The Navyâ€™s newest ship is designed to battle Iranian attack boats, clear mines from the Strait of Hormuz, chase down Somali pirates and keep watch on Chinaâ€™s warships. The ones built here even look menacing, like Darth Vader on the sea â€œItâ€™s going to scare the hell out of folks,â€ said Representative Jo Bonner, the Alabama Republican who represents Mobile and is one of the shipâ€™s biggest boosters in Congress. Mr. Bonner acknowledged that the ship had needed a â€œtweakâ€ here and there â€” his allusion to one of the most tortured shipbuilding programs in Navy history, a decade-long tale of soaring costs, canceled contracts and blown deadlines. One of the two $700 million ships completed so far has had a major leak and crack in its hull, while the other is at sea, testing equipment that is failing to distinguish underwater mines from glints of light on the waves. More ominously, a report late last year by the Pentagonâ€™s top weapons tester said the ship â€œis not expected to be survivable in a hostile But for better or worse, the Pentagon and the Obama administration are embracing the Littoral Combat Ship as the future of naval warfare and just what is needed to meet 21st-century threats. Able to operate on the high seas and along shallow coastlines (the â€œlittoralsâ€), the fast, maneuverable ship is central to President Obamaâ€™s strategy of projecting American power in the Pacific and the Persian Gulf. It adds a relatively small and technologically advanced ship â€” part of what former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld envisioned as a lean, proficient military â€” to Americaâ€™s traditional blue-water Navy of aircraft carriers and destroyers. â€œThis ship is the right ship at the right time,â€ Robert O. Work, the under secretary of the Navy, said in a recent interview. â€œWeâ€™ve got to prove it to all the naysayers.â€ For a Pentagon that must make deep budget cuts â€” about $450 billion over the next decade, and possibly up to $1 trillion if Congress does not make alternative reductions â€” the shallow-water ship is a priority. Relatively inexpensive, at least compared with a $2 billion destroyer, it remains critical to the Navyâ€™s goal of reaching a 300-ship fleet, assuming that all 55 littoral combat ships are built as planned. Right now the Navy has 285 ships, making it, as Mitt Romney, the leading Republican presidential candidate, points out, the smallest Navy since 1917 The Pentagon has made only the most modest of cutbacks on the new ships by delaying purchases of two of them in future years, and prospects for continued Congressional support for the program are good, despite years of objections from some on Capitol Hill. â€œThe story of this ship is one that makes me ashamed and embarrassed as a former Navy person,â€ Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and onetime Navy pilot, said in late 2010, citing billions of dollars in cost overruns. But the Navy now insists that it has brought the costs down and that each ship will cost less than $400 million, and that after an â€œutter procurement messâ€ â€” Mr. Workâ€™s words â€” the problems are being solved. (The first ship, despite the leak and crack, is expected to be deployed next year to Singapore, at the southern edge of the South China Sea, and the one now in sea trials could be ready by 2014.) Analysts say an important factor driving the Navy and Congress is that the vessels the ships are meant to replace â€” frigates and minesweepers â€” are aging, and that there is little else in the pipeline. The combat ship is seen as too far along in production to be killed now.