MAY 1, 20014 — Plans to come up with a possible alternative to the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program took a step forward yesterday when the Navy put out to two requests for information (RFI), one looking for input on ship designs, the other on combat systems. The process is clearly on a fast track since responses are required by May 21, 2014
Back in February when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a briefing on the defense budget, he expressed concerns about the LCS program, including whether it has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies and said no new LCS contract negotiations beyond 32 ships would go forward. He said he had directed the Navy to submit alternative proposals to procure a "small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate."
Since then, some sources have said that the new small surface combatant could be a beefed up version of the existing LCS. That, however, is not the only option likely to be on the table.
The Navy has set up a Small Surface Combatant Task Force to look at the possibilities that is headed up by John Burrow, executive director of the Marine Corps Systems Command. It is due to present a report by July 31, to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Sean Stackley, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition).
At a press briefing on the RFIs yesterday, Burrows said the task force is "asking for existing and mature design concepts."
"We're not providing requirements in the RFIs," Burrow said. "We're looking for what systems and capabilities are out there right now.
Burrow confirmed that options may include modifications to the current Lockheed Martin and Austal USA designs, but made it clear that other options are very open for consideration.
"When we come up with alternatives they will be tied to capability concepts," he said.