Wednesday, September 7, 2022

LCS - Worse Than We Could Possibly Have Imagined

The LCS has been beat up by naval observers just about every possible way.  It’s not even fun anymore.  What’s left to criticize?  And yet … it seems as if the problems are even worse than we already knew.


USNI News website reports on the content of media remarks by Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, the commander of Naval Surface Forces, regarding the LCS ships in general and the Independence class, in particular.[1]


Bear in mind that the first Freedom LCS was launched in 2006 and the first Independence LCS was launched in 2008.  That’s 16 and 14 years ago, respectively.  One would think that a decade and a half ought to have been enough time to work out the bugs, right?  Well, consider these comments from the article:


While the Independence-class ships, based at Naval Station San Diego, have been deploying to the Indo-Pacific, the Navy in recent years has sent the Freedom-class LCS to U.S. Southern Command for counter-drug operations.[1]


That deployment pattern illustrates just how bad the Freedom variant’s propulsion problems are.  The Navy is forced to keep the ships within easy sailing (meaning recovery via tug/tow) distance of US ports.  It is also a tacit acknowledgement that they have no combat value.


As you recall, the entire LCS concept was predicted on a civilian-provided, forward (meaning foreign) based maintenance model.  Kitchener had this to say,


Again, still some things to look at and to work on as far as expeditionary maintenance … [1]


So, after 14-16 years, the Navy is still trying to figure out the maintenance model?  That’s bad.  That’s really bad.  It’s damning.


After 14-16 years, reliability is still an issue, according to Kitchener who had this to say about the Independence variant reliability:


The Navy has made progress on fixing the reliability issues on the Independence-class ships based in San Diego with the help of its Task Force LCS effort, Kitchener said.


We’ve had a lot of success with reliability fixes and maintaining those ships on station, operationally longer. We still have some challenges as far as some of them systems and part of that is an effort of making sure we have the right parts at the point of need.[1]


So, 14 years operating Independence variants and we’ve ‘made progress’ but we ‘still have some challenges’?  And you know he’s lying applying the maximum positive spin.  The reality is, without a doubt, much, much worse.


Regarding maintenance and parts issues, Kitchener said,


I’ve been pretty happy with that, but there’s a lot more work to do … [1]


Read that statement without the spin and he’s actually describing a still badly broken system … after 14 years!


Here’s a damning statement that Kitchener appears to be taking pride in,


The Naval Sea Systems Command LCS Strike team, led by Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants Rear Adm. Casey Moton, helped the service make fixes to USS Oakland (LCS-24) ahead of its deployment.


The work that the strike team did – the NAVSEA engineers – on reliability fixes, we pushed Oakland out, who’s our latest deployer, recently with about 20 to 25 of those fixes.[1]


This is telling us that LCS vessels are unfit to deploy unless they receive a focused set of reliability fixes … and lots of them!  This is worse than I thought.


More on maintenance:


While the Navy has sent the Freedom-class ships to U.S. 4th Fleet for counter-drug operations over the last few years, Kitchener said the service has only recently figured out how to perform maintenance on the ships during deployments.[1] [emphasis added]


Seriously?  The Freedom variant has been operating for 16 years and the Navy ‘has only recently figured out how to perform maintenance on the ships during deployments’.  This was the core concept of the ship.  What have you been doing for the last 16 years, admiral?


One of the problems the Navy faces, fleet wide, is the issue of data rights.  Kitchener addressed this for the LCS:


As we transition to more of the sailor-focused maintenance, we spent a lot of time on getting our sailors some specialized training, buying some of the – getting the rights to some of the gear – we continue to do that.[1]


This is demonstrating that we bought equipment without the corresponding data rights – thinking the manufacturer would perform the maintenance - and now that we’ve opted to have sailors perform the maintenance, we find that we lack the specifications, data, and manuals to successfully do so.


Kitchener also discusses problems with some seemingly mundane equipment.


He pointed to the crane at the back of the LCS that is used to deploy the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) and the rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) as an example of where the Navy had to train its sailors as part of the maintenance model shift.


Traditionally that’s been very problematic for us. There are some mechanical issues with it and there are also some training issues with it and some depth of knowledge issues, quite frankly.[1]


Kitchener is acknowledging that we’ve lost the ability, as a Navy, to operate and maintain a simple crane mechanism … and yet we believe we’ll be able to operate incredibly advanced radar  and combat systems?  But, I digress …


Kitchener’s general assessment:


While the Navy has made headway on LCS reliability and maintenance, Kitchener said the service needs to make more progress to ensure the ships are operating at full capacity.


I still get concerned over some of the system readiness. I think we’ve improved our ability to stay underway, though sometimes I think from a system perspective we have more work to do in making sure that not only are they underway, but they’re 100 percent fully redundant on some of their combat readiness.[1]


Read between the lines.  Kitchener is saying that the LCS still has massive problems.  If this is what he’s acknowledging, you can be sure there’s plenty more he’s keeping quiet about and the problems are worse than we could possibly have imagined.





[1]USNI News website, “SWO Boss Wants 6 Littoral Combat Ships in Western Pacific”, Mallory Shelbourne, 22-Aug-2022,


  1. Here's another one. Apparently the Independence class may have a class wide structural defect that results in hull cracking, and limits the speed and sea states that the ship can operate in.

