LCS Near Selection


In an attempt to bring order to the Navys problem-plagued littoral combat ship (LCS) program, the Navy has announced that it will “down select” a winner from the two LCS designs.  The selection, in fiscal year 2010, will determine which design and hence which firms will be responsible for the construction of a planned 51 additional frigate-size warships.

The LCS designs provide for a “seaframe” platform that can be fitted with modular mission “packages.”  The current packages are for anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-surface craft. The packages would be shifted from ship to ship as necessary.  Another set of modules is being contemplated; among the set are one to support special forces operations, a naval fire support module, and a medical-disaster relief module.

The first ship, the Lockheed Martin Freedom (LCS 1) built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, has been commissioned and the second, the General Dynamics Independence (LCS 2), is being fitted out at Mobile, Alabama.  Each LCS team was been awarded a contract for a second ship. 

The Navy had earlier cancelled contracts for the LCS 3 and 4 because of massive cost overruns and program delays with both designs.  The Navys original goal of $220 million per shipwithout modular packageshas at least tripled.  And, both designs are several years behind schedule.

Down-selecting to one design for the additional ships of a planned 55-ship program will be difficult and could be politically explosive.  At down select, a single prime contractor and shipyard will be awarded a fixed-price incentive contract for up to ten ships with two ships in fiscal 2010 and options through fiscal 2014. 

The LCS 1 has not yet been fully tested and is several months from her first operational deployment while the LCS 2 at this writing has yet to complete her builder’s trials. Some observers believe that the selection decision will be “obvious” – the LCS 2, with a trimaran hull design, is much more complex and cost more than the LCS 1, a current estimate of more than $700 million compared to an estimate of $640 million for the LCS 1.  Further, the LCS 2 has an aluminum hull and superstructure that some marine architects feel will not withstand open-ocean transits and high-speed operations as well as the steel-hull LCS 1 design.

The Navys announcement on 16 September of the down-select quoted Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus: “LCS is vital to our Navy’s future.  It must succeed.”

“Both ships meet our operational requirements and we need LCS now to meet the warfighters’ needs,” said Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations.  “Down selecting now will improve affordability and will allow us to build LCS at a realistic cost and not compromise critical warfighting capabilities.” 

Admiral Rougheads comments that both ships meet Navy needs are difficult to understand in view of the status of the two ships, and the fact that their mission modules have neither been fully installed nor tested in a shipboard environment.

The Navys announcement continued:

Based on proposals received this summer, it was not possible to execute the LCS program under the current acquisition strategy and given the expectation of constrained budgets.

The new LCS acquisition strategy improves affordability by competitively awarding a larger number of ships across several years to one source.  The Navy will accomplish this goal by issuing a new fixed price incentive solicitation for a down select to one of the two designs beginning in fiscal 2010. 

Still, this action by the Navy should contribute to stabilization of the LCS program and provide some control of the ship costs.  As Secretary Mabus observed, the LCS program is vital to the Navys future.  With a current fleet of some 285 ships and a (probably unachievable) goal of 313 ships, the LCS program will constitute a sizeable portion of the Navys future ship strength.

— Norman Polmar

  • dave

    When will we see the first mission modules? 2012? 2015?

  • Mainerunner40

    Both versions have advantages and disadvantages. The shipbuilding should be done at both shipyards, as was done with the destroyers. Sole source procurement is not a good idea. The USN, being more than just a little traditional, is likely to go with the LCS 1 version, I agree. I personally like the LCS 2 a little better. It did not hurt LCS 1 to be first in the water, and to be lower cost is also a huge plus. In a world of piracy and high tech silkworms, there is a need for both high and low tech. These are some high tech ships, which will be used for many purposes. This arguement is the same as between Tico’s and FFG’s, there is a legit need for both and where is the balance to found? For the same price, a few more FFG 7’s might be paid for. The need of presence on the seas does not require a ship capable of fighting off a squadron of F/A aircraft,but does need some defensive ability. At some point, the designers of these ships will look at weight as the aircraft designers need to. If it is not necessary, it should not be there. Use of automation will help lower manning needs. Smaller and lighter computers, using modules and COTS tech to keep costs lower, all of these could help decrease the overall costs and time to get these fine ships into production. The need is there, the will is not. The US tends to want the best in both quantity and quality, and that can be very tough in this financial environment. The irony is that with computer technology, the planning should be faster and easier. The lead time for hardware continues to take incredible amounts of time. I am reminded of a line regarding the pigboats of WW2. The US had a submarine that was of good design, but not state of the art. There were R and D things going on, but what was the answer? To have several yards crank out many of the simpler and less complex boats, to take the fight to the enemy. The same was done with ASW, simple, quick and mass production. The strength of that conflict was numbers, and reasonable quality and not a paralysis about the highest technologically possible product. I see the PLA doing just that, the old USSR tried that as well. Numbers do count for something. I hope we are not swamped by numbers some day.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Afternoon Folks,
    The problem here is not if the ships can do the mission but costs. The LCS (Little Cheap Ships) started out as $200 million per unit cost estimate the it went to $400 million, then to $650 million and now to $700 million plus. To put it frankly the USN can’t afford another $50 billion ship building program.
    The 3000 to 3500 ton LCS has lost its original brown water mission and is now a green/blue water ship that will replace the perry Class Frigates. In the current war against Pyrates the LCS could serves only as a mother ship providing support to what Sec. Gates referred to as 100 ton gun-slinger fast patrol boats.
    This program like the FCS and the F-22 is in real danger of being canceled if industry can’t get the price down to that $200 million price point. It is of some wonder that US ship yards can construct for foreign navies frigate size ships of quality with in their modest price ranges, but can’t do the same for the United States, strange wouldn’t you agree?
    Byron Skinner

