The Freedom (LCS-1) variant of the LCS has been quite well documented. By comparison, the
(LCS-2) variant is much less known, at least publicly. The DOT&E 2016 Annual Report sheds some
light on the Independence variant. Here
are some of the findings. All quotes are
from the report and any emphasis is added. Independence
The Sea Giraffe radar was found to have detection and tracking limitations.
“…the Navy-conducted non-firing radar tracking events against subsonic ASCM drones, the Sea Giraffe radar provided LCS crews with only limited warning to defend itself against ASCMs in certain situations.”
This illustrates the world of difference between manufacturer’s brochures and reality. All of you who are so ready to jump on board foreign equipment based on the amazing claims by the manufacturer would do well to keep this example firmly in mind. The only reason foreign equipment sounds good to us is because we don’t have access to actual test data for it. If we did, we’d see all the same problems that plague US and Navy systems.
Closely related, the electro-optical detection and tracking system was found to suffer from substandard performance.
“The test events demonstrated that SAFIRE was unable to provide
reliable tracking information against some targets. Furthermore, the safety standoff requirements on Navy test ranges were so severe that they precluded meaningful live-fire gun engagements against these targets. Because of these problems and constraints, the program decided to cancel all subsequent live-fire events, including those scheduled for operational testing, conceding that the
variant is unlikely to be consistently successful
when engaging some LSFs [Low Slow Flyers – meaning, helos and small planes] until
future upgrades of SAFIRE can be implemented.” Independence
More specifically, regarding SAFIRE,
“The ship’s electro-optical/infrared camera, SAFIRE, is the primary sensor for targeting the 57 mm gun. The system suffers from a number of shortcomings that contribute to inconsistent tracking performance against surface and air targets, including a cumbersome human-systems interface, poor auto-tracker performance, and long intervals between laser range finder returns. These problems likely contributed to the poor accuracy of the 57 mm gun observed during live-fire events, though the root cause(s) of the gun’s inaccuracy has not been determined definitively.”
The ship’s electronic support system (ESM) which provides direction finding and emitter detection and classification was also found to have problems.
“The ES-3601 [ESM system] detected the presence of the ASCM seekers in most instances but did not reliably identify certain threats.”
Surface warfare was a problem. The Navy conducted 7 ASuW test events in which single boats were engaged and the ship was required to defeat the threat before the boat reached a prescribed range. The ship failed to stop the boats in 2 of the events. This is disturbing for a ship that was designed to defeat swarms. The inability to consistently defeat single boats under ideal and unrealistic conditions does not bode well for the ship’s ability to successfully engage swarms. Here’s DOT&E’s comments.
“The 57 mm gun demonstrated inconsistent performance even in benign conditions, which raises doubts about the ship’s ability to defend itself without the SUW mission package installed. The inaccuracy of the targeting systems, the difficulty in establishing a track on the target, and the requirement to hit the target directly when using the point-detonation fuze combine to severely impair effective employment of the gun, and limit effective performance to
dangerously short ranges.”
LCS-2 and LCS-4 were assessed for operational reliability and found to have problems in several areas.
“LCS 2 was unable to launch and recover RMMVs on 15 days because of four separate propulsion equipment failures involving diesel engines, water jets, and associated hydraulic systems and piping. These failures would also have limited the ship’s capability to use speed and maneuver to defend itself against small boat threats.”
“LCS 2 experienced multiple air conditioning equipment failures and was unable to supply enough cooling to support the ship’s electronics on several occasions. One or more of the ship’s three chilled water units was either inoperative or operating at reduced capacity for 159 days (90 percent of the period).”
“LCS 2 experienced failures of critical systems such as the SeaRAM air defense system (four failures and a total downtime of 120 days), the ship’s 57 mm gun (inoperative for 114 days), the SAFIRE electro‑optical/infrared system (inoperative for 25 days), and the Sea Giraffe radar (multiple short outages) … many of these failures left the ship defenseless against certain threats for days at a time.”
“Similar to LCS 4, LCS 2 experienced several Ship Service Diesel Generator failures during the period …”
“A Mobicon straddle carrier failure left the ship unable to conduct waterborne MCM operations for a period of 4 days until a technician could travel from
the problem and make needed adjustments.” Australia
This demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the conceptual maintenance design which relegates all repairs to shore side. This flaw surfaces many times in the DOT&E report where failures are unable to be repaired by the ship’s crew.
“Failure of a power conversion unit that supplied 400-Hertz power to the mission bay deprived the ship of MCM mission capability for 20 days while the ship was in port undergoing repairs. The ship also lost the capability to supply 400-Hertz power to the aircraft hangar, where it is needed to conduct pre-mission checks on the MH-60S and AMCM systems. The Navy never determined the cause of the near simultaneous failures of the two power conversion units, although technicians considered them related.”
“The mission essential equipment for conducting SUW on LCS 4 had poor reliability, with a failure that caused a partial loss of capability approximately every day and a complete loss of mission capability every 11 days on average. Based on these failure rates, LCS has a near-zero chance of completing a 14-day mission (the length of time LCS can operate before resupply of food is required) or a 30-day mission (the length of time prescribed by Navy requirements documents) without experiencing an operational mission failure.”
“LCS spent 40 days of the 136-day test period with one or more engines inoperative or degraded.”
“LCS 4 experienced numerous instances in which the flow of navigation data (heading, pitch, and roll) to the combat system was disrupted for short periods, which disabled the Sea Giraffe radar and the 57 mm gun and degraded SeaRAM’s performance.”
“SeaRAM, suffered from poor reliability and availability before, during, and after operational testing aboard LCS 4. Failures caused seven long periods of downtime (greater than 48 hours) between
“The ship’s ride control system, used for high-speed maneuvering, did not appear to be fully functional at any time during developmental or operational testing in FY15 and FY16.”
The DOT&E report contains much more. You can read it if you’re interested.
The discouraging aspect is not the widespread problems and failures (well, yes it is). Those are to be expected in a new ship class, especially a class built by yards that had little or no naval construction experience and attempted to utilize and integrate so many new technologies and vendor equipment that the Navy had no experience with. The discouraging aspect is that, given the expected nature of the failures, the Navy opted to commit to a full production run before the first ship was even built. That philosophy took us from one prototype to 50 some failures. So many LCS supporters fail to understand this. They see the LCS as worthwhile due to its [in their eyes] potential while failing to recognize that that unrealized potential is actually failure when applied to 50 some ships. It’s that failure multiplied by 50 that so upsets LCS critics. If the Navy had built a single prototype, no one would care whether it had problems. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Navy essentially built or is building 50 failed prototypes. Even if no further problems are found and every existing problem is miraculously solved tomorrow, all the built and under-construction ships will have to be rebuilt to incorporate the fixes. Remember what that’s called? – concurrency. That will double the true acquisition cost.
Worse, all this discussion is before we even get around to talking about the modules and their failures. It’s looking like many LCS will serve a significant amount of their service lives without any module.