The U.S. Navy has a new multi-mission coastal combat ship undergoing test trials at sea, and The Blaze is taking you onboard and behind the scenes of this high-tech war vessel.
Called the Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, this addition to the strongest Navy on earth will bring two core functionalities to bear: mission flexibility and shallow-water operations capability.
Slightly smaller than guided missile frigates, the U.S.'s littoral ships come in two sizes: freedom-class and Independence-class. While not designed for major combat operations, and with a standing crew of only 40 men, everyone onboard is cross-trained to handle different mission tasks.
That flexibility is a major component of the LCS's design. It can be equipped with different weapons and electronics packages depending on needs. Mission sets includes counterterrorism, support for special forces operation, anti-mine and submarine, interdiction, and even humanitarian relief efforts.
Variable weapons and equipment configurations allow the LCS to specifically address threats like piracy and terrorism that are becoming a major component of naval operations in the 21st century. The LCS is highly maneuverable, and just as important for close-to-shore operations, it is completely built out of aluminum. This lightweight design keeps the ship's hull from dipping too far below the water line and allows it to stay close to shore while avoiding damage from reefs and other below-the-surface hazards.
In addition to being very fast and agile, the LCS has a broad array of weapons systems and technology arrays that can be changed depending on mission. Instead of the massive guns of a U.S. battleship, the LCS has a 57mm gun for small agile surface targets. It has a missile defense system for incoming ordnance, and can be outfitted with special anti-mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare tools, including unmanned aerial, undersea, and surface vehicles.
The LCS has an assault transport capability with a flight deck and hangar large enough to base two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters or 6 fire scout UAVs. From a stern ramp, it can launch and recover small boats, and can also support and launch special assault forces with armored vehicles to a roll-on port facility.
Its propulsion relies on water jets instead of rotors, and the engine can run on traditional gas as well as diesel platforms, or combine the two. Diesel is more efficient, but gas can run simultaneously to give the engines a little extra power when speed is at a premium. It's top speed is somewhere around 40 knots (45 mph).
By Naval standards, the LCS is affordable at price tag of $400 million (by contrast, a U.S. guided missile destroyer runs well over a billion dollars, and that's before a single missile or round of ammunition has been purchased.)
Other allied countries plan to have ships of the same type with similar mission sets, which means the U.S. LCS program will allow interoperability with them. The LCS will also give the U.S. a countering platform to the Chinese Littoral Combat Ship, called a Type 022.
Secretary of the Navy Roy Mabus has said the LCS ships are "one of the most important" naval programs out there right now, and they are "going to be the backbone of the navy of the future." Mabus views the LCS as an "almost perfect ship for a lot of countries" and feels that it will "be around for a long time."
Watch the video below, courtesy of The Daily, and make your own decision about the future of this innovative ship design:
(h/t The Daily)