By BEN FREEMAN, Ph.D.
The U.S. Navy has convened a panel of high-ranking officers to study problems with the long-troubled “littoral combat ship,” an unconventional type of warship that the Navy has been counting on to perform an array of missions.
In a memo dated Aug. 22, the Navy’s top admiral ordered the new panel to address “challenges identified” in a series of recent wargames and other reviews.
“All Navy combat ships, even test and evaluation platforms, must be ready to meet assigned capability and missions starting the first day of active service,” Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan W. Greenert wrote in a memo posted by Defense News. “The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is no exception,” he wrote.
The Project On Government Oversight has documented extensive problems with the U.S.S. Freedom, the first of the vessels. In April, POGO reported that the Freedom had suffered engine failures, cracks, flooding and corrosion.
Last week, POGO reported that, according to internal Navy documents, the Freedom had suffered from directional instability – difficulty maintaining a straight course. According to the documents, Navy personnel had urged that the information be closely held at a time when Congress was weighing the future of the vessel.
The ship is designed to operate in shallow coastal waters where it could be called upon to counter submarines, mines and small boats like the explosive-laden terrorist craft that nearly destroyed the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
There are two variants of the LCS – one from a team lead by Lockheed Martin, and another from a team lead by General Dynamics. The Freedom is a Lockheed model. According to the Congressional Research Service, it was commissioned into service in November 2008.
Greenert appointed Vice Admiral Richard W. Hunt to chair the new “3-Star LCS Council.” Hunt, a three-star admiral and director of Navy staff, is joined by the assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, the commander of Naval Sea Systems, and the commander of surface forces in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
“The focus of the LCS Council will first be to develop a class-wide plan of action to address the areas identified as needing improvement in recent assessments and reviews,” the Navy said in a news release.
Greenert gave the LCS Council until Jan. 31 to develop and implement a “Plan of Action.” The Freedom is slated to be sent to Singapore early next year.
Ben Freeman in an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight.Follow @BenFreemanDC