“I really would like to see that fixed,” Cmdr. Wilke says.
Hunt says problems related to the stern door represent the Navy’s major concern for the Freedom-class ships. The goal is to make the seal watertight.
For the Independence class, the Navy has identified several communications issues associated with the ship’s four AV-2075 antennas used for UHF satellite communications; overall satellite communication limitations; and “limited UHF communications.”
Also, the Navy says it needs to “add an SPS-73 or commercial S-band navigation radar positioned to mitigate existing blind zones” in newbuild ships, as well as to backfit the equipment in already built vessels.
One of the most critical questions the Navy is trying to answer with the Freedom is how many crew will be needed to run the ship. Manning is a touchy subject for LCS. “Manpower is a constraint,” the LCS conops says.
The manning for a frigate—one of the ship types the LCS is supposed to replace—is about 200 sailors; the core LCS crew numbers about 40 to run the ship alone, with dozens more to run mission systems. This comparatively low staffing has been one of the ship’s major selling points, since manpower is one of the biggest cost drivers for the Navy.
More sailors also means more weight, which, according to defense analysts and other sources familiar with LCS ship design and operations, could make it more difficult to reach the vessels’ high burst-speed requirements. Nonetheless, the Navy plans to increase the core crew size to 50, according to Hunt, although he notes that the issue is still being studied and the number and crew composition could change. Indeed, he says, the Navy is mulling adding more automated systems to the ship to cut down on some of the more routine, manpower-intensive activities aboard.
Hunt says the additional weight from the extra sailors and accompanying equipment should not be enough to make a difference to the ship’s ability to meet its speed and other performance parameters.
The Freedom will be carrying more than extra sleeping berths when it makes its way to Singapore in 2013. The ship has new piping, renovated computer and other systems, and innards scrubbed free of the rust that Aviation Week noted on a previous visit earlier this year.