Congress Places Potential Freeze on LCS Construction

131216-N-ZZ999-101Congress has frozen the construction of several new Littoral Combat Ships until the Navy provides the House and Senate defense committees with specific analytical reports on the program, according to a newly released Congressional budget agreement.

The agreement on the National Defense Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which Congress will vote on before Christmas, emerged from conference session between House and Senate committees responsible for passing the defense budget.

Regarding the LCS, the agreement prevents the Navy from spending money toward the construction of LCS-25 or LCS-26 until certain reports are submitted by the Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

The Congressional road block is the most recent in a string of controversies and disagreements on the LCS’s future. Many have criticized the platform on the ground that it is not lethal or survivable enough to address the current global threat environment and is poorly suited to perform its intended missions.

Proponents of the LCS have long maintained that the ship’s 40-knot speed and mission packages provide it with the requisite tools to perform its intended range of primarily littoral missions.

The Congressional agreement prevents the Navy from spending money next year on the LCS’s mission modules until the Secretary of the Navy submits a report regarding the acquisition and testing of the program. The Navy must submit goals, cost and schedule information for each increment of the LCS mission modules related to Milestone B, an acquisition developmental benchmark prior to formal procurement.

Also, the Congressional restrictions require that the director of Operational Test and Evaluation to certify the “total number for each module type that is required to perform all necessary operational testing.”

The LCS mission modules are groups of integrated technologies engineered to perform certain maritime combat functions such as surface warfare, mine-countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare. Testing and development of these mission packages has been underway for quite some time – and a combat-ready version of the surface warfare package recently left for deployment aboard the USS Fort Worth, or LCS 3.

Designed to swap on and off Freedom and Independence LCS variants, the Congressional language halts additional spending upon new mission packages until the requested reports are submitted.

The surface warfare package includes MH-60 helicopters, two 30mm guns and 11-meter RIBs, or rigid hull inflatable boats, for fast-attack, rescue or maneuver operations. Future SUW increments will also include the Fire Scout UAS for additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology. In fact, the Fire Scout UAS recently deployed aboard the USS Fort Worth.

The Navy has also been testing its Mine Countermeasures and Anti-Submarine mission packages. For instance, the LCS recently searched for submarines and sailed through a dummy mine-field off the coast of San Diego, California, to assess whether the vessel’s anti-submarine and mine-countermeasure technologies could find enemy submarines and successfully detect and destroy underwater mines, service officials said.

The anti-mine developmental and operational tests this past summer took place on board the USS Independence, or LCS 2. The tests involved many aspects of the LCS’ Mine-Countermeasures mission package, a collection of integrated mine-detecting technologies engineered to swap on and off the platform.

“The real purpose of the test was to stress the operational tempo. This is the first time we’ve really done end to end missions on the ship,” said Capt. Casey Moton, LCS mission modules program manager.

Using a suite of counter-mine technologies, the ship travelled twice through the mock-mine field, successfully detecting the mines in each instance. The test was the first time all three elements of the MCM package were integrated on-board the ship, Moton explained.

The elements consist of a Remote Mine-hunting System below the surface and an Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, or ALMDS, above the water to locate the mines alongside an Airborne Mine Neutralization System, or AMNS, designed to destroy the mines once they are found, he added.

The RMS is comprised of an AQS-20 underwater sonar mine detection system which launches from an autonomous semi-submersible called the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle, or RMMV.  The RMMV, which has both line-of-sight and over-the-horizon capability, is launched from the back of the LCS, Navy officials said.

As many as two RMMVs can operate from the LCS at one time.  The RMS works in tandem with the ALMDS, an airborne laser designed to scan the surface and shallow water for mines.  Data from both the RMS and ALMDS are assessed at a command center on-board the ship, he said.

The ASW mission package, slated to be operational by 2016, is earlier in its development than the other two LCS mission packages, the Surface Warfare and Mine-Countermeasures mission packages.

