Tag Archives: Independence-class LCS

Santa Barbara pokes out

Passing through Mobile last week, I saw this big grey beast emerging.

The future USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32), rolling out of her assembly bay. (Photo: Austal)

The 16th Independence-class littoral combat ship was laid down last October and, with the rollout, is nearing her official launching and christening. There are only three more of her class on the schedule.

While replacing frigates on the Naval List, they are being named instead after small cities, a tradition used for light cruisers, gunboats, and transports/auxiliaries. The previous two Santa Barbaras have been of the latter type.

The first, a 13,000-ton single-screw freighter, was taken over from the Atlantic & Pacific Steamship Co. in 1918 and served with the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) during the Great War.

USS Santa Barbara (ID # 4522) “Crowded with homeward-bound troops, while arriving in a U.S. East Coast port in 1919.” The original image is printed on postcard (AZO) stock. Donation of Dr. Mark Kulikowski, 2008. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 106367

Returned to her owners, she continued in the merchant trade as SS American until she was sunk by U-504 off Belize in 1942.

Ammunition ship USS Santa Barbara (AE-28) underway with the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) battle group. The ship, which is part of Task Group 24.4, is in an 18-ship formation that is transiting the North Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. 8.12.1988 DN-ST-89-01280 by PH2 William Lipski

The second Santa Barbara— and the first ordered by the Navy– was the Kilauea-class ammunition ship (AE-28). Commissioned 11 July 1970, she was transferred to the MSC in 1998 as T-AE-28 for another seven years of service with a civilian crew.

She was sold for scrap in 2007.

With that, it will be kinda nice that the third ship named for the California city that is, in turn, named after the patron saint of artillery, will be carried by a warship, even if it is an LCS.

Independence Class LCS = Surveillance Frigates

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

The 17 Independence-class variants of the littoral combat ship– including some carrying hybrid surface warfare and mine countermeasures systems and seeing much better availability after switching from contractor to sailor-performed maintenance– have been getting some more attention and love from the Navy lately.

“We’ll always be operating in and around the archipelagos, probably Ryukyus, the Philippines, and areas into the Philippine Sea behind it. It turns out it is highly survivable and highly effective when operating in the environment it was built for,” said COMSEVENTHFLT Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commenting that one “pretty much owned” the South China Sea during a period last year where COVID had sidelined other, more sophisticated assets.

“It is not blue water ship by any means but when you put it in the archipelago and you combine low signature and high-speed, it turns out it’s very hard to target, very hard to kill and it’s very effective with a thousand places to get gas,” said Merz.

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

With that, Craig Hooper in a piece at Forbes argues the class could (finally) be settling into its groove, and points to its perhaps best use– creating mobile “surveillance bubbles” to point the Big Battle Fleet at stuff to kill.

Properly kitted out, an Independence Class surveillance frigate can serve as an electromagnetic warfare threat, collecting everything from tactical targeting data to strategically relevant emissions. Potentially add in a Marine Corps reconnaissance element, and things could get interesting.

Hooper argues to upgrade the sensor package on the Indys, fill them with UAVs, and turn them into proper surveillance frigates, with doctrine to match.

He may be on to something.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the LCS turn out to be something that can work?

Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) arrives in Trincomalee Sri Lanka June 23 2021

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.

More trouble for LCS program

The USS Independence of the General Dynamics Independence Class and USS Freedom of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

The USS Independence of the General Dynamics Independence Class and USS Freedom of the Lockheed Martin Freedom Class littoral combat ships. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

Two new (and lengthy) reports out on the littoral combat ship (LCS) program. The first at 108-pages is complied by the CRS, the second, a 60-page GAO report. They provide a good background of the program so far and raise some questions.

The fact is that the Big Blue is trying to make one class of now just 32 ships (in two variants) take the place 77 legacy hulls: 51 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates (most of which are already gone without replacement), 14 MCM-1 Avenger Class mine countermeasures vessels, and 12 MHC-51 Osprey Class coastal mine hunters. That’s a big gamble to make on such an unproven design.

These ships, which are not fully outfitted yet and each is fairly unique as they come off the ways with an ever-evolving series of tweaks, are pushing the Naval architectural limit for weight allowances, which is a bad thing in a new vessel expected to be multi-mission/multi-role/plug and play wonder platforms.

