Littoral Combat Ship: Heading Fair

By RDML Brian K. Antonio
Program Executive Officer- Littoral Combat Ships

During my first year as PEO LCS, I’ve heard people say they were unaware of a recent program milestone, or were unfamiliar with a fundamental program concept.  With that in mind, I’d like to provide a snapshot of a few of the many recent LCS program accomplishments.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 11, 2014) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Black Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) passes by the littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 11, 2014) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter embarked aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) passes by USS Independence (LCS 2) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

 

When I look at LCS today I see a program heading fair – in our shipbuilding, in our mission package testing, and in our Fleet Introduction efforts. The block-buy acquisition strategy put in place in 2010 is hitting its stride with 20 ships now either in service, under construction, or on contract. By 2018, LCS will constitute the Navy’s second-largest surface combatant ship class-behind only the DDG-51s. Our competitive shipbuilding strategy is yielding significant results, with LCS construction costs on a marked and steady decline. Actual man-hour return data detailing per-ship progress across both shipyards are showing staggering results – talk about positive momentum.

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 12, 2014) An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 takes off from the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) during visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training off the coast of Southern California.

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 12, 2014) An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter takes off from USS Freedom (LCS 1) during visit, board, search and seizure training off the coast of Southern California.

I get a lot of questions on our mission packages – surprisingly few people seem to realize that we have already delivered mission packages that are bringing capability and presence to the Fleet today (such as the Surface Warfare Mission Package aboard LCS 1 on her recent deployment to Singapore).  We are working through an extensive test plan – eight total Initial Operational Capability milestones (one for each ship variant, and one for each mission package on each ship variant) – and the momentum from completion of our Surface Warfare Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) this past April is continuing in our preparations for Mine Countermeasures IOT&E next year and the Anti-Submarine Warfare IOT&E after that.

The intensity of our shipbuilding effort – we take delivery of four LCS per year starting in 2015 – requires that we simultaneously and rapidly scale up LCS training, manning, maintenance and sustainment pipelines to ensure successful Fleet introduction of these ships. LCS is setting precedents in each of these areas that will stand as models for all future Navy ship classes. For example, the LCS “schoolhouse” in San Diego is well underway and its mix of virtual reality and simulator-based training represents the future of Navy training. The challenge of training three crews for every two hulls we deliver is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate how LCS concepts can revolutionize training and sustainment across the Navy.