Skip to comments.Papers Released Show Problems with Littoral Combat Ship (Severe hull cracks, speed limited to 15kts)
Posted on 04/28/2012 6:14:43 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:
Your Committees have repeatedly questioned the utility and effectiveness of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programwhich is expected to cost taxpayers more than $120 billion over the life of the program and constitute as much as half of the Navys surface fleet. Your Committees have repeatedly been assured by the Navy as well as by the ships manufacturers that the program is delivering quality ships. Unfortunately, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan independent watchdog that has championed responsible weapons procurement for more than three decades, has learned that these assurances about one of the variants are inaccurate, at best.
There are two variants of the LCS: one built by a team led by General Dynamics, which will cost $345.8 million per ship; and the other built by a team led by Lockheed Martin, which will cost $357.5 million per ship. Senior Navy officials have publicly praised the LCS program. However, the Navy has been reluctant to share documents related to LCS vulnerabilities with entities such as the Pentagons Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E). But POGO has obtained a number of documents showing that Lockheed Martins USS Freedom (LCS-1, the first LCS ship) has been plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks, and has repeatedly been beset by engine-related failures.
These problems merit explanation from the Navy. We hope questions related to the issues we raise in this letter are incorporated into your annual oversight of the Navys budget request and programs.
Faulty Quality Assurance
From the time the Navy accepted LCS-1 from Lockheed Martin on September 18, 2008, until the ship went into dry dock in the summer of 2011not even 1,000 days laterthere were 640 chargeable equipment failures on the ship. On average then, something on the ship failed on two out of every three days.
Yet the Navy continued to tell Congress that all was well on LCS-1. Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December 2010 that both variants of the LCS were performing well, and that LCS1, the Freedom, demonstrated some of the things we can expect during her maiden deployment earlier this year. Then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead echoed this praise for the LCS-1, stating I deployed LCS earlier than any other ship class to assure we were on the right path operationally. It is clear to me that we are.
Mabus and Roughead failed to mention that during the approximately two-month deployment when the ship traveled from Mayport, Florida, to its home port in San Diego, California, there were more than 80 equipment failures on the ship. These failures were not trivial, and placed the crew of the ship in undue danger. For example, on March 6, 2010, while the ship was in the midst of counter-drug trafficking operations and reportedly conducted four drug seizures, netting more than five tons of cocaine, detained nine suspected drug smugglers, and disabled two go-fast drug vessels, there was a darken ship event (the electricity on the entire ship went out), temporarily leaving the ship adrift at sea.
Cracking Relegates LCS-1 to Frigate Speeds
These failures during deployment were not the last time LCS-1 would face significant operational challenges. Before and during the ships second set of rough water trials in February 2011, 17 cracks were found on the ship, according to the Navys Crack Monitoring Survey During Rough Water Trials Period #2 (enclosed). For example, a crack over 18 inches long was found at the corner of the deckhouse near a bi-metallic strip that binds the ships aluminum deckhouse and steel hull together.
Crack #17 is an 18.62-inch crack that travels along the upper weld of a bi-metallic strip, which bonds the steel hull to the ship's aluminum deckhouse. Crack #15 is an 8.5-inch crack that also travels along the upper weld of the bi-metallic ship.
Another crack was discovered below the waterline and is currently allowing water in....When discovered there was rust washing onto the painted surface. It is thought this is rust from the exposed crack surface. It is unknown how long this crack existed prior to being discovered.
A 4-inch crack in the hull was allowing water in and led to significant rusting. The Navys Crack Monitoring team did not know how long the crack existed before being discovered.
In other instances, cracks on one side of the ship were mirrored by cracks in nearly identical locations on the opposite side of the ship. For example, according to the Crack Monitoring Survey, a crack in the deck edge on the port side was mirrored by a crack in the deck edge on the starboard side. Similarly, cracks in the deck plating and center walkway on the port side were mirrored by corresponding cracks on the starboard side. Experts, including a source within the Navy, have informed POGO that the cracks in nearly identical locations on opposite sides of the ship may be indicative of systematic design issues.
