The U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship encountered significant technical problems during recent drills at sea.
In an exercise held last August and September, the crew of the USS Coronado “expended a large quantity” of ammunition “while contending with repeated network communications faults” that disrupted information flowing to gun systems, according to a report by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester that was obtained by Bloomberg.
The study, which was submitted to congressional defense committees, also found that the boats had trouble fending off a swarm of smaller ships, like the kind favored by Iran’s navy. The whole mission of the LCS is to operate in shallow or coastal waters, making the defect all the more worrisome.
The ship’s “inability to defeat this relative[ly] modest threat beyond ‘keep-out’ range routinely under test conditions raises questions about its ability to deal with more challenging threats,” the report states.
The Pentagon’s weapons tester also discovered “cybersecurity deficiencies that significantly degrade operational effectiveness” and problems with generators and air conditioning in the LCS.
The report is another bad piece of news for the $23 billion LCS program, which has come into the cross-hairs of Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Last month he sent a letter to the secretary of Navy that essentially ordered him to cut the service’s purchase from 52 to 40 ships and cease production of one of the ship’s two designs.
That admonishment, in turn, was preceded by a Government Accountability Office study that questioned the ship’s survivability on the open seas and an embarrassing episode in which the USS Milwaukee, a Freedom-class LCS, broke down and had to be towed back to harbor.
The fate of the program will be learned soon, as the Obama administration is expected to roll-out its fiscal year 2017 budget request on Feb.9.