Euronaval 2010: Saudi naval expansion examines LCS variant
The Saudi Arabian government is in discussions with the US Navy about the purchase of the Aegis combat system-equipped Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
Orlando Carvalho, president of Lockheed Martin's MS2 division, told reporters at Euronaval in Paris that the Saudi Navy was looking at the purchase of eight LCS-variant ships, called Surface Combat Ships, equipped with the lightweight SPY-1F Aegis system as part of an expansion of the oil-rich state's naval forces.
They have also shown an interest in the ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities of Aegis.
Both Austal USA and Lockheed Martin are awaiting the outcome of the LCS programme. Lockheed Martin is offering its Freedom-class single hull vessel, while Austal is competing with its Independence-class trimaran.
A decision on the chosen design is now expected towards the end of the year. The second Freedom-class ship, the USS Fort Worth, is 70% complete and should launch on 4 December.
On the company's stand at Euronaval is a model of the LCS equipped with the Aegis system, featuring the SM-2 missile vertical launch systems fitted into the superstructure just forward of the helicopter deck.??
Unlike the US Navy's LCS, the Saudi examples will not be equipped to take modular mission packages but equipped like traditional warships.
Lockheed Martin said the Aegis system is seeing a resurgence, particularly with the recent decision two months ago to restart production of Aegis-equipped vessels. Over the next decade the US Navy will receive a further nine ships fitted with the system.
The company has just completed work on what it calls Aegis version 4.0.1. This system is currently in test on the USN's test ship, the USS Lake Erie, and will allow the use of the SM-3 Block 1B missile, which is fitted with a colour seeker. Operational Aegis ships are using what Lockheed Martin calls Version 3.6 with the first generation BMD capabilities.
Lockheed Martin engineers are now working on the next generation system, which it has dubbed Version 5.0.
'Version 5.0 will deliver seamless integration between the air defence and the ballistic missile defence capabilities,' explained Carvalho,
'The version would also allow the system to operate with the new SM-3 Block IIA missiles, which carry more fuel and can deal with more complex threats.
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