The U.S. Navy will soon decide which prototype of the new littoral combat ship (LCS) to accept for full production. Problems with this program have ranged from huge cost overruns to new, largely untested systems. But the underlying problem-and the one from which we must learn-is that the LCS design was based primarily on available or future technologies, not a thorough study of the ship's principal projected operational environment and missions.
How It Came to Be
To resolve the lack of surface combatants specifically designed to operate in the littoral waters, the U.S. Navy announced in November 2001 its intention to build a new class of smaller, reconfigurable surface combatants with high speed, shallow draft, and high maneuverability. They would be able to operate near enemy shores, where larger, deeper-draft ships were severely constrained. The planned force of 55 LCSs is intended to replace 30 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and 26 coastal mine hunters (14 MCM-1 Avenger- and 12 MHC-51 Osprey-class).