Posted by: arbeam | December 20, 2014

USN to proceed with modified LCS for multimission small surface combatant programme


First-of-class Littoral Combat Ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), rear, and USS Independence (LCS 2) manoeuvre together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California on 2 May 2012. Source: US Navy

Key Points

  • The US Navy is to acquire 20 up-gunned and hardened Littoral Combat Ships beginning in 2019
  • USN officials intend to pursue production of both LCS variants and will backfit the first 32 (Flight 0+) ships with the newer weapon fits

Following an intense review of alternative small surface combatant (SSC) designs, the US Navy (USN) is opting to stick with its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the long run, with plans to begin acquisition in 2019 of up-gunned and more survivable versions of the two current LCS variants, officials announced on 11 December.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has accepted the USN’s recommendation for a modified LCS to satisfy the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) multimission SSC requirement for 20 ships. The proposed plan will see the enhancement of the current LCS designs’ surface warfare (SUW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities with organic over-the-horizon weapons, improved air and undersea self-defence technology, and hardened shipboard spaces and systems, among other improvements.

“The navy needs a small surface combatant,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have about 32 today; we need 52 to do the job out there in the future. This ship will meet that need. It brings the added capability to the fleet.”

LCS has been the navy’s programme of record to fulfill a standing requirement for 52 small surface combatants to replace the USN’s Avenger-class minesweepers and Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. Two designs – the Freedom variant (a steel monohull built by a team led by Lockheed Martin) and the Independence variant (an aluminium trimaran built by a team led by Austal USA) – are being procured. Each of the fast, shallow-water-capable platforms are to be fitted with one of three interchangeable mission packages for anti-surface, anti-submarine, or anti-mine warfare.

However, growing concerns over the two LCS variants’ survivability and lethality in an evolving threat environment prompted Hagel in early 2014 to direct the USN to pause its acquisition programme in order to re-assess the ships and to consider alternative designs and weapon systems. As part of that effort, the USN convened a bespoke task force to examine technology options as well as to seek input from the fleet.

According to Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition Sean Stackley, the task force sifted through thousands of options – ranging from existing to new ship designs, modified LCS designs, and myriad combat and weapon systems – to help USN officials arrive at the recommendation, which was delivered recently by Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, to Hagel.

“We have up-gunned the ship. We’ve also, in doing so, retained a degree of modularity that allows the fleet to determine whether a particular ship needs to concentrate on ASW or surface warfare, so we’ve kept some swing capacity for specific mission desires that the fleet commander might assign to it,” said Stackley. “This serves us today and it will continue to serve us in the future when you consider future upgrades.”

He noted that the modified LCS designs’ additional capability involves an estimated cost increase of about USD60-75 million, but that the increase represents less than 20% growth over the baseline cost. Each LCS seaframe that was placed under contract in fiscal year 2014 (FY 2014) cost about USD360 million, plus government-furnished equipment of about USD25-28 million.

“From a cost perspective, secretary Mabus’ recommendation to secretary Hagel is the most affordable alternative, with both the lowest procurement cost and the ability to fully leverage the operating [and] support investment that we’ve made to date on the LCS programme,” Stackley told reporters.

In a new memo Hagel directed navy leaders to submit an acquisition plan for the 20 modified LCSs in the FY 2017 budget proposal. He also requested that the navy provides detail on how it plans to backfit existing hulls with the new capability, along with cost propositions for installation, operation, and support.

To support procurement of the first modified LCS in FY 2019, navy officials said that they would be funding the ship and combat system design in the FY 2016 budget proposal currently being finalised for submission to Congress in early 2015. They also said that the intent is to continue procuring both Freedom and Independence variants to foster competition between the shipyards and to promote competition among the combat systems manufacturers to drive costs down over time.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly article by Grace Jean


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: