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Surface Force commander cites payload and unmanned deployment potential of Independence LCS vessels

The Surface Force plans to take advantage of the payload and unmanned system deployment capability of the Independence variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), according to Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener, US Naval Surface Forces commander.

“That mission bay and its ability to deploy USVs (unmanned surface vessels) or UUVs (unmanned undersea vessels) or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) – there is some experimentation there we want to build on,” Vice Adm Kitchener said on 22 July during a media round table to discuss surface force issues.

The ship has proven itself operationally, Vice Adm Kitchener noted, especially with one of the command's “main customers” – the 7 th Fleet – in the Western Pacific.

The 7 th Fleet commander “really likes to operate in the littorals out there”, Vice Adm Kitchener said, noting that such operations are part of the main mission sets for the LCSs.

The LCSs also bring organic lethal capability on their patrols now, he said. “Putting a [Naval] Strike Missile on there was key,” he explained, adding that Freedom-variant LCSs are also proving themselves operationally.

“We still have Freedom-class ships deployed down south,” he said. “There are some [operational] limitations, but they are able to be used. They continue to excel for counternarcotic [operations].”

Those operational limitations, he pointed out, are a result of the propulsion plant combining gear issues that have continued to bedevil the Freedom-class design.

A design fix is being installed on a new Freedom hull now under construction, Vice Adm Kitchener said, adding, “So we can get it out to sea and test it.” The programme is on track to start the sea testing in the third quarter of this year, he said. Meanwhile, deliveries of that variant remain on hold.

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