SEATTLE (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday defended the Pentagon's decision to buy just 40 Littoral Combat Ships instead of the 52 originally planned, saying the money saved would allow the Navy to buy more missiles and undersea technology.
Carter told reporters during a visit to Seattle that the U.S. military was making a deliberate choice to skip buying the additional dozen LCS ships and focus more on improving the Navy's "lethality and capability."
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and other backers of the program have said the Navy's requirement for the smaller, fast coastal LCS warships remains unchanged at 52, despite Carter's decision to truncate the program. Mabus told lawmakers on Wednesday that the final decision about how many small surface warships to buy would ultimately be made by the next administration.
Carter was emphatic when asked about those comments on Thursday, saying the department has set a clear priority to buy other more powerful warships and beef up the firepower of its existing ships.
"Forty is enough. The Navy’s own war-fighting analysis indicates that, but it is also our priority," Carter said. "That's the right decision to make because it allows us to have the right kind of ships, lethality, and to make investments in ... undersea technology, in missiles."
Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal are building two separate models of the LCS ships. Carter has said he wants the Navy to have a competition and pick just one supplier for future ships, although the timing of that remains unclear.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)