US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program is gearing up for a major overhaul.
The LCS is one of two vessels constructed at Austal USA in Mobile. “We’re transitioning from a LCS to a frigate, so the frame will be the latest and greatest frigate for the US Navy,” Austal President Craig Perciavalle said.
“Basically what we’re looking at is increasing capabilities with organic weapons and sensors and fixed weapons and sensors on the ships as well. Again, the beauty of this frame is it can do that without changing the inherent design of the ship,” Perciavalle continued.
Since its inception, the LCS has faced criticism from opponents who argued the ship’s lack of organic weaponry makes it a sitting duck for enemy combatants. When the fast frigate modification was announced by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, many questioned whether or not the Navy was mistaken in their original design.
“The Navy did not make a mistake. In fact, the first 32 ships, the littoral combat ships with a mine encounter mission package will be replacing the older mine encounter ships that are based both out of Japan and out of the Middle East. So, there is a tremendous role, Commander Shelby Baecker said. “The ships not only replace the mine encounter measures, but also the patrol craft that are currently stationed overseas. So, there is absolutely a role here for LCS as we go forward.”
The modified LCS, fast frigate, will equip the vessels with organic weapons and sensors, meaning they’re built into the ship’s hull rather than using removable weapons packages. The redesign was intended to the final 20 ships in a 52 ship program, but many of the upgrades will be backfitted to the earlier ships as well.
“The frigates certainly will have more organic systems on board than the littoral combat ships do. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t combine a lot of different modules on to one ship,” Vice Admiral Philip Cullom said.
As for what weapons, the Navy wasn’t being specific when WKRG asked them during Saturday’s USS Gabrielle Giffords Christening.
“We’ll continue to make investments to make them more lethal, more survivable. We’ll always be in an evolutionary design mode,” Dennis McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy,Installations, and Environment, said.