Dec 12 2014

Yellowhammer: Secretary of Defense reaffirms Navy’s need for Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday released the Navy’s long anticipated “Small Surface Combatant (SSC) Task Force” report, and it contained good news for Alabama.

While full details of the report likely won’t be made available to the public for national security reasons, Secretary Hagel left no doubt that the Navy’s need for the Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) remains strong.

Hagel indicated he agrees with the Navy’s decision to update the current versions of the LCS, rather than designing a new ship, using a foreign design or repurposing another ship currently available in the fleet. He made it abundantly clear that the Navy’s requirement for 52 Small Surface Combatants has not changed.

The LCS updates “will offer improvements in ship lethality and survivability, delivering enhanced naval combat performance at an affordable price,” Hagel said. “The more lethal and survivable SSC will meet a broader set of missions across the range of military operations, and addresses the Navy’s top war-fighting priorities.”

Upgrades to the LCS will include an over-the-horizon surface missile, upgraded air defense radar, electronic warfare capability, air defense counter measures, twin 25mm cannons to supplement the 57mm gun on the bow, anti-submarine capability (including a towed listening device and torpedo countermeasures), unmanned aircraft capabilities and additional armor protection, among other upgrades recommended in the SSC Task Force report.

Alabama’s congressional delegation applauded the report’s findings and Secretary Hagel’s comments.

“The Littoral Combat Ship program is extremely important to the Navy’s ability to respond to current and future threats,” Sen. Richard Shelby told Yellowhammer. “I am pleased to hear that Secretary Hagel reaffirmed the need for this critical capability. Today’s report affirms the critical mission that the LCS program fulfills and is good news for national security, the warfighter, and south Alabama.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions specifically touted the work being down on the LCS in South Alabama. The Independence-class LCS is built in the Port of Mobile by Austal USA, and provides 4,000 direct jobs.

“The Task Force’s findings are consistent with our long-standing assertion that the LCS is a cutting edge and versatile ship, with wide-ranging capabilities that has been supported by the last six Chiefs of Naval Operations,” Sessions said in a statement. “I commend the Task Force for their efforts and continue to recognize the outstanding work done at Austal in Mobile.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne, who represents Alabama’s 1st District, where Austal is located, hailed the LCS as the future of the U.S. Navy.

“Secretary Hagel’s decision confirms what I have known all along: the Littoral Combat Ship represents the future of the Naval fleet,” said Byrne. “My staff and I have worked hard from day one to build broad support for this important military program, and this report is a very positive development.

“I remain steadfastly committed to supporting the Navy in fighting for the LCS and the hard working men and women at the Austal shipyard in Mobile. At a time when we have such a wide range of threats, we need to make sure our military has all the tools in its arsenal to appropriately respond. The Littoral Combat Ship is a key piece to the puzzle.”