The Washington Times:
Design issue becomes latest embarrassment for Littoral Combat Ship project
The USS Freedom was meant to be the starting point in a revolution in naval warfare in September 2006, when the newly commissioned combat vessel slid into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin.
It was the first launch of a class of high-tech littoral combat ships (LCS,) designed to be agile, stealthy and plugged-in while fighting in the dangerous shallow draft coastal areas where Pentagon strategists believed the wars of the 21st century will largely be fought.
But the LCS project has been bedeviled with engineering headaches and cost overruns since its very inception, a chronic headache for a beleaguered U.S. Navy that has been fighting budget and performance battles on a growing number of fronts. Now, a newly revealed mechanical problem with the LCS propulsion system could signal a potentially disastrous design flaw throughout the Freedom-class littoral combat ships, leaving Navy officials with a massive repair project on their hands.
“We’ve had significant challenges introducing the ship to the fleet, successfully operating the ship, [and] ensuring it meets the minimum mission capabilities we desire,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, now a senior director of the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
For the Navy, a system-wide design flaw for the LCS project would represent another misstep in what’s been a draining period of logistical nightmares, public relations missteps and political controversies. The service also is bracing for a leadership change as the Biden administration comes to power in January, and the high likelihood of flat defense budgets moving forward may mean less tolerance for any kind of cost overruns or mismanagement.