The Littoral Combat Ship is the Navy’s newest class of warship. The INDEPENDENCE variant LCS is an aluminum Stabilized Slender Monohull ship and the FREEDOM variant LCS is a steel Double Chine Advanced Semi-Planing Monohull ship.
Navy war games, fleet experiments and analytic studies conducted after the end of the Cold War and Operation DESERT STORM determined the need for a new class of small surface combatants designed to operate in the congested near-shore region. In response, the Navy announced it would build a new generation of small, fast, and agile ships designed to neutralize small boats, quiet diesel electric submarines and mine threats found in the littorals.
The Littoral Combat Ship would be designed as a focused-mission, modular, surface combatant smaller than a FFG but larger and more capable than a PC or MCM ship. LCS was envisioned to be an independently deployable, theater-based ship, capable of changing primary missions through modular Mission Package.
Both LCS variants are capable of operating in a wide-range of environments, from the open ocean to coastal and littoral waters. LCS uses an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems, and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain and sustain maritime supremacy in the littorals, assuring access to critical areas of operation. In addition to its primary mission areas of Surface Warfare (SUW), Mine Counter Measures (MCM) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) LCS can conduct freedom of navigation operations, theater security cooperation operations, maritime law enforcement operations, maritime counter-piracy operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, search and rescue operations, maritime domain awareness patrols, and maritime security operations.
LCS fulfills a crucial role in the six core areas of the Navy’s Maritime Defense Strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”
Forward Presence-   With half of the LCS fleet deployed at all times, the LCS 3:2:1 (3 Rotational Crews:2 Rotational Ships:1 Ship Deployed) rotational crewing concept provides twice the forward presence than other surface combatants.
Deterrence-   LCS is suited to build and strengthen maritime partnerships by training and operating with smaller, regional navies, as well as entering previously inaccessible, shallow-water foreign ports. Operational commanders will have an ideal asset available for Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) tasking, freeing large surface combatants for other missions.
Sea Control-   LCS will use its modular mission packages to control Sea Lines of Communication by defeating swarming surface craft, enhancing the Fleet’s ASW capability, both in littoral waters and in concert with current ASW forces in the open ocean, and counter mine threats to sea lines of communication, particularly in global commerce chokepoints.
Power Projection-   LCS will defeat anti-access threats such as mines, small surface craft, and submarines, to gain and sustain maritime supremacy in the littorals.
Maritime Security-   LCS is ideally suited to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) including countering piracy, terrorism, and drug trafficking. LCS is a cost effective means to fulfill maritime security missions as compared to larger, multi-mission surface combatants
Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response (HA/DR)-   The forward presence of LCS operating in theater ensures Geographic Combatant Commanders will always have several ships available to respond to HA/DR tasking. Each LCS is aviation capable, allowing it to conduct search and rescue (SAR) and airborne logistics. The 40+ knot sprint speed of LCS allows for quick, intra-theater positioning. With a shallow draft, LCS will be able to access a wider range of littoral water space than any other combatant.
LCS Mission Packages
LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship, with three types of Mission Packages: Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package, Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Package, and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Mission Package.
The SUW Mission Package provides the capability to detect, classify, track, and engage multiple groups of small boats, and it can be configured with the Maritime Security Module (MSM) for Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS), drug and counter piracy operation. The ship’s speed, SUW MP capabilities, manned and unmanned aviation assets, extend the ship’s surveillance and attack potential.
The LCS MCM Mission Package provides mine detection, neutralization, and sweeping utilizing both helicopters and unmanned vehicles and supports joint operations conducted ahead of or concurrent with power projection forces
The LCS ASW MP is designed to provide ASW capabilities while operating in a littoral (deep and shallow) water environment. Operating in conjunction with other fleet assets, it is a force multiplier that specializes in providing first response littoral ASW capabilities, to include: ASW prosecution in shallow waters; barrier operations/sustainment of secure maneuver area; direct support to a carrier strike group (CSG), expeditionary strike group (ESG), amphibious ready group (ARG), surface action group (SAG), or maritime prepositioning forces in a littoral environment; high value unit escort; and operational deception.
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Core Ship Weapons
With advanced core weapons systems, broad combat capability and the latest in hull design and propulsion systems, the LCS is at the ready for a variety of missions whether in littoral waters or deep seas.
WHY IS LCS
Combat Capability Comparison
LCS will conduct most missions currently performed by the Guided Missile Frigates (FFG), Mine Countermeasures Ships (MCM) and Patrol Coastal (PC) class ships, as well as MH-53E mine-countermeasures helicopters.