Also the GAO report found that in USS Freedom‘s recent 10-month deployment to Singapore, multiple problems arose. For instance the ship lost 55 days to a variety of mechanical issues that had to be corrected. Further, the GAO raised questions about habitability on the ship with increased crew size (from 40 as designed to well past 50 as deployed). Even with the increase in bluejackets on deck, the report still mentioned that the ship was heavily dependent on contractor support, requiring five days in port with flown-out contractors aboard for every 25 deployed. Then there is the fact that the lightly armed and short-legged warship that isn’t had a hard time being deployed on worth-wild missions in the far-flung 7th Fleet West Pac area of responsibility.

So it would seem there are some bugs to work out.

Spotted, LCS and JHSV Building Together

Was passing through Mobile and saw this outside of Austal’s docks. The 418-foot long Independence-class (PCU) USS Coronado (LCS-4) and the 337-foot long Spearhead class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) USNS Choctaw County (JHSV-2) which was originally ordered as the US Army Ship Vigilant.

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Both are under construction.

Coronado is set to commission this year and will be the second LCS to feature a high-speed trimaran hull and will be designed to (hopefully) defeat littoral threats and provide access in coastal waters for missions such as mine hunting, naval special warfare support, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

DSCN4491
Specs when finished of Coronado :
Displacement:     2,176 tons light, 2,784 tons full, 608 tons deadweight
Length:     127.4 m (418 ft)
Beam:     31.6 m (104 ft)
Draft:     13 ft (3.96 m)
Propulsion:     2× gas turbines, 2× diesel, 4× waterjets, retractable Azimuth thruster, 4× diesel generators
Speed:     40+ knots, 47 knots (54 mph; 87 km/h) sprint
Range:     4,300 nm at 20+ knots
Capacity:     210 tonnes
Complement:     40 core crew (8 officers, 32 enlisted) plus up to 35 mission crew
Sensors and
processing systems:
Sea Giraffe 3D Surface/Air RADAR
Bridgemaster-E Navigational RADAR
AN/KAX-2 EO/IR sensor for GFC
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
EDO ES-3601 ESM
4× SRBOC rapid bloom chaff launchers
Armament:
BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm gun
4× .50-cal guns (2 aft, 2 forward)
Evolved SeaRAM 11 cell missile launcher
modular Mission modules
Aircraft carried:
2× MH-60R/S Seahawks
MQ-8 Fire Scout

DSCN4492
The JHSV was originally ordered by the US Army (yes, they have ships too)  to transport U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps company-sized units with their vehicles to forward areas ‘intratheather’. This is soft power” missions — responding to natural disasters, providing humanitarian assistance, conducting port visits and training partner military forces, among others. Its based on the Hawaiian Superferry. Since its built to commercial standards (its aluminum), manned by civilians(operated by the Military Sealift Command -MSC), has neither a well deck nor a landing ship bow ramp, and is unarmed (well there are four mounts for M2/Mk19/M240 style crewserved weapons if needed), its not capable of making ampibious assaults on hostile beaches. However it IS capable of everything but and the idea is that it will free up legit Ampibs for that purpose while it handles the light duty ‘operations other than war’ stuff in what is termed today as ‘permissive environments’. Of course it a situation like off the Somali coast, it could be used with CRRC type rubber boats with marines aboard, or SWCC guys in fast boats with frogmen.

But then again, look at what happened to the civilian crewed and unarmed RFA Sir Tristain and RFA Sir Galahad (both the same general size as the JHSV) in the Falklands . Hopefully the big blue will keep these JHSVs out of harms way as a lesson from 1982.

Specs when finished of USNS Choctaw County (JHSV-2)
Tonnage:     1,515 tonnes
Length:     103.0 m (337 ft 11 in)
Beam:     28.5 m (93 ft 6 in)
Draft:     3.83 m (12 ft 7 in) — that’s pretty shallow
Can turn in an 86 foot diameter
Propulsion:     Four MTU 20V8000 M71L diesel engines with Four ZF 60000NR2H reduction gears (waterjets, not props)
Speed:     43 knots balls out. (35 when fully loaded)
Range = 1200 nm
Troop Capacity = 312 seated airline style seats and 144 berths that can be rotated for long trips
Weight/cargo Capacity = 635 tons in a 20,053 square feet cargo area which could carry 280 cars, Abrams tanks, or 6 shipping containers with a loading ramp that can support the M1.
Crew = 22 MSC civilian mariners plus 17 USN commo/support
Cost = $250M each, $2.5B program
Aircraft carried: landing pad for upto CH-53 heavy-lift helicopter, ondeck storage space for HH-60 sized helicopter.