Tag Archives: Freedom-class littoral combat ship

Big Navy wants to bench the first LCS quartet to pass on the savings, or something like that

Going back to the old Zumwalt Redux “Streetfighter” concept, the littoral combat ship program was envisioned to crank out an armada of cheap (err, affordable) but deadly and fast ships ready to go into harm’s way in the dangerous shallows where you may not want to risk a billion-dollar Aegis cruiser or destroyer.

Streetfighter, in concept, 1999ish

After all, in the enemy’s coastal region, even dated weapons like Great War-era moored contact mines, speedboats with RPGs, and 105mm howitzers left over from World War II can be killers and don’t need a lot of C4I that can be easily disrupted.

When it comes to doctrine, the LCS were the outgrowth of the PT-boats of the 1940s, PGMs of the cold war, and Reagan(Lehman)-era PHMs of the 1980s.

USS Aries (PHM-5) back in her fighting trim

Somewhat less than a frigate/destroyer escort, and a bit more than a patrol boat. For lack of a better word, they were expendable, to turn a phrase

Now, heading out the door are the first four of the LCS fleet, the initial two of Marinette Marine’s Freedom-class monohull models– USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3)— and the first two of Austal’s Independence-class trimaran design– USS Independence (LCS-2) and USS Coronado (LCS-4). Further, funding for more of either type is zeroed out after FY2020.

Now to be fair, all four ships were basically beta tests for the follow-on boats and have seen lots of unexpected teething problems on everything from hull design to propulsion, electronics to berthing areas, and everything in between.

The Navy is arguing in their latest budget justification that it would be a case of good money after bad to continue to upgrade these little tubs to make them worthy of keeping around.

“These ships have been test articles and training assets, and were key in developing the operational concepts leading to the current deployment of LCS ships today,” says the Navy in a statement. “But canceling their modernization allows us to prioritize lethality and survivability where we need it.”

However, these are low-mileage tin cans, with Coronado only in the fleet for five years and 10 months. Even the oldest of the four, Freedom, was commissioned in 2008.

Of note, the plan restores funding for USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)‘s refueling and the carrier’s associated airwing– although let’s be honest, the Navy was never going to retire her with another two decades of life on the ship’s hull. It also includes around $350 million over the next two years for the planned Future Large Surface Combatant (LSC) and Small Surface Combatant FFG (X) while chipping in about $3B for the Columbia-class SSBNs.

Odds are, the Pentagon will be overruled by the Dems in the House or the Republicans in the Senate and the funding will be added to keep these four fairly young LCS around, which may be the gamble the Navy is banking on.

If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were swiftly passed on via FMS to Saudi Arabia in a warm transfer, as the Kingdom is eager for more hulls at a good price to both keep their oil lifeline going and continue their blockade of Yemen.

Speaking of which, USS Normandy (CG-60) just reeled in another undocumented (*cough, Iran, cough*) dhow off Yemen, a mission that could arguably be performed by an LCS with an on-board helo and a LEDET/VBSS team of some sort.

Included on the boat’s manifest were 358 missile components including 150 Delavieh anti-tank missiles, Iranian versions of the modern and uber dangerous Russian 9M133 Kornet, basically a budget Javelin.

200209-N-PC620-0005 ARABIAN SEA (Feb. 09, 2020) The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), in accordance with international law, seized an illicit shipment of advanced weapons and weapon components, which held 358 surface-to-air missile components and “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), intended for the Houthis in Yemen, aboard a stateless dhow during a maritime interdiction operation in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations, Feb. 9, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

And the beat goes on…

Navy gives LCS’s minesniffer a thumb’s up (finally)

The Navy last week announced the completion of developmental testing for Raytheon’s AN/AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar system at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division.

