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Littoral Combat Ship Report to Congress

The following is the Oct. 22, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively inexpensive surface combatant equipped with modular mission packages. Navy plans call for procuring a total of 32 LCSs. The first LCS was procured in FY2005, and the Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requested the procurement of the 30th and 31st LCSs. As part of its action on the Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget, Congress procured three LCSs—one more than the two that were requested. Thus, a total of 32 LCSs have been procured through FY2018.

The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget, which was submitted to Congress before Congress finalized action on the Navy’s FY2018 budget, requests $646.2 million for the procurement of one LCS. If Congress had procured two LCSs in FY2018, as requested by the Navy, the LCS requested for procurement in FY2019 would have been the 32nd LCS. With the procurement of three LCSs in FY2018, the LCS requested for procurement in FY2019 would be the 33rd LCS.

The Navy’s plan for achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet includes a goal for achieving and maintaining a force of 52 small surface combatants (SSCs). The Navy’s plan for achieving that goal is to procure 32 LCSs, and then procure 20 new frigates, called FFG(X)s, with the first FFG(X) to be procured in FY2020. Multiple industry teams are now competing for the FFG(X) program. The design of the FFG(X) is to be based on either an LCS design or a different existing hull design. The FFG(X) program is covered in another CRS report.

The LCS program includes two very different LCS designs. One was developed by an industry team led by Lockheed; the other was developed by an industry team that was then led by General Dynamics. LCS procurement has been divided evenly between the two designs. The design developed by the Lockheed-led team is built at the Marinette Marine shipyard at Marinette, WI, with Lockheed as the prime contractor; the design developed by the team that was led by General Dynamics is built at the Austal USA shipyard at Mobile, AL, with Austal USA as the prime contractor.

The LCS program has been controversial over the years due to past cost growth, design and construction issues with the first LCSs, concerns over the survivability of LCSs (i.e., their ability to withstand battle damage), concerns over whether LCSs are sufficiently armed and would be able to perform their stated missions effectively, and concerns over the development and testing of the modular mission packages for LCSs. The Navy’s execution of the program has been a matter of congressional oversight attention for several years.

Issues for Congress for the LCS program for FY2019 include the following:

  • the number of LCSs to procure in FY2019;
  • the Navy’s proposal to procure a final LCS in FY2019 and then shift to procurement of FFG(X)s starting in FY2020;
  • a July 2018 Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General (IG) report regarding IOC dates for LCS mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package systems;
  • survivability, lethality, technical risk, and test and evaluation issues relating to LCSs and their mission packages; and
  • LCS deployments in 2018.

  • airider

    Nothing new here folks. If you’re from the U.S., enjoy your Thanksgiving. If not, get back to work … 😉

    • thebard3

      Thanks for saving my time. I was gonna read the report, but I figured nothing much has changed.

      • vetww2

        G’wan, read it. We haven’t had such o good laugh, since Rodney Dangerfield died.

        RADICAL CONCEPT. The FFG-7, Perry class is a superior hull design to all but the “MEKO”s, and not that much worse. If the fineness ratio of the hull were to be increased by ~10%(450 to 540), the L/B would go to 12, and the speed wiuld go to 33 knots,with no power change. The displacement would go to about 4,600tns, depending on added system weight. The waterline must not change. The added ~80,000 Cu. Ft. of hull space could accomodate new systems, and the 3000 sq.ft. of deck space could augment A/C operations. If the superstructure were then to be RIVETED to the hull ( a proven idea from the PG-84) the Racking Cracking problem would be solved. Retraining of the crew would be reduced and many of the most complex construction too;ing could be used.
        +

      • Ctrot

        I stopped reading after the fiction of the opening sentence: “The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively inexpensive surface combatant equipped with modular mission packages.”

        • Duane

          No fiction. The LCS are not only the cheapest warship we build today, but the best value. The latest LCS to be commissioned, the USS Sioux City, a Freedom variant, was completed for only $362M in construction costs, part of a 11-ship block buy contract that averaged $352M per hull delivered. The mission modules range in cost anywhere from less than $50M (SuW and ASW) to about $100M (the MCM). So with mission modules, the total ship construction cost still under $500M. The more expensive Independence variants cost about $100M more.

          Our Arleigh Burkes come in at well more than three times that figure, closing in on $2B a hull.

