Home » Budget Industry » No Funds Available for Naval Strike Missile Test on USS Freedom, Demo Stalled


No Funds Available for Naval Strike Missile Test on USS Freedom, Demo Stalled

An undated photo of a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile in flight. Kongsberg Photo

An undated photo of a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile in flight. Kongsberg Photo

This post has been amended with additional information from the Navy on the cost of the NSM test program. 

The planned demonstration installation of an over-the-horizon missile on a Littoral Combat Ship is stalled due to lack of funds, U.S. Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Friday.

The Navy intended to install a Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile battery on USS Freedom (LCS-1) ahead of the ship’s next scheduled Western Pacific deployment but those plans are on hold due to a lack of funds, Lt. Rebecca Haggard, with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, told USNI News on Friday.

The service had budgeted $101.4 million in fiscal year 2016 for over-the-horizon missile testing on Freedom and the Independence-class USS Coronado (LCS-4), according to a March DoD reprogramming request obtained by USNI News.

However, in the process of installing the legacy Harpoon anti-surface missile on Coronado, the service ran out of money to complete both installations, several sources familiar with the program told USNI News in the last several weeks.

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise on April 28, 2015. US Navy Photo

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in preparation for a replenishment-at-sea training exercise on April 28, 2015. US Navy Photo

Due to the shortfall, an additional $23 million was included in a May Department of Defense budget reprogramming request to the four congressional defense committees.

“This testing will provide a proof-of-concept for an over-the-horizon missile on the LCS, making it a more lethal and capable platform, responding to the fleet demand signal,” read the request submission.

The request for the extra money was ultimately not approved.

“Three committees have endorsed the requirement, but the proposed funding source was denied,” Haggard said.
“One committee has deferred the request.”

The Navy’s surface warfare directorate (OPNAV N96), said the service, “utilized $5.4 million in fiscal year 2016 funds for over-the-horizon (OTH) missile testing on the Independence-variant USS Coronado (LCS 4),” in a statement to USNI News.
“The Navy requested an additional $30.82 million to procure and install the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) OTH System on USS Freedom as a continuation of the Foreign Comparative Test program. However, funding and programmatic aspects of the Freedom installation remain pre-decisional.”

Adding an anti-surface capability on the Littoral Combat Ship quickly is part of the larger U.S. surface navy’s distributed lethality push.

In January, then director of surface warfare Rear Adm. Peter Fanta told USNI News that installing an OTH missile on LCS was “an absolute requirement” for the service.

Coronado will deploy later this year with the Harpoon installation the Navy was able to complete in time for a demonstration of the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise.

Haggard told USNI News the Navy is set to release a request for proposal for a permanent OTH missile for the LCS platform.

Likely competitors for the contract are Boeing with an upgraded version of the Harpoon, a Kongsberg-Raytheon team for the NSM and Lockheed Martin with the company’s Long Range Strike Missile (LRASM) it’s developed in conjunction with DARPA.

The following is the complete Sept. 1, 2016 statement from OPNAV N96.

The Navy utilized $5.4 million in fiscal year 2016 funds for over-the-horizon (OTH) missile testing on the Independence-variant USS Coronado (LCS 4). The relatively low cost for Harpoon installation in LCS-4 was made possible by using legacy Harpoon missiles and fire control components from existing Navy inventory. The ‘Harpoon’ structural test firing from USS Coronado was successfully completed in July 2016 during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, enabling the ship to load weapons for deployment.

The Navy requested an additional $30.82 million to procure and install the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) OTH System on USS Freedom as a continuation of the Foreign Comparative Test program. However, funding and programmatic aspects of the Freedom installation remain pre-decisional.

  • Curtis Conway

    If this is not V&V activity for this specific Class platform, I wonder how many times we have to hook up the cables and drive the engagement & launch.

    • PolicyWonk

      Indeed – the USN could install the NSM on a tramp freighter, and it would be almost as effective a test as installing it on the Freedom. At least then we’d have the added bonus of proving the “if it floats it fights” idea.

      • sferrin

        Except you’d still need to test any installation on LCS if you wanted to deploy it on them. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

  • sferrin

    Two words: Keystone Cops. (And that’s being generous.)

  • Uncle Mike

    Maybe they can get some loose change from the Green Diesel program. God know how much money they’ve spent on that boondoggle. For the life of me I don’t understand this administration’s priorities. Oh, and let’s burn more hours off of F-22 wings by dropping bombs on ISIS too while we’re at it.

    • sferrin

      But, but. . .if we don’t use the F-22 to drop bombs on camels that means it’s useless.

      • Andrew Doolittle

        Camels are pretty small from forty thousand feet actually…

        • sferrin

          You don’t say?

    • yes Trump is right–save only is golf courses form CC.

  • Ed L

    LCS 600 million+ per copy Now a hundred million plus needed for missile deployment testing? Is that good money management? Maybe I am too entrench in the KIS way of Life

    • Lazarus

      Wrong. LCS costs $479 million a copy.

