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LCS Vigorously Defended by U.S. Navy

Apr. 25, 2012 - 05:13PM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
The USS Freedom, first of a planned 55 Littoral Combat Ships, has undergone several repair periods over the last year at San Diego. Critics contend the ships are fatally flawed, but the U.S. Navy is defending the ships.
The USS Freedom, first of a planned 55 Littoral Combat Ships, has undergone several repair periods over the last year at San Diego. Critics contend the ships are fatally flawed, but the U.S. Navy is defending the ships. (Josiah Popplar /U.S. Navy)
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The U.S. Navy struck back with uncharacteristic alacrity April 24, responding nearly overnight to a report by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) released a day earlier that severely criticized the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and, in particular, the first ship, the Freedom.

Problems with the Lockheed Martin-built Freedom are “too outrageous to fathom,” POGO said, and the watchdog organization charged that the Navy had exhibited a “pattern of obfuscation” in detailing LCS issues.

POGO’s report, however, while supported by a number of documents dating back several years that provided some additional detail into specific events, did not present any new issues that have not already been publicly discussed and, in many cases, presented in congressional testimony.

The POGO report comes amidst a flurry of media reports that similarly criticized the LCS program for its troubled history, but did not reveal any new or unreported problems.

POGO sent its report to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. The Senate committee, according to the Navy, asked the service for a response, which it subsequently shared with others on Capitol Hill.

Other significant lawmakers were contacted by phone to discuss the responses, the Navy said.

“We take our responsibilities to our congressional oversight committees very seriously,” Chris Johnson, a spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), said when asked about the quickness of the response. He declined to elaborate.

NAVSEA oversees construction and development of the LCS program.

The Navy’s “information paper” sent to Congress is presented below, with some edits for clarity. Most of the original document’s punctuation and capitalization style is retained.







SUBJECT: RFI 15911C3 Response to Project on Government Oversight (POGO) letter on LCS

DATE: 24 April 2012

REQUEST: Information paper responding to items and deficiencies called out in the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) letter on LCS. Specifically, provide a response to each item calling out a program shortcoming.

RESPONSE: The letter from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) raises several issues — faulty quality assurance, cracking, and ship survivability. None of these issues are new. All have been addressed previously and the Navy has kept the Congressional oversight Committees informed on all of the issues in the timeframe in which they occurred. Specific issues raised in the letter are addressed in more detail below.

ISSUE 1: “Your Committees have repeatedly questioned the utility and effectiveness of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program … constitute as much as half of the Navy’s surface fleet.”

RESPONSE 1: In the Annual Report to Congress on Long-range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for fiscal 2013, delivered to Congress on March 28, 2012, LCS accounts for approximately 22 percent of the 21st Century Battle Force of approximately 250 surface ships.

ISSUE 2: “Senior Navy officials have publicly praised the LCS program. However, the Navy has been reluctant to share documents related to LCS vulnerabilities with entities such as the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).”

RESPONSE 2: This is not correct. The LCS Program Office has been working in close coordination with the DOT&E community since the early days of the program. DOT&E has been an active member of the T&E Working level Integrated Program Teams (WIPTs) since 2004 and most recently at the [Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)] level in the milestone-related Integrating IPTs (IIPTs) and Overarching IPTs (OIPTs) that occurred in 2011. Draft Detail Design Integrated Survivability Assessment Reports (DDISAR) were provided to DOT&E in the second quarter of fiscal 2012 to initiate discussions while modeling results and shot line selections are completed. DOT&E is working with the program office to complete the DDISARs and move toward developing Total Ship Survivability Trials (TSST) plans that assess Seaframe survivability in fiscal 2014. DOT&E will receive the final DDISARs prior to the planning and conduct of the TSSTs. Additionally, the LCS Program Office provided a draft of the 57mm Live Fire Test and Evaluation Management Plan to OSD/DOT&E on 29 March, and received comments on 3 April 2012. Comment resolution is in process.


• “… (LCS-1, the first LCS ship) has been plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks.”

• “Before and during the ship’s second set of rough water trials in February 2011, 17 cracks were found on the ship’…”

• “Another crack was discovered “below the waterline and is currently allowing water in... When discovered there was rust washing onto the painted surface. It is thought this is rust from the exposed crack surface. It is unknown how long this crack existed prior to being discovered.”

• “Similarly, cracks in the deck plating and center walkway on the port side were mirrored by corresponding cracks on the starboard side. Fifteen experts, including a source within the Navy, have informed POGO that the cracks in nearly identical locations on opposite sides of the ship may be indicative of systematic design issues.”

• “Last May, the LCS program manager issued near term operating guidance for LCS-1, which placed significant constraints on the ship’s safe operating envelope (SOE).”

• “Specifically, the new guidance states that in rough water (sea state 7; 19.5- to 29.5-foot waves) with following seas, the ship cannot travel at speeds greater than 20 knots, and cannot travel into head seas at any speed. Even in calmer seas (sea state 5; 8.2- to 13.1-foot waves) the ship’s peak speed into head seas is capped at 15 knots, relegating the Navy’s “cheetah of the seas” to freighter speeds.”

