Littoral Combat Ships – An Airboss Perspective – Manned and Unmanned

LCDR Douglas "Rabbit" Kay

LCDR Douglas “Rabbit” Kay

We enjoyed the presentation by LCDR Douglas “Rabbit” Kay this month with more information on the new species of combat vessels, the LCS, which has taken an important place in the Navy’s tactical plans and equipment. The term “Littoral” means close to shore and includes rivers and inlets in any potential combat areas. This is a new approach, with the LCS-3 USS Fort Worth being commissioned in September 2012. This is the ship that LCDR Kay served on as AirBoss. It is the first ship that went on duty as a Surface Warfare Mission Package Deployment with both manned and unmanned helicopters. It has only a 14 foot draft that allows much closer approach to the shore. It has also been referred to as a “fast frigate”.

The manned aircraft were the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter while the unmanned were the MQ-8B Firescout. These two craft were equipped to serve multiple functions and the crews were trained in both. In November of 2014 the Fort Worth was deployed for 16 months in Singapore and served with the hardware remaining in site while the crew traded with identically trained teams to support the mission. The ship is based at NAS North Island and LCDR Kay is with the HSM-35 “Pathfinders”, then first manned and unmanned squadron. Previously he served as “Shooter” (launch & recovery officer) on the USS Vinson. The crew is trained in advance on both the manned and unmanned equipment, including both the pilots as well as the maintenance team.

litcomb02This was the first SUW mission and consisted of 54 personnel who were scheduled for a 93 day first deployment with the later plan of four crews covering four months at a time for a total deployment of 16 months. The goals of the operation were the safety of his crew of 24 and communicate well.

litcomb03The entire team consisted of the LCS crew of 54, the SUW (surface warfare) MP Det 5 “Shepherds” that consisted of 19 people, and Rabbit’s HSM-35 crew of 24.

litcomb04The equipment consisted of the MH-60R and the MQ-8B with a new “C” version coming with much greater capability than the “B” model. The accompanying picture shows the entire team with the MH-60 and two MQ-8Bs

litcomb04Interestingly, the unmanned helicopters cannot be launched from shore and must be launched only from the ship with the exception of NAS Point Mugu. They have the capability of radar and visual monitoring as well as infrared cameras for detecting the enemy and the unmanned ships will soon be armed with rockets. The images are relayed directly to the ship.

We are grateful to LCDR Kay for his innovative work for our country and for his enlightening presentation to our  roup.


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