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        Okay, 479 million well the Repair funds have kick them up over 500 million now. I would have rather buy some of those old Knox Frigates and stick some diesels in them. They forgot the KIS principal. Small crew 2 RAM, 2 76mm, 2 CWIS, manned 7.62mm Gatling guns. Make about 350 feet. Like the SAAR 4.5

  • airider

    What’s doing the OTH targeting??? Navy removed Harpoon on Flt II+ destroyers mainly due to this limitation. Duct taping these missiles on to an even more limited ship won’t provide the capability desired. Where’s the complete OTH solution??? Helicopters (limited on station time and exposure). Fixed wing (only if LCS is near a CVN). Other ships/submarines (possible if the combat systems are each upgraded to support remote targeting).

    • Uncle Mike

      Stop making this complicated. What’s important is that LCS looks capable, not that it actually is.

    • El_Sid

      Part of it will be new missile seekers that are more intelligent than Harpoon. Part of it will be alternative forms of ISR, that mean you can get persistent ISR on a small ship. That could be TERN (spec is for 600lb payload 600-900nm from an LCS-sized ship), that could be TALONS (automated parafoil taking 150lb payload up to 1500ft), that could be Scan Eagle or its offspring (current models have 16-20hr endurance with 60-mile comms range and carry various EO/IR/SAR/ViDAR sensors, not all at the same time).

      There’s a lot of options available now or in the near future that weren’t open to Harpoon-armed Burkes in the 90s.

      • airider

        These can all happen independent of LCS….are they?

        • El_Sid

          They’re all happening, but TERN and TALONS are happening with LCS very much in mind.

          • airider

            Well then part of that is good to hear. Coupling anything directly with the LCS program is fraught with peril. The whole basis of the effort has been to buy “warships” on the cheap. I’d hope these efforts could be independently fielded to provide as broad an advantage across the whole fleet as possible.

          • El_Sid

            Well, the USN these days is all about modularity – but LCS is the ship that particularly specialises in modularity.

    • Nimloth

      If you know the general direction of the target, the NSM can recognise and attack it as long as it’s nearby (or not, if friendly). Fire a swarm, and the missiles will communicate between themselves to decide on which missile hits where. As you say, the NSM will communicate with other platforms like nearby ships, aircraft or drones, and use their sensor data to acquire a target. If your ship can field drones, you’re mostly fine. I doubt the LCS will be operating much alone without support from other ships/platforms capable of gathering OTH intel.

      Speaking of duct tape, that’s part of the philosophy behind the missile. What’s really scary for any enemy is the NSM’s small size, hence ability to be “duct taped” almost everywhere, yet good capability. Corvettes, patrol boats, submarines, trucks, logistics vessels, anything that can haul an ISO container, etc. It might not sink a large vessel, but missiles hitting vital spots will ruin your ability to do useful things. Any enemy ought to be paranoid.

      • airider

        Duct tape comment refers to lack of integration with combat system. Missiles need a targeting systems to be effectively used. LCS lacks the ability to do integrated targeting with anything else…so unless it detects it with its own sensors, the missile is pretty much useless.

  • Andrew Doolittle

    I still don’t understand what Navy this ship will be attacking. I do like the side door though…got a lot of options with that thing.

  • The contract should help with the testing. Also take the funds away from benObama’s farewell tour trips overseas. Now China, I wonder how many hanger-ons and butt kissers are included in Air Force One passenger list. Why so much to test a missile. Weld on a launcher, have a target drone over the horizon, and test the thing. One hundred and twenty million plus -WTF – Contract supplies and contract eats the missiles – play our game or you are out. I bet my sea bag that Kongsberg will pay to play. Just like Hilabeast and the State Department. Sorry for the political comment but just an observation. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Ret.

  • fartoomanyaccounts

    “However, in the process of installing the legacy Harpoon anti-surface missile on Coronado, the service ran out of money to complete both installations….”

    Why would you even bother to spend money to put a missile that’s been obsolete for twenty years on the LCS for testing at all? Well, one supposes political considerations might be in play (Boeing has a lot of play on the Hill, therefore we have to pretend that Harpoon is in the same league as far more modern options). But, even then, why not make sure the missile that’s really going to be a viable option for future inclusion on LCS gets first priority then do Harpoon if you have the money left, versus handling things the other way around?

    Anyway, on another point entirely this is the first I’ve read that LRASM is expected to be a competitor for the OTH anti-ship role on the LCS & small-frigate LCS. If true, that would certainly raise the possibility of adding a whole new level of capability to the platform/s. (Much longer range, much bigger warhead, more sophisticated sensors/electronics, etc. would make it much bigger threat to an adversary’s higher-value targets.) A badly needed level of increased capability, in my view. But I was under the impression that LRASM wasn’t even being contemplated for that job due to size-weight constraints in the aftermath of the Navy deciding it didn’t have the time or money to add VLS cells to the frigate-LCS.

    • Lazarus

      Such a ship (LCS with VLS cells) is just too expensive for the capability that it provides. Harpoon was an interim step to put a known capability on LCS.

      • fartoomanyaccounts

        The core defect, in my view, of the LCS-frigate design remains the same shortcoming present the original design: without any ability to fire long-range missiles the ship has very limited usefulness in surface warfare and land attack against even moderately-capable adversaries.

