Description: The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a revolutionary US Navy program aimed at developing a multi-purpose, modular surface combatant capable of achieving dominance in the littoral environment. In May 2004, the US Navy selected two separate teams lead by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works for the construction and demonstration of two Flight 0 LCS ships. It is expected that the US Navy will take a decision on the Flight 1 LCS in the 2007-2008 timeframe. The US Navy plans call for the procurement of 30 to 60 vessels through 2020. The current budgetary information about LCS program calls for the procurement of 55 ships. As of early 2008, the US Navy had allocated $1.93 billion to this project for the construction of two Flight 0 LCS demonstration ships to achieve initial operational capability in 2008.
The US Navy will use the final LCS ship to counter asymmetric threats such as quiet coastal diesel submarines, fast patrol boats and crafts, new generation mines and terror attacks like the suffered by destroyer USS Cole in Yemen. Shallow water hull design compatibility is a must for such a mission profiles. Helicopters and Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) will be able to operate form ship's aft flight deck. Besides, a variety of manned and unmanned ground vehicles and watercrafts carried inside the cargo deck are meant to execute a wide range of missions.
The key characteristics established by the US Navy for the LCS program are: stealth technology for enhanced survivability, shallow draft, more payload per ton than any US Navy warship, huge interior volume, long endurance and global networked communications to cooperate and share information with other sea, land and airborne platforms. Thanks to the mission modules approach, the reconfigurable LCS will be able to perform special operations forces support, high-speed transit, maritime interdiction, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and counter-terrorism missions. In addition, LCS will also be a FORCEnet enabler, sharing tactical information with other naval ships, submarines, aircraft, joint units and LCS groups.
Lockheed-Martin semi-planning steel monohull with aluminum superstructure design would be able to reach a maximum speed of more than 40 knots. The ship features the COMBATSS-21 open architecture combat management system. It can launch and recover aircraft at sea state 5 and watercrafts at sea state 4. The propulsion system combines two diesel engines and two MT30 gas turbines with steerable waterjets (CODAG-WARP) for operation in shallow waters. Its flight deck and hangar allow operation of up to two MH-60S/R helicopters or one MH-60 helicopter and three MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VTUAVs).
A ramp at stern and a side door provide primary and secondary launch and recovery capabilities for watercrafts. Standard equipment includes a single 57mm gun; a rolling aircraft missile (RAM) launcher; MK-46 machine guns; decoys and countermeasures; air (TRS-3D radar), surface and subsurface sensors; a modular weapon zone for mission focused equipment; and higher quality of life for the crew than existing US Navy fighting ships.
Lockheed Martin was expected to build two Flight 0 LCS to be delivered to the US Navy before the end of 2008. The US Navy cancelled the second ship in 2007. The US Navy awarded Lockheed-Martin-led team a $188 million contract option for detail design and construction of the first Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) on December 15, 2004. LCS 1 construction stated at Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, on February first, 2005. In May 2005, the US Navy named the LCS 1 ship USS Freedom. The Freedom keel laying ceremony occurred on June 2, 2005, at Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wisconsin. LCS 1 USS Freedom was christened on September 23, 2006 at Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette, Wisconsin.
In November 2004 Lockheed-Martin selected United Defense (now BAE Systems) MK 110 57mm naval gun for its flight 0 LCS proposal. Mk 110 gun system along with Mk 295 intelligent ammunition will provide self-defense capability for the LCS against smaller, fast moving threats. In 2004, the US Navy signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the US Army to procure the NLOS-LS PAM weapon system for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The LCS armed with revolutionary NLOS-LS PAM was projected to be ready in fiscal year 2008.
In late April 2006, the US Navy made public that the first four LCS ships would be homeported at Naval Station San Diego, California. This decision was influenced by the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) emphasis on the Pacific theater. Freedom-class ships will feature two rotational crews named gold and blue similar to Trident submarines rotational crew system.
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