LCS Program Attacked as Pacific War Games Begin

LCS Program Attacked as Pacific War Games Begin

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The Littoral Combat Ship program remains under political attack in Washington, and at least one LCS may soon be under mock attack in the Pacific Ocean.

The Austal-made USS Independence arrived in Honolulu yesterday to take part in Rim of the Pacific war games over the next several weeks. The RIMPAC exercises involve 23 nations, 48 surface ships, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. It’s a chance for the LCS to prove itself after a series of setbacks in the past few months, weeks and days.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Fleet – said this week that he wanted, “as many as I can get,” referring to the LCS.

Just yesterday, however, the General Accounting Office released a 57-page study critical of the Wisconsin-made Lockheed-Martin class of the LCS.The report on the USS Freedom said it was prone to maintenance problems and that its crew was over-worked and under-trained.

The GAO report did not address the Austal Mobile-made version of the LCS. Both classes of LCS, though, were criticized in a June 26th letter from the Defense Department’s top weapons tester Michael Gilmore to Senator John McCain – a frequent critic of the program. Gilmore said the Littoral Combat Ship is less able to survive an attack than other U.S. warships.

Defense Secretary Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in February that he was limiting purchases to 32 vessels, instead of the 52 originally planned, until the Navy developed alternatives.

Austal’s President, Craig Perciavalle, told News-5 then that was more of an opportunity than a problem for his company.

"If it does turn into another small surface combatant, we feel we're primed to support a program of that nature as well and it's something we've been looking at anyway," said Perciavalle on February 26.

While Congress and the military debate the future of the program, four thousand employees at Austal continue work. Four LCS are currently are various stages of production. The USS Jackson – the third LCS completed at Austal – was christened in March.

Later this month, a report is due out from the Navy’s Small Surface Combatant Task Force. It will look at the future of the LCS program.

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