Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Navy forms special council to oversee problematic Littoral Combat Ship program
A council of high-ranking officers have been asked to oversee testing on the new littoral combat ship program after major issues were found with the first batch of ships.
The littoral combat ships are quick, broad-hulled vessels designed to operate in shallow coastal waters. According to a Navy website, the ships were built to be agile enough to "counter submarines, mines and small boats like the explosive-laden terrorist craft that nearly destroyed the U.S.S. Cole in 2000."
But during testing, crews began to notice major flaws with the ships, two of which, the USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Independence (LCS 2), are located in San Diego. Crews had problems staying on course and they spotted cracks and experienced other structural and equipment failures. The issues were first reported by government watchdog website, Project On Government Oversight in mid-August.
Performance issues aren't the only problem. The Navy has seen the price for the ships skyrocket since moving forward with the program. Original cost estimates, released by the Project On Government Oversight, had the price tag at approximately $220 million per ship. Since those initial estimates, the price doubled to a reported $440 million per ship.
Now, hoping to right all the wrongs with the ships, the Navy has enlisted the help of four Vice Admirals to oversee testing, including Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, commander of naval surface forces in San Diego.
"I am confident we are on a path of success for LCS," stated Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a August 22 press release. "This council will continue to unify our efforts to implement operational lessons learned from our research and development ships to further ensure successful fleet integration."
"All Navy combat ships, even test and evaluation platforms, must be ready to meet assigned missions starting with the first day of active service - [littoral combat ships are] no exception," added Admiral Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
The council, and the Navy, hope to have a better grasp on the issues with the littoral combat ships before the ships are deployed to Singapore in Spring of 2013.