Top Stories 2017: U.S. Navy Acquisition and Maintenance

USNI News polled its writers, naval analysts and service members on what they consider the most important military and maritime stories in 2017.

2017 began with the promise of planning for a larger fleet: at the end of 2016, the Navy announced a 355-ship requirement, and the incoming Trump Administration expressed its support for a larger military and a heftier Navy. Few concrete steps were taken this year, though, to begin a buildup – though many programs that will be pivotal to the 355-ship fleet of the future reached significant programmatic milestones in 2017. Surface ships

A harpoon missile launches from the missile deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) off the coast of Guam on Aug. 22, 2017. US Navy Photo The Navy’s plans for its future frigate (FF) underwent major changes in 2017, as the Navy changed both the acquisition timeline and its approach for selecting a design and builder. After lawmakers expressed serious concerns about selecting one of the two current Littoral Combat Ship variants to upgrade into a frigate, the Navy announced in May that it would slow its frigate transition plans by a year , add an emphasis on anti-air capabilities and consider designs beyond the Freedom-variant and Independence-variant LCS .

In July the Navy released a detailed account of its new requirements – and announced the designation of guided-missile frigate, or FFG(X), indicating the importance of the added vertical-launch missile tubes into the ship requirements . Despite some concerns by naval analysts , lawmakers – including vocal LCS critic Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – said they were encouraged by the new direction the Navy chose to take for its frigate procurement.

The LCSs already in the fleet hit some major milestones as well. The Navy stood up LCS Squadron 1 (LCSRON-1) in San Diego , which will retain LCSs 1-4 as test ships and will then group the remaining Independence-variant hulls into divisions of four ships. Each division will focus on either surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare, and will include one training ship and three operational ships. Freedom-variant hulls will belong to a similarly organized LCSRON-2 in Mayport, Fla.

LCSs in the fleet, and especially the test division, were hard at work this year , experimenting with new concepts and helping the Program Executive Office for LCS move through its test and evaluation program for several mission package systems. In February, USS Detroit (LCS-7) conducted the first test of the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module , the Lockheed Martin Longbow Hellfire missile. In March, Detroit used its 57mm gun to prove it could sink an incoming surface target and destroy an incoming drone. In August USS Coronado (LCS-4) fired a Harpoon Block 1C missile and used an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle to provide targeting data for a surface target beyond the ship’s visual range .

PEO LCS also declared initial operational capability on its Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) airborne mine detection system, bought two more Common Unmanned Surface Vehicles for testing […]