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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pentagon Identifies LCS Improvement Needs

While the U.S. Navy moves forward with its dual-block-buy plan to acquire its new fleets of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), both versions of the vessel require substantial improvements, according to the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Testing and Evaluation (DOT&E).
Critical ship control systems for LCS 1—built by Lockheed Martin and shipbuilder Marinette—“have performed well in testing,” the DOT&E notes in its report, released earlier this month. “However, several systems required for self-defense and mission package support have demonstrated early reliability problems.”
Further, the report says, “The ship does not have sufficient installed berthing to accommodate the nominal crew complement, nor is the installed refrigerated food storage capacity sufficient to meet the prescribed provision endurance.”
As for LCS 2—built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and shipbuilder Austal USA—the DOT&E notes that the ship was found to be incomplete during acceptance trials. “Several spaces and critical systems were incomplete and had not been accepted by the government,” the DOT&E says. “Spaces and systems that were accepted had various levels of documented material deferrals.”
The Navy says it needs a second acceptance trial, which is tentatively scheduled for early 2011.
Overall, “LCS is not expected to be survivable in terms of maintaining a mission capability in a hostile combat environment,” the report says. The DOT&E says its assessment “is based primarily on a review of the LCS design requirements.”
Analysts note that the littorals represent exactly the kind of “hostile combat environment” in which the LCS is likely to be deployed.
The service designated LCS a Survivability Level 1 ship, the DOT&E notes. “Consequently, its design is not required to include survivability features necessary to conduct sustained operations in a combat environment.”
Meanwhile, “The results of early live fire testing using modeling and simulation, while not conclusive, have raised concerns about the effects weapons will have on the crew and critical equipment,” the DOT&E reported.
Additional live fire testing and analysis is needed to fully assess the survivability of the LCS class, the report says.
To address the vulnerability implications of building ships with aluminum structure to commercial standards—which is relevant to both ship designs, the DOT&E says—several surrogate tests are planned for LCS, including a fire-induced structural collapse test of a multi-compartment aluminum structure, an internal blast test of a multi-compartment aluminum structure, and an underwater explosion-induced inelastic whipping test of a surrogate ship.

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