In a Blow to LCS, the US Navy Finally Admits it Needs a Real Frigate

A model of the “up-gunned” Freedom-class LCS, showing both VLS and deck-mounted missile launchers. A prototype MQ-8C Fire Scout drone during tests about the Independence-class LCS USS Montgomery. Using a VLS array for the self defense launcher requirement could have the potential to supplement or even replace the containerized anti-ship missile requirement, too. The Navy’s request specifically asks for vendors to mention if they can include “strike length” cells in the self defense launcher. The service is already separately looking to purchase this over-the-horizon weapon, which could be either containerized or vertically-launched. At present, however, the service’s existing requirements are so narrow that both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have withdrawn their submissions, suggesting certain advantages in their products wouldn’t be taken into consideration. This has left a partnership between American defense contractor Raytheon and Norwegian firm Kongsberg, offering a version of the latter’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM) , as the only major team still taking part in the competition. The existing versions of the NSM are container launched. A model of the Kongsberg-Raytheon NSM. On top of all that, there is an entire second tier of equipment that would add even more functionality. There 14 systems in this category, such as AN/SLQ-61 Light Weight Tow (LWT) and AN/SLQ-62 Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) linked together with the centerpiece AN/SQQ-89F underwater warfare system, the Mk 110 57mm gun with the Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO) projectile, Longbow Hellfire capability, and other radars and sensors. In February 2017, the Navy demonstrated the vertically-launched Hellfire module onboard the Freedom -class LCS USS Detroit . Still in development, the Navy hopes ALaMO will give the Mk 110 gun the ability to better take on unmanned aerial vehicles and swarms of small boats.

Together, these systems would address many of the existing LCS’s deficiencies, which prevent them from independently operating in even low-threat environments at present. Equipped for its main functions, the new FFG(X) would be able to seamlessly integrate into larger task groups, including aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious expeditionary strike groups, as well as provide escort for logistics convoys and other formations. The ships should have weapons and equipment that complement and enhance the existing anti-ship, air defense, and electronic warfare capabilities of those groupings.

As an independent surface combatant, the frigates would be able to operate in low to medium threat environments, hunting submarines and taking on other surface ships under certain conditions, as well as performing less intensive security cooperation and humanitarian assistance missions as necessary. The second tier of possible equipment includes provisions for two rigid hull inflatable boats, which could help the ship support anti-smuggling and special operations support missions, as well. The USS Independence. There is no word yet on whether the new FFG(X) will have additional armor compared to the existing LCS, which has been another major issue, but it likely will. Even the proposed “up-gunned” LCS derivatives featured more armor in critical areas. On October 2016, Yemeni rebels effectively destroyed the ex-USNS Swift , an aluminum […]