Pentagon questions niche vessels — anyone think Congress cares?

The Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian said the U.S. Navy needs more ships with the protection and firepower to survive an advanced adversary, not just “niche platforms,” weeks after she ordered cuts in the $34 billion Littoral Combat Ship program.

Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox’s remarks in a San Diego speech…in part reflect Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s concerns about the ship designed for shallow coastal waters, said a defense official who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations at the Pentagon.

Addressing the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Naval Institute, Fox said “the threats to surface combatants continue to grow — not just from advanced military powers, but from the proliferation of more advanced, precise anti-ship munitions around the globe. Clearly, this puts a premium on underseas capabilities — submarines — that can deploy and strike with relative freedom of movement.”

The Littoral Combat Ship, made in two versions by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Austal Ltd. (ASB), is a lightly armed vessel intended for roles from submarine-hunting to mine-sweeping. Questions have been raised about its mounting costs and survivability in combat. Last month, Fox directed the Navy to truncate the program to 32 ships after 2019 rather than the 52 previously planned by 2026…

Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, has written that the Littoral Combat Ship “is not expected to be survivable in high-intensity combat” because its designs don’t include features “necessary to conduct sustained combat operations in a major conflict as expected for the Navy’s other surface combatants.” The Navy has acknowledged the vessels are being built to the service’s lowest level of survivability

In other words, don’t send it to refuel in Yemen.

Fox also warned against the “natural tendency to hang on to combat forces at the expense of enablers,” such as electronic warfare and other countermeasures.

“In many respects the U.S. Navy has been so dominant for so long at sea that I worry we never really embraced these solutions,” she said. “The time to start investing in the next generation of electronic warfare is now.”

The average chickenhawk in Congress still thinks they’re watching rerun episodes of “Victory at Sea” with a soundtrack by Richard Rogers. All they care about is how many government jobs end up on their home turf – producing non-consumable goods.

Perish the thought we spend some pile of money on education, infrastructure or healthcare. That would be socialism.

6 thoughts on “Pentagon questions niche vessels — anyone think Congress cares?

  1. Crackerjack says:

    (12/14/15) The U.S. Navy’s newest littoral combat ship had to be towed into port last week after losing propulsion off the coast of Virginia. A statement from the U.S. Navy said the ship, USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), was en-route to a naval base in Little Creek when it lost propulsion Thursday night while approximately 40 nautical miles off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. “The Milwaukee crew initially took action Monday when they discovered very fine metallic debris in the port combining gear filter system,” the Navy said in a statement. “The crew cleaned the combining gear filters following established procedures, but locked the port shaft as a precautionary measure to prevent possible shaft damage. Thursday evening, while conducting routine steering checks, the ship lost pressure in the starboard combining gear lube oil system. The casualty was due to similar metallic debris contamination of the filter.”

    • Ka-Ching! says:

      Another U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship is sidelined in port in Singapore because of damage to gears that propel the vessel, according to a memo from the service, which blamed failure to use enough lubricating oil.
      The USS Fort Worth built by Lockheed Martin Corp. had damage to combining gears that let the ship run on a mix of diesel and gas turbine engines, according to the memo obtained by Bloomberg News. “There is no estimated date of completion” to the repairs, it said.
      The incident is the second in little more than a month involving the vessels, which cost on average about $440 million each, according to the Congressional Research Service. The Navy towed the USS Milwaukee more than 40 nautical miles to port in Virginia last month in the Atlantic after its gears failed on Dec. 11, according to the Navy Times. The Navy memo said the two incidents weren’t related.
      Initial indications are that the gear damage in Singapore “appears to be caused by a failure to follow established procedures during maintenance,” according to the memo. “During startup of the main propulsion diesel engines, lube oil was not supplied to the ship’s combining gears.”

  2. Cracker Jack says:

    “Saudis to Make $6 Billion Deal for Lockheed’s Littoral Ships” The U.S. has reached a $6 billion deal for Saudi Arabia to buy four modified Littoral Combat Ships, known as “Multi-Mission Surface Combatant Ships” made by Lockheed Martin Corp. This is the first international sale of the vessel, which includes munitions such as Raytheon Co.’s Evolved Sea Sparrow air defense missile. The Saudi-bound ships from Lockheed are better-armed — and thus more expensive — versions of the Littoral Combat Ship, which has drawn withering criticism from some lawmakers and Pentagon testing officials in recent years over its reliability and its capacity to survive in combat.
    The Saudi government will also announce its intention to buy four additional vessels later according to one source. Lockheed rose 2.1 percent to $272.79 on Friday and is up 9.1 percent so far this year.

  3. Anchors Aweigh says:

    The US Navy is looking to retire the first of four littoral combat ships, despite being just over half a decade old.
    Despite a push [by President Trump] to reach 335 ships by 2030, the Navy is seemingly more than happy to ditch its LCS fleet, even though many of the ships have at least one to two decades of life left in them.
    The ships are non-deployable and have been since they were initiated in the early 2000s. Since their inception, they have been plagued with developmental woes and quality control issues.
    The Navy is currently looking to retire two LCSs from the Freedom class, as well as two from the Independence. Of these ships, the youngest is the USS Coronado, which is less than six years of age.

    According to Popular Mechanics, the ships, which have hardly more firepower than Coast Guard cutters, problem-plagued engines, and almost no armor, created such a cost overrun that the Pentagon tried to hide the costs from the US public.
    After a while, it just wasn’t worth it- the Navy determined they’d rather be rid of the LCS than try and “fix” it any further. With the Navy eyeing a new frigate class with the FFG(X) program (which, by the way, the French are serious contenders for winning the contract), the LCS is likely done for, and will soon fade into obscurity if all goes according to plan.

    “FFG(X) is the notional designation of a class of multimission guided-missile frigates for the United States Navy, to be contracted from July 2020, as a follow-on to the modular littoral combat ship.” The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $1,281.2 million for the procurement of the first FFG(X). The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission shows that subsequent ships in the class are estimated by the Navy to cost roughly $900 million each in then-year dollars.

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