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Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), United States of America

Key Data

USS Independence LCS2 - Littoral Combat Ship Video

The littoral combat ship (LCS) is the first of a new family of surface ships for the US Navy. The LCS is a fast, highly manoeuvrable, networked surface combat ship, which is a specialised variant of the family of US future surface combat ships known as DD(X). LCS is designed to satisfy the urgent requirement for shallow draft vessels to operate in the littoral (coastal waters) to counter growing potential 'asymmetric' threats of coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and the potential to carry explosives and terrorists on small, fast, armed boats.

In May 2004, the United States Department of Defense and the US Navy announced the selection of two separate defense contracting teams led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics to each carry out system design and options for the detailed design and construction of two flight 0, or first-generation, LCS ships.

The numbers of LCS ships is not finalised but there has been speculation of 56 or up to 60 LCS ships, within a total US naval fleet of 375 ships.

Littoral combat ship design

USS Independence and USS Freedom

USS Independence (LCS 2) of the General Dynamics Independence Class (front right) and USS Freedom (LCS 1) of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class.

The two designs are quite different, although both satisfy the top-level performance requirements and technical requirements of the LCS programme. Both achieve sprint speeds of over 40kt and long-range transit distances of over 3,500 miles. The Lockheed Martin Freedom Class design is a high-speed semi-planing monohull. The General Dynamics Independence Class design is a trimaran with a slender stabilised monohull.

The sea frames of both designs accommodate the equipment and crew for core LCS missions and special missions. They are both capable of the effective launch, control and recovery of vehicles for extended periods, however the strategy for launch and recovery for waterborne craft and for aircraft are different in the two designs. The two designs also use very different approaches for incorporating reconfigurable internal volume.

The design approach for the second-generation LCS, flight 1, ship acquisition is flexible and will take into consideration the experience gained in the flight 0 designs. In both designs, the sprint speed of 40kt to 50kt results in the body of the hull being lifted out of the water as much as possible. The Lockheed Martin design of the monohull lifts the body of the hull.

The General Dynamics trimaran design, with the slender stabilised monohull, uses two outriggers which move the displacement upwards and reduce the wetted surface. The shaping of the hull in both design strategies gives signature reduction. The designs of both ships continue to evolve with changes in the design proposals.

Freedom Class littoral combat ships

USS Freedom (LCS-1) littoral combat ship

USS Freedom (LCS-1), the first in the Lockheed Martin Independence Class of littoral combat ships.

"The littoral combat ship (LCS) is the first of a new family of surface ships for the US Navy."

Lockheed Martin proposed the Freedom class of littoral combat ship based on a semi-planing monohull design. Lockheed Martin received a contract for the first Freedom class ship, LCS-1, in December 2004. The keel for LCS-1, to be called USS Freedom, was laid in June 2005 at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. It was launched in September 2006.

Builder's sea trials began in July 2008. The LCS was delivered to the USN in September 2008 and was commissioned on 8 November 2008. It is based at San Diego. On 16 February 2010, the USS Freedom left the Naval Station Mayport for its maiden deployment, two years ahead of schedule.

USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) was delivered on 6th June and commissioned on 22nd September 2012. The keels for LCS-5 (USS Milwaukee) and LCS-7 (USS Detroit) were laid in October 2011 and November 2012 respectively. USS Milwaukee is scheduled for delivery in 2014.

The contract for two more ships, LCS-9 (USS Little Rock) and LCS-11 (USS Sioux City), was awarded in March 2012.

Lockheed Martin was to build LCS-3, initially named USS Courage, to commission in 2009. The contract was awarded in June 2006 and the vessel was to begin construction in early 2007.

However, in January 2007, the USN ordered Lockheed Martin to stop work on LCS-3. The USN wished to review the programme because of concerns over cost increases incurred in the construction of USS Freedom. In April 2007, the USN terminated the contract for LCS-3.

In the April 2009 Defense Department budget, Secretary of Defense Rober Gates affirmed the US Navy's commitment to the LCS programme. In March 2009 LCS-3 was announced as USS Fort Worth. Her keel was laid down on 11th July 2009 and she completed sea trials in October 2011.

In April 2005, the US Navy awarded a foreign military sales contract to Lockheed Martin to conduct a nine-month feasibility study to examine possible modifications to the Lockheed Martin LCS design to meet the requirements of the Israeli Navy. The study concentrated on hull, mechanical and electrical system compatibility. The Israeli Navy requirement includes the mk41 vertical-launch system for Barak missiles. The contract was extended in November 2007 to include technical specification and costs for the combat system. In July 2008, Israel requested the foreign military sale (FMS) of up to four vessels of the LCS 1 variant.

Lockheed Martin Freedom Class contractors

The contract option awarded to Lockheed Martin is managed by Lockheed Martin's maritime systems and sensors division in Moorestown, New Jersey. The Lockheed Martin team includes: Marinette Marine shipyard, Bollinger Shipyards, Gibbs and Cox naval architects, Izar of Spain and Blohm & Voss naval shipbuilders.

