Experts from navies, academia and industry met in Tokyo this week to discuss
the unique challenges of operating in the littoral or coastal environment. The Littoral OP Tech East conference is the first of its kind to be held in Asia, and looks at fostering increased innovation and creation of solutions to both new and old problems. Speakers stressed the importance of the development of new war-fighting concepts and increased operational capabilities of fleets. The meeting comes at a time when the US navy and its allies are looking to incorporate wider capabilities for all ships in its fleets and the rolling out of the new Littoral Combat Ship
(LCS) class warship throughout various theatres.
Exploit simplicity, numbers, the pace of technology development in electronics and robotics, and fast reconfiguration. That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet. Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s $35+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
It hasn’t worked that way. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available. The LCS program has changed its fundamental acquisition plan 4 times since 2005, and canceled contracts with both competing teams during this period, without escaping any of its fundamental issues. Now, the program looks set to end early. This public-access FOCUS article offer a wealth of research material, alongside looks at the LCS program’s designs, industry teams procurement plans, military controversies, budgets and contracts.
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