The US Navy's first "Littoral
Combat Ship" (LCS), the USS Freedom (LCS 1), completed its sea trials and
acceptance inspections during August. The ship did very well, with far fewer (about 90 percent fewer) problems
(or "material deficiencies") than is usual with the first warship in
ago, when construction began on LCS 1, it was to displace 2,500 tons, with a
full load draft of under ten feet (permitting access to very shallow
"green" and even "brown" coastal and riverine waters, where
most naval operations have taken place in the past generation. Top speed is
expected was to be over 80 kilometers with a range of 2,700 kilometers. The 378
foot long ship still has the range and top speed it was designed for. Basic endurance
is 21 days.
"smartship" technologies, which greatly reduce personnel
requirements, the LCS was expected to require a crew of about 50 in basic
configuration, but will have billeting for about 75 personnel. The sea trials gave
the smartship features a workout. These sea trials were very important, because
the LCS is over budget, behind schedule and, worst of all, an untried new
The LCS is
designed for a variety of interchangeable modules (e.g., air defense,
underwater warfare, special operations, surface attack, etc.), which will allow
the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews
will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to
operate specific modules.
There are actually
two different LCS designs, a semi-planning monohull from Lockheed-Martin and a trimaran from
General Dynamics. LCS 1 was laid down by Lockheed Martin in Marinette,
Wisconsin, in June of 2005 and was expected to be commissioned in 2007, after months
of sea tests in late 2006. There were delays.
LCS 2 was
laid down by General Dynamics in late 2005. These, and LCS 3 and LCS 4, were to
be built by Lockheed and General Dynamics, respectively. These were essentially
prototypes, and serial procurement was expected to begin this year, after
initial design flaws had been worked out. Ultimately, the Navy hoped to have
between 50 and 60 LCSs by 2014-18, at a cost of $90 million each. The navy
still plans to build 55 LCSs, but wants to get the price down to $460 million (after
the first five.)
Freedom ended up costing nearly $600 million, about twice what the first ship
in the class was supposed to have cost. Only one of each type of LCS will be
built now, and the one that performs the best will become the model for the
entire class. LCS 1 ended up displacing 2,900 tons, and most observers in 2005
believed that it would end up closer to 3,000 tons, than 2,500.
Freedom will head for its home port, San Diego by the end of the year.