The littoral combat ship (LCS) is a class of relatively small surface vessels intended for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore) by the United States Navy. It was "envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals."
The Freedom class and the Independence class are the first two variants of LCS by the U.S. Navy. LCS designs are slightly smaller than the U.S. Navy's guided missile frigates, and have been likened to corvettes of other navies. However, the LCS designs add the capabilities of a small assault transport with a flight deck and hangar large enough to base two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, the capability to recover and launch small boats from a stern ramp, and enough cargo volume and payload to deliver a small assault force with fighting vehicles to a roll-on/roll-off port facility. The standard armament for the LCS are Mk 110 57 mm guns and Rolling Airframe Missiles. It will also be able to launch autonomous air, surface, and underwater vehicles. Although the LCS designs offer less air defense and surface-to-surface capabilities than comparable destroyers, the LCS concept emphasizes speed, flexible mission module space and a shallow draft.
The first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom, was commissioned on 8 November 2008 in Veteran's Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Lockheed Martin. The second ship, and first of the trimaran design, the USS Independence, was commissioned on 16 January 2010, in Mobile, Alabama by General Dynamics. The third littoral combat ship, USS Fort Worth, of similar design to the USS Freedom, was commissioned 22 September 2012 in Galveston, Texas.
In 2012, CNO Jonathan W. Greenert said some of the LCS would be deployed to Africa in place of destroyers and cruisers. Then in 2013, the LCS requirement was cut from 55 to 52 ships, because U.S. Africa Command reduced the presence requirement.
- 1 Design features
- 2 Developmental history
- 3 Foreign sales
- 4 List of LCS ships
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Design features[edit | edit source]
The concept behind the littoral combat ship, as described by former Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, is to "create a small, fast, maneuverable and relatively inexpensive member of the DD(X) family of ships." The ship is easy to reconfigure for different roles, including anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, homeland defense, maritime intercept, special operations, and logistics. Due to its modular design, the LCS will be able to replace slower, more specialized ships such as minesweepers and larger assault ships.
Most of the functions of the mission modules will be performed by carried vehicles such as the helicopters or unmanned vehicles such as the Spartan Scout, AN/WLD-1 RMS Remote Minehunting System and MQ-8B Fire Scout. By performing functions such as sonar sweeps for mines or submarines or torpedo launches against hostile submarines at some distance from the ship's hull, the crew is placed at less risk. This is part of the Navy's goal to "unman the front lines." DARPA's Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program aims to build a Medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) that can operate from LCS-2 and can carry a payload of 600 pounds (270 kg) out to an operational radius of 600–900 nautical miles (1,100–1,700 km). First flight of a TERN demonstrator is expected in 2017.
A report by the Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation found that neither design was expected to "be survivable in a hostile combat environment" and that neither ship could withstand the Navy's full ship shock trials. The Navy has responded that the LCS is being built to a Level 1+ survivability standard and that the ships will rely on warnings from networks and the speed of the ship to avoid being hit, or if hit be able to limp to safety.
The combat abilities of the LCS were said to be "very modest" even before the cancellation of the XM501 Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System. The Independence variant is said to have better helicopter facilities and more internal space while the Freedom variant is said to be better able to launch and recover boats in high seas. Admiral Gary Roughead has said that a mix of both types would be "operationally advantageous".
Some of the LCS will rotate through Singapore. These two or four ships will not be based in Singapore and their crews will live aboard ship during their rotational deployments. The ships will be managed from rather than based in Singapore for a six to ten-month deployment that includes port calls to other countries in the area.
In April 2012, Chief of Naval Operations Greenert said "You won't send it into an anti-access area." But Navy Secretary Ray Mabus clarified that the ship could operate in combat areas, as long as it remained under the protection of real warships.
The ships were predicted to fall short in manning. And the Navy has deployed the ships with berthing modules in the mission bays in order to carry the crew required for operations. However the ships are designed with sufficient headroom to change from 2-high bunking to 3-high bunking, which would allow crew sizes of 100 if needed.
The ships will be unable to defend themselves effectively against anti-ship cruise missiles, which are commonly employed in the littorals.
