Lockheed Martin is contemplating big changes to its Littoral Combat Ship design to appeal to export customers, as the first LCS – USS Freedom – gets ready for its commissioning in Milwaukee on November 8. A model of a modified ship is on show at Euronaval.
The leading export prospect for the LCS, Israel, is already planning such changes. If Israel follows through with its plans, its LCS ships will be heavily armed with the Barak 8 anti-air warfare system and land-attack missiles. A Lockheed Martin team is in Israel this week to settle details of the Israeli configuration, in preparation for a contract negotiation.
Other export customers could also ask for changes. The US Navy’s idea of switching LCS from one mission to another at dockside, by changing mission modules, does not fit with export customers’ smaller fleets. However, they are looking at an open-architecture mission system and mission-related equipment modules as a way to adapt and update the ship through its service life.
Export ships could also be more heavily armed. Lockheed Martin is looking at trading some hangar space for vertical-launch missile tubes, and at installing a scaled-down version of the Aegis combat system and its radar – the smaller radar is identified as the SPY-1F(V). The ship is even large enough to launch Raytheon’s Standard Missile. The company is also talking to Oto Melara about installing the 76 mm Super Rapid gun.
Propulsion could also see changes. Not all export customers need the full 40-knot-plus speed of LCS, and would trade that for range by installing smaller engines, more efficient at low speeds.
Meanwhile, Freedom will sail out of the Great Lakes before the winter freeze and move to Norfolk for open-sea trials, weapons testing and helicopter landing demonstrations. The ship will stay in Norfolk until May 2009, and then join the rival LCS – General Dynamics’ triple-hulled USS Independence – at Panama City, Florida, for integration of mission modules. Both ships will go next to San Diego for operational testing – allowing the Navy to decide whether to continue the LCS program, with either or both designs.