WASHINGTON: The Navy wants a 355-ship fleet. Can US shipyards build it? Yes, they can, the Navy leaders are insisting. But, the Chief of Naval Operations warned this morning, to keep production swift and steady, we should be careful about replacing stable designs — including the Littoral Combat Ship — with all-new warships as proposed by the Senate Armed Services chairman, John McCain.
“Time matters and numbers matter,” Adm. John Richardson, the CNO, told reporters after a public talk hosted by DefenseOne. “LCS has got to compete (with alternatives) in my mind, but time is an element of that competition. We just can’t stop building stuff.”
In a white paper released Monday, McCain — a harsh critic of the Littoral Combat Ship — had called for cutting off LCS production this fiscal year (FY17), “buying only the minimum number of additional ships” to keep shipyards in business until a new Small Surface Combatant begins procurement “in 2022 or sooner.”
That’s a five-year gap, already enough to unnerve the Navy — and historically, new warship designs take far longer. That said, Richardson told the press, “we’ve got to challenge that assumption” that it takes decades to develop a new ship. “I don’t think it needs to take that long.”
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