Shorline Fighter Runs Aground

Not too long ago, the Littoral Combat Ship was looking like the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy's future: a 400-foot, reconfigurable ship that could chase terrorists, hunt for mines, and scout for subs in coastal waters all around the world. Best of all, the LCS was cheap -- the main ship would cost about $220 million. So the Navy could afford to buy 55 of them, making up the biggest component of the planned 313-ship fleet.LCS_christening-5_thumb.jpgBut now, LCS is running into serious problems. So serious, the Navy has ordered Lockheed Martin to stop work on one of the two LCSs the company is building, Navy Times reports. The order, which lasts 90 days, came after estimates for the ship jumped from $220 million to between $331 million and $410 million.The increase is related to "contractor poor performance" and increased labor costs, Navy spokesman Lt. John Gay tells the Washington Post.

For example, a key part of the propulsion system was delayed 27 weeks because of a manufacturing error, driving up costs, he said...The order applies to the second of two vessels that Lockheed is building for the Navy. Work on the first one, which is 70 percent completed, is to continue so the Navy can launch it and evaluate the design...While it is not uncommon for the cost of the first versions of a new line of ships to increase, Lockheed knew the requirements, Gay said. "It remained unchanged, that is why we are concerned," he said.Lockheed acknowledged a problem with a part related to the propulsion system, saying it had been cut incorrectly by a subcontractor, but the company also blamed changes the Navy made to the way the ship was to be constructed and a shortage of the kind of steel it required...A Navy official was unavailable last night to respond to Lockheed's claims, but earlier said steel-related cost issues already had been accounted for.The cost of stopping and restarting the program could be about $14 million, Quigley said, adding that Lockheed is likely to attempt to recoup those costs from the Navy.
General Dynamics, which is building a pair of its own LCSs -- with a radically different, trimaran design isn't affected by the stop-work order, Navy Times notes.
But the price of GDs first ship also is rising, although one source claimed the price for the first GD ship remains well under $300 million, and that the estimate for the second GD ship will be around $240 million to $250 million....A similar cost review will be performed on the General Dynamics ship.
The news comes about a week after the Navy reassigned its admiral in charge of ship-building, Charles Hamilton, to a new position. According to Navy Times, "sources said the reassignment was not due solely to problems with the Littoral Combat Ship."
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