Report: U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship Vulnerable to Attack Deployed to Asia

REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos/Handout via Reuters
REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos/Handout via Reuters

The Pentagon deployed a U.S. Navy Littoral Combat ship (LCS) to Asia, knowing weeks in advance that the vessel was vulnerable to a potential enemy attack, according to an unclassified assessment for Congress obtained by Bloomberg News.

In the assessment, Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director for combat testing, wrote that the USS Fort Worth’s “total ship survivability test,” carried out off of Southern California last October, “highlighted the existence of significant vulnerabilities” in the design of ships built by Lockheed Martin.

“Much of the ship’s mission capability was lost because of damage caused” by the simulated effects of an enemy attack, noted Gilmore.

In November, the Forth Worth reportedly began on a 16-month deployment to Asia. The ship’s assessment report, which underscores the combat vessel’s limitations, was issued this April.

Last May, the tested Littoral combat ship unexpectedly met face-to-face with a Chinese ship in the South China Sea’s disputed water. However, the USS Fort Worth has never been in combat.

According to Bloomberg News, the vessel will be participating in a military exercise this week in the Philippines in close proximity to the South China Sea.

Cmrd. Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the Navy, told Bloomberg News that the Fort Worth’s survivability test “validated the crew’s ability to perform as modeled” on computers, “which ultimately supports analysis that shows the ship meets its survivability requirements.”

Referring to the computer models, which are used to predict damage to equipment and structure during at-sea testing, Kent said the Fort Worth “was a successful event that allowed the Navy to demonstrate that the inherent ship design features and applied LCS tactics, techniques and procedures provided the crew with the ability to contain damage, restore capability and care for personal casualties given the expected damage.”

An analysis conducted after the test “identified potential system, equipment and procedural improvements which could further enhance ship and crew survivability,” added the Navy spokeswoman.

However, Gilmore’s unclassified assessment revealed the damage the ship suffered during the simulated October test “happened before the crew could respond and the ship does not have sufficient redundancy to recover the lost capability.”

“Some of the systems could be redesigned or reconfigured to make the ship less vulnerable” and faster to recover from damage “without requiring major structural modifications,” wrote Gilmore.


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