Defending the LCS
High-speed vessels have come under some fire
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned the littoral combat ship (LCS) program for the U.S. Navy.
The littoral comabt ship Detroit is currently under construction at Marinette Marine Corp. and is more than 50 percent completed.
Special to the EagleHerald
Lockheed Martin, along with Marinette Marine Corp., has a contract with the Navy to build a portion of the first 20 ships in the program. Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., is also a part of the LCS program.
"The industry team is proud to work with the U.S. Navy to deliver the Freedom-variant littoral combat ships," said Joe North, Lockheed Martin's vice president of Littoral Ship Systems. "The ships meet the Navy's requirements, have a sound design and our team proactively continues incorporating lessons learned from testing the lead ship into follow-on ships, thus decreasing costs and improving efficiencies."
The report points to a series of design flaws as well as the Navy's plan to acquire about half of its planned ships before key tests of its capability are completed.
"Like most defense programs in which an entirely new and complex platform is being developed, we've experienced challenges along the way," North said. "We've come a long way since the beginning, and delivered the second ship early and on budget, which is rare when you're developing and building an entirely new class of ship. Getting the construction process as efficient as it can be takes time, and Marinette Marine Corp.'s parent company, Fincantieri, invested about $74 million in upgrades to the shipyard which has increased efficiency and reduced ship construction costs."
The program has cost the Navy $40 billion and calls for 52 ships over the next 15 years. The first three ships, USS Freedom, USS Independence and USS Fort Worth have already been completed and accepted by the Navy. Several others are in various stages of construction. USS Freedom was recently deployed to Southeast Asia to test its capabilities abroad.
The GAO recommended to Congress in its study that they consider restricting funds to future LCS until the Navy completes in-depth studies about the design and capabilities of the ships.
In a letter dated July 11, Gov. Scott Walker asked the Wisconsin congressional delegates to consider opposing any action that would slow or halt progress in the LCS program.
"As you may recall, in 2010, Wisconsin's Marinette Marine won a contract to build ten Freedom Class LCS for the U.S. Navy," Walker wrote in his letter. " ... the U.S. Navy plans to purchase four LCS, two of which are to be built in Marinette, Wis. We can all agree Marinette Marine is an important asset for Wisconsin and a vital partner for its 234 shipyard suppliers in our state."
While North did not comment on any impending discussion in Congress about the LCS program, he did say that Lockheed Martin looks forward to continuing their partnership with the Navy.
"The U.S. Navy continues to express confidence that these ships are meeting the service's critical need for a fast, agile, flexible and affordable surface combatant," North said. "We are continuing to deliver on our commitment to build these ships within the Navy's budget, listening to the Navy's feedback and improving with each ship developed."
To view the complete study by the GAO, people may visit www.gao.gov and search for "Navy Shipbuilding."