The Navy launched its eleventh Littoral Combat Ship Saturday in a ceremony on Wisconsin’s Menominee River, just months after a government report recommended the temporary suspension of the LCS program.
The Navy christened and launched the future USS Sioux City (no ship gets its official USS title until commissioning) Saturday at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard. The shipyard is part of Lockheed-Martin, where construction on the single-hull vessel began in 2014. It’s 378.3 feet long, 57.4 feet in beam with a draft of 13 feet. Its maximum speed is 45 knots.
The Navy reportedly wants at least 52 of the ships built, justifying the $400 million-a-ship price tag by touting the (relatively) low-cost vessel’s interchangeable combat modules as the future of naval warfare.
“The Littoral Combat Ship has many different missions, she might be used for mine counter-measures, removing mines from the water. She potentially can be used for anti-submarine warfare, searching for submarines,” Navy Admiral Michelle Howard said at its christening.
The fanfare ignores Littoral Combat Ship critics who’ve called the designs as ill-planned as they are expensive. The ships are supposed to include easily interchangeable combat modules that can be swapped out within 72 hours of a mission, allowing the ship to be properly outfitted for everything from mine sweeping or warfare. But design compromises to lower costs may have resulted in some less than effective attachments. Then there’s the question of the LCS’s design, which inhabits the previously uncharted waters of being far bigger than coastal patrol boats but outgunned and out-armored by the bigger warships.
A U.S. Government Accountability Office report on the $34 billion program released to the public in December said the vessels fell below expectations for both lethal capabilities and survivability. The GAO is an independent agency appointed by Congress to review cost.
The problem is the ships’ capabilities are virtually nil. “The Navy was just stupid in the way they executed the program,” Norman Polmar, advisor to three U.S. Secretaries of the Navy and two chiefs of naval operations, told the The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel in November.