The U.S. Navy has already altered its Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship, LCS-1, to address problems uncovered in testing, but the ship still needs to be fundamentally redesigned, say leading defense analysts.

They base their conclusions on briefings from the Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) on the findings of Navy and industry reports detailing the vessel’s hull and deckhouse cracking and engine problems. AWIN was given exclusive access to the documents. The analysts also call for an investigation into how the ship was accepted in such — in their view — questionable shape. LCS-1 was built by a Lockheed Martin-led team.

AWIN subscribers can click here to read the complete story on the reports' findings and the rebuttal from the LCS team.

“What the documents show is grounds for questioning this LCS variant’s viability,” says Ben Freeman, national security investigator for the Project On Government Oversight, who also was briefed on the reports.

“If the reports outlined are as serious as indicated, then there may be some significant redesign work required — even beyond the modifications to LCS-1 that have been made based on initial lessons learned with the first hull,” says Bob Nugent, vice president of advisory services for consultancy AMI International’s Washington operations.

As a result of hull cracking issues on LCS-1, the ship designed to be the Navy’s cheetah of the seas and envisioned as comprising about half of the service’s future surface combatant fleet was limited to a “safe operating envelope” in which it could travel no faster than a laden cargo freighter in sea-state 5 conditions, the reports show.

Analysts were equally dismayed about the reports’ findings on the engine failure reported earlier with the ship. The Rolls-Royce Trent MT30001 gas turbine engine shut down when components failed because of corrosion and oxidation following a number of significant and unexpected ingestions of seawater over an 18-month period.

Lockheed Martin and the Navy say the Freedom has since been repaired and upgraded to address the issues identified during that time and is scheduled to be redelivered to Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) soon with an eye toward re-evaluating its operational limitations.

“Navsea isn’t familiar with any new official ‘reports,’ either from Navy or industry sources, indicating the issues ... either new or as alarming [as indicated],” said Navsea spokesman Christopher Johnson when asked about the report’s findings and analysts’ conclusions.

“If it were my boat, I would tie the ship up and have a commercial tug take it back to the builder and demand he fix her,” defense analyst and Navy-issues author Norman Polmar says. “I’d stop production until that first ship is fixed and guarantee that similar problems don’t occur on the follow-ons.”