The USS Freedom, the first of the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), is on her way to Singapore. The press has reported that the ship is intended to show the US’s commitment to counter China in the region. Before it can do that however, the $670 million ship has to get there. The USS Freedom has suffered three blackouts so far in its transit between Hawaii and Guam. As reported by Aviation Week: The most recent two this week — including one March 21 — brings the outage total to three, all during the ship’s transit from Pearl Harbor to Guam en route to Singapore, says U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Darryn James. The outage problems appear to be similar to those the ship suffered during a deployment in the Atlantic when the vessel was first pressed into Navy service, a source intimately familiar with Freedom operations says.
Other than not being able to keep the lights on, the guns on the USS Freedom are also reported not to work properly, and her helicopter is too small to perform mine-sweeping. Additionally the Navy has admitted in a recent report that the “LCS is not expected to be survivable…” in combat. So to counter the Chinese, the US is sending a ship with an unreliable power plant and ineffective weapons — a ship that even the Navy says may not survive a fight a sea. Good luck with that.
The Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are designed to operate in shallow water where larger ships cannot maneuver as well. They are intended to accommodate a variety of individual warfare systems assembled and integrated into interchangeable mission packages. The problem is that, so far, not much is working. Late last year Time’s Battlefield blog commented, “The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is not only staggeringly overpriced and chronically unreliable but — even if it were to work perfectly — cannot match the combat power of similar sized foreign warships costing only a fraction as much.”
The Navy is not having problems with only one LCS design. For reasons that have never been fully explained, the Navy decided to commission two completely different LCS designs. The USS Freedom is a monohull, while the second ship, USS Independence is a trimaran. Whereas the Freedom has suffered from hull cracking, the Independence has had serious problems with galvanic corrosion where the aluminum hull meets the stainless steel water jet propulsion system.
Both ships were budgeted to cost around $220 million each. So far the Freedom has cost $670 million, while the Independence has cost $813 million as reported by Bloomberg. The Navy had planned to build 52 LCS ships. Recently it has been reported that the Navy is now considering cutting the order in half and only building one of the two designs.
Critics of the program have suggested that the acronym LCS might more accurately refer to “Little Crappy Ship.” “Little Costly Ship” might also apply. Others have suggested that “Lack of Common Sense” also works. Click here for an assorted of alternative acronyms for this troubled program.