The Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Little Rock will be commissioned on December 16 at the Canalside waterfront in Buffalo, New York Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced on October 18. The Little Rock is the tenth LCS to enter the fleet and the fifth of the Freedom-class variant.
The Little Rock was delivered to the U.S. Navy on September 25 at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. As I reported earlier this month, the delivery of the Little Rock followed successful completion of acceptance trials conducted by the Board of Inspection and Survey, the U.S. Navy’s principal body inspecting and reporting on a ship’s readiness for active duty operations, at the end of August.
LCSs are small surface combatants designed to fight close to the shore. “LCS is optimized for flexibility in the littorals with mission reconfigurable capability,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement. “LCS is a cost effective solution to provide joint force access in the littorals, in an environment of evolving access-denial threats and proliferation of asymmetric weapons and strategies, particularly mines; small, fast, highly armed boats operating in groups; and diesel submarines operating in shallow water.”
As I noted in September:
The LCS class consists of two separate variants, the trimaran-hull Independence-class and the single-hull Freedom-class. The former features a larger flight deck that can accommodate two rather than one H-60 helicopter. Furthermore, Independence-class LCS have a wider operational range.
The ship’s armament will consist of a 11-cell Raytheon RIM-116B SeaRAM missile-defense system, one 57 millimeter naval gun, and depending, AGM-114 L Hellfire missiles and Mark 5o torpedoes. Additional weapon systems will depend LCS’ module which provides different mission-specific capabilities including anti-submarine, surface warfare and mine-clearing.
The Little Rock will also be upgraded with the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM), a 24-shot vertical launch system. As I wrote earlier:
The surface warfare mission package is slated to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) in 2018. Delays in the development of the SSMM led to the initial deployment of a more limited surface warfare mission package aboard the LCS exchanging hellfire missiles for rigid hull inflatable boats and boarding teams. The package also encompasses two 30 millimeter machine guns, two MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles, and an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.
Both LCS classes are “designed to operate independently in low-to-medium threat environments, and to fight and operate in high-threat environments as part of a networked battle force which includes larger, multi-mission surface combatants,” according to the U.S. Navy. The Little Rock will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.