  • TB

    “The Navy

  • Mat

    The bigest mistake is that US military always wants to design and build its own no mater the cost,there are many LCS size ships being made in Europe and many are very advanced,tried and tested ,cheaper and of the shelf.But it seems the projects in US are a way to profit teh corporations not to get the militay what it needs,but that is also a result of Generals,admirals etc. working on a projects and then retiring to go work for LM or GE or some other defense giant.
    It also seems its nice to sell weapons abroad but almost a treason to buy foreign(even from your closest alies that buy tons of stuff in US)

  • PolicyWonk

    The LCS program demonstrates much of what is wrong with how the Navy acquires ships: if you don’t build to the original design and keep making modifications during construction (and add every new toy known to man as they become available) then your costs are going to spiral out of control.
    That is exactly what happened in the case with the LCS.
    Not to mention, the asinine continuation of “cost-plus”, a relic from WW2.

  • jsallison

    It took like, what, 5 years to build BB35, the USS Texas, member of a two ship class that included the class ship, New York? IIRC, we approved battleships in pairs prior to the South Dakotas and built them as planned. Feature creep is absolutely killing the shipyards.
    Back in the days of mimeograph machines the Army’s pub AR had an allowable level of errors due to the difficulty (and expense) of correction. Now, in the supposedly days of the paperless office it’s just so #$%^ing easy to demand perfection that we kill forests just to serve the demands of senior egos.
    We don’t need a 50 ship class of LCS. Freeze the #$%^ing design, build half a dozen to cost, NOW, and approve a new, improved, follow-on LCS down the road. Zero-defects = infinite cost. I can’t be the only one that sees this.

  • xfactor

    The military needs to sponsor an X-Prize like program to foster private sector cost and technology innovation for these systems.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening X-factor.
    This is the private sector going for the prize. I think what is needed is for the Navy to design and spec. their ships, generate a reasonable cost estimates in house and then have the defense industry bid on the ships.
    Letting private industry design, spec., cost, and build Naval vessels was not and is not a good idea. With the revolving door of contract and procurement officers from uniform to private industry often a over 4X or more what the Navy was paying them is it no wonder that the cost of ships has blown through the ceiling.
    Byron Skinner

  • Autoboss V30

    I wish the world-war III will never come.

  • gruntdoc91

    the thing looks like a glorified cruise ship.

  • Cannon Fodder

    Here is a technical look at the Navy’s three latest ships. A definite must read.

  • freefallingbomb

    If the U.S.A. can’t even synthesize all their military-technological expertise and industrial skills into one small, cheap warship, or fighter program, or F.C.S., or camouflage scheme, or even reasonable rifle calibre (!), etc. etc., because of mental chaos, it totally escapes me what’s the point of all their on-going global espionnage efforts, why they even wish to know everybody else’s military-technological secrets: They’re haplessly uncapable to process, integrate, apply and benefit from all these additional new foreign technologies. Result: This military colossus which boasts that its defense budget equals half of the rest of the World’s military spendings isn’t even capable of defeating a few isolated cave-dwellers WHO NEVER EVEN SAW THE COLOUR OF TOILET PAPER IN THEIR WHOLE LIVES !!! My sincerest admiration for this genuine accomplishment!
    Moral of this post:
    1) Defeat, capitulation, surrender, retreat, kaputt, humiliation, Bataan Death March, suspension in bird cages.
    2) “Cost- / Efficiency”, A-N-Y-O-N-E (in the whole U.S.A.) ?! But maybe it’s just the way U.S. American neurons are wired…
    May the melanin tide from the South engulf them all (once they’re brown, they won’t worry anymore – nor will we).

  • Valcan

    And another bomb post…..great. I have to say i was able to understand and not understand your post at the same time.
    Why cant you you go to like the new york times site and say that or maybe daily Kos.
    Realy your post basicly reveal that your a depressed annoying ahole who has no friends and must get his jollies off insulting other peoples countries and people with idiot post that just leave me with that “what a douche bag” taste in my mouth after reading.
    “May the melanin tide from the South engulf them all (once they’re brown, they won’t worry anymore – nor will we).”
    Thats the best part apparently you see latinos as airheads or something. You realy need to come here or go to south america.
    melanin tide? What?….im scots-irish-french-english-german-italian-scicilian…and im a southerner i got plenty of melanin.
    And does that mean black people dont care about the same things others do?
    Seriously dont understand your post help me out.

  • Valcan

    Bomb i rest my case. You just proved my point arent you missing a BNP meeting some where?

  • freefallingbomb

    To the poster “Valcan”:
    You wrote: “Bomb i rest my case.”
    Good. I almost had to become outspoken about your pet barbarians in the hot countries.

  • max

    The LCS-1’s 60mill lower cost will disappear fast at nearly X2 the fuel usage of LCS-2.
    The higher tempo of the T-ake’s, which are already stretched thin, needed to keep an LCS-1 fleet at sea will be a big factor as well.
    This is even assuming that the price difference will stay static.
    Re-working aluminum is far more costly than steel.
    My guess is that LCS-2 will win.

  • mainerunner40

    I see that LCS 1 team is pushing hard to get the USS Freedom into the hands of the US Navy. It appears a well designed boat, but needs some testing yet. It should be in use well before LCS 2, and even though neither ship has been fully tested and vetted before the ‘down-selecting’, the decision does need to be made. As I said before, both have pros and cons and both would be a useful asset to the USN. The more I see, the more I believe that it will be LCS 1. It is the more traditional ship, the Navy has a bit too much tradition at times, and the Freedom was first on the water. I am thinking at this time of the PHMs that were a very fast and heavily armed FAC design and far ahead of their times for the USN. Fair winds and following seas to those that take the Freedom into dangerous waters..:). Kill a few pirates.