RESPONSE 3: Speed restrictions for LCS 1 have been lifted. With regard to the cracking discussion, these are not new findings. LCS 1 has experienced minor structural issues. The details of the cracks found on LCS 1 were briefed to the defense committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) over a year ago (March 2011). All repairs were conducted using approved repair procedures and satisfactorily inspected by American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and the appropriate Naval Technical Authority. Thorough analyses and reviews of the designs and construction documentation were conducted, with the goal of improved production processes. Design changes, as necessary, have been incorporated in future hulls to resolve noted issues. Production processes were modified as needed, to prevent future issues. These design changes were implemented into LCS 1 throughout her post delivery period, the ship has been approved to operate with the full scope of the approved Safe Operating Envelope (SOE) since completion of the repairs.

ISSUE 4: “From the time the Navy accepted LCS-1 from Lockheed Martin on September 18, 2008, until the ship went into dry dock in the summer of 2011 — not even 1,000 days later — there were 640 chargeable equipment failures on the ship. On average then, something on the ship failed on two out of every three days.”

RESPONSE 4: As with any ship, all equipment failures on LCS 1, regardless of how minor the impact to mission, have been meticulously tracked, and this data has been invaluable in improving the reliability of ship systems. The 640 chargeable equipment failures from Ship Delivery until the summer dry docking, tracked in the LCS 1 Data Collection, Analysis, and Corrective Action System (DCACAS) represent all equipment failures to the ship for all systems (propulsion, combat systems, auxiliaries, habitability, C4I, etc) regardless of whether the equipment was repaired by the crew or off ship maintenance personnel.

The 640 failures referenced include multiple failures on a piece of equipment (38 for the Main Propulsion Diesel Engine) and single failures to equipment (one Man Overboard Indicator). From the DCACAS report dated 31 Aug 2011, approximately 12 percent of the equipment failures since delivery can be attributed to the Ship Service Diesel Generators (SSDGs). In May 2010 the Navy and Lockheed Martin instituted a Product Improvement Program for the SSDG. The resulting effort increased Mean Time Between Failures (MBTF) for the equipment from less than 150 hours (October 2008) to over 500 hours (April 2011).

This is a case of how the DCACAS data is used to improve the reliability of the ships early in the acquisition program. Overall the DCACAS data is a mechanism to evaluate every failure on the ship to determine if it can be attributed to infant mortality of the equipment, normal wear and tear for that equipment/component, or is a trend that needs to be addressed via design changes or reliability growth efforts.

ISSUE 5: “Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee in December 2010 that both variants of the LCS were performing well, and that “LCS–1, the Freedom, demonstrated some of the things we can expect during her maiden deployment earlier this year.” Then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead echoed this praise for the LCS-1, stating “I deployed LCS earlier than any other ship class to assure we were on the right path operationally. It is clear to me that we are.”

RESPONSE 5: USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) arrived in San Diego on April 23, 2010, successfully completing her maiden deployment more than two years ahead of schedule and three to five years faster than conventional ship acquisition strategies. LCS 1 traveled 6,500 miles, transiting the Panama Canal. Highlights of operations in 3rd and 4th Fleet Areas of Responsibility include theater security cooperation port visits in Colombia, Panama, and Mexico, successful performance of strike group operations with the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, joint maneuvers with the Mexican Navy, and counter-illicit trafficking patrols which resulted in 4 interdictions yielding over 5 tons of cocaine, 2 seized vessels, and 9 suspected smugglers taken into custody. The second phase of the early deployment included LCS 1 participating in the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise with 14 other nations, 34 ships, 5 submarines, 100 aircraft and over 20,000 personnel. The early deployment included the development of a coordinated logistics support plan. The lessons learned from the LCS 1 deployment have provided critical data to inform the permanent support plan for the 55 ships of the LCS class, as well as valuable information used in the construction of both LCS 3 and the Block buy ships.

ISSUE 6: “Mabus and Roughead failed to mention that during the approximately two-month deployment when the ship traveled from Mayport, Florida, to its home port in San Diego, California, there were more than 80 equipment failures on the ship. These failures were not trivial, and placed the crew of the ship in undue danger. For example, on March 6, 2010, while the ship was in the midst of counter-drug trafficking operations and reportedly “conducted four drug seizures, netting more than five tons of cocaine, detained nine suspected drug smugglers, and disabled two ‘go-fast’ drug vessels,” there was a darken ship event (the electricity on the entire ship went out), temporarily leaving the ship adrift at sea.”

RESPONSE 6: Throughout its deployment, LCS 1 safely operated and conducted its mission. Few of the 80 equipment failures cited above were mission critical. The ship did experience a brief loss of power, however, it should be noted that many commercial and U.S. Navy vessels have periods of power loss due to plant set-up and operator control. In the event of power loss, there are specific U.S. Navy procedures documented in the Engineering Operational Sequencing System (EOSS) to quickly restore power throughout the ship. To address concerns documented with electric power generation, the LCS Program executed Electric Plant Reliability Improvement Programs on both ship designs to increase reliability of ship service diesel generators and the performance and management of the shipboard electrical systems. This has resulted in changes that have been implemented through post-delivery availabilities on LCS 1 and LCS 2 as well as captured for LCS 3 and follow ships. Additionally, sensors were installed to monitor performance trends.

