Lockheed Martin referred all queries on the documents to the Navy.
The documents show Navy officials planning to excise information that reflected badly on the ship, chastising subordinates for using certain negative language and cautioning them against using particular phrases that put the ship in a bad light.
For example, a fall 2010 report on the ship’s calm-water trials stated the “ship is inherently directionally unstable.” The report raised concerns that efforts to fix the instability could hamper overall maneuverability. In a Dec. 15, 2010 email about those calm-water trials Cmdr. James Garner, the Freedom’s commanding officer, told Cmdr. Matt Weber, the ship’s executive officer: “Good brief. Thanks for putting this together. I had a healthy conversation with Dan Brintzinghoffer today and he asked that we not use terms directional instability or the like in any briefings or discussions. The bottom line is concern with respect to the down select, but the definition of the term is also in question. I removed that in the brief but kept the bullets that discuss what we observed.”
Garner also said he included the brief in the ship’s turnover files.
Brintzinghoffer is Capt. Daniel M. Brintzinghoffer, program manager for Fleet Introduction and Sustainment, PMS 505. The email trail for the report distribution, according to the documentation, includes the office of the hydrodynamic trial director at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.
Ship emails and other documentation show officers and Navsea officials associated with the LCS-1 program kept the report under wraps just before and after Congress’ dual-buy decision and may have been motivated by concerns over the unfavorable results.
In response to Aviation Week’s questions, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Courtney Hillson said, “As has been stated repeatedly by Navy leadership, both ship designs meet performance requirements as approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, and specified in the fiscal 2010 solicitation. That includes the directional stability and maneuverability performance of the LCS, which is to the satisfaction of the Navy.
“Based on the ship design, the directional instability observed in USS Freedom’s calm water trials was normal and has no impact on the operator’s ability to maintain ship’s heading,” Hillson says. “At no point during or after these trials have there been any concerns that USS Freedom is unsafe to operate or has undue difficulty in maneuvering or maintaining heading.”
Directional stability is one of several characteristics evaluated during calm-water trials, she says, along with fuel usage, acceleration and deceleration, as well as other maneuvering characteristics.
A ship’s directional stability is its ability to regain, without operator intervention, its original heading after experiencing an external disturbance such as a wave or gust of wind, Hillson notes. “Although seemingly counterintuitive, all ships actually need some amount of directional instability inherent to the hull in order to maneuver tactically through the water.”