Navy May Not Deploy Any Littoral Combat Ships This Year

The littoral combat ship USS Omaha (LCS 12) pulls into Naval Base San Diego on March 9,2018. Omaha is the newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship and one of eight LCS homeported in San Diego. US Navy photo. This post has been updated to note that USS Little Rock will arrive in Mayport this week.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Navy may not deploy any of its Littoral Combat Ships this year despite previous plans to deploy one to the Middle East and two to Singapore in 2018, due to a confluence of maintenance availabilities that has most of the LCS fleet sidelined this year.

Three of the Navy’s four original LCSs are in maintenance now, and four of the eight block-buy ships that have commissioned already are undergoing their initial Post Shakedown Availabilities (PSA), Cmdr. John Perkins, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Pacific, told USNI News.

In addition to the deploying ships themselves being in maintenance, so too are the training ships that will be required to help train and certify the crews. The Navy upended its LCS training and manning plans in 2016 when then-SURFOR commander Vice Adm. Tom Rowden announced a change to a blue-gold crewing model and a ship reorganization: hulls 1 through 4 serve in San Diego as a test division, to help test mission module components and get them fielded; the remaining ships are divided into divisions of four ships each, responsible for either surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare. Within each division, the first ship has a more experienced crew that is responsible for training and certifying the rest of the crews, and the other three ships are deployable assets. Due to this model, not only does the deployable ship have to be in the water and ready for operations, but so does the training ship.

Previously, the Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants ( formerly PEO LCS ) had told USNI News that the program was preparing to deploy one Lockheed Martin-built Freedom-variant LCS from Mayport, Fla., to Bahrain this year, as the first LCS deployment to U.S. 5th Fleet; and that it was also preparing to send two Austal-built Independence-variant LCSs from San Diego to Singapore, in the first dual-ship deployment to stretch the Navy’s ability to support multiple LCS operations in theater.

Now, the Bahrain deployment has definitely been pushed to 2019. The Navy would not state that the Singapore deployments have been delayed until 2019, but given the task of getting ships through maintenance and then getting the crews trained and certified and ready to deploy, it is unlikely that even one LCS would be able to deploy this year.

“LCS deployments on both coasts are event-based vice time-based. As such, deployments from both coasts will occur when the deploying hulls are fully prepared and the assigned Blue/Gold crews are fully trained and certified,” Perkins told USNI News.
“Training and certification of the Blue/Gold deploying crews require availability of the first LCS Surface Warfare Training Ships on the east and west […]

 

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