THE PENTAGON — Even as the first-of-class Littoral Combat Ship ( ) USS Freedom-class vessel is making its way across the Pacific for its first Asian deployment in Singapore and the USS Independence-class ship is getting gussied up in San Diego, the U.S. Navy should prepare for more changes to its LCS hulls, says the head of the LCS Council of high-powered admirals overseeing the program.
“We may end up with significantly different-looking ships,” Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, the Navy director of staff and LCS Council head, tells the Aviation Week Intelligence Network.
“Everything is on the table,” he says. “At least everything ought to be on the table for consideration.”
Indeed, he says, it makes sense for the hulls to evolve as the Navy learns more about its new-ship concept and builds the LCS fleet, which the service now plans to be 55 ships, essentially split between the-lead team building Freedom-class ships and the Independence-class vessels built by Austal USA and .
Recent speculation points to lower numbers, but Hunt says there could be more. “I want to make sure we continue to 55 or 52 or 110 or 165 — whatever makes sense based on what we learn,” Hunt says. “Does it [the LCS hull] have to look exactly the same? I can’t look you in the eye and say, ‘innovation, change — let’s go for it,’ and say the sea-frame has got to be the same. I hope that it’s not. The question is when and where [to change the frames], and we’re looking at everything all the time. We haven’t looked at it from an acquisition perspective, we’ve looked at it from commonality, from life cycle costs, those kinds of things. And it’s premature to make any comments on those things.”
He notes there have already been changes between the first ships of both versions and their immediate successors. “I want to make changes,” he says. “We are finding things that are not the way we like when we operate them and we’re going aggressively after them.”
The Navy is treating the first ships as research and development models, he points out, and the service needs to operate each of them more to get additional data before making any decisions to modify hulls, neck down to one design or make other changes.
“To just take a look at a ship when it sits there is kind of [like] looking at blueprints,” he says. “What I want is to run both of them before we start making premature decisions.”