          The FFG(X) will, depending upon the design selected, come in at around $800-900M give or take.

          • Ctrot

            Did I state that it wasn’t the cheapest ship we build? No I did not. It may be the cheapest but it is NOT “relatively inexpensive” for the amount of combat power it delivers nor is is as of yet equipped with the elusive “modular mission packages” which will in any case not be modular given the Navy’s decision to assign one mission to a given ship and leave at that.

    • vetww2

      CNN,…er….CRS has become a joke.

  • PolicyWonk

    “The Navy’s plan for achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet includes a goal for achieving and maintaining a force of 52 small surface combatants (SSCs).”
    =============================================
    While the USN, and the authors of this report refer to the “littoral combat ship” as “controversial in past years”, it remains controversial to this day. The goal stated above is imperiled by the addition of both of these classes to its fleet, because they were never intended to “venture into the littorals to engage in combat”, according to then-CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

    Therefore, I think it is more realistic to refer to the Independence and Freedom classes as SNC’s (Surface Non-Combatants), while continuing to refer to FFG(X) as an SSC’s (until proven otherwise).

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Duane

      LCS is only “controversial” amongst a deadender group consisting of a tiny handful of anti-LCS trolls here at USNI. Amongst the NAVY, the warship is very popular and well regarded and highly valued. The theater commanders can’t wait to get a half dozen in each theater.

      • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

        It doesn’t help to name call your colleagues who disagree with you more of an audience is possible with people who can actually help the Navy on this expensive issue .

        • PolicyWonk

          You’ll have to forgive the Bathtub Admiral for his baseless/fact-free diatribes. His claims w/r/t to either LCS class are devoid of reality. The bottom line for both LCS classes, is that despite being commissioned 10 years ago, they have and continue to deliver little to no value to the taxpayers.

          He makes fantastical claims regarding their capabilities, none of which have been proven in the real world, and belie the fact that not one LCS has left the CONUS this year. They are appallingly expensive to acquire, and even the USN has deemed LCS “the program that broke naval acquisition…” (hardly a glowing endorsement), horrifyingly expensive/onerous to maintain, are overly complex, and their much-vaunted flexibility is compromised by the lack of room for growth that has caused years of delays on mission package development (the MCM and ASW packages both had to be redesigned because they were too heavy).

          Lamentably, Duane will resort to silly claims about LCS’s legions of detractors hating ships, being too feeble to understand the concepts, and so on. But all of these claims are rendered ridiculous by the facts – let alone the USN’s own IG report that declared “neither class of LCS is likely to survive the missions commanders are likely to assign them…”.

          • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

            Thanks .

    • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

      You hit the nail right on the head!

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    It boggles my mind we’re actually having discussions about having discussions about having a study about thinking about maybe finally stopping LCS purchasing for good and transferring any funds remaining to more FFG(X)s and buying them perhaps sooner. Just pick the dang FREMM already and get all the shipyards building them. And more than 20. Get going, do it do it do it.

    • Bryan

      I tend to agree. The real question, which I don’t know the answer, is the Fremm a level 2 survivable ship? Can it/will it be made to that level? Reason to ask is, why have a more expensive sinkable ship. At that point go with whatever is cheaper for this fiasco.

      What I suspected was the Freedom variant would be picked. After reading in several blogs that LM will change out the engines I suspect the ffg(x) is a done deal with LM. It shouldn’t be but probably will be.

      So as the first LCS gets retired we will just about then see a deployment of the new ffg(x). Sad but I suspect true.

      • vetww2

        Survivable in peace, or WAR. You must make the distinction.

    • Ed L

      From a former Boatswain Mate’s view I like the FREMM especially the with the enclosed Focle and fantail for Anchor, line handling, especially since it is a pain in the butt maintenance and painting of the ground tackle and associated line handling fittings. So instead of 7 to 10 people assign to work on the ground tackle and other items you could probably do it with 5 sailors Enclosed focle’s are great to work in even when it’s raining.

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        It was my understanding, from watching the FREMM videos and reading Fincaterri’s press releases, that the FREMM is highly automated and designed for high levels of central control and less crew– I am not saying I KNOW this , but that’s what they claim. So I am pretty high on the FREMM for being automated, like the DDG-1000s and the idea that the failure LCSs were supposed to be

        • Bryan

          One of the problems with automation is it often can’t control the damage. So depending on how many crew and how they are trained a survivable incident becomes abandon ship.

