GAO and the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) say significant issues still remain. The biggest problem, they say, is that LCS vessels and modules have failed to complete the tests necessary to make sure they can operate as they are supposed to, that they do indeed meet Navy requirements and are worth the investment. And all systems are behind schedule for initially planned fielding dates, GAO notes.
Neither the Freedom-class nor the Independence-class ships have gone through Combat System Ship Qualification Trials, which can be part of operational testing. These tests represent an opportunity to verify and validate combat and weapon systems performance for new ships.
Navy program officials say they conducted many of these same activities during the developmental testing phase. DOT&E officials disagree, emphasizing that operational effectiveness and suitability can only be assessed through operational testing.
“Survivability testing is important because it can reveal equipment or system failures that may necessitate class-wide design changes,” GAO says. “The Navy is not satisfied that it understands how the aluminum used on both variants will respond to shock and fire, or how the Independence-class trimaran hull will react to underwater shocks.”
Meanwhile, the “limited testing” so far has revealed deficiencies with core ship systems on both variants, GAO says, such as performance problems with the 57-mm guns, the integrated capability of the combat systems and the radars’ ability to identify and maintain a fix on targets.
Testing also has revealed multiple “single points of failure” — i.e., systems lacking redundancy that could result in a system shutdown — on both LCS versions, GAO says. This problem could become more pronounced in mission module testing, the auditors say.