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LCS Sails Through Hearings as Balkan Challenges Eyed

Austal USA and the Navy held a keel-laying ceremony Feb. 18 in Mobile for the future USS Omaha (LCS 12), the fourth Independence-variant LCS class ship built at Austal. From left: Leo Boles of Austal, Navy CDR Matt Tardy, Navy Capt. Joseph Tuite, Navy Capt. Tom Anderson, Austal’s Bill Adams and Austal’s Mike Bell.

Austal USA and the Navy held a keel-laying ceremony Feb. 18 in Mobile for the future USS Omaha (LCS 12), the fourth Independence-variant LCS class ship built at Austal. From left: Leo Boles of Austal, Navy CDR Matt Tardy, Navy Capt. Joseph Tuite, Navy Capt. Tom Anderson, Austal’s Bill Adams and Austal’s Mike Bell.

Reading between the lines a bit from reports of congressional budget hearings involving U.S. Navy shipbuilding plans, it appears shallow-draft warships of the kind built at Austal USA in Mobile might be earning some deeper respect.

The hearings in late February involved top military officials and their 2016 budget request to lawmakers at a House subcommittee hearing. The budget submitted by President Barack Obama included a funding request for nine ships: two destroyers, three littoral combat ships of the sort built at Austal, two submarines, one amphibious transport dock and one fleet oiler.

Rep. Paul Cook, a California Republican, expressed concern about the military’s ability to reach the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should Russia continue its military incursions there. Cook wondered aloud whether the Baltic Sea’s shallow depths could complicate the mission. 

“Do we factor that into the platforms, or maybe I have the misconception that we’re building everything all over the world, and whether we have to be more selective in our future plans based upon the contingency or the threats as they’re evolving?” 

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean J. Stackley, who oversees the Navy research, development and acquisition strategy, stuck to the Navy’s party line that it’s impossible, given how long ships last and the years it takes to develop them, to attach building programs to specific threats.

Stackley spoke highly of the littoral combat ship and it’s ability to operate close to shore.

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