Navy Still Expects to Build 52 Ship LCS Fleet
Crystal City, Va. — The Navy’s acquisition executive said the service’s Littoral Combat Ship request for a 52 ship fleet is “solid” and on track despite recent media reports that the Pentagon has directed a reduction in fleet size to 32 ships.
Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley would not address specifics about the LCS program contained in reports on the issue, choosing to highlight the programs merits and not comment ahead of the anticipated 2015 budget drop expected next month.
“We won’t talk about the ‘15 budget process until the ’15 budget goes to the Hill. We have a valid requirement for 52 ships and the program is performing strongly in terms of cost. We’re conducting operational testing in accordance with the schedule,” Stackley told reporters June 16 at the Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.
According to several press reports, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has instructed the Navy to reduce its planned buy of the new Littoral Combat Ship from 52 to 32 ships, substantially limiting the size and scope of the emerging multi-mission, shallow-water ship program.
A Defense News report mentions a Jan. 6 memo from Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox account announcing the decision, citing budget guidance from the White House on some large acquisition decisions.
Pentagon and Navy officials would not comment on the memo or the acquisition decision regarding LCS fleet size, citing budget deliberations as pre-decisional.
“We continue to work with OSD (office of the Secretary of Defense) on all our ship acquisitions,” a Navy official told Military.com.
However, the LCS program has long been the center of some controversy and disagreement within the Navy as well as among analysts and lawmakers. An internal Navy report released last year questioned the ship’s ability to perform its mission, and a number of lawmakers and analysts have raised questions, wondering if the platform is survivable enough, among other things.
The $37 billion LCS program, in development since 2002, is a next-generation surface-ship aimed at delivering a fast, agile, near shore vessel equipped with technologically advanced “mission packages” engineered for surface warfare, anti-submarine and mine-countermeasure missions, among others.
Overall, the Navy plans to acquire as many as 52 LCS vessels. In total, this high ship number will comprise a large percentage of the Navy’s overall surface fleet.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom and Independence — designed and built by two industry teams, respectively led by Lockheed Martin and an Austal USA-led team. Contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin and Austal USA on December 29, 2010, for the construction of up to 10 ships each.