The technologies for the ASW package include use of an active sonar called Variable Depth Sonar deployed off the back of the ship and a passive detection system called a Multi-Function Towed Array, or MFTA.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Dfens

    Let’s kill this program, because the next one will be better. We will do it right next time. Don’t we always?

    • blight_weroasdfl

      I’m curious what happened to FSF-1, which was the first vessel to have modules. LCS was meant to be “the next one”, and as we all know…

      • Dfens

        No doubt after paying the defense contractor billions to design it, we cancelled that program because the ships were shit! Now we are repeating the cycle, because that’s what funnels the most money to the defense contractors. And we will repeat that same failed approach over and over and over again until they get it right, because we are just that f’ing crazy.

      • xXTomcatXx

        FSF-1 Was an ONR owned ship. It still exists. The lessons learned from FSF-1 went into JHSV and LCS.

        • blight_weroasdfl

          FSF-1 was sold as module capable, but I wonder if any of the modules were ever tested aboard FSF-1. FSF-1 is half the mass of the LCS, and FSF-1 has half the crew of an LCS. I am curious if the crew overwork problem could’ve been detected long before the first LCS was built.

          FSF-1’s successful demonstration was the dual diesel/turbine system. The rest is kind of up in the air.

  • BlackOwl18E

    I have hated the LCS from early on. While this is good news, I am still upset that Congress is allowing cuts in troop pay and BAH. We are continually putting a massive strain on our military personnel that is only increasing. We are almost on the verge of getting into an Iraq War III among other challenges.

    Cutting pay to troops and BAH should have been a last resort. This is a damn shame.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Within DoD budgets, the choice was cutting benefits and salary. Neither is popular, but I suspect benefits are harder to justify. That said, I’m curious about the pay cuts. Is it across the board, skewed towards officers, enlisted?

      • BlackOwl18E

        If you want the full details read this: http://thehill.com/policy/defense/225815-house-se…

        One bright side though: More EA-18G Growler purchases!

        • Dfens

          Because you can never broadcast too strong a signal. Navy stealth 101.

          • blight_weroasdfl

            We shall equip our samurai with flashlights to shine in the eyes of our foes while our ninjas slip past to attack their leaders!

        • blight_weroasdfl

          “He added that no amendments to the bill would be allowed. ”
          We should do that more often.

          “$3 increase in select pharmacy co-pays”
          “2015 military pay increase at 1 percent, with a pay freeze for General and Flag Officers for FY15.”
          “1 percent decrease in basic allowance for housing (BAH) for FY15.”

          Doesn’t sound too bad. Barring minimum wage employees in states that raise their minimum wages, how many in the working-class private sector are getting 1%, let alone COLA?

          I do worry about the GW refueling. Refueling’s expensive, and if it comes to tradeoffs in naval aviation or surface warfare there isn’t much point to weakening the other two just for the sake of keeping a carrier.

          • shipfixr

            Uh….blight, if you take one carrier out of the mix, you ARE weakening Naval Aviation……

          • blight_weroasdfl

            Taking out a carrier air wing is weakening aviation. The Navy is taking the refueling out of shipbuilding…and I’m not sure how that really works out. Once the Ford is complete, we will probably have more carriers than air wings, even accounting for the carrier that goes into RCOH and surrenders its air wing.

          • G Lof

            We are already at the blood edge of having enough carriers to maintains of peace time rotations, lose one more and there no way we can keep up our present deployment rate. They already had to play games with rotation schedules because of one carrier needing addition repairs. Lose another an we lose a generation of experience sailors.

      • Taxpayer

        They FROZE general and admiral pay!

        • PolicyWonk

          They could do a lot better than that: the US is still massively bloated in the area of general staff and admiralty - not as bad as theRussians - but that sets the bar at a level so low an ant wouldn’t have to lift its legs to step over it.

          • Tad

            Good point. I think the Navy has approximately double the number of admirals as ships.

