- The Navy is looking seriously at early retirement of a carrier.
- The Navy is attempting to lay up the Aegis cruisers.
- The Navy left the Avenger class MCM vessels to rot pierside until it became painfully obvious that the LCS wouldn’t be ready for years to come.
- The Navy early retired the entire Tarawa LHA amphibious class.
- The Navy cancelled Tomahawk missile production with no successor in sight (though Congress restored some degree of production).
- The Navy cancelled Fire Scout procurement (though, again, some degree of production has been restored, I think).
- The Navy terminated the Seawolf SSN program after only three units.
- The Navy did one of the most abrupt about-faces in naval history in terminating the Zumwalt DDG program after stating unequivocally the year before that it was the key to future naval combat.
From the above historical listing it should be obvious that the Navy has no qualms about terminating, early retiring, or changing directions on major ship classes and programs.
Contrast that history of early retirements, terminations, and changes of direction with the LCS program. The Navy is completely, totally, utterly committed to seeing the LCS program through to the full buy of 52 units. Why? Almost no one in or out of the Navy now believes that the LCS is, or will ever be, a successful platform. Yet, in the face of severe budget constraints which have seen the Navy terminate and early retire many platforms, weapons, and systems, the LCS remains untouchable.
Before you pound out a reply about the new LCS, no one considers the “new” LCS to be anything other than a public relations gimmick to continue building the same anemic LCS’s.
What makes the LCS untouchable when we’re perfectly willing to retire Aegis cruisers and carriers which are infinitely more valuable? Is it just a case of institutional face saving? I’m sure there’s a degree of that at work but the people who actually initiated the LCS program and might have the greatest stake in seeing it “succeed” are long gone. Why would current Navy leadership care that much whether the LCS reaches the full 52 ship build? ComNavOps has no answer. The Navy’s position on this is truly baffling.
Setting aside the wisdom or doctrinal/tactical need for a small combatant, the logical path would be to terminate the LCS and initiate another small combatant program that incorporates the lessons learned rather than try to tweak an inherently flawed platform. What’s the downside? There isn’t one that I can see. Worst case, we’d have a few less toothless, useless patrol boats for several years while the replacement vessel geared up. Heck, if we wanted to build or buy one of the many excellent foreign design small combatants we wouldn’t even have to wait very long so the excuse of a gap in production isn’t even valid.
Shrink the fleet size so that we can continue building shiny new toys? Yes, we’ll do that!
Drop a carrier so that we can continue building new Fords? Yes, we’ll do that!
Early retire the most powerful cruisers in the world so that we can continue new construction? Yes, we’ll do that!
Terminate or even reduce the procurement of a toothless, useless, short-legged, ship that has no valid mission? Nope. Come hell or high water, we’re going to build all 52 LCS.