Fincantieri Defends Workmanship on Criticized Navy Combat Ships

A shipbuilder with local ties defended its workmanship after a Feb. 4 New York Times article noted how the U.S. Navy wanted to retire its littoral combat ships (LCS), but Congress decided to resume building them to retain jobs.

The Navy and Pentagon were both disappointed that the littoral combat ships failed to hold up as designed at high speeds, up to 50 mph, and that several issues with gears and various systems persisted with the ships that were first launched in 2008 in Milwaukee and 2012 in Mobile, Alabama. Those issues also included a lack of mechanical staffing to correct problems while at sea.

In spring 2022, the Navy confirmed that it had detected structural defects above the waterline, such as cracking in aluminum hulls at higher speeds or in rough seas. The Navy Times in May 2022 reported the builder of those particular ships as Austal USA.

The New York Times story correctly reported Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) and Lockheed Martin as builders of the ships, but a Fincantieri spokesperson said that should not reflect poorly on FMM or Sturgeon Bay’s Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. The latter has built sections of LCS vessels, and Fincantieri has contracts to build agile frigates that the Navy ordered as improved versions of the versatile fighter ships it originally envisioned.

“We think there was little, if any, ‘new’ information presented,” said Fincantieri’s Eric Dent. “The noted issues (for example, propulsion system, engines, combining gear) with Freedom-class LCS have absolutely nothing to do with the quality and completeness of FMM’s work.”      

FMM is in the process of constructing the final Freedom-class LCS.

“The final vessel, LCS-31, is expected to launch later this year, and then FMM will complete the build and test the vessel to ensure that it meets expected performance criteria and can be delivered by Lockheed Martin at a later date,” the spokesperson said. “As planned LCS construction comes to a close, FMM will build four additional LCS-like vessels for Lockheed Martin and the Navy destined for foreign military sales. And of course, FMM moves into the prime contractor role as we build Constellation-class frigates, of which lead ship construction started in August 2022 and is expected to deliver in late 2026.”

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the ship, as ordered and approved by the Navy, and neither FMM nor Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding determine which systems and equipment are installed on the ships.

Lockheed Martin spokesperson Patrick W. McNally provided the following response regarding how the contractor will continue to improve upon its systems and the LCS: “Lockheed Martin remains committed to the Littoral Combat Ship program and is proud of our longstanding partnership with the United States Navy,” he said. “We are focused on the future of LCS, advancing capabilities and upgrades that will deliver affordable improvements to the platform, and ensuring we are helping our customers stay ahead of future threats.”

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