Thursday, February 21, 2013

Little Crappy Ships

That is what critics inside the Navy are calling the Littoral Combat Ship (Or LCS in snappy acronym speak). As the Sequester a/k/a Boehner's Boner, approaches we have been treated to outgoing SecDef Leon Panetta wailing like a yeshiva student at the Temple Wall about how much damage will be done to the active military if it goes through. In the meantime money continues to be available for failed projects like the LCS.
As the Pentagon faces $500 billion in spending cuts over a decade that are set to begin March 1, the $37 billion program to design and build Littoral Combat Ships may become a target for reductions that would take business from Lockheed and Austal.

“The ships are costing too much,” Norman Polmar, a naval analyst and author, said in an interview. “The support costs are ridiculous with two different designs.”

The Littoral Combat Ship -- derided by critics inside the Navy as the “Little Crappy Ship” -- reflects the enduring influence of the “military-industrial complex” that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 farewell address. It is an example of a troubled project that has sailed on with the support of a military seeking the most advanced war- fighting equipment possible, companies eager to build it and politicians hungry for the jobs created...

Not ‘Survivable’

The USS Freedom had a crack as long as six inches through its hull that had to be repaired. Austal’s first ship, the USS Independence, suffered from what the Navy described as “aggressive” corrosion in the propulsion area, partly the result of the marriage of steel water jets and an aluminum hull. Murdoch said the problem is “largely solved,” at an additional cost of about $500,000 per ship.

Then there’s the persistent debate over how vulnerable the Littoral Combat Ship may be to attack.

The vessel “is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief of weapons testing, said in a January report.

Navy officials say the LCS has sufficient defenses to perform its missions while working in tandem with the rest of a battle group.

“These ships are designed for speed,” Rear Admiral Tom Eccles, deputy commander for naval systems engineering at the Naval Sea Systems Command, said at the Surface Navy Association conference. “They’re designed to be in the fight and then get out of the fight when it’s required.”

Polmar, the naval analyst, said that may not be enough.

“Speed is irrelevant to threats today because of aircraft, missiles and torpedoes,” he said. “When you’re going faster, you’re putting more noise in the water and they’re going to find you.”
Just like the continuing failed 'Star Wars' project, the Little Crappy Ships have a critical mass of brass and politicians pushing for them regardless of how useless they may be. All Hail the Military-Industrial-Complex Freedom!


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