By Tim Starks
The littoral combat ship U.S.S. Freedom, LCS 1, departs San Diego Bay for deployment to the Asia-Pacific region last year in San Diego, Calif. (Christine Walker-Singh/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Moving from the construction phase into testing, it turns out the littoral combat ship has gotten too heavy, and that has slowed it down, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The LCS is a reconfigurable Navy vessel that can be focused on surface warfare, mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare. The GAO report on the LCS released Wednesday is a public version of one deemed too sensitive for public distribution, and that was sought by the fiscal 2014 defense policy law.
“Outstanding weight management and concurrency risks related to buying ships while key concepts and performance are still being tested continue to complicate LCS acquisitions,” the report summary states. “Initial LCS seaframes face capability limitations resulting from weight growth during construction. This weight growth has resulted in the first two ships not meeting performance requirements for sprint speed and/or endurance, as well as potentially complicating existing plans to make additional changes to each seaframe design.”
And that’s not the only related issue, which included mechanical problems, the potential for less service life and more.
“The Navy has not received accurate or complete weight reports from the seaframe prime contractors, and the Navy’s lengthy review process has hindered a timely resolution of the Navy’s concerns,” the report states. “Additionally, a number of significant test events, including rough water, shock and total ship survivability trials, will not be completed in time to inform upcoming acquisition decisions—including future contract decisions.”
The report notes that ship weight growth during construction is nothing new, but given the LCS’ mission it can ill afford the extra poundage.
The Defense Department agreed with the GAO recommendation to “ensure a timely review of contractor seaframe weight reports and take actions to make contractors more responsive to comments on the reports’ content,” but partially disagreed with a recommendation to “demonstrate certain capabilities for both LCS seaframe variants before the Navy is approved for future contract awards,” saying it would do as much testing as possible but not all of it prior to contract awards.
This is not the first unflattering GAO report on the vessel, which also has come under fire from groups that seek reduced government spending.