  • blight_weroasdfl

    In addition to drama with modules, LCS’ other problems were crew, electronics, and that it was intended to be both capable of sprint and capable of long range. Even the multi-role export variant of the LCS would have suffered many shortcomings (and perhaps /that/ is why overseas customers did not pounce on the seaframe).

    • xXTomcatXx

      How wrong you are about the foreign customers. Keep an eye on this:
      http://thediplomat.com/2014/03/us-japan-to-jointl…

      Expect a decision in April, the beginning of Japan’s fiscal year with it’s new government.

      • blight_weroasdfl

        Inquiries were made by the Israelis and the Thai Navy, who passed on export multi-role versions of the LCS.
        http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/the-usas-new-…

        The Saudis were interested in the LCS, but have upgraded to the DDG’s.

        The only substantial information from that article is:

        “Following a meeting between U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on March 4, the two governments announced that the Japanese Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense would hold studies for the joint development of the vessel under the bilateral Mutual Defense Assistance (MDA) agreement.”

        That is all we know. The rest is speculation that the ship will be an LCS. Will the long range of the LCS be necessary? Probably not. The high dash speeds-probably.

        /If/ Japan decides to procure an LCS, it will likely be one of the MMC vessels, and not one of the modular ones. However, being the first and only customer of these vessels may be a deterrent. A quick check of the JNSDF order of battle indicates a few DE’s…but a lot of minesweepers. It may be a convincing argument to replace their ~2.2 kton DE’s and minesweepers with the LCS like we will, but it’s vaporware until it happens. Japan has a history of building their own designs or taking a foreign design and building it in Japan, so it may not translate into much work for Austal.

  • Christopher

    *Warning Snark Heavy*
    USN LCS Mafia General: “NOOOO! WHO WILL PAY FOR MY GOLDEN PARACHUTE! MY TEE TIME! & MY 5 YACHTS! I know let’s freeze uh, the F-35. No my Navy Aviation buddy won’t invite me to his golf games. Uh, how about the NGAV and uh, the UCLASS and durr the Fire Scout. Cancel the Zumwalt and the Mobile Landing Platform instead. Just freeze anything but the thing that gets me a new Yacht!”

    • Curtis Conway

      The MLP is needed in the Pacific.

  • Nadnerbus

    So have they shock tested or scheduled a shock test for either or both designs yet?

    They might be able to make these ships “work” after a fashion. But I just don’t see them ever being particularly good ships.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      It’s been previously noted that the Navy doesn’t always shock test it’s ships, or does so much later. I’m not sure why we should aspire to that lesser standard, especially if we view these ships as demonstrators for an eventual production build (though now the fate of LCS hangs in teh balance…)

      • xXTomcatXx

        The first four hulls are not representative of the production line (LCS 5 and follow). Shocking one of these first four hulls would be a waste of money.

        • blight_weroasdfl

          I am curious just how “not representative” of the production article that the first four LCS’ will be…

        • stevadore

          curious how future designs based off the first four vessels would not benefit from shock testing.

        • Curtis Conway

          But they are going to deploy them ? ! Sir, I hope YOU serve on this vessel, going in harms way.

          We should NEVER send out sailors to do something we would not do ourselves. The Chain of Command has lost it. They now place the mission ahead of the safety of our personnel. So much for being a Christian Nation.

    • PolicyWonk

      Excellent question. Despite the fact that the vendors claim the materials they used to build the LCS variants make them far stronger than what the Level-1 US Navy standard would suggest - not one has been shock tested to *prove* it (or for that matter - even scheduled for shock test).

      If they did and they proved LCS (either variant) survivable, then I’m sure that would answer a lot of questions - at least a sufficient number of questions to continue construction.

      They’d still be (as our allies that were originally interested in LCS and since walked away put it) way too expensive for far too little benefit.

      But at least we’d have a usable sea-frame.

      • xXTomcatXx

        You don’t shock test a ship that isn’t representative of your production line. That makes no sense.

        I said it earlier, but keep an eye on this:
        http://thediplomat.com/2014/03/us-japan-to-jointl…

        Expect an announcement from the JMSDF in April (the beginning of Japan’s fiscal year).

