Littoral Combat Ship: The U.S. Navy's Do-It-All Warship?

Littoral Combat Ship: The U.S. Navy's Do-It-All Warship?

Both variants of the LCS platform are highly maneuverable, lethal, and adaptable warships that were designed to support focused mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare missions.

Last month the thirteenth Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, the future USS Marinette (LCS-25), was successfully launched on the Menominee River. It is named for the city where it is being built, Marinette, Wisconsin.

The addition of the latest LCS will further strengthen the U.S. navy’s submarine-hunting capabilities, while the latest LCS warships have been equipped with upgraded weapons for countermine, surface warfare, and surveillance missions needed in major, great power warfare.

Changing Role of the LCS

Designed for operation in the littoral zone or nearshore, the U.S. Navy has opted for two LCS class of warships including the Freedom-variant and the Independence-variant, which were designed and are now being constructed by two industry teams. The role of the vessels has evolved considerably from when initially conceived to be used purely as a shallow-draft warship in coastal or littoral regions

The LCS is now the second-largest U.S. Navy surface ship in production.

Lockheed Martin leads the production of the Freedom-variant with odd number hulls, while Fincantieri Marinette Marine Corp. built LCS 25, the thirteenth Freedom-variant ship. Austal USA produces the Independence-class of LCS with even-numbered hulls.

Both variants of the LCS platform are highly maneuverable, lethal, and adaptable warships that were designed to support focused mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and surface warfare missions. The LCS also integrates new technology and capability to support current and future missions from deep water to the littorals.

The ship’s shallow draft allows it to hunt submarines, mines, and enemy targets in areas not deep enough for deeper draft ships, and this enables coastal patrol and reconnaissance missions as well as a close-in mine-hunting ability.

Given its enhanced abilities, the Navy has increased the ship-building pace of LCS to a point not seen since the 1990s. The pace of LCS arrivals is a critical part of the Navy’s Pacific-theater strategy, particularly in the South China Sea. The LCS is known for its forty-knot speed and maneuverability, while its greatest advantage in the South China Sea could be its shallow-draft configuration and submarine and mine-hunting systems.

The LCS can serve in a variety of missions today, but more importantly, can be easily adapted to serve future and evolving missions. According to Naval News, nearly forty percent of the hull is easily reconfigurable, while the modular construction allows the vessels to be outfitted with additional and evolved capabilities including over-the-horizon missiles, as well as advanced electronic warfare systems and radars.

For small vessels, the LCS platform is quite lethal and is armed with Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) and a Mark 110 gun, capable of firing 220 rounds per minute. The speedy vessels, which as noted can reach speeds in excess of 40 knots, are ideally suited to operate in waters where deeper draft ships such as destroyers can’t operate in.

Automation is also a major component of the LCS, and it can operate with smaller crews but also utilize both surface and undersea drones that are equipped to hunt sea mines and even patrolling enemy submarines.

Marinette will become only the second U.S. Navy ship named in the city’s honor and the first commissioned ship. The first Marinette (YTB-79), a Natick-class large harbor tug, entered service in 1967 and operated in the Fifth Naval District headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikipedia.