The two variants of the Littoral Combat Ships lack firepower, as their main weapon is a single 57mm automatic gun, more often fitted to fast patrol boats than to frigates, a top U.S. navy commander said in a classified memo.
Vice Admiral Tom Copeman, the commander of naval surface forces, called on the Navy to consider a ship with more offensive capability after the first 24 vessels are built, according to a Navy official.
Copeman’s memo, prepared late last year at the request of Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, indicates the Navy may be starting to re-examine the $37 billion program, eventually leading to redesigning of the ship or the development of an entirely new vessel.
The Littoral Combat Ship has been beset by troubles since 2005 as the price doubled to almost $440 million per vessel, that's in operating and maintenance costs over their lifetime, according to Rear Admiral James Murdoch, who oversees the ship’s procurement.
Two versions are now being built: A steel-hulled vessel made in Marinette, Wisconsin, by a team led by Lockheed Martin, and an aluminum trimaran built in Mobile, Alabama, by a group led by Austal Ltd. Lockheed’s first ship developed a crack in the hull, and Austal’s vessel had corrosion problems.
Conceived in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it was intended to perform missions such as clearing mines, hunting submarines, interdicting drugs and providing humanitarian relief.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester has cited flaws with the ship’s guns and concluded that its helicopter isn’t powerful enough to tow mine-hunting equipment.
Until now, Navy officials have maintained that the ship has sufficient defenses to perform its missions while working in tandem with the rest of a battle group.