          I’m all for saving money on a smaller crew in a frigate but that is a relative number. If at the expense of the ship? So is 114 better than 199? Depends. I’m not an expert on manning but apparently the Navy no longer is either.

          I worry the Navy is looking at it from a peacetime perspective. “We only hit a few mines and had a few collisions over the life of a hull type. Even if we lose all those ships we still save money on the lower crew.”

          Of course in wartime we just lose…Massive amounts of people, hulls and the war…

          • DaSaint

            Recruitment and retention factor also. And in a booming economy, typically fewer people join a service where they will be away from their families for months at a time.

            So manning levels have to decrease. The trick is what’s the balance between cost and survivability.

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            Look you made outstanding points and made them very well. I can’t say a word against it. I probably sounded a little wrong when I was talking about “automation” and you point out great points. I actually laughed out loud at “We only hit a few mines…” as if it was a used car being sold – “Only hit a few pot holes… give it an alignment, maybe some new tires , all good!” lol.

          • Ed L

            Italian Fremm’s manning. Complement
            Italy: 199 GP version / 201 ASW version Defense news quote 167 in crew which includes 23 for 2 helicopters

          • Duane

            In wartime LCS will do extremely well. They are the most capable warships on the planet in their littoral battlespace, bar none. Much more capable in that battlespace than any other ship the US Navy or any other navy has today. Better weapons, better sensors, better aircraft, bettor defenses against the actual littoral waters threats.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            “They are the most capable warships on the planet in the littoral battlespace…”

            That’s likely not true. China is building missile boats that are <10% the displacement of LCS – and carry more (and longer ranged) ASCMs.

          • Duane

            Automation is how ships are designed and built today … to the point where totally unmanned ships are going to take over much of what is currently assigned to manned ships.

            The notion of bodies needed for damage control is highly overstated – that is 20th century thinking. In terms of battle damage, any ship hit by a torpedo under the keel will sink almost immediately no matter how heroically the target’s crew performs. When virtually any modern warship is hit with an anti-ship cruise missile, it will likely not sink but will sustain such damage due to detonation and fire that it effectively gets knocked out of the battle and is effectively totaled … meanwhile even a small ASCM warhead will likely kill and maim at least 1/3 of the crew, and the larger ones (like LRASM or the Russian Kalibr or Chinese DF21) with 1,000 pound and larger warheads could easily kill and maim most of the crew on any but the largest ships like big deck carriers.

            What matters most by far is not how to live with a hit by an enemy missile or torpedo, but rather, how to avoid getting hit by an enemy missile or torpedo.

    • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

      Yes it seems the emperor has no clothes and no one in the fleet will tell the Pentagon.From the detailed report it seems Congress is aware of the failures but in the surreal world of politics things have a reality not commensurate with anybody’s pay grade in the Navy and I am not trying an attempt at satire unfortunately that for now is just the way it is!No wonder sailors are unhappy once again situation normal!Best wishes this problem finds a solution for the best interests of the Fleet!Meanwhile keep on blogging but with prayerful respect!

      • Duane

        The Navy and the sailors on LCS are very happy and proud of their ships. Only the tiny cadre of shiphaters on internet comment pages like this are unhappy or believe that the ship is not a success, as it clearly is.

        • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

          I respectfully disagree .Have you read the whole report?

        • vetww2

          Duane, READ THE REPORT. PLEASE!

        • Ed L

          Then if these ships are ready deploy them. Get them out to areas overseas near choke points

    • Duane

      No – we are not discussing about stopping LCS purchasing for good. We are purchasing all of the 34 authorized LCS. No further discussion is needed.

  • vetww2

    Not a word on capability. What in the world does an artificial goal of 355 or 2, 355 ships mean if the increase of capability of the Navy is asymptotic to ZERO? It reminds one of a billionaire who drives for more, simply to be able to say, “I have more.”

    • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

      Some people have the idea that if we don’t build these questionable ships now the country will lose the ability to build better ones in the future.Politics a necessary but dirty word!

      • old guy

        Astute reply.Valid if it weren’t for the fact that we have great designsm<AVAILABLE. I am so confused by the hype that this 91 year old must concede the fight.

        • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

          Business as usual for the beltway!Yes it is not a good situation the Navy is apparently stuck with.So much has been discussed about this ship production and yet nothing changes but I believe if anybody had an answer it is probably someone like you.

