TOKYO --- A stand-off this spring between China and Malaysia in the South China Sea was a chance for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships to prove their mettle.
The USS Gabrielle Giffords and the USS Montgomery helped stave off Chinese intimidation of a Malaysian-contracted drillship — the West Capella — during April and May in disputed waters near Borneo.
The high-tech vessels were part of U.S. efforts to maintain a monthlong presence near the drillship, which had been approached by a flotilla of Chinese coast guard and paramilitary vessels.
A few years ago, lightly armed and experimental Littoral Combat Ships might not have been trusted for such a high-profile standoff.
“The story of this ship is one that makes me ashamed and embarrassed, as a former Navy person and as a person who’s responsible to the taxpayers of my state,” the late Arizona Sen. John McCain said of the vessels back in 2010.
The ships were criticized for their cost, lighter armament and lower survivability standard than some larger ships. The first LCS’s — the USS Freedom and USS Independence — had an expected price tag of about $220 million but came in at $637 million and $704 million respectively, according to the Baltimore Sun.
A decade later, the Navy says it has tweaked the vessels’ design and honed the way it operates them during rotational deployments. (end of excerpt)
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