  • Nicky

    Kill it before it kills a sailor in a warzone

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Someone’s gotta take the hit. It’s just the guy in the Fletch, Gearing, Knox class, Perry class….

      • guest

        USS Franklin, a carrier was basically so badly damaged in WW2 it was repairable.
        800 lives were lost.
        This idea that you arent going to be damaged during war is wishful thinking

  • Joe

    I say that the navy put a construction freeze on any LCS beyond #10. Send LCS-2 or LCS-4 overseas in April to join LCS-3 that has already left for 7th fleet. Work those ships into the ground! Find every flaw and fix them during assembly rather than expensive, soon-after-commissioning retrofits. Find out what they can and can’t do. If they work LCS 1 - 4 to death decom them and replace them with new LCS’s Make the navy prove the taxpayer is getting their moneys’ worth before we make 26 ships that may or may not be useless. There is a limit to the money! The govt should spend it wisely.

    • fred

      Problem is contractors are not often held responsible, even if blood is the result.

      • Dfens

        Not only are they not held responsible, but they are rewarded for their crappy performance. Let’s kill LCS so Lockheed can get started designing the next ship, and when they f that up we will kill that program so Lockheed can design the next one after that. It’s a continuous loop of crappy design leading to billions of dollars in profit.

    • xXTomcatXx

      See that’s a common misconception. It’s actually cheaper for the Navy to modify their ship than it is to pay Lockheed and Austal to modify their design. I’m with you, in the sense that we should fix any flaws sooner rather than later, but if you tell me you’re going to charge 2 million for adding a hatch somewhere, then I’ll tell you to pound sand wait for you give me the ship and do it myself.

      Also, what do you think the new LCS is? It’s going to be the same exact thing as what’s in the water now save for slightly longer. LCS costs have dropped dramatically. Still not as good as originally budgeted, but honestly no one in the Navy believed that number anyways. Why the hell doesn’t the Zumwalt get punished for this the way the LCS does? They’re far more over cost and schedule with no chance of lowering the cost.

      • blight_weroasdfl

        The Zum did get punished: they cut its build down to three. The LCS doesn’t have that option.

  • Lance

    Good new hope they scrap this more work on DDG-1000 and newer blue water surface ships.

    • Tad

      DDG-1000 cost overruns might make the LCS look like a dream program. Purely as a technology test-bed, though, I agree with you.

      • Lance

        Still has better potential than this dinky little ship.

  • jffourquet

    As it stands now the LCS designed will be changed. The existing ships will probably be modified latter to give them more fire power. So why build anymore ships now just to spend more more latter to change them. Stop current construction at 24 ships and build the future ships to the modifies small surface combatant LSC design changes.

    • xXTomcatXx

      Because of contracts. It’s actually cheaper for the Navy to modify the ships after receiving them then it is for them to pay the prime contractors to modify their design. It’s unfortunately the way it’s always been done. DDGs come off the assembly line with decade old tech that needs to be refreshed before it ever goes to the fleet.

    • Anthony Diorio

      How about these things can’t survive an attack from a “religion of peace member” with an RPG. Get the mighty Mo out of retirement give it an upgrade and let it stand off shore and attack the hell out the enemy.

      • Christopher

        Are you insane? It would cost ten times more then a Nimitz aircraft to upgrade the Iowa class ships from 1980’s era technology.
        Ships that large without a reactor is just a money pit. RPG-7s These days will leave a huge hole in its armor that will make it stranded.

  • VTGunner

    Hmmm maybe now we can get a frigate to do the job the LCS was SUPPOSED to do. Plenty of friendly foreign designs that are PROVEN that we can build in our own shipyards. Keeps costs down, gets them to the fleet quicker, and they can actually do the job as intended. Weird concept

    • xXTomcatXx

      The LCS was supposed to hunt mines, counter FAC/FIAC, and perform littoral ASW. Which ship is doing that right now?

