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Navy Kicks Off LCS Follow-on Study

A Lockheed Martin concept for variations of the Freedom-class LCS design from corvette to Frigate sized hulls. Lockheed Martin Photo

A Lockheed Martin concept for variations of the Freedom-class LCS design from corvette to Frigate sized hulls. Lockheed Martin Photo

The Navy has outlined its next steps in an Pentagon mandated efforts to create a new type of ship to follow the 32 planned Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ships, according to a March 13 letter signed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert and Sean Stackley, the Navy’s chief weapons buyer.

The new Small Surface Combatant Task Force — made up of equal parts Office of Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) personnel — will generate a side-by-side comparison between the 1980s vintage Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates and the current crop of LCS to create a baseline for requirements for the new unnamed combatant.

The task force — overseen by John Burrow, executive director of the Marine Corps Systems Command — will then present three options to Navy leadership to evaluate which are:

  • A modified design of an existing LCS.
  • Existing ship designs.
  • A new ship design.

Along with the analysis, the task force will include requirements of the ship’s sensors and weapon systems, cost, timetable and an evaluation of the ship’s ability to take on air, surface and undersea threats.

The task force will also be supplied an “affordability target,” to flesh out the study, due to Greenert and Stackley in July.

The LCS was originally designed to fill in gaps in the Navy for anti-submarine warfare, small boat threats and replace aging mine countermeasures (MCM) ships with modular systems that could be easily swapped out.

The Navy had offered full-throated public support for the LCS concept until a decision in the upper echelons of the Pentagon capped the Flight 0 ships at 32 hulls — a reduction of 20 ships.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in February directed the Navy to instead to , “submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.”

The likelihood of the service choosing an entirely new ship design is slim as the service is in the midst of an affordability crunch in its shipbuilding accounts.

The service has started work on a new large surface combatant, a new amphibious warship and the Ohio-class Replacement Program (ORP) for a new nuclear ballistic missile submarine.

The $100 billion, 12 boat ORP program alone threatens to pull away billions of dollars from surface ship programs making the prospect of an entirely new ship design remote.

Both LCS makers, Austal USA and Lockheed Martin, have scaled-up versions of their ship designs they’ve pitched for international markets, while shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has long offered a grey-hull version of the Legend-class National Security Cutter (NCS) as a frigate design.

Those ships as well as several other international ship designs— including the Aegis capable Spanish F-100 frigate — are likely to be in consideration by the task force.

  • The only option the US navy has is either the buying a foreign design such as Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate. The other is taking the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter design and turn that into a Patrol frigate.

    • tasmo

      I don’t get why so many are jumping to the F-100 or Nansen class train so quickly.

      You realise that the Álvaro de Bazán-class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate aren’t exactly affordable/low costs ships right? Buying a foreign design spike up costs more , a good example would be Australia’s purchase of 3 F-100 derivatives (Hobart Class) for A$8 billion.

      At those costs , you might aswell buy more Burkes instead and still save some money. This defeats the whole purpose of this LCS follow on project.

      I’m also surprised no one mentioned the Type-26 Global combat ship. It
      – is much cheaper compared to other high end European AAW frigates
      – focuses on anti-submarine warfare
      – large mission bay for unmanned vehicles.
      – has more than adequate firepower for an ”escort” vessel .

      It is like a more balanced version of the LCS.

      Instead of being a small , expensive AAW frigate (F100 or Nansen) , with no focus on ASW or flexibilty (mission bay) , that the USN doesn’t need. (The USN got tons of Burkes and is building more, for that).

      • Have you’ve seen what the LCS is. It’s not a Corvette or a Frigate. It’s nothing more than a Glorified US Coast Guard cutter.

  • Ctrot

    Anything based on the LCS is a nonstarter.

    Or should be in a sane world.

    Which we’re not in.

    So I guess LCS based frigate it will be.


    • Tony

      I fear you may be right…

    • Rob C.

      I agree as well. Unless it just resembles the original ship, the ship isn’t very survivable or maintainable with that all aluminum superstructure and semi-plating steel hull. I guess it would cost billions to come up with actual new design, even if it in the cheap for them.

      • Ctrot

        There are plenty of good designs being built in Europe, we just need to buy one.

  • National Security Cutter has my vote. Up gunned with some VLS’s. Thirty Two targets is a real waste of ship building dollars. And why a replacement for Trident Ohio class. A stretched VA class with six or eight tubes aft of sail would do well. Proven platform. Isn’t block 111 class being built with large, eighty some inch, tubes?