Pentagon Opts to Upgrade Littoral Combat Ship Design

The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), rear, and USS Independence (LCS 2) maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California in 2012. Photo: U.S. Navy
The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), rear, and USS Independence (LCS 2) maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California in 2012. Photo: U.S. Navy

The new small surface combatant (SSC) ships will be based on an upgraded variant of the existing littoral combat ships (LCS). Hagel has directed the Navy’s buy back to 52 ships, including a mix of both LSCs and SSCs, up from 32.

ReutersBy Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Dec 11 (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday approved the U.S. Navy’s plan to meet its requirement for 52 small warships by upgrading the coastal warships designed by Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia’s Austal, instead of starting from scratch with a more costly new design.

Hagel said he accepted the Navy’s recommendation to make the current ship designs more lethal and survivable by adding an array of missiles, radars and other equipment.

“The Navy’s new proposal, like the LCS, will continue to have its critics, but considering the context of our broader naval battle force and the current strategic and fiscal environment, I believe it represents our best and most cost effective option,” Hagel said in a statement. Hagel’s Full Statement HERE.

Hagel ordered a major review of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program in February after numerous reports raised concerns that the current ships were not well suited for combat.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley told reporters the planned upgrades to the existing ships would add $60 million to $75 million, or less than 20 percent, to the current cost of the ships, pegged at $360 million in the latest signed contracts.

Stackley said officials would hammer out details about the upgrades in coming months and planned to finalize a strategy for buying the new ships in time for the fiscal 2017 budget.

He said the Navy would continue buying ships from both companies to ensure continued competition in the program.

The Navy already has 20 LCS ships under contract, plus options for four more. Stackley said the next eight ships would still be in the current configuration, although certain upgrades could be added, if possible.

The final 20 ships will carry the new equipment, with the first of those ships to be procured in fiscal 2019, he said.

Hagel said the final mix of LCS ships and new small surface combatants (SSC) would be determined by procurement costs, fleet requirements and the Navy’s overall budget.

He said the new ships would add improved air defense radars, air defense decoys, a new electronic warfare system, an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile, a towed array sonar, torpedo defenses and more armor.

Stackley said some items would be removed from the ship to make room for the added equipment without adding significant weight, essentially allowing each ship to carry two different equipment packages, instead of just one. It was not yet clear how large of a crew would be needed, he said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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