      • Curt

        There isn’t one, but don’t stop a perfectly good rant. Notice, he didn’t actually list any of these miracle foreign designs.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “Which ship is doing that right now?”
        http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/fly/

        No dedicated counter-FAC/FIAC module, though.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen
        Luxembourg (expat Dane)

  • Big-Dean

    Best news I’ve heard in a long long time! :-D

    Now, since cooler and smarter heads are prevailing, let’s sink this crappy little ship and build a real warship, a Frigate that can actually do something right out of the gate and not depend upon power points

    • Dfens

      Right, the next one will be better. We will do it right next time. Lockheed’s ready to promise you that very thing. Do you believe them?

      • Big-Dean

        Dfens, if a dog pees on your leg is your response always going to be “the next one will be better, he’ll do it right next time”

        • blight_weroasdfl

          That’s his point. The classic DoD response to every snafu is that it will better next time. The successor to B-2 will be cheap! The next program after F-22 will leverage everything we’ve learned! The LCS will be modular! It’ll be great!

  • Don Bacon

    “Congress has frozen the construction of several new Littoral Combat Ships until the Navy provides the House and Senate defense committees with specific analytical reports on the program, according to a newly released Congressional budget agreement.”

    Congress ought to do the same with the JSF program, stopping production of faulty prototypes with untested mission systems and an engine demanding redesign until the JPO can provide reliable fact-based procurement cost figures with backup, a plan for software finalization, a realistic test & evaluation plan, and a remedy for the engine design problems which include excessive flex and lack of required containment.

    • Dfens

      It’s a good thing our defense contractors haven’t figured out that they can make more money by designing crappy airplanes and ships. They design crap and congress cancels the crappy weapon, starts a new program that the same defense contractors bid on, and then it gets cancelled when the next weapon is crap too. If the defense contractors found out they could make money like that, we’d be in a whole lotta trouble.

      Oh wait, they have figured that one out. It’s just people like you that haven’t clued in. Too bad for us, isn’t it?

    • Curtis Conway

      Well Don, it’s a little late on the combat system and airframe, but I’m with you on the engine. The F136 should never have been canceled, and it was cancelled without respect to Risk, which is why COMPETITION is REQUIRED in these cases. What we have here is a government entity breaking the rules, is out of control, and is serving the industrial military complex . . . and making us . . . and our Allies . . . less safe, all at the same time.

  • xXTomcatXx

    This isn’t news. When Secretary Hagel froze the 32 and follow hulls for review by the Small Surface Combatant task force it was always with an intention to impact the precarious hulls 25-32. It was too small of a block buy to impact with a design change from hulls 5-24 and too contentious (from a contracts standpoint) to be lumped into the 32 and follow group. The move to freeze by Congress is little more than pageantry. When they get the bills from Lockheed and Austal for a contract freeze they’ll come back with the standard “It’s cheaper to let them finish out their contract and fix them later”.

    • guest

      Tell us again why the naval dockyards stopped newbuilds ? Oh yes to save money.
      This is just the sort of thing they could design build, without being monstered by the commercial guys with their 30% + head office overheads.

    • Curtis Conway

      You Sir have expounded in very specific terms why we should terminate the program. Fleet combatant numbers are down. No amount of fast hulls, that can rush into harms way, not absorb damage (or will sink if they do because they are manned to lightly to have damage control teams), and cannot defend themselves in the first place. And . . . where are they likely to go ? . . . into the jaws of the Dragon that has a plethora of supersonic Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs) that will certainly sink the LCS. The 45lb blast fragmentation warhead in the RIM-116 will not stop these monsters, particularly coming in at a high angle of attack after pop-up (for those that do that). If you are going to do THAT to our sailors, just line them up and shoot them, at least they can run. As it is you make them Shark Bait. If you think otherwise, bring FOT&E data that proves otherwise!

