The US Navy’s modernization plan to replace the last 20 littoral combat ships hangs in uncertainty with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation.
“Hagel has made a decision about the LCS modernization following his review of recommendations from the US Navy’s specially-configured Small Surface Combatant Task Force (SSCTF),” Military.com quoted unnamed Pentagon sources.
According to the report, Hagel had instructed the Navy to explore better options for new lethal and robust LCS variant citing criticisms of the existing platform. Based on the request the Navy has cut down new contracts for the LCS to 32 from the earlier plans to acquire 52.
Hagel directed the Navy to consider ships based upon the design properties of a frigate, a warship that is slightly bigger and armed with more weapons compared to the LCS.
“The SSCTF has been at work for months considering a range of options for a new ship; the task force completed its assessment, briefed Secretary Hagel on a range of options that led to a decision on a course of action,” Pentagon officials said.
Hagel had planned to announce the decision last week, however, plans were overtaken by his resignation and planned departure from the Pentagon. Now, it remains unclear if his decision will stand or be re-evaluated by new Pentagon leadership. Furthermore, it also remains uncertain if or when his decision will now be announced, in light of recent developments.
Although the findings and recommendations of the SSCTF have not been publically announced, some of the industry offerings for the ship included heavier variants of the LCS design with weapons such as Vertical Launch Systems, stronger radar and hull-mounted sonar.
Lockheed Martin has offered a variant of their international offering for LCS which incorporates several of these measures.