Navy lets LCS sling a Harpoon, now with Fire Scout!
When envisioned back in the day, the Littoral Combat Ship idea, in its earliest “Streetfighter” concept, was a low-cost swarm of vessels capable of operating in shallow nearshore environments with a small crew and a small footprint. One of the big deals about these was the ability to “own” the area around them with anti-ship missiles. Park an LCS offshore, just over the horizon and away from the local warlord’s optically sighted anti-tank missiles, mortar and tube artillery on the beach, and it could run roughshod on the sea lanes. The thing is, LCS hasn’t had any anti-ship missiles so it couldn’t control anything beyond the under 9-mile reliable engagement distance of its 57mm popgun.
Well, with USS Coronado (LCS-4) at least the Navy has been working to fix that. She deployed last year with a single Harpoon and fired it (semi-successful) during RIMPAC 2016.
Now, it looks as if Coronado made good, hitting a surface target on 22 August with a little help from her embarked MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial system and MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. Also, in the below cleared image, she is carrying a four-pack of Harpoons, whereas last summer she only had one missile.
“LCS will play an important role in protecting shipping and vital U.S. interests in the maritime crossroads,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, Task Force 73. “Its ability to pair unmanned vehicles like Fire Scout with Harpoon missiles to strike from the littoral shadows matters – there are over 50,000 islands in the arc from the Philippines to India; those shallow crossroads are vital world interests. Harpoon and Fire Scout showcase one of the growing tool combinations in our modular LCS capability set and this complex shot demonstrates why LCS has Combat as its middle name.”