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As US Navy plans future, mission sets for LCS, Pentagon requires more testing

US Navy officials plan to use littoral combat ships for more operations as the Pentagon calls for more testing. (Michael Fabey)

US Navy (USN) officials say they are now gaining understanding of the operational flexibility of their littoral combat ship (LCS) fleet, even as the service plans to cut LCS anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions, decommission several of the ships, and address testing needs recently identified by the Pentagon Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E).

“My hope is to make the best of all the remaining LCSs,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told reporters on 11 January, during the Surface Navy Association's (SNA's) annual symposium.

“I want to employ them as aggressively as we can and use them at every opportunity possible. That includes working with unmanned technology,” he said.

Speaking on 5 January at a media round table prior to the SNA symposium, Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, USN commander, Naval Surface Force, and commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet, said, “We divested from the ASW mission, so we're really focused on SUW [surface warfare] mission package – and also the MCM [mine countermeasures] package.”

The LCS fleet includes two variants – the Freedom-class monohull all-steel ship, and the Independence-class aluminium trimaran.

“Right now the plan is to use the Independence variant to go out there with that MCM capability,” Vice Adm Kitchener said. “We're also looking at options. One is to forward deploy ships out there to the 5th fleet.”

Another option would be to “leave” the LCSs out there as the navy does with its Avenger-class MCM ships. “That's something we're exploring, as part of the process. We are working on several options – I think the answer is something that is forward deployed to Bahrain.”

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