Ship inspectors are reviewing welds as they examine the causes of cracks found in Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) 1 Freedom, according to Joe North, Lockheed Martin vice president of Littoral Ship Systems.

The cracks surfaced during a recent round of sea tests , North said April 8 during a press briefing and update on the LCS program.

U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command officials had said the cracks measured as long as 6 in. and appeared in a weld seam between two steel plates in the hull about 3.5 ft. below the waterline.

Navy inspectors are looking at a possible “anomaly” or a “potential flaw” in the welds, North says. But the service ruled out any design issues as causes for the cracks “a couple of weeks ago,” he says.

“It certainly isn’t the design,” he says. “The design meets requirements.”

North says Lockheed had been working on welding procedures in building LCS 3 that could make it easier to address issues with welds. But he does acknowledge that other slight cracks found on the deckhouse superstructure were related to the design. The issues that led to those cracks, he says, have been “captured and corrected.”

He calls the cracks “nuisance issues,” adding, “That’s why you have the tests.”

The LCS program remains on budget and schedule for the U.S. Navy, according to North. At the end of last year, the Navy decided to award LCS work to both contracting teams — one led by Lockheed and another by Austal USA — for both ship versions instead of going with only one type.

On the international side, there’s still interest in the ship, which is meant to be deployed to coastal and littoral waters with a varied assortment of mission packages or modules that can be swapped in and out.

However, Paul Lemmo, Lockheed Martin vice president of MS2 Business Development, says the international interest is in the ship itself, not the modules. “Most of the countries do not want a modular-capable ship,” he says. “They can’t support the infrastructure.”