The U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship struggled in drills at sea to fend off a swarm of small attacking vessels like the Iranian boats it could encounter in the Persian Gulf, according to the Pentagon's chief weapons tester.
The fast-attack boats were ultimately defeated by the USS Coronado during three mock engagements in August and September to test its guns and targeting gear. But in two exercises an attacker came too close, penetrating the vessel's "keep-out" zone, Pentagon testing director Michael Gilmore said in his annual report on major weapons submitted to congressional defense committees.
While Gilmore didn't mention Iran as a threat, its Islamic Revolutionary Guards operate small boats with crews trained for swarming attacks in the contested waters of the Persian Gulf. The Coronado's "inability to defeat this relative modest threat beyond 'keep-out' range routinely under test conditions raises questions about its ability to deal with more challenging threats," Gilmore added.
The report adds to questions about the vulnerability and reliability of the ships, designed in two versions by Lockheed Martin and Austal and intended to operate in shallow coastal waters. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter last month directed the Navy to truncate to 40 ships what was to be a 52-ship mix of original LCS vessels and upgraded models that would be better armed. Twenty-six vessels are now under contract in a $23 billion program.
In the exercise, the crew of the Coronado "expended a large quantity" of 57mm and 30mm ammunition "while contending with repeated network communications faults that disrupted" information flowing to gun systems and weapon elevation flaws that occurred more than a dozen times, disrupting firings, he said. The Coronado, the initial Littoral Combat Ship, was built by General Dynamics Corp. before Austal became lead contractor for that version of the vessel. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Bloomberg News website.