As the Navy forges ahead on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, it will need to figure out how to balance the operational availability of the vessels with the maintenance requirements, Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, the service’s director of surface warfare, said yesterday.

The Navy will have to learn how to integrate maintenance into the operational tempo to be “well positioned to be able to execute the things on the in-port period in order to be able to get her back out and increase that operational availability,” Rowden said in an interview in his office.

“The known unknown would be the melding of the getting operators to understand how to best utilize the ship and utilize its attributes to their best advantage, and then from the man, train and equip perspective, to ensure we are in a position to be able to maximize the operational availability by properly balancing the maintenance requirements that have to be executed with the operational requirements, …” Rowden said.

The Navy has two LCSs in service, with a third, the USS Forth Worth (LCS-3), poised for commissioning next month.

The LCS is designed for close-to-shore operations and to carry out three primary missions: anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures. The ship’s modular design allows the Navy to swap modules for executing each of the missions.

The Navy is currently reviewing its manning plan. The ship was envisioned to operate with a base crew of about 40 plus an additional 15 to operate a mission module. The service has acknowledged that those numbers are too few and will likely increase. Rowden said he expects that study to be completed in September.

“We are looking at a number of courses of action to look at how we might modify the manning of the ship itself,” he said. Rowden would not offer a number of how many more sailors might be needed, but said he does not expect it to grow by more than 50 percent from the original numbers.

“We are going to get the crew size right such as that we can maximize the value of the ship to the commanders out there,” he said. “People want to focus on a number. I like to focus on the capability of the ship.”