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Frigate Will Leverage Littoral Combat Ship Testing, Focus on New Combat Systems

USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) on Nov. 25, 2014. US Navy Photo

USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) on Nov. 25, 2014. US Navy Photo

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Navy’s new frigate will go through the requirements-generation and testing processes as a flight upgrade rather than a new-start program, helping save time and money and allowing the program office to focus on what will be different from the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to the frigate upgrade, frigate program manager Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer said on Wednesday. 

The frigate is working its way through the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) process now to support the first two ships being bought in Fiscal Year 2019, Brintzinghoffer said at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 Exposition. A request for proposals with a detailed technical data package would go out in FY 2017 to allow time for industry to ask questions and prepare their bids, which means the Navy has about 18 months to finalize its design – which will include common combat systems, over-the-horizon radars and over-the-horizon missiles.

Brintzinghoffer noted that he didn’t need to decide now which of each system he would use, but rather develop a roadmap for how to ensure a common system could be chosen and engineered into the ship designs. Currently, the Lockheed Martin Freedom variant and the Austal USA Independence variant have different combat systems. Brintzinghoffer said that for the sake of lifecycle costs and fleet flexibility, the frigates would have at the very least common combat system software, if not common consoles.

These new systems, as well as the overall multimission capability the frigate will bring – compared to the mission-specific capability of the LCS and its mission packages – will all have to be thoroughly tested before deploying, Brintzinghoffer said, but he noted his testing plan would leverage as much previous testing as possible to save time and money.

“I’m not going to go through an entire testing regiment, or make that recommendation to do an entire testing regiment for the entire ship, when the propulsion plant may not have been modified,” he said during his presentation.
“I’m not going to spend money testing what we already tested. The things that add capability, the fact that multimission capability will be added to the ship, will absolutely be tested, just like you would test any new system. I’m going to try as best I can to follow in the wake of LCS. … We’re not going to skip anything; at the same time, we’re going to leverage what’s already taken place and maximize the amount of savings we can get from that testing. But nothing will get sent back out to the fleet until it’s fully tested.”

The existing LCSs will go through a backfit process that will add frigate capabilities, and the LCSs not that are not already under construction may adopt some multimission capabilities or added armoring as part of a forward-fit process, USNI News reported. Brintzinghoffer said these ships could eventually be declared frigates if the Navy secretary decides they have strong enough multimission and self-protection qualities.

To become a frigate, the modified LCS will have Mk 38 25mm machine guns, the Multi-Function Towed Array detection system, a torpedo decoy and the Raytheon SeaRAM Anti-ship missile defense system to conduct anti-submarine and surface warfare simultaneously, as well as improved armor and signature management for self-protection. To permanently affix these assets to the ship, weight will have to be taken off. Brintzinghoffer said some equipment on the LCS will no longer be necessary, such as the crane and other handling equipment needed to launch and recover the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle included in the mine countermeasures mission package – which will be confined to the LCSs and not used on the frigates. That change alone may take out 25 tons, he said.

The Navy and shipbuilders will have to keep digging for more opportunities to save weight and power, such as reconfiguring spaces to make the ship more producible and lighter.

Brintzinghoffer said he was confident he could meet the minimum weight reduction requirements laid out by the Small Surface Combatant Task Force that generated the modified LCS concept for the frigate, and he added he hoped to go beyond their recommendations and take off even more weight so that more over-the-horizon missiles than recommended could be included, or that the variable-depth sonar could be permanently affixed to the ship instead of brought on as a “capability enhancement” when needed.

The ship will also have a surface warfare capability enhancement package, will will include Mk 50 30mm guns and rigid-hull inflatable boats for visit, board, search and seizure missions.

  • They should cap the LCS and put them with the MCM & PC fleet. The Frigate should come from the NSC design

    • Rob C.

      NSC isn’t frigate or even built to military standards. Your suggesting to replace a patrol boat to pretend to be a combatant.

      • joe

        He said the NCS DESIGN, Ingalls did do an upgraded proposal for a frigate when finally decided that the LCSs needed more teeth.

      • PB

        The builder had frigate variants of the NSC proposed but not accepted.
        Power plant, weapons and sensors would have been different .

      • redgriffin

        The NSC IS up to military standards all Coast Guard ships are that’s because they are seconded to the US Navy in time of war. Also Ingalls has made plans for the hull to be modifies up to and including a Destroyer sized ship.

        • Geodkyt

          Not true. NSC has many departures from US Navy specs. In fact, US Navy engineers brought in to try and correct the program after the contractor screwed it up fought unsuccessfully to get it built to Navy specs.