The LCS is the first USN surface combatant class in a generation to not use the Aegis Combat System, though aegis-equipped variants of the LCS hulls have been offered to foreign customers. The LCS classes have suffered from problems in their communications and radars and will require refits in these areas.
Mission modules[edit | edit source]
The LCS is reconfigured for various roles by changing mission modules. These include weapon systems, sensors, carried craft and mission crews. Projected modules include Anti-submarine warfare (ASW), mine hunter (MCM), surface warfare (SUW), and special warfare missions. The MCM and SUW modules are planned to reach initial operating capability in Fiscal year 2014, and the ASW module in FY2016.
Mission module changes[edit | edit source]
Module changes were envisioned to allow a single LCS to change roles in a matter of hours at any commercial port allowing a group of LCS' to optimize their effectiveness against a developing threat very rapidly. A report from the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) based on the results of a January 2012 sustainment wargame is reported to state that, possibly for logistics reasons, the mission module changes may take as long as weeks, and that in the future the navy plans to use LCS ships with a single module, with module changes being a rare occurrence.
Surface warfare[edit | edit source]
The surface warfare mission module is intended to deal only with small boats and is called "best swarm killer in the surface fleet". It includes two 30mm gun mission modules manufactured by Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.
In January 2011, the U.S. Navy recommended that Raytheon's Griffin missile system be selected as the replacement for the NLOS-LS missile. This would lower the missile range of the LCS from 25 miles to 3.5 miles. The packages were to be deployed in sets of three, with 15 per set for a total of 45 missiles. Initial deployment was set for 2015, with a longer ranged version to have entered service around 2017. However this was canceled as the Griffin was judged to be "too lightweight". The longer range missile will be chosen in a competition for a "beyond the horizon" system. An enhanced Griffin and the Sea Spear variant of the Brimstone are considered likely competitors for the increment 2 missile.Both models are equipped with F7C Sea Hawks and MQ-8 Fire Scouts.
Anti-submarine module[edit | edit source]
The anti-submarine module will have its focus changed from stationary systems to en-stride systems (while the ship is moving) that are useful in the open ocean as well as in coastal areas. One of the items to be added is a "torpedo detection capability" so that the ship can know when it is under attack. Thales has sold one CAPTAS 4 low-frequency active sonar to the U.S. Navy to be towed behind the LCS, with a potential order of 25 units. The USN will test a combination of this unit, derived from the Sonar 2087 on British Type 23 frigates, with the TB-37 multifunction towed array found on US warships. As of September 2013[update] deployment of the ASW module is planned for 2016, but the 2013 sequestration cuts could put this back to 2017.
Mine countermeasures module[edit | edit source]
The Mine Counter-Measure (MCM) module is designed to provide minesweeping, where mines are detected remotely and bypassed, as well as minehunting, where mines are detected and then disabled. Presently the MCM module is envisioned to perform "influence" minehunting, which employs acoustic, and magnetic signatures, but not contact, or mechanical minehunting. The MCM module includes the Airborne Laser Mine Detection system, the Airborne mine neutralization system, the AN/AQS-20A underwater towed sonar, the remote minehunting system that will tow the AN/AQS-20A, the Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis system, the unmanned surface vehicle with unmanned surface sweep system, and the Knifefish, the Surface mine counter-measure unmanned undersea vehicle. Additionally before they were canceled, the MCM module was also to include the Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep System, and the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System. The full "threshold" performance MCM module is scheduled to be completed by 2019. The AN/AQS-20A, and the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System have been found to be unable to meet performance requirements in a single pass, requiring them to use multiple passes, degrading performance. The Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle's mean time before failure is 7.9 hours compared to the required 75 hours. The Airborne Mine Neutralization System cannot track mines because of software problems, and there are problems with the loading and unloading system. While the Navy plans to release the final increment IV MCM module in 2019, this planned system will not have contact minehunting capability, or an EOD team, which the Avenger Mine Countermeasure ship had to deal with contact mines, and give valuable intelligence data the EOD teams are trained to collect. It will also not have an in-stride capability, the ability to neutralize mines as they're found, the neutralization phase is preceded by post-mission analysis with the proposed system. As of September 2013[update], fielding of the first increment of the MCM module is planned for 2015, and the second in 2019.
