A Lockheed Martin-led industry team is preparing the nation’s third Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Fort Worth, to start sea trials in the third quarter of this year.
Fort Worth, the second ship of the Freedom variant of the LCS program, was christened in December last year. (The US Navy is building the Freedom class and Independent class LCS vessels.) Now more than 93% complete, Fort Worth remains on cost and on schedule, according to Lockheed Martin. Builder and acceptance trials are scheduled early in the third quarter in advance of delivering the ship to the U.S. Navy early next year.
“The team is focused on driving affordability initiatives through the entire process, and we’ll soon begin construction on the nation’s fifth LCS,” said Joe North, vice president of littoral ship systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business. “We remain committed to helping the Navy bring new and needed littoral capabilities to its fleet for current and future war fighting needs.”
On LCS 3, the future USS Fort Worth, the team completed light-off of the ship’s diesel generators this May and light-off of the main engines and rolling the propulsion shafts last month. LCS 3 is being constructed with 30 percent fewer production hours as a result of lessons learned from designing and building the first in its class USS Freedom.
USS Freedom, the United States’ first littoral combat ship, has completed preparations for upcoming final contractor trials. Trials include testing of the surface warfare mission package and the deck landing qualifications of the Sikorsky MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter to ensure safe and reliable interoperability between the aircraft and ship. Since its commissioning in November 2008, the ship has sailed 55,000 nautical miles.
The Littoral Combat Ship is a key element of the Navy’s plan to address asymmetric threats of the 21st century. Intended to operate in coastal areas, the ships are fast, highly manoeuvrable and geared to supporting mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, particularly against small surface craft.
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.
The Navy’s first trimaran LCS, Independence (LCS 2), was commissioned in Mobile, Alabama, in January last year. 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.