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.”
Adm. T.S. Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Force, on the joys of “DL” — the future of warfighting:
Distributed Lethality requires increasing the offensive and defensive capability of surface forces, and guides deliberate resource investment for modernization and for the future force. Providing more capabilities across surface forces yields more options for Geographic Combatant Commanders in peace and war.
In order to achieve the desired outcome of this strategy, we must rededicate the force to attain and sustain sea control, retain the best and the brightest, develop and provide advanced tactical training, and equip our ships with improved offensive weapons, sensors, and hard kill/soft kill capabilities. Pursuing these ends will enhance our capability and capacity to go on the offensive and to defeat multiple attacks. By providing a more powerful deterrent, we will dissuade the first act of aggression, and failing that, we will respond to an attack in kind by inflicting damage of such magnitude that it compels an adversary to cease hostilities, and render it incapable of further aggression.
Here we see the Independence-class LCS USS Coronado (LCS-4). I had the honor of seeing her pieced together fro raw steel at Austal, on Mobile Bay back in 2013, the below image being sent in to be published in Warship International.
She is the third U.S. Navy ship to carry the name of the California city that hosts the Navy SEALs BUD/s school, the first being the patrol frigate USS Coronado (PF-38), who served in World War II as a convoy escort, and the second being the all-white Austin-class amphibious transport dock “Building 11” USS Coronado (LPD/AGF-11), most famous for her long career as the flagship (and often only ship assigned) to the Persian Gulf during much of the tanker wars.
As you can see, she often flies the flag of her namesake city, “The Crown City,” which was officially adopted there in 1996.
Speaking of Harpoon, here is her historic first launch of the weapon last week.
“This Harpoon [demonstration] on USS Coronado supports the Navy’s larger distributed lethality concept to strengthen naval power at and from the sea to ensure the Navy maintains its maritime superiority,” said Rear Adm. Jon Hill, program executive officer for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) in a presser.
Harpoon can be launched from surface ships, submarines and aircraft and is currently used on 50 U.S. Navy surface combatants: 22 cruisers, 21 Flight I destroyers and seven Flight II destroyers. In the Coast Guard, the five remaining Hamilton-class 378′ high endurance cutters have weight and space reserved behind their 76mm gun for Harpoon and, while the follow-on National Security Cutter does not, variants of the design by Huntington-Ingalls shows two quad mounts on the vessel’s stern for the 1970s-era ship killer.
Coronado will deploy with four of the missiles later this summer.