Irregular warfare and amphibious modules[edit | edit source]
The Navy has included an irregular warfare package in its 2012 budget request to Congress. The Spearhead-class Joint High Speed Vessels have also been weighed as possible platforms for Special operations support.
Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work has said that Marines will deploy from littoral combat ships. Duncan D. Hunter has written that the 55 LCS buy was made at the cost of 10 fewer amphibious vessels needed to support the USMC. Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford has said that the LCS is one of the platforms under consideration to help close the gap in amphibious shipping. The Navy is currently working on the requirements for a module to support these sorts of operations.
Developmental history[edit | edit source]
Proposal[edit | edit source]
The United States Navy launched its first littoral combat ship, Sea Fighter, in 2003. Sea Fighter used a SWATH-type hull and was designated as fast sea frame or FSF-1. The ship was put into service in 2005 and serves as an experimental test bed ship using mission modules. Given that the Oliver Hazard Perry, Osprey, and the Avenger classes are all reaching end of life, the U.S. Navy released a requirement for the LCS class ships. In 2004, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Raytheon submitted designs to the Navy of their proposed littoral combat ships. It was decided to produce two vessels each (Flight 0) of the Lockheed Martin design (LCS-1 and LCS-3) and of the General Dynamics design (LCS-2 and LCS-4). After these are brought into service, and experience has been gathered on the usability and efficiency of the designs, the future design for the class were to be chosen (Flight I). The ultimate decision was to fund both designs as two variants of the class. The Navy currently plans to build 55 of these ships.
On 9 May 2005, Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England announced that the first LCS would be named USS Freedom. Her keel was laid down on 2 June 2005 at Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wisconsin. The contract to build the ship was managed by Lockheed's Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) division, directed by Fred Moosally. On 23 September 2006, LCS-1 was christened and launched at the Marinette Marine shipyard. On 19 January 2006, the keel for the General Dynamics trimaran, USS Independence, was laid at the Austal USA shipyards in Mobile, Alabama. LCS-2 was launched 30 April 2008.
Budget overruns and deployments[edit | edit source]
The U.S. Navy canceled contracts to build LCS-3 of Lockheed Martin and LCS-4 of General Dynamics and Austal USA in April and November 2007, respectively, citing failure to control cost overruns of both designs. Subsequently, the Navy announced a new bidding process for the next three ships, with the winner building two ships and the loser building one. In the 26 September 2008 U.S. Presidential debate, Senator John McCain used the LCS procuring process as an example of botched contracting procedures that drove up the costs unnecessarily.
In March 2009, Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter announced that LCS-3 would be named Fort Worth after Fort Worth, Texas, and the fourth ship would be named Coronado after Coronado, California, signalling the restart of LCS program. The LCS-3 Fort Worth contract was renewed in March 2009, and the LCS-4 Coronado was renewed in April 2009. The Navy also announced its revised LCS procurement plan in April 2009 that a total of three ships would be awarded in FY 2010 budget. Senior Navy officials also hinted that the Navy may not down-select to one design for further orders, pointing out complementary features of the two designs.
The Navy pressed forward with its Littoral Combat Ship acquisition process, despite calls from former Navy Secretary John Lehman to adapt a fixed-price contracts. Pressure also mounted in the Congress for the Navy to control the cost of LCS: in June 2009, during a hearing of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss, said that other contractors would jump at the chance to build LCS as the subcommittee added language that would require the Navy to open bidding on the project if either lead contractor walked away from the $460 million fixed price contracts that would be offered. In response, the Naval Sea Systems Command conducted a study on whether a reduction of the top speed requirement from 40 knots to 30 could help keep the ships under the price cap.
The Congress also asked the Navy to study improvement programs on existing ships in place of the LCS program. But in June 2009 Vice Admiral Barry McCullough testified in a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting that the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates and minesweepers were too worn out to continue in service to cover the gap if the LCS development process suffered further delays. Retired Navy Admiral James Lyons called for a $220 million common design with the USCG National Security Cutter (NSC) program to save costs and meet "limited warfare requirements. A Huntington-Ingalls study found that the NSC would be a better match for the listed mission set, except that it did not have the mission modules that the LCS carried to perform these missions.
