Austal has launched the US Navy’s fourth Littoral Combat Ship, Coronado (LCS 4), ahead of a christening ceremony scheduled for Saturday. Coronado is the second trimaran Littoral Combat Ship.
The 127 metre long vessel was launched on Tuesday at Austal’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard. Coronado was transferred from the yard’s final assembly bay onto a dry dock for launch. The LCS and dry dock were then transported down river by tug to BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard, Mobile, where the ship was ultimately floated free and manoeuvred from the dry dock. The vessel was then towed back upriver to Austal’s facility, where it will undergo final outfitting and activation before sea trials and delivery to the US Navy.
“The success of this major milestone in the life of not only this vessel but of the entire Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programme is a testament to Austal’s highly skilled craftsmen and women,” said Joe Rella, Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer. At almost 90% complete the Coronado will rapidly be approaching sea trials later this year speeding it along its way to completion and final delivery to the Navy.”
Coronado is designed to operate in littoral seas and shallow water to counter mines, submarines and fast surface craft threats in coastal regions. The ship is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and can operate in water less than 20 feet (7 metres) deep. The US Navy says the Coronado will address a critical capabilities gap in the littorals.
Coronado’s modular design will allow the ship to be reconfigured for antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, or surface warfare missions on an as-needed basis. The LCS class ships have the ability to swap out mission packages in a matter of days.
Coronado will be manned by two rotational crews, Blue and Gold, similar to the rotational crews assigned to large submarines. These core crews are augmented by one of the three types of mission package crews and an aviation detachment.
The US Navy is building the Freedom class and Independent class LCS vessels. The first trimaran LCS, Independence (LCS 2), was commissioned in Mobile, Alabama, in January 2010. Independence is a 127 m aluminium trimaran with a displacement of 2800 metric tons, It is capable of speeds in excess of 45 knots, and can operate in water less than 20 feet deep. Propelled by four water jets in addition to two diesel and two gas turbine engines, the ship boasts a range of over 3500 nautical miles.
LCS designs are slightly smaller than the US Navy’s guided missile frigates (the Navy ultimately wants to replace 30 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, 14 MCM Avenger class mine countermeasures vessels and 12 MHC-51 Osprey class coastal mine hunters with about 55 littoral combat ships). The LCS class has also been likened to corvettes of other navies but 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 armoured fighting vehicles to a roll-on/roll-off port facility.
The standard armament for the LCS is the Mk 110 57 mm gun, with a firing rate of up to 220 rounds/minute. Mk 295 ammunition allows the system to perform against aerial, surface or ground threats. The ship will also carry .50 (12.7mm) machine guns, plus defensive systems including automated chaff/flare dispensers and a Raytheon RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) launcher integrated into an upgraded version of the MK 15 Phalanx gun system’s radar & IR sensors.