Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Upcoming Warships to Trade Some Speed for Firepower, Armor

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Upcoming Warships to Trade Some Speed for Firepower, Armor

Article excerpt

BATH, Maine - The Navy spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fulfill its need for speed with a new class of fast and agile warships capable of zipping along at highway speeds. It turns out speed is overrated.

The Navy has learned lessons from the light-and-speedy littoral combat ships: Upcoming ships will trade some speed in favor of more weapons and heavier armor.

Rear Adm. Peter Fanta, director of surface warfare, said the goal is to increase the offensive punch of all warships from the biggest to the smallest. For the littoral combat ship, that'll begin with the installation of over-the-horizon missiles this summer.

"Each ship that I now have - I have to make more lethal because I cannot build ships fast enough, or enough of them, Fanta told The Associated Press.

Two versions of the warships were sped into production to meet the Navy's goal of an affordable, fast ship to operate in shallow coastal or littoral - waters.

The ships, which are capable of topping 50 mph, utilize steerable waterjets instead of propellers and rudders to operate in shallow water.

They also are built to be equipped with swappable mission modules for surface warfare, anti-submarine duty or mine removal. That's in contrast to larger, multi-mission ships like the 610-foot Michael Monsoor, a Zumwalt-class destroyer christened Saturday at Bath Iron Works.

But the gee-whiz factor was overshadowed by concerns over growing costs - the latest versions cost $482 million to $563 million apiece - along with criticism by the General Accounting Office that the warships were too lightly armed and too lightly armored.

Two high-profile breakdowns, in December and January, raised additional questions about reliability: The USS Milwaukee had to be towed 40 miles to a naval base in Virginia, while the USS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore. …

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