The U.S. Navy’s third Littoral Combat Ship fired its 57mm and 30mm guns against mock enemy targets while moving quickly through the water and coordinating with an MH-60R helicopter during its recent live-fire test of the surface warfare mission package aboard the USS Fort Worth, service officials said.
The live-fire exercise aboard LCS 3, which took place at Point Mugu Range, Calif., was designed to place the ship’s surface warfare weapons in a combat-like scenario in order to assess its ability to defend the ship from fast-moving small boats, said Capt. John Ailes, an official with Program Executive Office, Littoral Combat Ships.
“We demonstrated in day and night environments that the optical sights would slew to the target, hit the target, and destroy things despite the high speeds of maneuvering small boats. From a fire control standpoint, this showed that you have an end to end capability and can bring ordnance on targets,” Ailes told Military.com in an interview.
The surface warfare mission package on the LCS will improve the Navy’s existing ability to counter the swarming small boat threat, he added. The LCS has endured rounds of criticism following a report by Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation that the ship is “not expected to be survivable” in combat.
The LCS’ maneuverability, speed and ability to identify and destroy fast-moving approaching threats such as small boats speaks to the ships’ overall survivability in combat, Ailes added.
The testing at point Mugu represents the second phase of developmental testing for the surface warfare mission package, a suite of technologies designed to integrate with the boat’s infrastructure and give the LCS an ability to use speed, munitions, helicopters, radar and other things to bear upon a potential surface-combat scenario, Ailes said.
“This is a final verification that all challenges were behind us. Daytime and nighttime firings were spectacular. The 57mm and 30mm guns destroyed the targets and an MH-60R helicopter provided radar data which we then passed to the fire control system,” he explained.
The surface warfare mission package draws upon air assets such as the MH-60, but also integrates 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats and a full suite of on-board weaponry and munitions, Ailes said. The mission package contains gun mission modules firing a MK 46 gun weapons system with a MK 44 30mm automatic cannon and surface-to-surface missiles capable of engaging fast-moving small boat threats.
The surface warfare mission package also includes a a 19-person surface warfare detachment and a 23-person aviation detachment, Navy officials said.
The LCS mission packages, which also include mine-countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare configurations, are designed to improve the ship’s offensive and defensive capabilities, as they are engineered to bring a new level of technical ability to the Navy fleet, service officials explained.
The mission packages and the LCS seaframe are engineered to be able to accommodate technological advances in areas such as electronic systems, weapons, electronic warfare equipment and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as they emerge.
These live fire tests for the USS Fort Worth will be followed by technical and operational evaluations designed to finalize development for the technology, Ailes said. The initial operational test and evaluation for the surface warfare mission package will be conducted in early 2014, service officials said.