By Sandra I. Erwin
Few Navy ships have been as doggedly assailed by naysayers as the Littoral Combat Ship, laments Navy Undersecretary Robert O. Work.
It’s been called the wrong ship at the wrong time. Critics compare LCS to a guided missile frigate and find it wanting. Other contend that there are better, longer-legged ships for global maritime operations. Another camp has argued that the Navy would be better served by fast-attack craft or small corvettes armed with anti-ship missiles.
Work, who has for years been one of the Navy’s most ardent defenders of LCS, contends in a new white paper that although critics are entitled to their opinions, they continue to miss the point about LCS.
The ship will never satisfy anyone who still dreams of the 600-ship Cold War Navy and views LCS as a retreat, Work suggests. These critics should stop living in denial about the Navy’s future and see LCS as the beginning of a new era that conforms to fiscal and political realities.
Work’s 64-page paper, “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why,” was recently published by the U.S. Naval War College, in Newport, R.I.
The school’s dean of the center for naval warfare studies, Robert C. “Barney” Rubel, says Work’s paper is not a “sales brochure” or an apologia for the LCS but rather an objective account of the decisions — both good and bad — that propelled the ship from concept to production over the past 12 years.
“The Littoral Combat Ship has been a controversial program from its inception,” Rubel writes in the paper’s foreword. “To date, Navy attempts to defend the program have not succeeded in quieting the criticism, and the various technical and operational difficulties experienced by the first two vessels [LCS 1 and LCS 2] have not helped matters,” Rubel adds. “Perhaps the most serious objection is that the Navy charged into series production without having a clear idea of how the ship would be used.”
Work is known to be a meticulous researcher who has a comprehensive grasp of Navy force structure and fleet issues, Rubel says. And is aware that LCS does not fit easily into the existing Navy mindset and is being judged by traditional criteria.
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