McCain takes aim at Littoral Combat Ship, wants new fleet

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain wants to restructure how the Navy buys its frigates, and possibly redesign the program to add new capabilities.

The Senate Committee on Armed Services seapower subcommittee will hold hearings this spring to reexamine the future of the frigate program.

“The frigate acquisition strategy should be revised to increase requirements to include convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance,” McCain said at an event outlining the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ recent U.S. Navy fleet architecture study, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.

Related: Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

The littoral combat ship program (LCS) is the skeleton for the Navy’s frigate strategy. Currently, the Navy pans to release a request for proposals on the new frigates in March or April.

The US Navy littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) moors pier side at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to refuel. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay

The US Navy littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) moors pier side at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to refuel. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay

McCain criticized the LCS program in December for costing $12 billion, but producing 26 ships, which have “demonstrated next-to-no combat capability.”

“When you look at some of the renewed capabilities, naval capabilities, that both the Russians and the Chinese have, it requires more capable weapon systems,” McCain said.

Each LCS costs around $478 million initially. But as repairs cost increase, the total amount for the 26 ships already delivered to the fleet amounts to $12.4 billion, and the Navy wants to buy a total of 40.

Should the Navy continue to purchase the LCS to bring the total number to 40, the cost will be closer $29 billion for ships that have failed to live up to capabilities promised, and continually breakdown.

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