fix their survivability.

  • ed2291

    So because nobody in a leadership position had the courage, honor, and commitment to down-select unsuitable ships we will have 3 small combatants with 3 training and 3 logistics pipelines instead of one. Contrast with the Knox class frigates and FFGs in capability, usefulness, and length of service.

    The question needs to be asked just how big a navy can we afford with all this fraud, waste, and abuse. We did not draw the line at 500, 400, or 300 ships. Can we even afford a 200 ship navy with all this foolishness?

    • Curtis Conway

      If they stick with LCS for logistical and training savings reasons we will know that the LCS has sunk the US Navy.

  • Curtis Conway

    If we see a continuation of either of the LCS lines we will know that the best interest of the nation is not served. Neither hull is Arctic capable, and if they tell you they are, I want to see the sea trials to prove it. This frigate must be able to steam in the Arctic for 30 days and handle the environment. If one thinks the next frigate will not be going to the Arctic, I will dig up all the missions they sent FFG-7s on that we were told they would never go on as well. The Russians are returning to the Arctic in force and spending real money refurbishing facilities to support Arctic operations. What are we doing? The National Security Cutter is Arctic capable, and has room for growth. That hull can also handle a decent hull mounted sonar, and has decent small boat capability and still have room for a towed sonar. The cylindrical Mack version makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.

  • Curtis Conway
  • Rob C.

    Sadly it properly going to be that way. Its cheaper to keep an existing design in production verses a completely new design. Freedom builder’s had variants in the works for while. It would be the easy choice to go with a various choices with ready build production line and supply train. I have feeling that Independence-Class’s builders may not have devised many choices.

    I think its more likely they’ll go with one of the Freedom’s variants, but hopefully it will be a more robust design that they held back on because of the ever changing LCS requirements imposed on them from Navy and the Politicians.