Independence Class littoral combat ships

 USS Independence (LCS-2)

USS Independence (LCS-2) the first of General Dynamics' Freedom Class littoral combat ships.

General Dynamics and Austal proposed the Independence class of littoral combat ship, based on a trimaran hull. To date, USS Independence has been commissioned, USS Coronado is expected to be commissioned in 2013. Four more Independence class littoral combat ships have been named. These include USS Jackson (LCS-6), USS Montgomery (LCS-8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) and USS Omaha (LCS-12).

General Dynamics was awarded the contract for USS Independence, LCS-2, in October 2005. The keel was laid in January 2006 at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. It was launched in April 2008 and christened in October 2008. The ship completed the builder's sea trials in October 2009 and was delivered to the USN in December 2009. It was commissioned in January 2010.

USS Coronado (LCS-4) is an Independence Class littoral combat ship with trimaran hull. General Dynamics was awarded the contract to build LCS-4, in December 2006. In October 2007, the US Navy terminated the contract for this vessel.

In April 2008, the US Navy issued a request for proposals to the two companies for three LCS ships. It had previously been planned that orders would be placed for nine flight 1 (second-generation) LCS ships during 2008 and 2009, for ship commissioning during the period 2010 to 2012.

The contract for the Coronado, LCS-4, was awarded to General Dynamics in April 2009. The keel was laid in December 2009. It was christened in January 2012 and is expected to be commissioned in 2013. The keel for USS Jackson was laid in October 2012.

General Dynamics Independence Class contractors

The contract option awarded to General Dynamics is managed by Bath Iron Works at Bath, Maine.

"The LCS is a fast, highly manoeuvrable, networked surface combat ship."

The major members of General Dynamics team are: Austal USA, based in Mobile, Alabama (a subsidiary of Austal Ships of Australia); BAE Systems, Rockville, Maryland; Maritime Applied Physics Corporation, Baltimore, Maryland; CAE Marine Systems, Leesburg, Virginia; Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Baltimore, Maryland; General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, Burlington, Vermont; General Dynamics Electric Boat, Gorton, Connecticut; General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Washington, DC; and General Dynamics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

In January 2011, Lockheed and Austal won a fixed-price incentive contract to design and build a total of 20 LCS ships between 2011 and 2015. Construction contracts for four more ships were awarded in March 2012.

Core capabilities of the littoral combat ship

A full load displacement draft of 10ft allows the ships to access very shallow waters. The ships will have a top speed of about 50kt and the range at sprint speed is 1,500nm. At an economical speed of 20kt, the range is 4,300nm.

"Mission packages will be: mine warfare (MIW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (SUW)."

The ships are configured with a helicopter deck and hangar. The deck is capable of the launch and recovery of the MH-60R/S helicopter and a tactical unmanned air vehicle. The ships can carry out aircraft launch and recovery in conditions up to sea state 5, i.e. in winds up to 27kt and average wave heights between 6.4ft and 9.6ft. The ships will be capable of launching and recovering watercraft, for example 40ft high-speed boats, within 15 minutes in conditions of sea state 4, i.e. waves up to 5ft and winds up to 21kt.

General Dynamics Robot Systems was awarded a US Navy contract to develop the common launch and recovery system (CLRS) of unmanned and other watercraft for the LCS in July 2008.

The ships will carry provisions for 21 days before replenishments and will also be able to replenish underway. The crew size will be between 15 and 50 and accommodation is provided for up to 75 ship and special mission crew. The operational availability will be 95%.

A core capability will be the deployment of Fire Scout unmanned air vehicle and the unmanned ribbed boat, Spartan unmanned surface vehicle, equipped with a basic payload of navigation radar, infrared camera and video camera.

Littoral combat ship mission modules

The mission modules will have the capability to be changed, tested and working within 24h. Northrop Grumman has been appointed as mission package integrator.

The mission packages will be: mine warfare (MIW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (SUW).

The mission modules may be integrated into standard-sized containers that can be installed in the ship and other systems will be transferred onto the ship on pallets. The mission systems will be connected to the ship's network and communicate with the other ship systems and other surface ships and aircraft.

The MIW module includes: the AN/WLD-1 remote minehunting system, AN/AQS-20A sonar mine detecting set, organic airborne surface influence sweep, airborne laser mine detection system and airborne mine neutralisation system.

The ASW module includes the Sea TALON (tactical littoral ocean network) undersea surveillance system, being developed by Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, which integrates a range of acoustic sensors with semi-submersible vehicles and network-centric communications.

Passive sensors include the advanced deployable system (ADS), a rapidly deployable bottom array acoustic surveillance system. The semi-submersible, the AN/WLD-1 with an ASW mission system, tows a remote towed active source (RTAS), a multiband transducer with a remote towed array multi-function sonar.

"A slender stabilised trimaran monohull is the design proposed by the General Dynamics team."

The ASW module also includes systems to be deployed from the MH-60R helicopter (mk54 torpedoes, sonobuoys, Raytheon AN/AQS-22 airborne low-frequency sonar) and unmanned surface vehicles, USVs (dipping sonar, multi-static active sonar and ULITE ultra-lightweight towed array).