        On the other hand, I could see a role for an LCS-sized ship–with a relatively low RCS– that was basically designed around getting as many VLS cells as possible in a ship of that size, and for no other purpose but getting within Tomahawk or LRASM range of its targets and cutting loose. Of course, that would not be a multi-mission ship that you would use for presence and training missions and the like, as you might be able to do with LCS-frigate. But, on the other hand, such a ship would have usefulness against adversaries using A2/D2 strategies. Which LCS-frigate wouldn’t/won’t. And the latter need is shaping up as the greater need.

        • El_Sid

          Don’t forget that A2/D2 is not just about visible ships – it’s just as much about mines and submarines and swarms of jetskis etc. Your ship would be vulnerable to all these. Also ships are not the way to kill ships – the first choice is submarines, option 2 is fast jets, option 3 is helicopters and option 4 trailing by a long way is another ship.

          But submarines and planes are useless against mines, submarines can;t really help you against swarms, and ships have some advantages against submarines. So if you want a low RCS missile carrier – that sounds like a mini arsenal ship, which these days is called a SSN. But the team needs a surface ship to handle mines and to contribute to the ASW effort and anti-swarm effort – that member of the team looks like an LCS.

          • fartoomanyaccounts

            I think we probably agree more than we disagree here. I’m 100% in agreement that in many ways the best countermeasure to A2/D2 in the land-attack and anti-ship roles is the SSN (or an SSGN). I’m also in agreement that the U.S. needs the non-frigate LCS (or something very LCS-like) for the anti-mine, anti-swarm, etc. roles. I think we diverge when it comes to what to do with the resources that are now slated to go to the LCS light-frigate.

            The problem I see with putting the anti-ship missile role as heavily on SSNs as you suggest is that SSNs cost a great deal of money, and the U.S. industrial capacity to build them currently tops out at two-three hulls a year. And with the missile-carrying Ohios beginning to retire next decade you’re looking at a major decline in the number of VLS cells that are on survivable platforms in the fleet. (Even if all Virginia SSNs past 2020 have the increased-VLS cell-modifications that are now being finalized.) In my view, it is important to replace those cells, and do so with a platform in addition to the Virginia SSNs. A platform that (a) can get close enough to highly-defended targets to use 300-900nm range strike missiles, (b) you can afford to build, and (c) you have the industrial capacity to build.

            A relatively small, relatively low RCS, lightly-manned surface ship built around VLS cells–and built with the strike role as its primary or sole mission–would be one platform that might fill those needs.

          • El_Sid

            I guess the bigger difference is that you’re thinking in terms of weapons you can see – when I say submarines are the main weapon against shipping, I’m thinking of making holes in the bottom of ships rather than holes in their superstructure. Torpedoes are harder to defend against too – the state of the art in torpedo defence is a long way behind SAMs, the main defence is speed (I suspect few of those who dismiss the LCS as a speedboat would complain when a torpedo was heading towards them!)

            But torpedoes are another area where the US has lagged behind – I always thought it was a bit of a shame that the USN didn’t persist with the big tubes of the Seawolf, a long-range, carrier-killer torpedo like the Type 65 would be really handy in an A2/D2 scenario.

            The argument against your small missile ship would be similar to the one against bigger arsenal ships – they are a priority target for the enemy so tend not to last long, unless they have so many defensive systems and signature reductions that they are no longer cheap. The SSGN is the practical version of an arsenal ship.

  • RobM1981

    All of the funds are going into the engine repairs for LCS-1, I suppose.

  • Lazarus

    Poor management perhaps on the Navy’s part, but more the fault on Congress for refusing to provide the Navy the $$$ it needs to accomplish the missions Congress wants. The Legislative branch has complained that LCS is not “lethal” enough, so the Navy attempts to comply and better arm the LCS sea frame. When it asks Congress for the needed funds to do this, the Legislature says no. This same body, however, is happy to fund billions is useless pork projects that make no contribution whatsoever to national security.

    • Finian

      The whole LCS program: Navy on the cheap.

    • Kenneth Millstein

      I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Refguy

    Why is it necessary to test it on both LCS classes? Are the combat systems that different? Aren’t they open architecture?

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    There is a GAO report out there recommending that Congress should consider not funding any Fiscal 2017 Littoral Combat Ships while ensuring the Navy has an acquisition strategy for the replacement frigate program

  • Kenneth Millstein

    If Madam Secretary Clinton is not aware of the Republican controlled Congress’s denial of funds for these important tests, someone should make her aware of this. We need a Democratic controlled White House again and of course the House and Senate. I would bet the farm they would have allocated the money for these tests. If someone knows how to reach out to Mrs.Clinton and inform her of this situation and then bring it up in the upcoming debates, it would a very good thing to do.

  • Just read that Freedom has one main propulsion engine OOC, rebuild or replacement so there goes the test ship. Question can both class LCS’s fire the missile. Are their combat systems common or two different systems? Just asking. It seems like the Navy is tilting towards LM and Freedom Class for the follow on BIG LCS/Frigate thingy. Oh well more money down the tube. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Ret.