These cracks are not without their consequences. In addition to allowing water to leak into the ship, the cracks severely limit the ships top speed, which was previously touted as exceeding 40 knots. Last May, the LCS program manager issued near term operating guidance for LCS-1, which placed significant constraints on the ships safe operating envelope (SOE). According to the Near-Term Operational Guidance memo (enclosed), there is risk associated with operating LCS 1 at the extreme edges of its SOE while transiting or deployed at significant distances from/to port (open ocean transit). It is therefore, prudent to plan ahead for possible mitigating situations where LCS 1 might be required to deviate from planned underway mission. Specifically, the new guidance states that in rough water (sea state 7; 19.5- to 29.5-foot waves) with following seas, the ship cannot travel at speeds greater than 20 knots, and cannot travel into head seas at any speed. Even in calmer seas (sea state 5; 8.2- to 13.1-foot waves) the ships peak speed into head seas is capped at 15 knots, relegating the Navys cheetah of the seas to freighter speeds.
Not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.
These cracking issues and the limitations to the SOE are indicative of a larger problem with the ship. A darken ship event during counter-drug trafficking operations is a dangerous failure, but had this occurred while the LCS was pursuing any of its other missions, such as anti-submarine warfare or surface warfare, this failure could have been fatal.
The cracking, and many of the equipment failures on the ship, endanger the lives of all personnel who board it. According to the DoDs DOT&E FY 2011 Annual Report, the LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.
Sources close to LCS-1 have now told POGO that after more than six months in port, the ship has been back to sea just twice. The sources also informed us about critical problems that surfaced on the ship during those two outings: several vital components on the ship failed including, at some point in both trips, each of the four engines. In addition, there were shaft seal failures during the last trip, which led to flooding.
Additional new material brought to our attention by Aviation Week shows that the ship appears to have even more serious problems with critical ship-wide systems, including rampant corrosion and flooding.
Navys Pattern of Obfuscation
The Navy has not been forthcoming with information about all of these problems. The DOT&Es FY 2011 Annual Report states that [t]he program offices have not released any formal developmental T&E reports. The report goes on to state that the Navy should continue to report vulnerabilities discovered during live fire tests and analyses. Doing so will inform acquisition decisions as soon as possible in the procurement of the LCS class.
The Navys lack of cooperation with the Pentagons test office is not the only way the Navy has hampered oversight of the program. The Navy has also repeatedly made significant changes to the program while giving Congress little time to evaluate these changes. As the Congressional Research Services Specialist in Naval Affairs, Ronald ORourke, said in his December 2010 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, The Navys proposed dual-award strategy is the third time in the history of the LCS program that the Navy has presented Congress with an important choice about the future of the LCS program late in the Congressional budget review cycle.
Based on the ships history of design and equipment failure, the LCS is simply not ready to be deployed to Singapore, as has been planned, or to any other destination. POGOs position has long-been that only one of the LCS variants is necessary, and that the current dual-development is a corporate subsidy we cant afford. As a result, we have recommended eliminating one variant to save taxpayer dollars. Now, based on the new evidence we have uncovered, we recommend that the more expensive and severely flawed Lockheed variant be eliminated. As Congress prepares to act on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013, we encourage Members to either eliminate the Lockheed variant outright, or, at least, mandate that the Navy choose in a timely manner the variant that provides the best value.
