The US Navy is attempting to release two new class of ships this year:
The Littoral Class Ship (LCS) USS Freedom
and the new Zumwalt
class of Destroyers as a replacement for the Arleigh Burke
Both ships have been fraught with issues since they were designed and during construction. Unclear requirements (changing all the time), construction problems, changes in combat requirements have made these ships extremely expensive to produce thus far.
The USS Freedom, after a very expensive and major refit, is now headed to Singapore for its shakedown cruise.
The Zumwalt Class is still under construction in 2 locations (Ingalls & Bath), but the Navy is still struggling with the deckplate. After being engineered with radar evasion technologies, they have now asked that a all steel deckplate be built as well.
Other struggles with the LCS is the use of dissimilar but joined metals, which makes corrosion, upkeep and repair a operational challenge. The Zumwalt requirements kept changing, should it be artillery capable, can it handle land to ship missiles, should it use a post AEGIS type radar and control system? In one case the requirements began to settle down until Naval Intelligence discovered that Hezbollah had acquired ASM's (anti ship missles), so once again a new design was looked at for radar, system and control to deal with ASM's. Power system requirements that will support future directed energy weapons, something the GAO ripped on for requirements that support "fantasy weapons" that aren't operational.
In the mean time the costs kept going up until it tripped the Nunn-McCurdy Act.While the Navy was clear about plans to build the first two LCS vessels as â€œoperational research-and-developmentalâ€ ships, the brass did not effectively communicate this outside the Pentagon, says Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, who heads the LCS council of service admirals charged with shepherding USS Freedom to deployment and the program to success.
Furthermore, Hunt acknowledges, such ship development is a new course for the Navy. â€œWe've never done this before,â€ he says.
Can the Navy build research combat ships? How do we afford it? Can the Navy do it?