Home » Budget Industry » Reports: Saudis Interested in Lockheed Martin Littoral Combat Ship as Part of $20B Fleet Expansion

Reports: Saudis Interested in Lockheed Martin Littoral Combat Ship as Part of $20B Fleet Expansion

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

Saudi Arabia is leaning toward buying a variant of the Lockheed Martin Littoral Combat Ship as a key component of a long-awaited multi-billion dollar refresh of its Eastern Fleet in a deal that could close as early as year’s end, according to press reports confirmed by USNI News.

Reports in Reuters and Defense News indicate the Saudis could buy two to four variants of Lockheed’s Freedom-class LCS as part of the Saudi Naval Expansion Program II — a program to modernize the kingdom’s oldest warships operating in the Persian Gulf.

The Saudis reportedly issued a letter of request (LoR) to the U.S. detailing the requirements of the program and to reach an agreement with Lockheed and the Navy by the end of November, reported Defense News.

“After that, it’s up to the Saudis to agree to the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program and sign,” read the report.

USNI News understands the end-of-the-year agreement maybe overly optimistic to reach an agreement the four ships the Saudi Navy wants by November and that the FMS process could take additional time.

A U.S. State Department official told USNI News on Tuesday the department doesn’t comment on pending FMS cases until Congress is notified.

Lockheed Martin “has been monitoring the government to government talks for several years and we remain hopeful that the navies can reach an agreement on the program,” read a Tuesday statement provided to USNI News from the company.
“We stand ready to support the U.S Navy and the Royal Saudi Naval Forces with the required capabilities once they are finalized.”

Saudi has eyed the U.S. ships for years as part of an estimated $20 billion program that will modernize its aging fleet of American-built ships that populate the kingdom’s Eastern Fleet.

The four LCS variants will likely serve as the primary combatant for the fleet in addition to six other corvettes for which the Saudi Navy has issued LoRs.

In the past the Saudis have inquired about platforms as large as the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) complete with the Aegis Combat System, AN/SPY-1D air search radar and the ability to field Raytheon Standard Missiles 2 (SM-2).

Instead of the larger 9,000-ton Burkes, the U.S. has steered the Saudis to less-tonnage LCS variants capable of fielding SM-2s and smaller versions of the SPY-1.

“What kind of requirement do they really need given all the other things that they have and have aspirations for and their ability to man the ship and fight the ship?” Dale P. Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training (MST), told USNI News in February.
“The requirements have been moving around, [It’s been] let’s go to a DDG-51 for awhile, [then] let’s go back to an LCS.”

While an expanded Freedom variant can field SM-2s, according to Lockheed, USNI News understands the Saudi version will field Raytheon Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) as its primary air defense weapon. Defense News reported the Saudi variant would use “an enhanced version of the Airbus Group TRS-3D radar fitted on U.S. Navy Freedom-class LCSs and U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class national security cutters.”

All told, SNEP II is set to comprise of 10 warships and additional infrastructure improvements at the naval base in Jubail on the Persian Gulf.

“This massive purchase could include destroyers, patrol craft, helicopters, ground vehicles and other platforms, as well as warehouses and substantial upgrades to port infrastructure,” read an October U.S. Army Corps of Engineers briefing.

In August, the State Department notified Congress of a potential $1.9 billion sale of 10 Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters to the kingdom, thought to be a component of SNEP II.

  • It looks like the Saudis want a Pocket Aegis with VLS out of the LCS or NSC

    • PB

      Looks like a real frigate to me !

      • The Saudis want something from the NSC or LCS

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        Looks like the POS it is to me.

  • Sailboater

    The LCS might do the job for for Saudis

    • Ctrot

      Maybe so but there are better, cheaper alternatives available to them. There must be other geopolitical incentives involved to make them choose LCS.

    • Sailboater

      Then again the European countries offer better frigate and corvette designs far superior to the LCS

  • Secundius

    Correct me if I’m WRONG, but why does the Larger Ship have a 5-inch Deck Gun and the Smallest Ship a 3-inch Deck Gun. While the Middle Ship a 2.244-inch Deck Gun, “Inquiring Eye’s and Mind’s Want Too Know”…

    • redgriffin

      The larger ship is a projected FFG or DE that Lockheed Martin has planed for the export market the middle ship would be a Corvette size vessel.

  • John B. Morgen

    I hope the Saudis make the necessary armament upgrades; such as installing a four point CIWS than just having one point. And not least, classify it as a sloop or a corvette, if the corvette is about 400+ feet, but less than 6,000 tons. The so-called LCS design will fit nicely in the Royal Saudi Navy because it looks more like a yacht than a bloody warship.

  • Bill

    Wait just a minute here! The smartest people in the world – commenters – have been telling us for years this design is garbage.

    • milomonkey

      think of this saudi LCS as this : the worst littoral combat ship for the worst military in the world lol.. cant wait to see saudi LCS get blown up by Yemeni patriots

  • John King

    The Saudis need a better combat ship, not only armed to the teeth, but able to take some damage and keep on fighting. After all, they are in an geographic area where such vicious battles are highly likely, and having a thin-skinned vessel which hasn’t proven itself in battle (what again is its mission?) and can be taken out by a swarm of cigar boats is not a very good tactical strategy, unless of course you’re using it for a decoy.

    • James B.

      The Saudis are actually in a theater where the LCS’s speed is actually useful, because they can run away from Iranian FIAC swarms. That same speed is much less useful to the USN, because it can’t outrun a cruise missile.

  • Earl Tower

    Of all the European frigates and corvettes that are effective that the Saudis could buy, instead they look at a piece of junk that even the US Navy is having trouble making mission effective. After I stopped laughing, I just had to see this as more evidence of the Saudis as military inept.

  • Michael

    What I find interesting, is the Rampant Hypocrisy of this website. The Freedom class, is a Great Little Ship for Our Allies and Export Sales. But for OUR Navy, its a “Crappy Little Ship”, a “Piece of Sh^t”, etc. Get You Act Together.

    • James B.

      We are probably offering them good prices, and the variant they are looking at sounds like what the USN version should have been, not what we got.

  • Bush+Obama=Satans love child

    I guess Europeans won’t except American dollars for their ship yards cause surely the Saudis wouldn’t pay more for less unless they just need a way to get rid of some of the mountains of US currency we send them every year. Last I heard it was around $500 billion for oil. We pay them what we spend on defense basically.