ISSUE 7: “According to the DoD’s DOT&E FY 2011 Annual Report, the LCS is “not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.”

RESPONSE 7: The LCS Ships are built to meet Joint Requirements Oversight Council-approved survivability requirements and include OPNAVINST 9070.1 Level 1 Survivability standards [note: OPNAVINSTs are instructions issued with the office of the chief of naval operations]. The LCS design specifically includes Level 1 plus additional tailored survivability enhancements (“Level 1+”). LCS survivability depends on a combination of ship design, ship numbers, and ship CONOPS [concepts of operations] which says LCS will;

• Operate as part of a networked battle force

• Conduct independent operations only in low to medium threat scenarios

• Operate as part of a networked battle force operation in high threat environments

• Create Battle Space/Avoid being hit

• Rely on networked battle force for threat attrition

• Rely on overboard systems

• Fight and survive if hit

• Ship design: Accept ship mission kill; keep ship afloat and protect crew after hit

• Battle force design: Maintain battle force fight-through capability through LCS numbers and mission flexibility

• Withdraw/reposition if hit

LCS is designed to maintain essential mobility after a hit, allowing the ship to exit the battle area under its own power. The LCS systems allow ship’s crew to navigate and communicate while repositioning after a hit all the while utilizing numbers (of LCSs), and CONOPS as force multipliers. LCS incorporates survivability systems to perform required missions in the littoral with an emphasis on crew survival.

ISSUE 8: “Sources close to LCS-1 have now told POGO that after more than six months in port, the ship has been back to sea just twice. The sources also informed us about critical problems that surfaced on the ship during those two outings: several vital components on the ship failed including, at some point in both trips, each of the four engines.”

RESPONSE 8: LCS 1 had one of two gas turbines engines fail after over three years of operations (including post-delivery testing, fleet operations and ship early deployment). The root cause analysis of the engine failure revealed that the gas turbine intakes were allowing salt spray to be ingested into the engine intake structure during high seas evolutions, which lead to the eventual failure of a high pressure turbine blade. The salt water did not induce corrosion internal to the engine. However, it changed the air flow through the engine, which eventually led to the failure. As a result of the failure, a redesign of the intake structure along with improved mating seals was implemented on LCS 1 on post delivery and is in-line for LCS 3 and subsequent ships.

ISSUE 9: “In addition, there were shaft seal failures during the last trip, which led to flooding.”

RESPONSE 9: During February 2012 sea trials LCS 1 suffered a failure of the port shaft mechanical seal (1 of 4 such seals). The remaining underway portion of the sea trial was ended and the ship returned to port unassisted. The failed boost shaft stern tube seal was analyzed by independent third party to gain insight into the failure. Repairs to the Port Boost Stern Tube Seal have been completed and the USS Freedom undocked on April 7. All other stern tube seals on FREEDOM were inspected and found not to have this issue. Due to manufacturing timelines and differences, it was determined that LCS 3 seals were not at risk of the same issue. In addition, LCS 3 seals have undergone extensive operation without failure.

ISSUE 10: “The DOT&E’s FY 2011 Annual Report states that “[t]he program offices have not released any formal developmental T&E reports.” The report goes on to state that “the Navy should continue to report vulnerabilities discovered during live fire tests and analyses. Doing so will inform acquisition decisions as soon as possible in the procurement of the LCS class.”

RESPONSE 10: The Navy is actively developing the required reports documenting the results of all the Developmental Testing that has occurred on LCS 1. Once completed, these reports will be delivered to DOT&E as required.

ISSUE 11: “The Navy has also repeatedly made significant changes to the program while giving Congress little time to evaluate these changes.”

RESPONSE 11: Configuration change management has been a key factor in controlling program cost. After incorporation of lessons learned from the lead ships into follow ships, the Program Office has controlled the design baseline closely in order to manage risk and cost.

The Program Office has captured and continues to capture data from these “first of class” vessels. The “first of class” discussion is an important perspective to add. USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Independence (LCS 2) not only are they “first of class” vessels but they were procured using research and development funds in a manner outside the bounds of previous ship programs. Previous combatant procurements leverage off of years of research and development, integration testing and validation of systems using surrogate platforms. Aegis Cruisers implemented a new combat system that was tested for over ten years on surrogate ships to a hull form that had already been tested and delivered. Aegis destroyers laid the same propulsion, power generation and combat system into a new hull form. All of these efforts did not preclude these ships from seeing “first of class” challenges.

The LCS programs however, took measures to instrument and collect data on the hull designs, execute design reviews/design updates and implement those findings into the follow-on awards. In addition, those findings have led to upgrades and changes on LCS 1 and LCS 2 to ensure that these research and development hulls are viable assets.

LCS 1 has traveled more than 65,000 nautical miles since it was delivered to the Navy in September 2008 and continues to meet our expectations.

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