While the Littoral Combat Ship is ultra modern looking, remarkably fast, shallow draft (relatively) and requires a smaller crew, it did not measure up to the various tasks to which it was intended. The plan was to equip the vessel with "mission packages" which are an exchangeable cluster of weapons and equipment which could be fitted in less than 96 hours in port, effectively reconfiguring the ship for a different mission profile. Of course, should the needs change while the ship is at sea ... While that sounds great, in fact it has taken over two weeks to change the mission package and reconfigure the ship and its crew for the new assignment.
Things that seem too good to be true usually are. A weapons system designed for a dozen different missions makes them good at none - each is a compromise. But the concept - at least on paper - was brilliant. With the 3 packages, we get 3 ships for the price of one ($450 million) and are able to replace a bunch of small vessels getting a bit long in the tooth. But ... there's always a "but," right? So, what's the problem? Well, design flaws wound up costing the government $780 million for one hull and 2 packages. And on top of that, the ship is too lightly armed to fight anything it's likely to encounter.
The ship can't handle serious rough weather, nor has it the ability to withstand an explosion (like often happens in combat). Additionally, back when the DOD first realized things weren't going quite as planned, they contracted for another ship, in fact, a different design, also called the LCS. That one was worse, it seems. Hmmm. There was relatively little oversight in the construction/testing part of the process by the Navy which probably accounts for the fact that too many of the systems failed. And then, the DOD cut the projected "buy" from 52 to 32 ships, at the same time, authorizing the Navy to identify a "more capable and lethal small surface combatant ..." Witness further that in eleven years into the program, there are only 6 six ships built. It is time, we think, to admit defeat in this project and move on ... or reopen the Zumwalt Class of DDG 1000, a design that actually was a success, but scrapped for cost reasons.
The DDG-1000, the Zumwalt class cost nearly $2.5 billion each to build - but it works. They cut off the program after 3 ships to build the LCS; now, with that program curtailed, perhaps it's time to reconsider the DDG-1000 class even though it costs more. What good is a ship that while fast and shallow, would be unlikely to survive in a combat situation, will likely be set up with the wrong "mission package" (Murphy's Law, you know, can not be ignored!), when there are available alternatives that do work.
Until next time,