Lockheed Martin is offering the Navy a slightly heavier, technologically re-configured multi-warfare variant of the Littoral Combat Ship that has added survivability features such as built in vertical launch tubes and a stronger radar.
It is part of Lockheed’s submission to the Navy’s Small Surface Combatant Task Force’s, or SSCTF, solicitation asking industry to come up with specs and designs for a new multi-mission surface ship engineered to address and correct some of the problems with the LCS.
Lockheed’s offering, which is based on their international variant of the LCS, is designed to engineer certain technologies into the hull itself, such as sonar. This approach is intended to prevent the need to swap out “mission packages” or sets of technologies as is currently the case with the LCS.
“We took the 118-meter hull and turned it into more of a multi-warfare platform. Multi-warfare means you have anti-submarine warfare capability built into the hull along with surface and anti-air capability,” said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ship Systems, Lockheed Martin. “It is basically putting everything in the hull that allows you to not have to swap out mission packages – and perform those missions with a single ship.”
The new ship design weighs 3,600 tons which is slightly more than the current LCS weight of 3,400 tons, North said.
Other technological adaptations include the use of a sophisticated anti-air radar than the one used by the LCS that allows for greater distance with air coverage, North added.
“You basically would integrate the radar with guns that you have on the ship, whether that be a 57mm or 76mm gun. You would put in a vertical launch capability which allows it to bring aboard missiles and address threats from over the horizon and for ASW (anti-submarine warfare) you would add sonar to the ship,” he explained.
The SSCTF emerged out of a request from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel earlier this year stating that the Navy issued no new contracts for the LCS beyond 32 ships. The Navy had been planning to buy 52 LCS vessels as they were originally configured.
As part of this announcement, Hagel instructed the Navy to examine alternative proposals for the remaining 20 ships that, among other things, offered more survivable designs.
Navy officials said the service still has a requirement for 52 LCS’ and that the SSCTF is exploring what the last 20 ships in the class will look like.
The Navy recently evaluated a range of proposals for the ship but has not yet announced its findings or identified the direction it plans to go in regarding the new vessel.
North added that the steel hull of the LCS design could be stretched and additional seven to 10 meters in order to accommodate more weapons systems.
The Lockheed offering to the Navy is based upon a special design configured for international sales. North said international interest in purchasing the ship from navies around the world continues to grow, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
So far, Lockheed has delivered two of its Freedom-variant LCS vessels and six more are in production, North said. LCS 7 is slated to launch in October of this year, he added.
“The Navy will have eight of these ships in their hands by the end of next year,” North said.