The U.S. Navy’s leadership is making a full-court press to “save” the littoral combat ship (LCS). Twenty of the vessels are in service or under construction, with a total LCS force of 52 ships now planned. Some of the justification put forward for the LCS includes its “produceability” and its “utility.” For example, in the June issue of Proceedings , Commanders Dale Heinken and Jeff Miller state that it took 14 years for the first ship of the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class to be delivered, while three littoral combat ships were delivered within 12 years of the program’s initiation. 1 The USS Arleigh Burke was commissioned in July 1991; going back 14 years is 1977. But the committee that determined the basic characteristics of the ship only met at White Oak, Maryland, in 1979 under the chairmanship of Rear Admiral Richard Fontaine. 2 A more realistic time period to consider for the DDG-51 is the just over six years from contract award (April 1985) to commissioning.
The USS Freedom (LCS-1) and Independence (LCS-2) were both four years from contract award to commissioning. But at almost 9,000 tons, the DDG-51 is three times larger than an LCS and, with the Aegis radar/fire-control systems, large sonar, and an impressive array of weapons, is far more complex than an LCS.