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Report: High cost prompts Israel to reject LCS

Foreign military customers have always been one of the key goals of the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program, but at least one potential operator has already backed out, according to reports.

Israel had been looking at buying two littoral combat ships, according to a Jerusalem Post story this week, but their high cost means they're no longer in the running. Here was the newspaper's matter-of-fact account:

Due to budgetary constraints, the Navy has scrapped plans to purchase two next-generation missile ships and is instead looking to increase its fleet with smaller vessels. The Navy had originally decided to purchase the US Navy’s littoral combat ship, under development by defense contractor Lockheed Martin, but backed away from the deal after the price soared.

It then looked into buying designs from Germany’s Blohm+Voss and having the vessels built by Israel Shipyards – a privately owned company based in Haifa that already builds the navy’s smaller Shaldag patrol boats – but a senior IDF officer involved in procurement plans said that a budget for that plan was also lacking.

Instead, the Navy is now looking to order two new Sa’ar 4.5-class missile corvettes and to finance the deal by retiring two of its Sa’ar 4-class ships.

The U.S. Navy has a specific niche for LCS, but it also has its legacy fleet of cruisers and destroyers, so it doesn't need the ships to be heavily armed combatants. But an LCS with Aegis, anti-ship missiles and other potential refinements has almost always been part of the contractors' sales pitch, and the Israelis and Saudis both are said to have flirted with the idea of buying them.

Today, however, those notions seem dead in the water. The Israelis apparently don't want to play and the Saudis, meanwhile, are talking about buying no-kidding Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

There may be a silver lining for Lockheed, Austal and the U.S. Navy, however -- despite admirals' onetime admonitions that "they needed LCS yesterday," the service and its vendors are taking their time putting together the ships, crews and mission equipment. When it's all functioning operationally, doing deployments and proving itself worthy of the Global Force For Good, potential foreign customers on the sidelines might then want to join the LCS club.

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