Gramps was very much enlightened by the presentation of not one but two Navy specialists in the field of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Chiefs Shawn-Patrick Bland and Luke W. Willdigg told us about this relatively new era of ships and their missions and how the crews were handled. The first statement was that they were not intended to take over the conventional Navy, rather to augment its capability in three particular fields: Surface, Mine and Anti-Submarine warfare. Their purpose is to fill in gaps in the present system with their smaller size, speed and maneuverability and their ability to operate in small areas such as rivers. The term “Littoral” means close to shore. These vessels are based in San Diego and at the Mayport Naval station in Jacksonville Florida.
There are currently four ships with eight under construction. Each has a crew of 40-50 crewmen. There are currently 12 crews for the four operational ships at this time. They are deployed in two ship pairs with one ship of each pair at sea at all times. These crews receive complete training on shore before going to sea. The plans are for 20 ships with 30 crews operational by 2018. The group will consist of 12 LCS-2’s, 4 LCS- 1’s, and 4 other LCS’s. The LCS-2 uses a turbo-thrust propellant system that utilizes water jets for thrust and steering. This makes them extremely fast and vastly more maneuverable than the propeller equipped ships. The system is composed of four jets, all steerable, 2 jet engines and 2-20 cylinder diesels. They are capable of speeds in the 40+ knot range and can operate close to shore at high speeds. They can carry the MH60R helicopter that is the state of the art antisubmarine weapon. It also has a 30 mm gun. The “Independence” has 3 helicopter pads and a 57 mm gun. It also can carry the MQ8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. It is a trimaran with three hulls. The “Freedom” is constructed entirely of aluminum so that it does not need painting. Others have a steel hull and an aluminum superstructure. They draw about ten feet of water. The cost of 10 LCS ships is the same as a single destroyer!
These ships were designed for special duty and not for head-to-head combat with enemy conventional naval vessels. We are grateful to our two Chiefs for the enlightening presentation and all the new information.