The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is another element of the U.S. Navy’s attempt to “transform” its surface combatant force. Conceived as a warship which can operate effectively in littoral (near-shore) waters, the LCS has the potential to fill certain gaps in the Navy’s mission capabilities. The LCS program is experiencing significant cost overruns and has recently been restructured. CDI Research Associate Ana Marte and Research Assistant Elise Szabo provide an overview of the Littoral Combat Ship program, contracting and budget data, and a list of additional sources for general information, government reports, and analysis.
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a member of a family of new Navy surface combatants at also includes the DDG-1000 destroyer and the planned CG(X) cruiser. The LCS’s primary intended missions include countering enemy mines, submarines, and fast attack craft (so-called “swarm boats”) in littoral waters. Secondary missions include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; maritime intercept; special operations forces support; and logistics support. Significant cost growth in the building of the first few LCSs has led the Navy to restructure the program, but the Navy remains committed to its original plan to procure a total of 55 LCSs
The basic version of the LCS, called the seaframe, is designed to accept modular mission packages that enable the ship to perform its various missions. The ship’s mission orientation can be changed by swapping out mission packages. Each package would consist of a grouping of systems, including manned and unmanned vehicles, deployable sensors, and mission manning detachments.
The LCS displaces about 3,000 tons and will have a maximum speed of about 45 knots. Automation of certain features is intended to minimize crew requirements.
The Navy awarded contracts for final system design of two “Flight 0” versions of the LCS to teams led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics in May 2004. The LCS program thus comprises two different hull forms: the semi-planing monohull designed by Lockheed and the aluminum trimaran designed by General Dynamics.
The Lockheed team was assigned LCS-1 (procured in FY2005 and named Freedom) and LCS-3 (procured in FY2006). The General Dynamics team was assigned LCS-2 (named Independence) and LCS-4, both procured in FY 2006.
Two more ships were procured in FY2007. However, significant cost growth in the building of the first LCSs prompted the Navy in March 2007 to propose a restructuring of the program that would cancel the two FY2007-funded ships (LCSs 5 and 6). The Navy in April 2007 also terminated construction of LCS-3. Funding for the two ships procured in FY2007 are now to be used to cover cost overruns on LCSs 1, 2, and 4, as well as other program costs.
The Navy’s estimate for the first LCS in FY2006 was $212.5 million. The Navy has since stated that the estimated shipyard construction cost of LCS-1 is $350-$375 million. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), this suggests that the total procurement cost of LCS-1 could be in excess of $400 million.
The Navy originally requested $910.5 million for three ships in the FY 2008 budget. After the cost overruns on LCS-1 were revealed in January of this year, however, Navy officials amended the request, asking for only two ships. The House Appropriations Bill provides $339 million for one vessel, $571 million below the Navy’s request.
For more information on the LCS program, see the links provided below. Readers interested in further articulation of the cost history of the program are directed to pages 8-17 of the Congressional Research Service report “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress,” and the National Defense Magazine article in our analysis section below.
General Information on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS):
Program Executive Office Ships – LCS
General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship Team
Lockheed Martin Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Team
* LCS-1 Freedom Class
* LCS Independence Class
Congressional Research Service (CRS):
· “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress,” http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL33741.pdf.
· “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): Background and Issues for Congress,” http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RS21305.pdf.
· CRS testimony to Congress:
Government Accountability Office (GAO):
· “Defense Acquisitions: Realistic Business Cases Needed to Execute Navy Shipbuilding Programs,” http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07943t.pdf.
· “Defense Acquisitions: Plans Need to Allow Enough Time to Demonstrate Capability of First Littoral Combat Ships,” http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05255.pdf.
· National Defense Magazine, “Littoral combat ship could slip behind schedule as price tag nears $500 million,”
· RAND National Defense Research Institute, “Littoral Combat Ship: Relating Performance to Mission Package, Inventories, Homeports, and Installation Sites,”
· Washington Post, “High Cost Lead Navy to Cancel Lockheed Coastal Vessel,”
· The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “Know when to hold’em, Know when to fold’em: A New transformation Plan for the Navy’s Surface Battle Line,” http://www.csbaonline.org/4Publications/PubLibrary/
· American Enterprise Institute, "LCS: A Solution for the Asia Littoral," http://www.aei.org/publications/filter.all,pubID.25323/
· The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “Naval Transformation and the Littoral Combat Ship,
· The Center for Technology and National Security Policy, “The Littoral Combat Ship From Concept to Program,” http://www.ndu.edu/ctnsp/pubs/Case%207%20LCS.pdf
· Lexington Institute,” Modularity, the Littoral Combat Ship and the Future of The United States Navy,” http://lexingtoninstitute.org/docs/lcs_final.pdf.
Winslow T. Wheeler
Straus Military Reform Project
Center for Defense Information
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