  • Ed L

    So it takes 3 years on average from when the independence and freedom LCS’s are laid down to commissioning? Interesting. I strongly believe that when the first 2FFGX FREMM design is order in 2020. We will not see the first 2 frigates till 2024?

    • Duane

      3 years to deliver is based upon a hot, fully matured production line, not starting up the first ever ship built in the USA in a US shipyard by a US shipyard.

      The planned contract requirement will be delivery of the first ship by 2025, assuming the design contract is awarded later this fiscal year as planned.

      FREMM would be making a “standing start” since one has never, ever been built in a US shipyard by a US shipyard. It takes years to ramp up a production line and supply chain and workforce, even after the design is made final. It just does.

      That is one of the main reasons why either a design based upon either the Freedom variant or Independence variant LCS will be selected … the ships are all being built today on hot production lines, all startup activies completed, supply chains in place, trained workers in place, etc. The only designs that are capable of being delivered by 2025 are the two LCS parent designs.

      • BrRobertNapolitanoSchwehr

        Now that is a very good reason for your argument.

  • DaSaint

    For the upcoming RFP, the FREMM, Navantia F-100/105, and Type 26 will all be submitted. Dark horse is the Type 26…

    I can dream, can’t I?

    Happy Thanksgiving and all the best to the regulars and newbies. Though we spar and fight, agree and disagree, I’m thankful for the debate and interaction.

    Be well.

    • PolicyWonk

      Austal (the lamest of all options) and LockMart (despite a near-total redesign) have the inside track, due to the blatant corruption of the PEO USC (formerly LCS), who have routinely doubled down on their tragic errors in the past. The openly deceitful designation of “littoral combat ship
      is the only thing that these ships have in common with the ONR’s “street fighter” concept, without which they never would’ve been funded.

      Unfortunately, every other option you listed all represent superior designs (however you missed the FFG(X) variant submitted by HII, and the Type 26 hasn’t been launched, which takes it out of the competition), but that matters not to those who put their desire for a cushy retirement job at a higher priority than enhancing US national security.

      I’ll personally be astonished if Austal or LockMart don’t get the deal.

      • DaSaint

        PolicyWonk, I agree with most of what you say. There’s a lot we know:
        There were 5 submissions to the RFP for Conceptual Design only.
        The design submitted by HII has not been publicly displayed.
        The pending RFP for the FFG(X) is for Design Development.
        The pending FFG(X) RFP is open and not limited to the submissions for the prior RFP.

        What I find interesting is WHY hasn’t HII publicized their conceptual design submission? If everyone expects it to be a variant of their NSC, then why not display it? Could it possibly NOT be an NSC variant?

        The other thing I’m watching is the UK’s pressing need for trade deals with its closest non-European allies. With the selections of BAE designs by Australia and then Canada, it leaves me to wonder if there is the possibility of an alliance between BAE and HII.

        No evidence of such an alliance, I must admit, but no evidence of the HII submission either. Connection? Maybe or maybe not.

        • PolicyWonk

          I, too, am somewhat surprised that HII hasn’t done more disclosure w/r/t the NSC-based FFG(X) design, that is/was the basis of their design work and proposal (originally). If they want the business, then I would think they would be more forthcoming (i.e. marketing), and investing in advertising, etc.

          My favorite is the FREMM, but any of the options that exclude the LockMart (note that FREMM is still a win for LockMart, given their partnership) and Austal LCS designs would be a “win” in my book, simply because they’re all better ships.

          Austals design amounts to “plastic surgery” for their Independence class, while LockMart’s variant completely redesigns the propulsion systems into two individual spaces, and removes the water jets, etc., which amounts to it being an entirely different ship (i.e. not an existing design, which is a requirement last I saw).

          W/r/t the UK, the “Brexit” thing has really made a mess of British relations with the rest of Europe, and everyone else is being really cautious until it shakes out. But who knows when that’ll finally happen…

      • Duane

        Austal and LM/Fincanterri are the most likely selectees, not due to corruption but due entirely to facts. Cheapest, capable, fastest to commissioning.

  • thumpgunner

    At the least, if you are going to put a Gun on the LCS, put at least the 5inch not the 57mm pop gun.

    • DaSaint

      Can’t handle that weight.