A Navy official on Wednesday said two of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) the Navy proposed divesting of in the latest budget request could be used in reserve or sold to another military.
During a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) asked what the services would do with equipment it plans on divesting from, if allowed to, if such equipment might meet other U.S. government or ally requirements.
Vice Adm. James Kilby, Deputy Chief Of Naval Operations For Warfighting Requirements And Capabilities, said there are different answers for different platforms but since the LCS is a new platform “there might be a future for those ships. Either in foreign military sales or keeping them in some kind of reserve capability.”
In the FY ‘22 budget request, the Navy seeks to save $1.3 billion by divesting in several capabilities earlier than planned. This includes retiring the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), Coronado (LCS-4), Detroit (LCS-7) and Little Rock (LCS-9) to save $186 million (Defense Daily, May 28).
The Navy’s budget documents argued LCS-3 and 4 are primarily test platforms and divesting now will avoid costs to upgrade them to the common configuration and capability along with adding mission packages as assigned to other ships in the class. In the FY 21 budget the Navy was allowed to retire the initial two LCSs.
In the documents the service argued in favor of divesting on LCS-7 and 9 because they are experiencing the combining gear propulsion train problem and are expected to incur significant repair costs.
In January, the Navy stopped accepting the Lockheed Martin [LMT] odd-numbered Freedom-variant LCSs due to a material defect with the combining gear. The Navy is not accepting new vessels until the design fix is in production and has completed testing (Defense Daily, Jan. 22).
On Wednesday Kilby added that while LCS-3 and 4 were initial versions of the class and are a capability issue, LCS-7 and 9 were “affordability decisions to drive the program where we need, to have the most capable Navy we can produce for you.”
“7 and 9 are cost avoidance for combining gear repair, a lethality upgrade and a survivability upgrade that have not been made on those ships. So really it’s looking at what we have and how we best position our fleet size against what we need to do,” he continued.
When the FY ‘22 budget was released, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. John Gumbleton said when the service was looking at possibly retiring additional LCS, in contrast the USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) “ happened to just have a maintenance availability and we’re putting a Naval Strike Missile on it and it’s getting ready for a deployment.” Therefore, that early Freedom-variant LCS was saved from the potential chopping block.