With all the military and political posturing going on between the USA and China near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), there was something that went virtually unnoticed because of the gravity of the situation that is taking place there. It marked one of the first times that the US Navy’s newest classes of ship, the Littoral Combat Ship, was actively involved in patrolling in the South China Sea. That the US would put a new type of ship into that situation speaks volumes for the confidence they have in its capabilities. Let’s take a closer look at the Littoral Combat Ship and the role it will play for the US Navy.
The word ‘littoral’ itself is used to describe the water area close to the shore, also termed ‘green water’ or ‘near coast’ areas. That is exactly where these ships are designed to work best, but they are also fully ocean-going vessels too. It is part of the new strategy shift that started decades ago from ships that were big and powerful (like battleships) to ships that are smaller, faster and more versatile. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fits this role perfectly.
The project was first commissioned by the military in 2001 and contracts were granted to two companies in hopes that the competition would keep costs down and pave the way to an initial purchase of over 50 vessels. There are currently two variants of the Littoral Combat Ship. The first is the freedom class which is produced by Lockheed Martin and the other is the trimaran hull-styled independence class that is being produced by General Dynamics. The instructions to the ship’s builders were to make the ships multi-functional and able to be run by a crew of less than 50; these things were necessary to lower operating and overall costs even more.
In near shore areas it is important that ships have a shallow draft, are fast and maneuverable; each LCS Class ship meets all of these needs very effectively. Each ship being built was required to be able to attain speeds of 45 – 50 knots; one officer who commands an independence class version described the ship as the military’s version of a weaponized jet ski. They are slightly smaller than the US Navy’s Frigate class ships and are often compared to ships that are classified as Corvette’s.
LCS’s are also designed to have modular and compartmentalized functions than can quickly be on and off loaded to the vessels to change their current role. In the future, they will be able to perform such missions as coastal defense, anti-submarine warfare, anti-mine countermeasures, intelligence collection, reconnaissance, small vessel surface warfare, special operations warfare, surveillance, homeland defense and maritime intercepts. They are currently only lightly armed with RIM-116 surface to air missiles and a remote controlled Mk110 (57 mm) deck gun.
It will be interesting to see how the LCS class ships perform now that several of them are in service. It will also be interesting to see how much respect they will get from any potential enemies that may go up against them.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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