PENTAGON: “Unfair!” That, in a word, is the Navy’s response to a Director of Operational Test & Evaluation report saying the controversial Littoral Combat Ship had trouble defending itself against Iranian-style swarms of fast attack boats.
Yes, a Navy official told me, in the test some “enemy” boats got dangerously close to the USS Coronado and inflicted simulated “damage.” But the LCS still repelled the attack — and without its full complement of weapons: The long-range Hellfire missile has yet to be installed.
That Navy hasn’t managed to equip the LCS with all its small-boat-killing weapons doesn’t exactly speak well of the program. The mine-clearing and anti-submarine packages are even further behind. (The Navy also wants to equip the ship with an “over the horizon” missile to sink big ships). But without the Hellfire’s 20-pound warhead and its its five mile range, the LCS would have to rely entirely on its 57 millimeter and 30 mm cannon to defeat incoming threats, radically reducing its reach and punch. Since the missile will go on LCS, leaving it out of the test is a big deal.
First and foremost, “the LCS defeated the adversary, right?” the Navy official said. “How nitpicking is that to criticize, ‘oh, some of them got too close.’ Oh, c’mon. I would call baloney on that.”
“Here’s the other thing: in the scenario, it didn’t have the missile package,” the official continued. “We did testing with the Longbow Hellfire” — a Navy test, not one run by DOT&E — and “in the same scenario, high speed maneuverable targets…it defeated seven of eight.”
“The one out of eight that it missed…. it wasn’t a missile failure,” the official said, without providing additional detail.
That one boat the missiles missed would presumably have been targeted by all the Littoral Combat Ship’s 57 and 30 mm quick-firing cannon. “In the existing scenario they all got shot to death just with the guns,” the official said, without the missiles as a first line of defense.
“It just seems to me it was an unfair treatment,” the Navy official concluded.