WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to make a decision soon on how to make a new class of smaller warships more lethal and survivable, the Navy's top admiral said on Saturday.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert expected a quick decision based on a recommendation submitted by the Navy, but gave no details.
"The Secretary is very close to a decision," Greenert told Reuters in an interview at a defense conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
"It was our endeavor to provide an option which would provide a more lethal ship, one that is more survivable, with capabilities that can be backfit, and as much as feasible, not interrupt production."
He expected the decision to be announced in the near future, along with a description of the new plan.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a pause in the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and asked for a review of options before the Navy ordered the last 20 ships in the 52-ship program. At the time, he expressed concerns about the survivability and firepower of the current designs.
Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal are building two separate designs of the new warships. The companies are waiting for a decision on the new "Small Surface Combatant," which could affect funding for future ships.
Navy officials have said they expect the decision to inform their fiscal 2016 budget request and an associated five-year spending plan, which will be submitted to Congress in February.
The new class of LCS ships will expand the Navy's ability to hunt mines, submarines and conduct surface warfare closer to shore than larger destroyers.
The USS Fort Worth, the third LCS ship built and the second in the Freedom-class built by Lockheed, is leaving on a 16-month deployment to Asia on Monday.
By 2018, the Navy expects to have four of the ships in the region, operating mainly out of Singapore.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal. Editing by Andre Grenon)