Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s proposed 2015 budget raises the possibility of terminating production of the Littoral Combat Ship at 32 vessels rather than fully executing the 52-ship program of record. Hagel is concerned that LCS could not cope effectively with the Chinese Navy, an important consideration as the Pentagon’s strategic focus shifts to the Western Pacific. However, five out of six warships in the U.S. fleet would still be far superior to anything China currently has if the LCS program is fully executed, and there aren’t many warships in the present or planned fleet that can effectively conduct operations near hostile shores like LCS can. In addition, the delays associated with developing an alternative would result in a new warship being ready for production at precisely the time when no money is available to build it. Therefore, the smart solution is to “up-gun” current LCS designs rather than replacing them, an option Secretary Hagel has already suggested. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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