Danger Room: Navy’s New Warship: Bargain, Death-Trap, or Both?

04.01.11

Categorie: David Axe, Naval, Wired |
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LCS 2

LCS 2. Austal photo.

by DAVID AXE

After years of botched contracts and cost overruns, the Navy has finally signed contracts to buy a bunch of its speedy, near-shore Littoral Combat Ships — at a per-copy price nearly a third cheaper than expected. But hold the Champagne. The cost-cutting that made the LCS so affordable might also doom the ships to watery graves in future conflicts. “We have a warship design that is not expected to fight and survive in the very environment in which it was produced to do so,” one critic at the U.S. Naval Institute blog claims, describing the LCS as “poorly-armed” and “poorly-protected” for dangerous, crowded coastal waters.

When the LCS deals were announced last week, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus crowed that they would “provide needed ships to our fleet in a timely and extraordinarily cost effective manner.” Instead of picking one shipbuilder, the Navy tapped rival firms Austal and Lockheed Martin to build 10 LCS apiece through 2015, each using their own distinct design. The cost per ship? Just $450 million, at least $200 million below the cost of each of the four prototypes.

But to get those low, low price, the ships will be built to commercial, rather than military, structural standards — meaning they’re lighter and less blast- and fire-resistant. Indeed, the Navy does not even have plans to subject the LCS to traditional blast-testing, “due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship,” the Congressional Research Service points out.

Read the rest at Danger Room.

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4 Responses to “Danger Room: Navy’s New Warship: Bargain, Death-Trap, or Both?”

  1. StanovichM says:

    So the LCS is good enough? Built to civilian standards, not survivable, lightly-armed, and with a crew size unable to perform damage control in the middle of a fight?

    One question to Danger Room. How far can you guys swim?

  2. leesea says:

    While it remains to be seen how well the LCS will be especially in terms of survivability, lets be correct about their construction standards. Both LCS were built to Naval Vessel Rules and American Bureau of Shipping High Speed Naval Craft code. The former is a new set of rules the later has been around for awhile and is fairly robust. Those rules did NOT drive the LCS to having aluminum the Navy rqmts for high speed did. Both standards have a good degree of fire protection in them.

  3. Brian Black says:

    The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a european naval arms-race create increasingly powerful and expensive warships.
    Some historians would put the end of that arms-race down to the emergence of cheap German e-boats and u-boats.
    Today’s naval arms-races see the creation of billion dollar warships, countered by cheap supersonic missiles and small cheap combat boats.
    Perhaps there is a need for ships like this that the US can actually afford to use, and lose.

  4. Andy says:

    just 20 years after Swedens Gotland…

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