A Navy ship cannot meet its mission, according to an internal US report.
Last year, US Navy chiefs were cautioned that a program to assemble Littoral Combat Ships, costing $37 billion, cannot fulfill its agreed mission due to the vessels being too lightly armed and manned, a confidential report found.
"This review highlights the gap between ship capabilities and the missions the Navy will need LCS to execute", the 36-page report said, compiled by Rear Admiral Samuel Perez for the Navy last year.
The Littoral Combat Ship is a vessel that can adapt to carry out one of three assigned roles: anti-submarine, anti-mine, or ocean surface combat. To achieve this, it uses interchangeable modules, missiles, unmanned underwater vehicles and helicopters, dependent on the mission. In theory, these modules function like LEGOs, interchanging a sonar collection in the anti-submarine equipment for a 30mm gun from the surface warfare kit.
Littoral Combat Ships Do Not Function Effectively
But in practice, these modules don't function efficiently. The target was a 96-hour turnaround between the in place modules and other specific tools required. A vessel this flexible and adaptable could respond quickly in the event of a crisis. But the report, acquired by Bloomberg News, reveals that while a four day module exchange technically is possible, a nearby dock is required, with the next module's components already to hand. This means a lot of preparation beforehand is needed to set up, and necessitates acquiring spare modules from naval bases in advance. This is a process that, during a training exercise, took weeks.
Also, the Littoral Combat Ship is far from durable. A late report states that the vessel is not anticipated to remain competent following a strike from an opponent, which presents a major issue for a naval ship. Granted, it wouldn't be able to execute an entire naval battle on its own, but it takes less than an enemy warship to sink it: this vessel can be taken out by only a single hostile cruise missile.
The Navy currently has 20 vessels under contract from a proposed fleet of 52. Construction costs have increased two-fold, from an original target of $220 million per ship to $440 million.
It is still feasible for the Littoral Combat Ship to undergo drastic improvements; while the 12 month-old report highlights crucial flaws, they are not completely unconquerable. Addressing them will require further monetary invest and time, which is a period of sequestration, both these resources are progressively scare.