WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy Saturday commissioned its latest littoral combat ship amid a top-level push to fix the ship’s nagging reliability issues and forge a path to make the small surface combatants useful in the years ahead.

The monohull Freedom-variant LCS St. Louis was commissioned at a private event in its namesake city, the 22nd LCS and 10th Freedom variant to join the fleet. There will be 35 LCS in the fleet once all are commissioned.

Change is in the wind for LCS once again, which has already seen several shakeups to its system. A high-level effort is underway to address problems with its complicated drive train built for high speeds that have limited the ships availability for tasking as well as to finally field its long-delayed mission packages. Mission packages will make the ships either a surface warfare hull, a mine hunter or an antisubmarine ship.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told Defense News in a July 16 interview that he was preparing to increase LCS deployments by two-and-a-half times over the next two years to finally shake out how to best employ the ships, as well as develop a plan to finally field the mine and ASW mission modules.

“There are things in the near term that I have to deliver, that I’m putting heat on now, and one of them is LCS,” Gilday said. “One part is sustainability and reliability. We know enough about that platform and the problems that we have that plague us with regard to reliability and sustainability, and I need them resolved.

“That requires a campaign plan to get after it and have it reviewed by me frequently enough so that I can be sighted on it. Those platforms have been around since 2008 — we need to get on with it.

Experts who spoke to Defense News in July said the Navy would most likely need to accept less capability than they had planned for the ships to have if the service is to get the most out of the ships.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News. Before that, he reported for Navy Times.

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