In support of the LCS program, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, the contractor of unmanned aerial vehicle UAV that would be carried on Littoral Combat Ships, released a study that showed seven LCS can more efficiently perform anti-piracy patrols in the Western Indian Ocean than a fleet of 20 conventional ships for a quarter of the cost.
To help reduce cost of each ships, Navy Acquisition Chief Sean Stackley and Vice Admiral Barry McCullough in September 2009 indicate that only one of the contractors would be offered a fixed price contract in 2010 for up to ten ships, followed by an offer to build five additional ships of the same design as the first contract to the secondary builder. The Congress agreed with the Navy on this plan.
FY2010 budget documents revealed that the total costs of the two lead ships had risen to $637 million for Freedom and $704 million for Independence.
On 16 January 2010, the Independence was commissioned in Mobile, Alabama.
On 4 March 2010, Austal USA split from Bath Iron Works and announced that it would bid on future LCS contacts by itself. Austal could, for example, win the 2010 contract and Bath could win the following contract in 2012.
On 23 August 2010, the US Navy announced a delay in awarding the contract for 10 ships until sometime near the end of the year. A meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board scheduled for 29 October 2010 has been delayed and the Navy has indicated that no decision on the contract can be made until this meeting is held.
The GAO found that deploying the first two ships will delay the overall program because these two ships were not available for testing and development so changes may have to be made in the second pair of ships during their construction instead of being planned for before construction started. The U.S. Navy responded that "Early deployment brought LCS operational issues to the forefront much sooner than under the original schedule, some of which would not have been learnt until two years on."
In 2013, Work explained that part of the cost overruns were due to the shipbuilders bidding to American Bureau of Shipping commercial standards, but the Navy changing this to Level I survivability standards to give the crew a better chance of survival, even though the ships were not expected to continue operating after being hit. The Navy acknowledged that their failure to communicate clearly that the experimental and developmental nature of the first two ships caused a perception that the overall LCS program was in worse shape.
Building both designs[edit | edit source]
Instead of declaring a winner out of the two competing designs, the U.S. Navy in November 2010 asked the Congress to allow for the order of ten of each design. US Senator Carl Levin said that the change was made because both bids were under the Congressional price cap. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that unlike the possibility of splitting orders for projects like KC-X or the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136, the Pentagon had already paid the development cost for both designs so there were no further development costs required to build both designs and have them compete for future orders.
The Government Accountability Office identified some problems with the designs other than shipbuilding. These included, in GAO's views, extremely long crew training time, unrealistic maintenance plans, and the lack of comprehensive risk assessment.
On 13 December 2010, both production teams extended their contract offers until 30 December in order to give more time for the Navy to push through the plan. The Navy would be forced to award the contract to only one team if it failed to secure Congressional approval. The Navy budgeted $490 million for each ship while the Congressional Budget Office projected a cost of $591 million for each ship. Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley testified to a Senate panel that the actual price range was $440 to $460 million.
One day before the contract offers were set to expire, both Lockheed Martin and Austal USA received contracts from the Navy to build additional ten ships of their designs. Two ships of each design would be built on every year between 2011 and 2015. LCS-5 of the Lockheed Martin design had the contractual price of $437 million. Austal USA's contractual price for LCS-6 was $432 million. Department of Navy Undersecretary Sean Stackley noted in a conversation with reporters on 29 December 2010, that the LCS program was now well within the Congressional cost cap of $480 million per ship. The average per-ship target price for Lockheed ships is $362 million, Stackley said, with a goal of $352 million for each Austal USA ships. Government-furnished equipment (GFE), such as weapons, add about $25 million to each ship. Another $20 million is figured in for change orders, and "management reserve" is also included. All told, Stackley said, the average cost to buy an LCS should be between $430 million and $440 million.
In the fiscal year 2011, the unit cost $1.8 billion and the program cost $3.7 billion.
