Christopher Cavas at Navy Times website (1) reports that the Pentagon has directed the Navy to cut the LCS program from 52 ships to 32. This is a preliminary guidance and far from a final action. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that the LCS program is one of the vulnerable targets in the ongoing budget challenge.
That the LCS program would be cut is not particularly surprising. What’s surprising is that it would allow an additional 8 ships from the current 24 that are built, building, or under contract. Terminating the program after the current 24 makes sense. Extending the program to 32 but not the full 52 does not make sense. There is no discernible benefit to 8 more ships that I can see.
Regardless of the final numbers and rationale, an early termination of the program is going to make the operational cost of the LCS much greater. The entire shore-based maintenance system was based on an assumption of sufficient numbers of ships to make the system cost efficient. Spare parts will be purchased in much smaller quantities and will, therefore, be much more expensive individually.
In addition, the entire module concept is going to be impacted. Far fewer numbers of modules will be purchased, again driving up the cost of each one. With fewer modules, the flexibility of the LCS will be further constrained with even fewer of any particular module available for swapping (to the extent that the swap concept was even still viable).
From the Navy’s perspective (not mine!) it would make far more sense to voluntarily terminate the program at the current 24 and immediately begin moving on to the next incarnation of the LCS with heavier weapons, less speed, no module swapping, and incorporating the lessons learned.
* Thanks to NICO for the heads-up on this item! *