General Dynamics Robotics was awarded a contract for four USVs for the ASW module in October 2006.

The 11m Fleet Class USV weighs about 7.7t, has a payload of about 2,270kg, speed of 35kt and is capable of operating continuously for over 24h.

The SUW module includes a General Dynamics mk46 30mm cannon (also used in the rapid airborne mine clearance system and the US Marine Corps expeditionary fighting vehicle), which fires at up to 200 rounds a minute, and a version of the US Army's non-line of sight - precision attack munition missile system. The NLOS launch system and precision attack missile are being jointly developed by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The direct attack missile has a dual-mode uncooled infrared and semi-active laser seeker, multimode warhead and range up to 40km. The MH-60R is armed with guns and Hellfire missiles.

Littoral combat ship gun

Both General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin vessels are armed with BAE Systems Land and Armaments (formerly United Defense) mk110 57mm naval gun system. The mk110 fires mk295 ammunition at a rate of 220 rounds a minute to a range of 14km (nine miles).

General Dynamics trimaran

The slender stabilised trimaran monohull proposed by the General Dynamics team has an overall length of 127.8m, maximum beam of 28.4m and full load displacement of 2,637t. The seaframe is based on Austal's design for the Benchijigua Express passenger / car ferry.

A naval forward looking infrared is fitted above the bridge. The Raytheon SeaRAM anti-ship missile defencse system is installed on the hangar roof. SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system but replaces the 20mm gun with an 11-missile launcher for the rolling airframe missile (RAM). 50-calibre machine gun mounts are installed port and starboard on the walkway on either side of the hangar and at the stern just below the level of the stern helicopter deck.

The decoy systems include three Super RBOCs and two Nulka decoy launchers. The countermeasures suite will include ES 3601 tactical radar electronic support measures (ESM) from EDO Corp. The towed sonar and towed decoys are launched from the stern of the ship.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems will provide the integrated combat management system (ICMS), BAE Systems Electronic Systems will provide the radio communications system and CAE Marine Systems will supply the automated ship control system.

The main mast carries the Link 16, Link 1, CEC, and the Saab Microwave Systems (formerly Ericsson) Sea Giraffe radar.

Lockheed Martin semi-planing monohull

Lockheed Martin's advanced semi-planing seaframe is based on technologies introduced by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri on the 1,000t Destrier commercial vessel, which holds the transatlantic speed record, and the 3,000t Jupiter class.

The ship has a steel hull with aluminium superstructure and will be powered by two Rolls-Royce MT30 36MW gas turbines and two Fairbanks Morse Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B STC diesel engines driving four large, acoustically optimised Rolls-Royce waterjets.

Four Isotta Fraschini Model V1708 ship service diesel generator sets provide auxiliary power. Fincantieri Marine Systems North America Inc is supplying the ride control system.

"The Lockheed Martin design is a semi-planing monohull."

The ship's maximum speed is 45kt. The overall length is 115.5m. The maximum beam width is 13.1m and the draft is 3.7m.

The vessel has automated stern doors, stern ramp, side launch doors and overhead crane for the launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vessels.

The combat management system is the Lockheed Martin COMBATSS-21, based on open architecture. The ships will be equipped with EADS TRS-3D C-band radar for air and surface surveillance and weapon assignment and the soft-kill weapon system (SKWS) decoy launcher from Terma A/S of Denmark.

Global Naval Surface Combatants and Warfare Systems Market 2011-2021

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USS Independence (LCS 2) of the General Dynamics Independence Class (front right) and USS Freedom (LCS 1) of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships. USS Independence (LCS 2) of the General Dynamics Independence Class (front right) and USS Freedom (LCS 1) of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships.
Aerial shot of Lockheed Martin designed USS Freedom littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS-1), the first in the Lockheed Martin Independence Class of littoral combat ships.
Bow diagram of the Lockheed Martin design. Bow of the Lockheed Martin design.
General Dynamics built LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) 2 at sea General Dynamics' USS Independence (LCS-2), which was launched in April 2008.
Cutaway of GD design showing internal spaces for mission modules. Cutaway of GD design showing internal spaces for mission modules.
Diagram showing the sreliminary core configuration of mission and combat systems Preliminary core configuration of mission and combat systems - GD design.
USS Freedom (LCS-1), left, and USS Independence (LCS-2) littoral combat ships. USS Freedom (LCS-1), left, and USS Independence (LCS-2) littoral combat ships.
Rear view of USS Independence (LCS-2) showing the trimaran hull of the General Dynamics littoral combat ship design. Rear view of USS Independence (LCS-2) showing the trimaran hull of the General Dynamics littoral combat ship design.
Computer generated image of the Littoral Combat Ships helicopter pad in use Both designs have a helicopter deck and hangar and are capable of launch and recovery of the MH-60R/S helicopter and a tactical UAV. (GD design shown)
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) travelling at high speeds The General Dynamics team design is a high-speed trimaran with a slender stabilised monohull.