Work has said that the two different designs may each be best suited for a different theater, in that the LCS-1 design would be better suited for the enclosed waters of the Middle East, while the LCS-2 design would be better suited for the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. However, in order to increase commonality between the two designs, the Navy will force both types to use the same electronics for their combat systems.
The handoff from General Dynamics to Austal of management for the Independence class lead to a 13 month schedule slip as the company struggled with building the JHSV ships at the same facilities.
In May 2013, the GAO called for a pause in the ship constructions until issues with the sea frames and modules were resolved. However the USN already plans to reduce the procurement rate in 2016.
Operational issues[edit | edit source]
A 2012 report by Rear Admiral Samuel Perez found that the ships lacked the manpower and firepower to complete the missions required by the regional commanders. The report found that the Littoral Combat Ship is “ill-suited for combat operations against anything but” small, fast boats not armed with anti-ship missiles. It also found that the excessive beam of the trimaran Independence class ships may pose a "navigational challenge in narrow waterways and tight harbors". The report also found that the contractor-based maintenance scheme for the ships has performed poorly, with the poorly supervised and unaccountable contractors leaving problems for the crews. In addition these contract workers must by law be Americans, which will then need to be flown out to the foreign ports the LCS must return to for supplies and maintenance. A special panel was appointed to investigate "challenges identified" by the report.
In 2013, Navy Captain Kenneth Coleman, the requirements officer for the program, identified tactical aircraft as a system the LCS would be especially vulnerable to. Vice Admiral Thomas H. Copeman III is reported to be considering an upsized "Super" LCS, that would have space to install needed firepower, because he noted that the 57mm main gun was more suitable to a patrol boat than a frigate. Austal’s vice president for sales, Craig Hooper, has responded that arming the LCS like any other warship, but suggested that the ships should instead be used for UAV operations. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has called the lack of suitable missions for the LCS "one of its greatest strengths".
At a hearing on 25 July 2013, the House Armed Services Committee's seapower subcommittee argued with Vice Admiral Richard Hunt on how the LCS would be employed if tensions with North Korea or China led to a confrontation in the Western Pacific. Hunt said the ships are designed in accordance with the Navy's survivability standards, and that the LCS would be used during the initial phase in the theatre and sense the environment before hostilities occur. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter countered saying the LCS was not survivable enough for long-range threats that China provides. LCS ships are built to survivability Level I+, higher than Level I patrol craft and mine warfare ships, but lower than the Level II Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate they are replacing. The Navy has said the LCS was designed to pull out of combat upon sustaining damage. The deployment of USS Freedom is seen by the Navy as an opportunity to test the ship and its operational concepts real-world environments. Congressman Hunter replied that all that the Freedom had done so far was dock in harbors that other ships couldn't (demonstrating its shallow draft) and do "donuts" (move in fast circles in the water). Admiral Hunt told Hunter that the Navy was about to conclude a war game at the Naval War College to examine ways of exploiting LCS capabilities in a Western Pacific scenario, among others. Hunt added that the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission package would play an important role in protecting aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. The mine countermeasures (MCMs) mission package would also provide necessary port security and waterway patrol capability in a region following major combat operations. The MCM mission package is expected to reach initial operational capability (IOC) in 2014, and the ASW mission package is expected to reach IOC in 2016.
Foreign sales[edit | edit source]
Saudi Arabia and Israel have both expressed an interest in a modified version of the Freedom variant, the LCS-I, but Defense News has reported that Israel has dropped out of this project in favor of a new frigate design to be built in Israel.
The Indonesian Navy was reportedly interested in either purchase or construction of littoral combat ships to protect Indonesia's wide ocean territory. Early images indicate a trimaran design much like the Independence variant ships (LCS-2).
List of LCS ships[edit | edit source]
See also[edit | edit source]
- Absalon-class command and support ship
- Braunschweig-class corvette
- Global Combat Ship
- F-22P Zulfiquar-class frigate
- Holland-class offshore patrol vessels
- Type 056 class Light Corvette
- Kamorta-class corvette
- La Fayette-class frigate
- MEKO or "littoral combatant ship"
- Milgem-class corvette
- Sea Fighter (FSF-1)
- Sigma-class corvette
- Skjold class
- National Security Cutter
- Visby-class corvette
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