    The LCS seems to be the gift that keeps on giving. :-(

    1. I covered this in a post a few months ago. See, "Weakly Built Ships"

      Every ship with aluminum suffers from cracking. This is nothing new or unique to the LCS. The Tico's have cracking in their superstructures. I have a Navy report by the Structures and Composites Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, dated Feb-2011, documenting LCS cracking (includes photos of the cracks). I have a copy of a Navy memo dated 3-May-2011 detailing limitations to LCS operating procedures resulting from cracks.

  2. I wrote work items for the LCS Independence class vessels. When we took tours of the vessels, the sailors aboard were unable to point out systems that required work to us. Their excuse? "We are operators, no maintainers". There was not a sailor on board below the rank of PO2. I, as a planner who looked at drawings and tech manuals, knew more about their ships than sailors that had been aboard them for 2 years.

    Serious flaw in Navy logic (is there such a thing these days?) was telling their sailors that they were an elite and that they were only there to operate the equipment, not to make repairs.

    1. Throughout history, at sea or on land, there has been no distinction between operators and maintainers. They were the same person. You maintained what you operated. This has been especially true aboard ships. You had to maintain what you operated because there was no one else available and no where to turn for help.

      The Navy has forgotten this reality and now we're paying the price. Ships are, literally, rotting away under the feet of the sailors and every ship in the fleet has multiple (many) systems that are either inoperable or degraded. This is the very definition of a hollow fleet.

    2. In the '70s in Electronic Warfare, there was typically a senior hand who had specialty maintenance training. He handled all the tricky maintenance issues.
      The junior hands were all operators.
      I expect that policy varied according to the trade involved.
      We all chipped paint for example.

    3. Walk down the piers at Norfolk some day...they do not even chip paint any longer. Ships come back from deployment looking worse than Thai freighters. There is no longer a push from senior leadership to have the ships at least look good when they arrive home after 6-9 months. It is horrible.

    4. I bet you'd get arrested if you walked up with a bucket of paint and a brush and started yourself. (And scraper)

    5. They all look awful, although I did read something about one Captain that organized a tiger team that was specifically tasked with keeping the exterior looking good.

      I once had a manager whose motto was "work she may, shine she must". He had a point, and it certainly applies to Navies if you want to have any pride of ownership.


    6. "one Captain that organized a tiger team"

      I'm familiar with that story. In more general terms, there are many factors acting against that type of effort. For example, Captains don't get promoted because their ships are rust-free. They get promoted because they supported gender, diversity, green, anti-extremism (as defined by SecDef), efforts. That's where they'll put any available manpower and time they have. Also, minimal manning means just that; there are no extra bodies for corrosion control.

    7. Its disappointing that the Navy is so full of themselves that they don't look farther than the end of their nose. The civilian offshore industry is now using coatings that will last 50 years, as some of the floating structures are way too big to ever enter a dry-dock and need to last the life of the structure.

    8. "...have the ships at least look good when they arrive home after 6-9 months."

      Sad. No wonder sailors arent performing. Theres no pride in being a Navy sailor aboard a scow... Before returning from a deployment, the Atlantic crossing was spent cleaning and painting. We often would stop a day out and put people over the side to touch up the hull. Sure, as one, we all bitched n moaned about it. But we always looked shipyard-fresh when those families waiting on the pier saw us. We knew it and we were proud of it...
      Whats gonna give those kids pride today???

  3. The next Navy disaster was just announced.

    Navy wants new destroyer with lasers, hypersonic missiles,-hypersonic-missiles-7242576.html

    Both old "new tech" are problematic and unwise. Here is a great video on hypersonic missile BS.

    I wrote about laser BS a few years ago.

    1. I've done several posts on lasers and hypersonics. Interested readers can check the archives under the keywords 'lasers' and 'hypersonic'.

    2. Does the Navy want these laser-armed warships the way SMART people do, i.e., designed so they can mount PROVEN weapons while the "All New, All Different" weapons are tested and debugged, the way the M1 Abrams mounted a 105mm rifle in place of the M1A1 and later variant' 120mm smoothbore? Or does the Navy's plans no longer account for possible and probable delays, meaning the ship must launch and be commissioned with big gaping holes in place of still unusable "All New, All Different" weapons- or worse, with dead weight that can be better used for proven, USEFUL weapons?

    3. They plan RAM launchers while awaiting the lasers.

  4. The LCS Contractors must have studied GE and their use of service agreements to make money. They don't even break even (given the discounts they give to make the deal) when they sell a Turbine or jet engine. The money comes on the servicing after the Client is hooked. The Navy should get all of the money back that they spent getting Officers MBAs.

  5. Not only draining the nation's precious resources, LCS wastes even more precious thing --- TIME.

    Giving Navy has already stated to retire them, do so quickly.

    You don't want to keep a clunker can only drive around your home, not too far from mechanical shops.

  6. Put windmills on the remaining LCSs, Zumwalts, and Fords and sell them to European countries as "mobile electric generating platforms". The Europeans are both stupid and desperate enough to go for this and the admirals can get MICC "retirement points" for supporting Green silliness. A win-win.

  7. "The Navy simply does not appear to believe war with China will actually happen despite having publicly proclaimed that war was highly likely within the next several years."

    Congress didn't give them lots of extra money to spend on a war, so the USN is assuming it isn't going to happen. Can't have a war without proper funding!


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