Asia Defense

US Navy Christens New Littoral Combat Ship

The service’s newest littoral combat ship was launched in Mobile, Alabama on June 29.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US Navy Christens New Littoral Combat Ship
Credit: Austal USA

The U.S. Navy christened its newest littoral combat ship (LCS), the Independence-class future USS Oakland (LCS 24), during a launch ceremony at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama on June 29.

The LCS class consists of the Independence and Freedom variants. Construction of the Freedom variant is led by Lockheed Martin at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, whereas the building of Independence-class LCS is headed by Austal USA in Mobile. The future USS Oakland is the 12th Independence-class LCS launched by Austal USA. The Austal and Lockheed shipyards are each capable of building two LCSs per year.

Twenty-nine LCS construction contracts have been awarded to date to the two shipyards.

Four additional Independence-class LCSs are under construction at Austal USA, including the future USS Kansas CityMobileSavannah, and Canberra. Four more LCSs are awaiting the beginning of construction. The shipyard delivered the future USS Cincinnati to the Navy on June 26. The surface combatant was christened in May of this year. The Cincinnati is the 18th LCS delivered to the service and will be the 10th of the Independence class to join the Navy’s surface fleet.

As I noted previously:

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[W]ith 40 percent of the hull reconfigurable, both LCS variants use an open architecture design, enabling the warships to be fitted with interchangeable so-called mission packages providing capabilities for surface warfare (SUW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and mine countermeasures (MCM) missions in the littoral zone. The ASW warfare package is expected to become available to the fleet in 2019, while the MCM package will be available in 2020.

The Independence class features a unique trimaran hull and a larger flight deck than the Freedom variant, allowing it to carry two rather than one SH-60 Seahawk helicopters (or one Ch-53 Sea Stallion helicopter), next to a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. Furthermore, the Independence class also has a larger fuel capacity and a wider operational range than the mono-hulled Freedom class.

“The primary weapons systems of both LCS variants is a 57-millimeter naval gun and a 11-cell Raytheon RIM-116B SeaRAM missile-defense system,” I explained previously. “Additionally, the ships will also be fitted with the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, a 24-shot AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile vertical launch system. Notably, Lockheed Martin is leading an effort to boost the combat capabilities of the ships in a two-phased plan.”

The Navy launched the future Freedom-class LCS USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul during a ceremony at the FMM shipyard in Marinette last month. For the first time since 2016, the U.S. Navy deployed an LCS, the Independence-class USS Montgomery, to the Indo-Pacific region. The last LCS to deploy to the Indo-Pacific was the Independence-class USS Coronado, which deployed from June 2016 to December 2017. Not a single LCS deployed in all of 2018.