  • Franklin

    The functionality of the LCS is to replace three classes of vessels including the antiquated wooden hulled non magnetic anti mine vessels that are still being used. I would hate to see a 350 man frigate take on anti mine duties when a fifty man high speed LCS can do the same. In the ASW configuration you have the same thing. Small vessel = small cost in money and lives. The Chinese will have the largest sub fleet in the world. The surface package creates an ISR forward positioned outpost that can be supported by blue water warships, and it can target everything for them. Air reccon has a problem with persistence’s, payload and strike capabilities. The LCS is a great idea if it’s built right. Politics really doesn’t care if it works or not.

    • Charles

      Excellent points. The problem with LCS is that it isn’t built right. The navy would’ve been better off to build level-2 sea-frames big enough to carry the mission packages, and up-gun/weapon them later.

      Instead, they built something that goes really fast, and is really weak.

      • G Lof

        The question then become how much money does going to Level-2, the same as DDGs, going to cost? If it double the cost of the LCSs we will not be able to afford enough of them to meet the needs.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      The LCS itself doesn’t do the minework, it is the mothership to a suite of drones (and a helicopter) that do the dirty work. A recent RIMPAC exercise demonstrated the ability to switch from MCM to SW in ~96 hours…I would like to see how long it takes to go vice versa.

    • Curtis Conway

      ” . . . 350 man frigate . . . “. A US Navy frigate has had less than 150 sailors on it for decades. The National Security Cutter has a smaller crew than that. A 150 man crew can easily crew, maintain, and operate a National Patrol Frigate on the high seas, even in the Arctic.

  • Rob C.

    I don’t think freezing funds is going help fact the US Navy needs something period right now. Modules should continue development so what is already built can be used to some degree.

    With Hagal leaving, now the replacement ship is on hold Knee jerking reactions is causing more problems than good.

    • Dfens

      You got that right. They cancel one ship just to have the same couple of defense contractors bid on the design of the next one, and everyone waits all giddy in anticipation because the next program is always better. It’s better right up to the time when the first ship gets built, anyway. Makes me wonder how stupid people have to be to keep falling for the same old tricks time after time.

    • Curtis Conway

      Deploying unsurvivable seaframes does not achieve our goal of effectiveness. It just gives the enemy more easy targets.

  • Jim

    Kill this pork barrel program before it kills ever sailor on board in actual combat. It’s a laughably unlethal vessel.

    • G Lof

      While it is true that the Navy abandon long range AShM for the LCS, along with most of its surface ships, choosing instead to just throwing Standard missile at surface targets, in can’t be said that the are not lethal. They carry the H-60 helos which is very lethal to surface and underwater targets. Also the LCS is arm with auto cannons for use against small craft, which is suppose to be LCS main target.

      And if your concern about the LCS’s lack of long range firepower, I suggest pushing for the USN to purchase Norwegian NSMs to equip all our surface combatants, including the LCSs.

      • blight_weroasdfl

        Harpoon was the last new anti-ship missile for the fleet. Adversaries have opted for faster shorter-ranged missiles. Hopefully the next generation of missile is either faster with shorter range or slower with low RCS, but with longer range. Both would fulfill complementary niches without sacrificing capability. An SM-3 may have as much as ~1000 nm range, but the payload is not intended for anti-ship use, and will likely not offer much in the way of stopping power. A conventional SM-2 might be better, but it’s range is unclear.

  • Nicky

    Let’s kill this program and start using the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter design as our Next Patrol Frigate.

    • blight_weroasdfl

      The Patrol Frigate variant seems promising, but like the LCS MMC-I variants will probably remain vaporware until someone bites. Left unanswered is the obvious: what will sweep the mines, /or/ fight off the FAC’s (though I question if it can do this or is better suited to picking on under-armed Boghammars) or detect and destroy the submarines?

      The Coast Guard NSC is designed to operate with the VUAV, but the VUAV lacks payload.

  • Curtis Conway

    The National Patrol Frigate is a far better solution for what is needed. A variable depth, multi-function sonar can easily be placed on the hull along with a hull mounted sensor, and still achieve 30 knots. Everything else will fit with time, because that seaframe was built with expansion in mind.