Another major OAG LCS priority is to redesign and install stern door ramps through newbuild modifications and backfits of previous Freedom-class hulls.
The ramp on Freedom-class ships, the Navy says, is unable to store 11-meter RHIBs because it is “not strong enough” to store the inflatables “for extended periods” without warping.
“The designers thought the sailors would put the boat on the ramp and launch it,” Hunt says. “But the sailors needed to launch the boat fast, so they decided to leave the boat on the aluminum ramp. It wasn’t made for that. We’re making a steel version.”
The effect on warfighting capability, the OAG says, is that, “surprise is lost” when conducting some of the most important missions the ship is built to do.
There also are major concerns about the related ship launch, handling and recovery system (LHRS). “If LHRS fails (it frequently does),” the Navy says, the ship is unable to operate any 11-meter RHIBS.”
Stern door problems have plagued the Freedom for years. The doors are supposed to mate with the deck plate at about water level to form a watertight seal, but as noted in previous Aviation Week reports, there is a significant gap between the doors and deck running across most of the width of the stern. Indeed, water can be seen and heard sloshing in and out of the gap and along the bottom of the floor, especially during high-speed operations.
“I really would like to see that fixed,” Cmdr. Wilke says.
Hunt says problems related to the stern door represent the Navy’s major concern for the Freedom-class ships. The goal is to make the seal watertight.
For the Independence class, the Navy has identified several communications issues associated with the ship’s four AV-2075 antennas used for UHF satellite communications; overall satellite communication limitations; and “limited UHF communications.”
Also, the Navy says it needs to “add an SPS-73 or commercial S-band navigation radar positioned to mitigate existing blind zones” in newbuild ships, as well as to backfit the equipment in already built vessels.