From a Congressional Research Service report filed at the end of November:
LCS was designated by the Navy as a Level I survivability combatant ship, but neither design is expected to achieve the degree of shock hardening as required by the CDD [Capabilities Development Document]. Shock hardening (ability to sustain a level of operations following an underwater explosive attack) is required for all mission critical systems, as required by a Level 1 survivability requirement. Only a few selected subsystems will be shock hardened, supporting only mobility to evacuate a threat area following a design-level shock event. Accordingly, the full, traditional rigor of Navy-mandated ship shock trials is not achievable, due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship and its many non-shock-hardened subsystems.
The LCS LFT&E [Live Fire Test and Evaluation] program has been hampered by the Navy’s lack of credible modeling and simulation tools for assessing the vulnerabilities of ships constructed to primarily commercial standards (American Bureau of Shipping Naval Vessel Rules and High Speed Naval Craft Code), particularly aluminum and non-traditional hull forms. Legacy LFT&E models were not developed for these non-traditional factors, nor have they been accredited for such use. These knowledge gaps undermine the credibility of the modeling and simulation, and increase the amount of surrogate testing required for an adequate LFT&E program.
The LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment as evidenced by the limited shock hardened design and results of full scale testing of representative hull structures completed in December 2006.
The whole document is here. Read it and weep. H/T to sid.
So, we have a warship design that is not expected to fight and survive in the very environment in which it was produced to do so. Poorly-armed, poorly-protected, with an over-abundance of speed that will eat through a fuel supply in half a day.
Yet, the Navy leadership on whose watch this abomination was delivered is hypersensitive to criticism of either their performance or the LCS itself. That such a questionable and limited capability will cost taxpayers UNDER $500 million per copy is a seeming source of pride for them.
Warships remain the single most expensive combat system a nation can buy. Has been so since the beginnings of the iron warship. Those who run the United States Navy (not just NAVSEA) are entrusted with billions of this nation’s treasure. And this is the result. A half-billion dollar counter-drug and counter-piracy platform.
Combat in the littorals is characterized by fierce and unexpected engagements, from small and fast surface vessels, submarines, shore-based weapon systems, missiles, mines, and aircraft. Putting US Navy Officers and Sailors on a platform such as LCS borders on criminal. It is an act of sheer folly, or one of desperation.
The lessons of littoral combat were learned and written in the blood and sacrifice by the thousands of our Sailors and Marines in the Solomons, New Guinea, the Admiralties, the Gilberts and Marshalls, off the beaches of Italy and France, the Philippines, and Okinawa. They are there for all to see, on the old pages of damage reports, battle reports, and combat histories written by survivors and shipmates.
The result of those lessons were classes of tough, powerful, fast, survivable units capable of dishing out and absorbing tremendous punishment. These lessons were reinforced in Korea, Vietnam, and the Falklands, where ships that did not possess those qualities paid dearly.
All of which makes the Littoral Combat Ship so inexplicable. Unable to do precisely what its name implies. Risking the vessel, the Sailors, and the mission.
The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.
Not Diversity, not social experimentation, not being an Employer of Choice, and not far-flung Humanitarian Missions at the expense of combat readiness and forward presence. There will be screams of protest regarding that last sentence, to be sure. But none of those peripheral distractions mean a hill of beans if the US Navy cannot execute the words printed in bold above. When Navy leadership ignores those words, and fails to heed them, the result is the LCS, and an emperor with no clothes.
Littoral Combat Ship is not a part of a combat-ready Naval force capable of winning wars. Perhaps those who championed and continue to champion it shouldn’t be, either.
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