GAO acknowledges the Navy is buying LCS vessels and modules under “an evolutionary” strategy that adds upgrades and improvements over time. But, investigators warn, “By the time the Navy demonstrates that it can meet the threshold requirements identified in the LCS programs’ capability development document in the final increments, it will have already bought 24 MCM (mine warfare) and SUW (surface warfare) mission modules.”
The Navy continues to buy LCS seaframes and modules, GAO says, “even as significant questions remain about the program and its underlying business case .... By the time key tests of integrated LCS capability and survivability are completed in several years, the Navy will have procured or put under contract more than half of the planned number of seaframes ... Key elements of the business case on which the LCS program was predicated have degraded, remain unproven, and continue to evolve.”
As a result, GAO says, the Navy’s estimate for LCS total life cycle costs ranges from approximately $108 billion to $170 billion. Despite all of this, GAO’s Francis agrees with Navy officials that ship production and costs are under control, and the design is “in pretty good shape.”
However, he says, “On the mission modules, they’ve had a much tougher go of it. They have not done that well in testing. There’s quite a bit to go yet on the mission modules. And I wouldn’t say that the configuration of the modules, particularly the mine countermeasures, is stable at this point.”
At the Florida facilities working on the module equipment, Navy and Lockheed officials spoke candidly to Aviation Week about the major obstacles they have had to overcome, their successes thus far and the significant issues they still have to face. They acknowledge they still have a long way to go, but they say it will not be as difficult as the GAO and others say it will be.
As with many things in the LCS program, mission module development is haunted by the past.