The single-hull USS Freedom (rear) and trimaran USS Independence maneuvering off San Diego. Navy photo
The single-hull USS Freedom (rear) and trimaran USS Independence maneuvering off San Diego. Navy photo

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the Navy Thursday to move forward with construction of a full fleet of 52 littoral combat ships, but with modifications to add more firepower.

As of August, four of the ships had been delivered, all to San Diego. Another 12 are under construction. There are two variants, one with a traditional hull and one with a trimaran hull.

Earlier this year, Hagel had cut the program to 32 ships pending a review. The decision to move ahead with a modified design was welcomed the the Navy.

“The decision to endorse the recommendation to move forward with a littoral combat ship that is multi-mission capable, more lethal, and survivable, will bring additional capability to the fleet,” the secretary of the navy and chief of naval operations said in a join statement.

An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. Northrop Grumman photo by Alan Radecki.

The current design includes a 57mm main gun and the SeaRAM missile system. The modified design will add:

  • Over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missiles
  • More air-defense sensors and weapons
  • An advanced electronic warfare system
  • A towed array system for submarine detection and torpedo defense
  • Two 25mm guns
  • An armed helicopter capable of firing Hellfire missiles or MK-54 torpedoes
  • An unmanned FireScout helicopter for surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting. The FireScout is made by Northrop Grumman‘s division in Rancho Bernardo.

The navy said the changes will increase the ships’ survivability and increase their capability so they can participate in a wider variety of missions.

“With increased lethality and survivability, the modified LCS will provide the flexibility to operate both independently and as a part of an aggregated force,” the Navy said.

The ships are designed to operate close to shore yet be capable of open-ocean operation and defeat “asymmetric” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.