(WASHINGTON) — The Navy is optimistic it will deploy three littoral combat ships (LCS) by this fall after not deploying any last year and grappling with significant gaps in manning and advanced training, USNI News reported.
The service was supposed to push forward three ships in fiscal year 2018, after a 2016 overhaul of LCS home-porting, command and control, and manning constructs. However, USNI News first reported in April 2018 that zero LCS would deploy in FY 2018. Since then, the Navy had not talked publicly about progress toward getting ready to deploy its first LCS since ships from a block-buy contract started delivering to the fleet at about four a year.
Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Richard Brown told reporters on Friday that “we’re deploying LCS this year, it’s happening,” and that two from the West Coast and one from the East Coast would depart before FY 2019 ends in September.
He said USS Montgomery (LCS 8) and USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) would deploy from San Diego to the western Pacific, and that USS Detroit (LCS 7) would deploy from Florida, though he did not specify to which location, WESTPAC or Bahrain. USS Little Rock (LCS 9) would follow shortly after in early FY 2020 from Florida.
The Navy has previously deployed three LCS to Singapore – USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and USS Coronado (LCS 4) – but the first four LCS have a different enough design from the block-buy ships that the Navy has deemed them research and development assets that will not deploy unless an emergency arises. Since those deployments, the Navy has overhauled how it organizes, mans and prepares the ships for deployment. Between the changes in the organizational structure and differences in the hulls themselves, questions remain regarding how these 2019 deployments will look under the new model.
Despite Brown’s confidence, the Navy has not made clear how it will overcome manning shortfalls and a lack of a plan for how to train and certify the ships for deployment. The Navy did not respond to multiple requests for information over four months from USNI News, and it is still unclear if those issues have been resolved yet.
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