Last updated: 04 Jun 2021
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. The LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a class of Small Surface Combatants armed with capabilities focused on defeating global challenges in the littorals. LCS is designed to provide joint force access in the littorals. LCS can operate independently or in high-threat environments as part of a networked battle force that includes larger, multi-mission surface combatants.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls, e.g. LCS 1). It is a steel monohull design constructed by Lockheed Martin in the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Corporation's shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. The Independence variant is an aluminum trimaran design originally built by an industry team led by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works for LCS 2 and LCS 4. Currently, Independence variant LCS (LCS 6 and subsequent even-numbered hulls) are constructed by Austal USA in the company's Mobile, Alabama shipyard.
LCSs are assigned by variant to Atlantic and Pacific Fleets in order to enhance alignment of sustainment activities. As of June 2021, the ships are divided into two squadrons: Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 1 (LCSRON ONE) in San Diego and Littoral Combat Ship Squadron 2 (LCSRON TWO) in Mayport, Florida. The Freedom variant is based in Mayport, while the Independence variant is homeported in San Diego. Both variants can execute the primary warfare mission of surface warfare. Other mission modules are in testing. As of June 2021, most crews are manned with Blue and Gold rotational crew model, allowing increased forward deployed presence. There are also training ships that remain available to support readiness generation needs of off-hull crews.
The first four LCS, USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and USS Coronado (LCS 4) are single-crewed and assigned to support technical and tactical capability development, in addition to Numbered Fleet Commander needs. The Navy will inactivate LCS 1 and 2 in Fiscal Year 2021 to support future Navy force structure initiatives.
Shore Support to Minimal Manning
Under the LCS sustainment concept, aspects of many legacy shipboard functions such as logistics, maintenance, and training are conducted by outside organizations, thus removing these functions from the ship's crew in order to supplement the minimal manning model. The enabler of LCS distance support is the Maintenance Support Team (MST). MSTs coordinate with the Regional Maintenance Center (RMCs), Mission Package Support Facility (MPSF), and supply enterprise for all LCS maintenance and logistics issues. The staffs of the LCS Squadron (LCSRON), LCS Training Facility (LTF) and Surface Ship Type Commander (TYCOM) Afloat Training Group (ATG) provide training and certification functions.
There are two primary facilities designed to support LCS. The LCS Support Facility (LSF), has offices for the LCSRON staff, off-ship crews, and pre-commissioning crews. The LTF houses key training equipment for qualification and certification of crews and detachments. The MPSF provides sustainment and depot maintenance support for mission modules. In concert with LCSRON commodore, these organizational elements fully support the ships and mission modules at home and deployed.
Unlike most surface ships, LCS utilizes a combination of ship’s force and contracted personnel to conduct preventative maintenance due to the LCS minimal manning model. The LCS sustainment strategy calls for monthly, five-day, preventative maintenance availabilities (PMAVs) and quarterly, 14- day, continuous maintenance availabilities (CMAVs) as part of the ship’s operational schedule. Deployed LCSs largely execute maintenance at Forward Operating Sites (FOS), which have embedded maintenance support facilities/personnel. Additionally, the ships have the capability to conduct maintenance at Remote Operating Sites (ROS). These locations do not have embedded support facilities/personnel, therefore, fly away teams meet the ship at these locations for planned and corrective maintenance.
LCS utilizes a Blue/Gold crew model where the crews rotate on/off the ship every four to five months. This model allows for individual Sailor training/school attendance, team trainer completion, Sailor advanced qualification completion, and crew leave. Due to the demanding nature of the minimal manning model, crews complete sustainment and basic phase training evolutions at the LTF. The LCS fleet is divided into six divisions (three per coast) comprised of four ships of the same variant - including one as a dedicated training ship that is manned by a traditional, single crew vice rotating crews. The training ship in each division remains in the United States and operates in local areas to certify the six Blue/Gold crews that will operate the three deployed LCSs of each division. Each division will have a single warfare focus. The Blue/Gold crew rotation and single warfare focus provides more forward presence with a better blend of ownership, stability, and increased training for each crew.
A key enabler of LCS rotational crewing is the LCS shore-based training and certification capability, which represents a significant advancement in the surface force approach to qualification of individual watchstanders and teams. Crew training is based on a virtual ship-centric concept, accomplished through a combination of classroom instruction, vendor training, shore-based trainers and sophisticated virtual reality training systems. This ensures LCS ships deploy with fully qualified sailors, a ship Key Performance Parameter, without hindering their ability to be adequately trained. It also, ensures that time spent aboard LCS is time operating LCS.
Current Ship Status
Initiated in February 2002, the LCS program represents a reduction in time to acquire, design, and build ships in comparison to any previous ship class. A total of 35 LCS have been awarded to date: 23 ships have been commissioned (LCS 1-20, 22, 24, 26); three are pre-delivery; five additional LCS are under various stages of construction and four are in the pre-construction phase. FY 2019 was the final year programmed for LCS seaframes.
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