KUALA LUMPUR — The Tuesday firing of the Harpoon Block 1C missile off the coast of Guam by the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) formed a significant milestone as it demonstrated the LCS’s capabilities that are not possessed by other ships, in particular, its integrated air detachment and the ship’s inherent modular capabilities Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, the head of Commander Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73, told USNI News on Friday.
Gabrielson added that the firing was also a demonstration of the modularity of the LCS, “What I really want to emphasize is the modularity of the Littoral Combat ship deployed here, this could have been any missile or UAV/helicopter combination that had the right fit for the LCS, it shows that we can get these systems on the ship in very short order, get them aboard the ship in short order and put them to work. It’s the only small combatant in the world that has that kind of flexibility in terms of modularity and we think it’s very important from that perspective as milestone for the program.”
He said the firing showed the teamwork between the LCS and the air combat team, “there were two aviation vehicles as well as the ship to conduct a long distance over the horizon missile shot”. The two aviation assets were an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial system and an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, both part of Coronado’s rotary-wing air detachment, provided targeting support for the harpoon missile.
Gabrielson declined to give details on the type of target engaged by Coronado save to say that the target was a representative surface target that was tactically relevant. Asked on the next steps for Coronado following the firing, he said “LCS continues along the process of demonstrating its value and we’ll continue the tactics, techniques and procedures for that ship in the vast regional littorals” adding as an example of the vastness of the region, that if one draws an arc from the Philippines to Sri Lanka, there are over 50,000 islands in that arc in which the LCS would have to operate in. He also pointed out if the current location of the LCS in Guam was taken into that arc, it would be a 6,200 mile radius in which the LCS is currently operating in very relevant ways from both a combat and theatre security cooperation aspect.
He stated that Coronado will have an active activity schedule prior to her departure from the region close to the end of the year including the Sri Lankan and Indonesian phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises and a number of other events currently being planned.
On the future deployments to two LCS slated for 2018 and as to whether both ships would arrive in Singapore simultaneously or separately, Gabrielson said the specific arrival dates were still being planned and worked on.
Summing up the Coronado’s activities, Gabrielson stated that Coronado has been operating through out its deployment arc and has contributed to exercises and engagements held with multiple different nations in the region, “it seems like they are everywhere”, he said. He also stated that Coronado has also carried out anti-piracy operations and national level tasking along with performing expeditionary maintenance operation to demonstrate the ability to support the ship in other locations beyond Singapore, “ because of the modularity in the systems and the people, the ship is proficient in many different techniques and tools, and they are flexible to used in many different kinds of operations”.