The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) seapower panel said Tuesday that the Navy still has questions to answer about plans to modify the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to add increased firepower and make it more survivable in battle.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who chairs the HASC Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, told reporters that he and other members of the panel believe the Navy still hasn’t fully addressed concerns about the LCS, namely when it comes to matters of survivability. Forbes also mentioned lethality, manning, fueling and mission modules as areas that need to be addressed.

USS Freedom (LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy.
USS Freedom (LCS-1). Photo: U.S. Navy.

“When I heard the task force come back … there were all these questions about the LCS and they came back and they didn’t answer any of the questions about the LCS, they just came up with other fixes,” Forbes told the Defense Writers Group.

Forbes was referring to the Small Surface Combatant Task Force the Navy set up last year to review the LCS and offer options for a stronger, more capable ship to meet future threat environments. The Navy decided to go with adding more firepower and armor and other technologies to protect the ship.

Regarding survivability, Forbes said the changes “marginally increased it but not in a significant amount.”

“Is marginal better than nothing? Yes,” Forbes said. “But still does it really answer the question?”

“And it’s all going to come down to what is the need the Navy has and making sure they have well defined that mission,” he added.

Forbes said some of the proposed modifications to the LCS are “good” but that most members of his committee, Democrats and Republicans, want some questions addressed.

“The jury seems to be still out a little bit,” he said.

The Navy announced in December that was adding an over-the-horizon missile to the ship, torpedo defense, and other new capabilities, such as a multi-function towed array for submarine hunting, 25mm guns, better electronic warfare, and better air radar and decoy systems. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the new iterations of the small surface combatant would be called frigates.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a year ago instructed the Navy to review the program, halting the planned buy of LCSs at 32 in favor of the new ship to fill out the requirement for 52 small surface combatants.