Navy Undersecretary Robert O. Work on Monday batted back a barrage of criticism over the Navy's littoral combat ship (LCS), a small surface vessel intended to maneuver coastlines and counter mines, submarines and surface warfare.
Critics said the ship, which will comprise a third of the Navy's surface combatant fleet, has a flawed design, and is unnecessarily costly and ill-suited for combat.
A panelist for a Cato Institute discussion, Ben Freeman, a national security fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, said he worked with whistleblowers who found a host of problems with the first-generation littoral combat ship including cracks, corrosion and engine failure.
"Even though 'combat' is its middle name, I am not convinced the littoral combat ship is a combat ship," Mr. Freeman said. "Basically I liken the LCS to a Swiss Army knife: It can do a lot of things, it just can't do a lot of things well."
Also a panelist, Mr. Work said the LCS is evolving and is hard for critics to understand due to "a radically different fleet design."
He said the unique design allows the ship to face land-based "anti-access, area-denial networks that have naval components" while maintaining a "cost-effective forward presence throughout the globe."
He added that the fleet is designed with a "high-low" capacity mix - high-capacity cruisers and destroyers with smaller, multi-role ships."
"I like the Swiss Army knife. But this thing does it a lot better than a Swiss Army knife. It's a multi-role system," Mr. Work said.
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