Danielle Brian Executive Director
Enclosures: rack Monitoring Survey During Rough Water Trials Period #2Memorandum from J.S. Riedel, Program Manager Littoral Combat Ship, Regarding SEA 05 LCS 1 Near-Term Operational Guidance based on Hull Crack Investigation
cc: Senate Armed Services Committee Members House Armed Services Committee Members
[ 1] Total operation and support costs are projected to be $87 billion, and total acquisition costs are $37 billion. Defense Acquisition Management Information Retrieval, Selected Acquisition Report (SAR): LCS, Department of Defense, December 31, 2010, pp. 1-37. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) [ 2] Philip Ewing, SNA: The Navys Next LCS Dilemma, DoD Buzz, January 10, 2012. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) [ 3] The contract with General Dynamics specifies that $691,599,014 was added for the construction of two ships, $345.8 million per ship, and the contract with Lockheed Martin specifies that $715,000,351 was added for the construction of two ships, $357.5 million per ship. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Navy Funds FY 12 Littoral Combat Ships, Military.com, March 19, 2012. (Downloaded April 20, 2012) [ 4] Senate Committee on Armed Services, Hearing to Receive Testimony on Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2011 and the Future Years Defense Program, December 14, 2010, pp. 1-35. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) (Hereinafter Hearing to Receive Testimony on Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition) [ 5] Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY 2011 Annual Report, Department of Defense, p. 159. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) (Hereinafter DOT&Es FY 2011 Annual Report) [ 6] Structure and Composite Division, Naval Warfare Center Carderock, Crack Monitoring Survey During Rough Water Trials Period #2, Department of Defense, February 14, 2011, pp. 1-19. (Hereinafter Crack Monitoring Survey); Memorandum from J.S. Riedel, Program Manager Littoral Combat Ship, regarding SEA 05 LCS 1 Near-Term Operational Guidance based on Hull Crack Investigation, May 3, 2011, pp. 1-20. (Hereinafter Near-Term Operational Guidance memo); LCS-1 Data Collection, Analysis, and Corrective Action System (DCACAS), Lockheed Martin. (Hereinafter LCS-1 DCACAS) [ 7] LCS-1 DCACAS [ 8] Hearing to Receive Testimony on Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition, p. 7. [ 9] Hearing to Receive Testimony on Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition, p. 9. [ 10] LCS-1 DCACAS [ 11] U.S. Navy, Fact File: Littoral Combat Ship Class LCS, (Downloaded April 19, 2012) (Hereinafter Fact File: Littoral Combat Ship Class LCS) [ 12] LCS-1 DCACAS [ 13] Crack Monitoring Survey, p. 2. [ 14] Crack Monitoring Survey, p. 15. [ 15] Crack Monitoring Survey, pp. 9-12. [ 16] Fact File: Littoral Combat Ship Class LCS [ 17] Near-Term Operational Guidance memo, p. 1. [ 18] Near-Term Operational Guidance memo, p. 2. [ 19] Near-Term Operational Guidance memo, pp. 11 and 13. [ 20] Mike Fabey, Analysts Call for LCS-1 Redesign, Aviation Week, January 30, 2012. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) [ 21] DOT&Es FY 2011 Annual Report, p. 159. [ 22] Christopher P. Cavas, LCS Freedom Back in Dry Dock, Defense News, March 1, 2012. (Downloaded April 19, 2012) [ 23] DOT&Es FY 2011 Annual Report, p. 159. [ 24] DOT&Es FY 2011 Annual Report, p. 159. [ 25] Hearing to Receive Testimony on Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition, p. 13.
Where was it built?
Agree completely. The Little Crappy Ships need to be cancelled yesterday.
Wisconsin apparently. The other LCS class is being made in Alabama.
I read maybe two years ago about a proposal to replace current Coast Guard ships with an upgraded version of their current ships. Those could probably replace the LCS, and be much less expensive.
I especially like how they can’t go into head-waves at all during bad weather. It’s just what our Navy needs.
Hell, bring back the Battleships, they’d be cheaper and they look spectacular. :)
Really now... This SHOULD not have happened. When I was in the Coast Guard back in the 1970’s the 378Ft Secretary class ships were of this style construction and they had the same stress crack problems. It was easily fixed with an expansion joint in the superstructure that allowed the superstructure to flex with the hull.
Bi-metal construction often has this sort of problem especially where there are wide temperature extremes from the Water to the Air temperatures.
Somebody really fell down on the job with this design. Then again maybe they were more concerned about the quarters for a mixed crew?
Union workers strike again !
Milwaukee - gotta love them union welders.
My dad refused to accept a similar piece of crap when he was at the Pentagon. He had US Senators calling to lean on him to approve the defective vessel. He stood firm. It cost him a promotion from Commander to Captain. He was fine with that. Everyone knows where a Commander sits. The title Captain often elicits the question “Army or Air Force”.
Ray Mabus appears to be a typical Obamanoid appointment--which is to say, totally incompetent and politically crazy. And I would guess that Roughead probably is the kind of Perfumed Prince that Obama and Mabus would pick to do their wrecking for them.
All this, of course, under a Communist Secretary of Defense.
If you believe those pukes at POGO are nonpartisan and independent I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you cheap.
“Bi-metal construction often has this sort of problem especially where there are wide temperature extremes from the Water to the Air temperatures.”