This thing:

For these things:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2019) The Independence variant littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, USS Manchester (LCS 14), and USS Tulsa (LCS 16) are underway in formation in the eastern Pacific. Littoral combat ships are high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatants designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2019) The Independence variant littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, USS Manchester (LCS 14), and USS Tulsa (LCS 16) are underway in formation in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe/Released)

The presser:

The AQS-20C is the next generation of the AN/AQS-20 system designed to be incorporated into the Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures Mission Package. The system consists of four sonar arrays: two side-looking arrays; a gap-filler sonar array; and a forward-looking sonar array providing simultaneous detection, localization, and classification of bottom mines, close-tethered moored mines, and volume-moored mines.

The system delivers high-definition images of bottom mines, providing the operator with both range and contrast data that combine to form a three-dimensional image during post-mission analysis to aid in mine identification.

Developmental testing verifies that a system’s design meets all technical specifications and that all contract requirements have been met. During testing the Raytheon-developed towed sonar sensor conducted 12 underway missions in various operational modes and at different depths at four separate NSWC PCD test ranges. The missions were conducted aboard the test vessel M/V Patriot.

The AQS-20C will now be integrated with and deployed from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV), a long-endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft that supports the employment of various mine countermeasure payloads. The MCM USV can be launched and recovered by the LCS, from other vessels of opportunity or from shore sites to provide minesweeping, mine-hunting, and mine neutralization capabilities. The MCM USV is currently undergoing developmental testing as a component of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System at the South Florida Test Facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Test results will now undergo scoring and performance assessment leading up to a final developmental testing report that is expected to be completed in the spring. Findings from this report will be used for future performance improvements of the system.

Welcome to the new normal

The LCS has gotten its feet wet in patrols near the Spratly Islands, with an as-expected Chinese remora in what the Navy terms is “The New Normal” as four of the ships will be based at Singapore manned under a 3-2-1 concept that sees three rotational crews supporting two LCS ships, one of which is deployed.

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols on Monday in international waters near the Spratly Islands as the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind (the dot on the horizon)-- click to big up. U.S. Navy/MC2 Conor Minto

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols on Monday in international waters near the Spratly Islands as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind (the dot on the horizon)– click to big up. U.S. Navy/MC2 Conor Minto

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols on Monday in international waters near the Spratly Islands as the Chinese People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind - click to big up. U.S. Navy/MC2 Conor Minto

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) conducts routine patrols on Monday in international waters near the Spratly Islands as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) guided-missile frigate Yancheng (FFG 546) sails close behind – click to big up. U.S. Navy/MC2 Conor Minto

Per the USN press release:

“As part of our strategic rebalance to bring our newest and most capable Navy platforms to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, LCS now has a regular presence in Southeast Asia,” said Capt. Fred Kacher, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. “Routine operations like the one Fort Worth just completed in the South China Sea will be the new normal as we welcome four LCSs to the region in the coming years. Deployment of multiple LCSs to Southeast Asia underscores the importance of this ‘region on the rise’ and the value persistent presence brings.”

Fort Worth encountered multiple People’s Liberation Army–Navy [PLA(N)] warships, each time taking the opportunity to use the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

“Just like our first meeting in February with a PLA(N) warship, guided-missile frigate Hengshui (FFG 572), our interactions with Chinese ships continue to be professional and CUES helps clarify intentions and prevent miscommunication,” said Cmdr. Matt Kawas, Fort Worth Crew 103 commanding officer.

The Yancheng is a Type 054A (NATO codename Jiangkai II) type frigate, a 4000-ton craft with 32 VLS surface to air missiles, 8 C-803 anti-ship missiles, and a 76mm gun. It can make 27-knots and has been something of a showcase boat for the Chinese, last year conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and later escorting Syrian chemical weapons destined for destruction.

Fort Worth is a 3900-ton a Freedom-class littoral combat ship capable of breaking 45 knots but only armed with a 57mm gun, a RAM launcher and some smaller gun mounts.

While its understandable that the PLAN would be stretching its legs in the South China Sea, they are also sowing their oats in such far-flung and traditional U.S. Navy/Royal Navy haunts as the Mediterranean, where the frigates Linyi and Weifang left the Black Sea along with a Russian Navy guided missile corvette to begin the first ever round of Chinese and Russian naval exercises in that ancient sea.