The US Navy’s (USN’s) Freedom variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is now in full-rate production, with Lockheed Martin’s industry team now progressing the outfitting and build of seven ships at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.
The LCS is a small surface combatant designed to meet the USN’s needs for a modular focused-mission ship able to execute anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and mine countermeasures roles.
The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team comprises shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, and more than 500 suppliers spread across 37 US states. The Freedom variant is based on a semi-planing steel monohull ‘seaframe’ able to achieve speeds in excess of 40 knots.
According to Joe North, Lockheed Martin vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems, the US Navy has so far taken delivery of four Freedom variant ships, the most recent being USS Detroit (LCS 7), which was commissioned in October last year. “Next we have LCS 9 [Little Rock] and LCS 11 [Sioux City], which are now going through testing in the shipyard,” he said. “Both will deliver in 2017.” LCS 13 – the future USS Wichita – is in the final stages of outfitting at Fincantieri Marinette Marine. “We hope to have her in final test at the end of this year, with delivery to follow in early 2018 post the ice period,” North said. “We then have LCS 15 launching in mid-2017, with LCS 17 to follow down the slipway before the end of the year.
“LCS 19 and LCS 21 are now in build, and we will begin work on LCS 23 later this year. We are under contract for LCS 25.”
Lockheed Martin and its LCS team have started work on a new multi-mission frigate variant of the LCS to meet USN needs. A draft Request For Proposals for this more survivable and more heavily-armed variant is expected to emerge in the middle of this year.
This effort is already benefitting from prior Lockheed Martin investment in the development of LCS variants to meet the needs of the international market. “We’ve done a lot of trade studies and engineering studies to understand what could be added or modified to meet the needs of international customers,” said North. “A lot of that reflects on what could also go on the US Navy’s frigate variant.”
Saudi Arabia continues to show interest in a multi-mission LCS variant, to be acquired under a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) arrangement with the US government. It is understood that FMS negotiations are continuing.