Developmental testing thus far — specially for the systems comprising the MCM module — has shown continued performance problems, according to GAO. Some of these systems do not meet their own performance requirements, which does not provide assurance that LCS-specific threshold requirement targets will be met when they are operated together in a mission module.
Internal Navy studies and wargames have also raised concerns about the overall effectiveness of each module based on inherent seaframe or module limitations, according to GAO.
While the Navy program office believes that each module increment will provide more capability than the systems they are slated to replace — with the MCM and SUW modules expected to improve significantly between increments I and IV — DOT&E officials told GAO they do not believe the Navy has adequate knowledge about how integrated mission module systems onboard an LCS will perform in an operational environment to be certain.
Very few of the MCM module capabilities have been effectively demonstrated, GAO says, adding that the Navy has canceled two key systems due to safety concerns, reduced key performance requirement thresholds for average mine clearance rates in early increments, and modified operational tactics, such as requiring multiple searches to correlate results, which makes it longer to do the missions. GAO also notes the Navy is using a new mine-clearance metric that makes the system’s performance difficult to compare with legacy systems.
Ailes acknowledges the Navy altered tactics because of helicopter safety concerns — after first proving it could operate systems as initially planned. And the Navy says the multiple searches are meant to do the mission more effectively. As for the new metric, the Navy says it is a proven, more reliable system for confidently predicting a mine-clearing rate and it is what the acquisition community wanted.
“It has nothing to do with mission packages,” Ailes says. “It has everything to do with mine warfare.”
While Navy and Lockheed officials acknowledge some risk with further LCS mission module development, they say the payoff will be worth the price, allowing for more effective mine-warfare missions, for example, than could be dreamed of with current equipment. They also say their testing proves they are on course.
“Increment 1, that’s what we have today,” Ailes says. “By Increment 3, we’ll be able to neutralize mines throughout the water column and then sweep. Increment 4 will give us another capability we don’t have today: finding buried mines.”
GAO notes that ships can sweep for mines now, but Ailes points out the vessels have to go into the minefield to do the mission. “We’ll get those ships out of the minefield. That’s what we’re talking about. RMS and helicopters — that’s what makes it possible.”