The US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, has approved the US Navy's plan to move forward with a multimission small surface combatant based on modified littoral combat ship (LCS) hull designs.
The move will enable the navy to build a new small surface combatant (SSC) vessel, which can better survive active volatile security threats.
The decision follows continual criticism about the cost and feasibility of the LCS programme, involving design and construction issues, as well as budget overruns.
Designed to be smaller, faster and more versatile, the LCS vessels were intended for operations in littoral waters, which are shallower and near to shore.
Claimed to be more lethal and survivable, the modified LCS ship aims to provide multimission anti-surface warfare (SUW) and anti-submarine warfare capabilities (ASW), in addition to continuous and effective air, surface and underwater defence.
In addition to the existing LCS Flight 0+ baseline configurations integrating the 57mm gun and SeaRAM missile system, the new vessel will feature over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missiles, air defence upgrades and an advanced electronic warfare system.
The ship will also be armed with advanced decoy, a towed-array system for submarine detection and torpedo defence, two 25mm guns and an armed helicopter capable of engaging with either Hellfire missiles or MK-54 torpedoes. It also features an unmanned FireScout helicopter for surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting.
Alongside enhanced weapon system capabilities, the SSC will include improved passive measures, improving the overall survivability of the vessel.
The increased lethality and survivability will enable the modified LCS to operate independently and as a part of an aggregated force.
The new vessels will add to the planned 32 LCS vessels, bringing the overall SSC fleet to 52.
Image: LCS USS Fort Worth moored at Apra Harbor on US Naval Base Guam. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy / JoAnna Delfin.