Donald Trump says he wants to “Make America Great Again.”
No one is really sure what that means, but one area that needs improvement is U.S. weapons of war.
As a taxpayer, I think if we pay $360 million for a boat it shouldn’t have to be towed to shore after only 20 days.
CNN reports the USS Milwaukee, a littoral combat ship, lost propulsion as it made its way from Milwaukee, where it was commissioned, to San Diego.
Sen. John McCain called the ship’s “complete loss of propulsion … deeply alarming.”
What is a littoral combat ship? It’s a cheap, fast and small warship designed to defeat asymmetric (think “pirate”) threats close to shore. The Freedom-class ships are still large by my standards — around 400 feet long — and armed with helicopters, missiles and drone submersibles, surface ships and aircraft.
So far, only a few of the ships have been made. Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally with a terrible human rights record, recently asked to purchase four ships for more than $11 billion. Unlike U.S. versions of the ship, the Saudi version would have extensive air defense systems. The military hardware website Foxtrot Alpha says the Saudi ships would “deny enemies aerial access to roughly 3,000 square miles.”
Despite Saudi Arabia’s willingness to spend money, the broken-down Milwaukee is just the latest in a series of problems for the ships.
“The reliability of the Navy’s first Littoral Combat Ships ‘has been degraded by frequent critical system failures’ in early operations, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester said, in a Bloomberg article from 2014.
Two ships that preceded the Milwaukee, the USS Freedom and the USS Independence, have had major problems.
In her limited time at sea, Freedom has been “plagued by flawed designs and failed equipment since being commissioned, has at least 17 known cracks, and has repeatedly been beset by engine-related failures,” writes The Project on Government Oversight blog.
The Independence, built in Alabama, is the victim of “aggressive” corrosion around the engines and, after less than a year at sea, will have to have sections of its hull replaced.
Even when they are working, some consider the cheap ships “death traps” for American sailors. According to a Wired article, “the ships were built to commercial, rather than military, structural standards — meaning they’re lighter and less blast- and fire-resistant.” The Navy did not subject the ships to traditional blast-testing, “due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship,” the Congressional Research Service points out.
U.S. ships are not the only problem.
Another Lockheed product, the Marietta-built F-22, which cost an astounding $412 million each, first entered service in 2005 but was routinely grounded because pilots kept losing consciousness and the jet did not fly a combat role until 2014.
Even more troubled is Lockheed’s F-35, which, at $1.5 trillion is the most expensive military program of all time. In testing this year, the F-35 was found to be inferior to much older U.S. aircraft in a simulated dogfight. The F-35’s list of problems is so extensive some call it “the plane that ate the Pentagon.” The first plane was built in 2006 but the planes have not been cleared for military use. By 2014, the program was $163 billion over budget and seven years behind schedule.
No one ever said “Making America Great Again” was going to be cheap or easy. But it seems profitable.