The U.S. Navy has halted work on the third Littoral Combat Ship
(LCS). This is due to sudden increases in costs for the first and third
vessels, which are being built by Lockheed Martin. The stop-work order is to
last for 90 days, as the Navy tries to find ways to halt the cost increases.
LCS-3, which has not been named yet, was ordered on June 26, 2006.
Littoral Combat Ships are intended to be very versatile, and handle missions
ranging from anti-submarine warfare to mine warfare. The Navy is planning to
build as many as sixty of these vessels. The third vessel was slated to cost
$197.6 million, displace about 3,000 tons, have a top speed of 92 kilometers
per hour, and be relatively stealthy. The preceding class of frigate, the
Oliver Hazard Perry-class, cost an average of $68 million each (which would be
about $100 million today).
is not the only naval surface ship program to have financial troubles in the
form of increasing costs. The Zumwalt-class destroyers have also faced
ballooning costs - up to as much as $3 billion per ship, as opposed to planned
costs of $800 million. This has led to discussions about ending the
Zumwalt-class production at seven ships. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers only
cost $1 billion each.
program with high costs is the Ford-class aircraft carriers, formerly the
CVN-21 program. The first ship is slated to cost $13 billion (counting
R&D). The Nimitz-class carriers that form the backbone of the American
carrier fleet only cost $4.5 billion. The air wing (48-50 fighters, plus
airborne early-warning planes, electronic warfare aircraft, and anti-submarine
helicopters) costs another $3.5 billion.
real issue with these high costs is not the quality of the ships. In many
cases, the LCS, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Ford-class carriers will
be very good ships. They might even be somewhat cheaper to operate than their
predecessors. They also will be harder to detect - due to advances in stealth
designs that have occurred since their predecessors (the Perry-class frigates
entered service in 1977, the Nimitz entered service in 1975, and the Arleigh
Burke entered service in 1991).
said, these ships cost anywhere from just under twice as much to three times as
much as their predecessors, and it is an open question whether the Navy
wouldn't be better off with three Nimitz-class carriers instead of a single
Ford-class carrier. It is a question that will be hotly debated as these new
ships are built. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)