ABOARD USS INDEPENDENCE (AP) — Operating costs for the U.S. Navy's newest ships will decline and "become more normal" over time, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Thursday.
The Navy designed littoral combat ships to have smaller crews and lower costs than other vessels, but a Government Accountability Office report earlier this month said they each cost about $79 million to operate annually. That's more than the $54 million it costs to operate a frigate, which are larger and have more sailors on board.
As more of the ships enter the fleet and are used, the costs will be "well within acceptable limits" Mabus told The Associated Press during a visit to the USS Independence, the second littoral combat ship to be commissioned, while it participated in exercises off Hawaii.
"I think as we get into the operations, you're going to see them become more normal," Mabus said of the costs.
Mabus said he's reviewed GAO reports on new classes of Navy ships going back to the 1960s. They echo the latest reports on the littoral combat ship, he said.
"They are always concerned about the operating costs. They're always concerned about the operational ability of the ship. They're always concerned about whether the ship can do anything or how it's going to fit into the fleet," he said.
New vessels are more expensive to operate and start off have more difficulties, in part, because ships have to be tested as they're being built. Unlike aircraft, you can't build a few and test them, and then build more, Mabus said.
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