U.S. Navy officials told a government watchdog the Littoral Combat Ship fleet is ill suited for duty in the Pacific, according to a Bloomberg report.
"Several 7th Fleet officials told us they thought the LCS in general might be better suited to operations in the Persian Gulf," said a Government Accountability Office report.
GAO officials said the controversial LCS lacks the speed, range and electronic warfare capabilities to function in the geographic expanse that is the Pacific theater. As a result, the Navy should consider buying fewer LCS if the vessel is unable to perform in the Pacific, according to Bloomberg's report.
This past year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a reduction of the planned LCS fleet from 52 to 32.
The GAO report, entitled "Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments," also claims the LCS has weight and performance problems.
The first two vessels -- one each from Lockheed Martin and Austal U.S. -- are overweight, resulting in "not meeting performance requirements" for endurance or sprinting over 40 knots (74 kilometers per hour), the GAO said.
Previous GAO reports have questioned the LCS's survivability and overall performance capabilities as well.
The service is working on a modifying the LCS or building a new ship for the last twenty ships, per Hagel's direction to pursue alternative proposals. The service has formed a Small Surface Combatant Task Force to address the issue.
In the meantime, many senior Navy leaders support the LCS, saying the ship was never designed to fulfill missions similar to those completed by destroyers. The LCS is configured with mission packages for anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and counter-mine operations.
"We have very robust survivability on our destroyers, carriers and guided missile cruisers that are designed to take a punch and fight through it. The LCS was not designed to that standard and the concept of operation does not have these ships operating in an environment where they are going to have to take punch and fight through it," said Rear Adm. Tom Rowden, the Navy's director of surface warfare.
He said the shallow-water-capable LCS vessel is particularly well suited for the Pacific theater. The 40-knot speed and shallow-draft of the LCS will prove valuable in the Pacific because there are many shallow-water ports in parts of Asia that are difficult for larger vessels to access, he added.
The LCS's survivability is appropriate for the concept of operations or mission sets it is intended to perform, Rowden said.
"This ship was built to a specific survivability standard and it meets that standard. It was built to address specific requirements and specific threats, specifically mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare in the littorals and anti-surface warfare in the littorals. It meets those requirements," Rowden said.
-- For more on Navy ships and other military equipment, check out Military.com's Equipment Guide.
-- Kris Osborn can be reached at Kris.Osborn@monster.com.
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