New Warships Disappoint

The latest generation of high-tech Navy ships is too complicated and undermanned


A lengthened, more streamlined hull for faster, more efficient sailing. Better windows for improved visibility. Simpler wiring. Superior rust-resistant paint. A more reliable system for landing helicopters and drones on her flight deck. And most importantly, an extra 20 beds in case the Navy decides she needs a bigger crew. That's a good thing: the ship's original crew size of 75 has been deemed too few in number for basic ship repair and maintenance.

The Fort Worth, the Navy's third and latest Littoral Combat Ship, features these improvements and more compared to its predecessors. "We've learned quite a bit," Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, the top surface force commander, tells Danger Room.

But the nimble 380-foot-long vessel, optimized for sailing fast and close to shore with a bare-bones crew of between 75 and 95 people, is equally notable for what she still can't do and still lacks. Fort Worth's full allotment of weaponry and sensors, combined into single-purpose packages called "modules," is years away. And the modules, designed to be rapidly swapped out on the edge of a naval battle, in fact could require weeks of work to remove and re-install.