The US Navy has announced it has commissioned its thirteenth Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the USS Marinette (LCS 25), at a ceremony in Michigan on 16 September 2023.

LCSs are fast, manoeuvrable, networked ships that operate in littoral (coastal) waters. The Navy designed the fleet 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.

The two-variants of the LCS programme, although classed under the same platform, have produced two very different designs, with the unique trimaran Independence-class design joined by the monohull Freedom-class variant.

Maintaining a credible LCS force

Navy officials have asked whether it would be best to remove a significant portion of the LCS fleet in recent years, as difficulties with maintenance, external concerns about the type’s survivability in contested maritime environments, and a lack of available modular mission modules, hindered its development and service use.

So far, the Navy have decommissioned four ships in the 20+ strong class – two Independence and one Freedom variants – after having served only a handful of years with the US Navy.

Recently, the US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Northrop Grumman a $46.7m contract modification to supply LCS mission modules (MMs); these are systems that provide specific capabilities to the LCS, including vehicles, sensors and weapons.

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Given the overwhelming decline of the fleet, it may be that the US Navy decides to repurpose MMs to its existing fleet as another way of maintaining a credible deterrence based on its advanced capabilities in lieu of its force size.

Additional comments on the LCS programme from Richard Thomas.