MELBOURNE, Australia — The U.S. Navy no longer has concrete plans to increase the number of littoral combat ships deploying to the Indo-Pacific region on a rotational basis, the chief of naval operations has confirmed.
Speaking to reporters at a virtual media roundtable while visiting Singapore, CNO Adm. Mike Gilday said that “there are no plans right now to actually increase the numbers that rotate in and out of Singapore,” adding that he thinks the current operating model meets the Navy’s operational commitments.
However, he noted, “I would like to see more LCS deploy to the Western Pacific in the future, although we have not yet settled on what the basing model of those ships might be.”
Previous plans called for four LCS to be rotationally deployed to the region by 2016. This target was subsequently moved back to 2018 in light of troubles with the LCS program and a subsequent revamp of the operating and crewing model for the ships.
Singapore agreed to host these LCS rotational deployments, with its naval base at Changi acting as the maintenance and logistics hub.
Despite this, Gilday was upbeat about the ongoing LCS deployments to the region. The Navy recently deployed two Independence-class LCS to the Indo-Pacific, with the Charleston and the Tulsa arriving in Singapore and Okinawa, respectively, in mid-June.
The CNO also touted a new operationally unpredictable model for the LCS deployed to the region, with the Navy now looking to quickly move the ships around the Western Pacific instead of staying at a given location for too long.
He also said efforts to improve the program are going well and increasing the operational availability of the LCS. The LCS program has been bedeviled by costs, engineering and development issues.
Gilday was in Singapore to speak at a maritime security conference and meet with the island nation’s defense minister, chief of the defense forces and Navy chief. The leaders discussed potential opportunities for force posture training involving their navies, calling the U.S. naval presence in Singapore the “bedrock for security in southeast Asia.”
During his speech at the International Maritime Security Conference, Gilday reinforced the message of partnership touted by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Singapore the previous day.
“Cooperation allows us to prosper from the sea and welcomes every nation to take advantage of what the seas have to offer them — not just a select few. Cooperation recognizes the interconnectedness we all share. Most importantly, cooperation, when applied with naval power, promotes freedom and peace and prevents coercion, intimidation and aggression,” the CNO told attendees at a naval chiefs panel that also includes those of Japan, France and Malaysia.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.