The second LCS, Independence, was launched at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., April 29. The ship is scheduled for sea trials this winter.
The Navy has yet to issue a contract for LCS 5, even
though it was authorized and funded in the fiscal 2008
budget. It likely will award the contract this fall along
with contracts for LCS 6 and 7, which are expected to
be approved in the 2009 budget.
The odd number of ships indicates a scenario in which
one industry team will build two new ships and the other
left with one, although the competition provisions do not
rule out one industry team winning all three.
The 3,100-ton, 378-foot-long Freedom was put through
builder’s trials on Lake Michigan that began July 28.
Fred Moosally, president of Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, was pleased with the results of
the trials. He praised the “breakthrough” combined
diesel and gas turbine propulsion plant, which featured
the largest marine gas turbine engine in the world, the
“The ship has got absolute and incredible responsiveness and power,” he said. “This ship also has an
unprecedented degree of automation.”
Moosally, a former ship skipper, said Freedom
exceeded 40 knots for sustained periods several times
during the sea trials, impressive for a warship of its
size, calling it a “race car at sea.” The ship conducted
180- and 360-degree turns at full power.
“It handles like a dream at both high and low
speeds,” he said. “I’ve never seen a ship respond that
quickly to the changes in the throttling system.”
Moosally expects Freedom will be slightly faster when
it reaches the ocean, because salt water provides more
buoyancy. Freedom, constructed at Manitowoc’s
Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wis., is built on
a semi-planing monohull, which at high speeds skims
over the water rather than simply plowing through it.
With a crew of only 40 Sailors, not including the 35
to 38 Sailors embarked with a mission package and aviation detachment, automation is essential to the operation of an LCS. One of the main activities of the builder’s
trials was to fine-tune that automation. Freedom, for
example, does not have bow thrusters, but has a maneuvering mode called harbor moving that “allows sideway
motions to moor without tugs,” Moosally said.
During the 11-day trials, the ship’s Mk110 57mm gun,
RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher, TRS-3D
radar and open-architecture combat system were exercised, though no firings were conducted because of
treaty restrictions with Canada on the Great Lakes.
Firings will be conducted after the ship arrives at
Freedom’s flight deck is equipped with a Trigon
aircraft-handling system, by which one person can
move an H- 60 helicopter from the flight deck into the
ship’s hangar. The mission bay below the flight deck
features an integrated cargo-handling system that can
handle boats, unmanned underwater vehicles and
other equipment of a mission package.
Both the stern ramp door and side door of the ship’s
mission bay were tested. Some leaking of a seal in the
stern ramp door was detected and fixed during the trials.
Boat launches and recoveries on the stern ramp were not