Also, that in a salt water environment, you get electrolysis that degards the metals. Navy learned that years ago. Why would they still try it today?
Nonetheless, my Navy days had plenty of well designed ships; epsecially the Essex Class carriers, where heavy-weather steel flexing situations were covered ... thanks to design excellence.
I think they’re all union-thug welders...anywhere.
Yes, it should not be a surprise.
There’s just no way around the actual material properties here. Aluminum has a higher thermal coefficient of expansion than steel, work hardens much faster than steel, fails under work hardening conditions without much warning, and will melt at rather low temperatures compared with steel.
It isn’t a good material for a combat ship. A fishing skiff? Maybe. A combat ship? No.
But I NB that the crew has fold-down tables that will allow them to use a laptop. Whoopie.
Why would they still try it today?
Because it’s a “cheaper” construction methodology... supposedly. Yeah sure it’s lighter for the superstructure but you lose a tremendous amount of “armor” capability and aluminum has shown a tendency to melt and deform easily in a fire at sea situation.
If it had been me and weight was of a paramount concern I would have gone with a carbon fiber construction such as you see on the Airbus aircraft or the 787. Sure it’s a bit radical for sea-going warship design but I would have loved to have a prototype built to test it all out in a real-world environment.
May be time for me to re-join the Navy.
...uh...nevermind...just remembered the recent tiff they had over DADT.
I attended the commissioning in Milwaukee. I used to run a
shop that made custom motorcycle frames. (work now sent to
China). I'm not too shabby, but the guys who actually did
the welding were true artists. I took a couple of pictures
of the welding and showed them when I got back. I thought
they were going to puke.
I met ADM Roughead in Baghdad, not real impressive.
The Swedes used a carbon-fibre composite hull on their Visby-class corvette.
sailors on HMS Sheffield found out how vulnerable these Al vessels are.
“cannot travel into head seas at any speed.”
What a confidence builder. I’m sure the Chinese Admirals are laughing...
BOTH of these classes have major problems, the least of which is a shortage of crew, leading to severe and dangerous fatigue.
More troubles for the Silkworm magnets.
USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS-2) is all aluminum and more survivable in a fight due to its three hulls vice one in LCS-1. However, the aluminum hull has experienced severe salt water corrosion problems and has necessitated a long and protracted yard period to apply the fixes.
Both ships are seriously under armed. They cannot survive without protection of the surface battle group. The Navy has said they are basically throwaway warships — but they disguise this with a fancy euphemism.
The ships are highly computerized to reduce manning, and the standard crew is about 45 officers, chiefs, and enlisted. There are too few hands to do things aboard ship and stand watches and endure long deployments.
Habitability issues when aviation assets or when VBSS (visit, board, search, seizure) teams or other teams are embarked. In these cases. “crew modules” that accommodate four sailors are embarked to provide sleeping quarters. All other features designed for a crew of 45 are overtaxed by the additional personnel including: messing, shower and head facilities, laundry.
The navy is very proud of the fact the LCS can crank 45 knots. Whoopie! I don't suppose the Navy has figured that an LCS running at 45 knots cannot outrun an anti-ship cruise missile traveling at Mach 0.8 to 2.0? Another question for the Navy “experts”: who's going to handle casualties and do damage control after you take a hit or hits? Crickets.
She was a beauty, a queen of the Sea.
The title Captain often elicits the question Army or Air Force.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
True but sometimes works to advantage.
Especially when in the “Gator” Navy and the USMC Combat Cargo Officer is a Capt....
A lot gets done when “Capt So & So” from USS LST calls for a sedan or some needed supplies....
“Look for the Union Label”
The pictures of the cracks seem to indicate bad welds. The construction records should tell which welders did the welds and which inspectors approved them. It might prove interesting to see if the same welders and inspectors show up at the bad welds.
Yes she was. I loved being on that ship but I was lucky to get off of it when I did, because if I had stayed on another year or so, I would have died when turret 2 exploded. Fate is a funny thing.
I’m glad the Iowa is at least finally being turned into a museum. It beats rusting away in a harbor or being scrapped.
Thanks for the work ...It seems we leared nothing since the Sheffield and a number of other incidents at 367 mil$ ea and unseawothy for the open sea a complete waste .
Under who’s administration when they were ordered and who’s when commissioned ?