(Adds details on separate Austal ship)
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, April 1 Both the Lockheed Martin
Corp and Austal versions of the U.S. Navy's new
coastal warship performed well in a major war game last week and
surprised some "enemies" with their capabilities, a top Navy
admiral said on Tuesday.
Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, director of surface warfare for
the Navy, said the war game held at the U.S. Naval War College
in Rhode Island underscored the effectiveness of the new smaller
warships in potential future conflicts, even in deeper waters.
"This is going to be a force to be reckoned with," Rowden
told reporters on a teleconference, noting that U.S. Navy
officials went home after the weeklong exercises with a new
appreciation for the Navy's newest class of warships.
"The LCS represents a new tool in the tool box," he added.
The war game was planned long before Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel ordered the Navy to reassess its plans to buy 52 of the
new smaller warships, and launch a study on what it would take
to make give the ships better protection and more firepower.
A small group of military officials is studying the issue in
a secluded office outside the Pentagon, with results due back by
July 31 in time to inform the fiscal 2016 budget debate.
A Navy task force is studying options for meeting a
requirement for 52 small surface combatants, including buying
more of the current LCS ships, modifying them, or switching to a
new design, all with a focus on affordability.
A separate advisory group, chaired by Rowden and Allison
Stiller, deputy assistant secretary of Navy for ships, is also
looking at the issue.
Rowden said pairing the smaller Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)
with larger guided missile destroyers increased their ability to
survive enemy attacks and sharply increased the Navy's ability
to hunt for enemy submarines.
Rowden said the LCS ships were "played" using a new missile
with a 120-mile (193-km) range that officials believe will be
available for use on the ships in the mid-2020s.
Navy officials were also able to "confuse the enemy" by
using Joint High Speed Vessels, smaller U.S. ships also built by
Australia's Austal, to supply the LCS ships and move them around
the shallow waters of the western Pacific region, he said.
He said the war game - which involved 32 LCS ships and a
broad range of other ships, fighter jets and other U.S. military
equipment - showed how changing the concept of operations to
pair up ships during a battle could be an affordable alternative
to adding air defense equipment to the LCS ships.
The ability of the LCS ships to switch equipment and take on
new missions, or modularity, proved helpful in some
circumstances during the game, Rowden said.
Over 800 pages of notes from the war game will be analyzed
over the next two months with conclusions likely to be released
in mid- to late May, Rowden told reporters.
He said Austal's aluminum trimaran LCS design had "a little
bit longer legs" and proved more advantageous on the open ocean,
while Lockheed's steel monohull design was more effective in
areas closer to shore.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)