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