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Soaring Costs, Design Issues Press US Navy to Simplify Littoral Warship Program

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Concerns in the US Congress over cost overruns, production delays and ad hoc changes to correct faulty designs in a Navy effort to build a fleet of high-speed coastal frigates raises the prospect of further cutbacks in the program, the General Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Thursday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The GAO made no new recommendations, instead noting that it has made numerous proposals in the past that the Defense Department failed to implement.

"Many of the LCS's [Littoral Combat Ship] capabilities are yet to be demonstrated and the frigate's design, cost, and capabilities are not well-defined," the report stated. "Soon, Congress will be asked to make key decisions that have significant funding and oversight implications, but without having important information."

For example, Congress will be asked to authorize construction of 12 new ships before the Defense Department can produce independent estimates or explain the vessels’ ultimate combat capabilities, the report explained.

The GAO report noted that the program is already seven years behind schedule, with the final product unable to meet performance goals such as sprint speeds of up to 50 nautical miles per hour and a range of 1,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 40 knots.

Moreover, the report cited the most recent cost estimate for each ship of $478 million, more than double the original estimate $220 million, due in part to major design changes after construction of the vessels began.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently cut the program’s target of a 55 ship fleet to 40 vessels.

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