The LCS SUW capability is superior to FFG 7 and PC 1 class ships. The embarked armed helicopter, 30mm and 57mm guns, larger 11m RHIB, and 40+ knot sprint speed, give LCS a greater capability against Fast Attack Craft (FAC) and Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC). By FY17, the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM) will improve this capability by extending weapons engagement range and lethality. The SUW warfighting capability allows LCS to cover more area, prosecute more vessels in Maritime Interdiction Operations and counter FAC/FIAC threats which make LCS a superior ship to FFG 7 and PC 1 class ships.
The FFG 7 and PC 1 class ships were not specifically designed to execute the counter-FAC/FIAC missions that LCS will perform when equipped with an SUW mission package. The FFG 7 class was intended to serve as a general-purpose escort that would protect amphibious landing forces, supply and replenishment groups, and merchant convoys from limited threats. The PC 1 class was intended to perform coastal patrol, maritime interdiction/surveillance, and support of special operations forces going ashore.
Mine Counter Measures
In comparison to an MCM 1 class ship, LCS with MCM mission package will greatly improve the Navy’s mine countermeasures capability when the first phase meets Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The mission package will provide unmanned mine hunting, taking the ship and crew out of harm’s way. Future phases will further improve Navy’s ability to find and clear minefields throughout the water column as well as in the beach landing zone.
Today, Navy uses mechanical mine sweeping via the MH-53E and ship-mounted mine hunting and mine neutralization systems aboard the MCM 1 class. LCS will change Navy’s mine countermeasures focus to off-board mine hunting, mine sweeping, and mine neutralization. This change will remove ships and Sailors from the minefield and significantly reduce the aviation workload for amphibious assault ships required to support the MH-53 Helicopter. Additionally, LCS has an organic anti-surface/anti-air self-defense capability, 57mm gun, and the speed to deploy with a strike group that the MCM 1 Class lacks.
The ASW mission package configured LCS will also provide greater ASW capability than the FFG 7 Class. The LCS ASW mission package complements and expands the detection ranges of today's Strike Group through systems such as a variable depth, continuously active sonar system. With improved detection ranges and the ability to operate sensors at increased speeds and throughout the water column, LCS will enhance the ASW Commander's ability to maintain undersea battlespace awareness, counter quiet submarines, and protect critical Fleet assets. LCS, with an ASW mission package, provides this enhanced capability in littoral regions, as well as in deep water where it will perform area clearance, barrier operations, and Combat Logistic Force (CLF) escort duties.
The LCS ASW mission package will provide a continuously active, variable-depth, sonar system that can be placed below the acoustic layer (an improvement from other surface ships) and employed at high speeds, allowing LCS to detect submarines that are able to hide from currently-fielded sonar systems. The LCS ASW mission package also provides the Light Weight Towed Torpedo Decoy System, an improvement over the AN/SLQ-25 NIXIE.
LCS incorporates a total ship-survivability approach that considers the capability of the ship, mission critical systems, and crew to perform warfare missions while preventing serious injury or death from effects of threat weapons. The total ship-survivability approach addresses susceptibility, vulnerability, recoverability, and the ship’s CONOPS in accordance with the Navy Survivability Policy for Surface Ships (OPNAVINST 9070.1A).
Susceptibility is defined as avoiding or defeating a threat by using a combination of tactics, signature reduction, countermeasures, and self-defense systems. LCS uses speed, maneuverability, organic systems (including 57mm gun, chaff, and RAM/SeaRAM) and sensors to counter surface, air, and underwater threats. Additionally, LCS will use its sprint speed to extend battlespace and disrupt enemy targeting. MH-60R and VTUAV will provide over-the-horizon threat detection and engagement creating an increased standoff range.
Vulnerability is a measure of the ship’s ability to withstand initial damage effects from threat weapons, and its ability to continue to perform primary warfare missions. LCS is designed to vulnerability standards that allow it to continue to perform its primary mission, exit the battle area under its own power, or conduct an orderly abandon ship, depending on the severity of the threat weapon effect.
Recoverability is the ability of the ship to contain and control damage, prevent loss of ship, minimize casualties, and restore primary mission capabilities. In order to contain and control damage, LCS is designed to the same compartmentation requirements as all other surface combatants. In addition, LCS has redundant damage control firefighting systems including Aqueous Foam Forming Film, High Velocity Water Mist, and Heptaflouropropane.
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