          • redgriffin

            Yeah you are right the Treasury Class wasn’t up to specs either after all the Revenue Cutter has a much different job then the FFG the Cutter goes out and chases and catches drug runners while the FFG chases Iranian Boston Whalers and does nothing.

      • Then again, we can’t buy European frigate designs without angering someone in Congress. So the NSC based Frigate design is the only option we have left.

        • David Teer

          Which makes no sense. the Independence Class was designed by Austal which is an Australian company.

      • Dan Holland

        Kinda like the ummmm. LCS?

      • old guy

        A good old PG-84 would be a closer call.

  • Ctrot

    I have no confidence in the service that came up with the LCS in the first place being capable of transforming the same into a real frigate.

    • old guy

      A good old PG-84 would be a closer call.

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  • David Teer

    Why does the ship need both 30mm and 25mm cannons???

    • Secundius

      @ David Teer.

      The 1.181-inch Mk. 44 30x173mm/80.3-caliber auto cannons are being replaced by 0.984-inch Mk. 38 25x137mm/106.88-caliber auto cannons, because of “Jamming” problems. Probably because sea-salt contamination…

      • David Teer

        This article, plus another form several months ago when the FF specs first came out state the 25mm is being added in addition to the two 30mm .
        The weapons loadout was going to be
        57mm
        at least one 25mm
        two 30mm
        OTH anti-ship missiles
        vertical launched hellfire
        and replacing the RAM with a SEA RAM.

        • Secundius

          @ David Teer.

          It doesn’t apply to all 30mm Auto Cannons, only those mounted in the Mk. 44 gun platform. The gun was modified to eventually to fire 40mm ammunition, In doing so, they changed the firing mechanics of the Chain Gun, making it more susceptible to Jamming. And nothing can be more Damming on a gun system than salt water. And like the Original M16A1 Assault Rifle required Lot’s and Lot’s of Cleaning and Maintenance, And most of the other 30mm gun systems are Foreign Manufactured. And with our current Congress, getting those guns. Are virtually none existent…

  • David Teer

    the LCS was not designed to fight. Adding weapons is great, but the ship cannot take damage.

    • Secundius

      @ David Teer.

      That not completely true. In 2013, USS. Freedom traversed a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, Typhoon head for the Philippines for disaster relief mission of the same typhoon. And suffered a cracked Keel and a 6-inch Rip in the hull. And still completed its mission. In 1944, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, has a encounter with a Category 5, Typhoon with 86-ships in his Carrier Battle Group. He lost (3) Destroyers and Badly Damaged (1) Light Aircraft Carrier, and causing “Serious” damage to the other 82-ships in his Fleet and ALL the Airplanes exposed to the storm. Considering Freedom did the passage “Alone” and came damaged and Halsey lost 4-ships, while suffering damage to 82-other ships. I think FREEDOM proved her “Metal”, wouldn’t you say…

      • David Teer

        I was referring to battle damage. Say an Exocet slamming into it. The LCS for not even qualify for level one survivability until the navy changed the definition of level one

        • Secundius

          @ David Teer.

          I understand what your saying Sir. But considering that a Typhoon “Took-Out” (4) Destroyers and a Small Aircraft Carrier. How much more Equivalent Damage needs my be exerted to Simulate a Missile Strike…

        • Secundius

          @ David Teer.

          Nobody knows how a ship is going to react to a missile hit, it’s different with every ship and crew. DD-724, USS. Laffey, a Allen M. Sumner class Destroyer. In 15 April 1945, took (4) Bomb Strikes and (6) Kamikaze Hits, and survived. While others of the same class took (1) bomb hit and sank. If it’s your intention to deliberately “BLOODY” a LCS/FF class to see if it survives, Your going to have a National MUTINY within the Naval Ranks. Effectively handing over the Asia-Pacific to the ChiCom’s, without a shot ever having been fired…

        • Lazarus

          Recoverability, as defined as getting hit and continuing to operate is only 1/3 of the Navy’s survivability doctrine. It is more important to (a) avoid being detected in the first place, and (b) to decoy and/or shoot down those weapons that acquire your ship.

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  • Ed L

    old gator sailor here, The new Frigate in my opinion needs either a 5″ LWG or a pair of 76mm guns. ASM’s SAM’s and ASW protection. Not a whole lot but say enough to fight off a flight of 4 attack jets, a couple of missle boats and a diesel submarine. Then with enough speed to get out of the area.