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Euronaval 2016: Smaller variant of LCS in the works

19th October 2016 - 9:48 by Richard Thomas in Paris

Euronaval 2016: Smaller variant of LCS in the works

Design work on a 92m variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is progressing as Lockheed Martin continue its programme of work for the existing LCS and future frigate derivative.

The design phase for the 92m variant was ‘pretty far along’, company officials told Shephard at the Euronaval defence exhibition at Le Bourget, Paris.

Such a vessel would suit operators looking for a large OPV-sized vessel but without the requirement for some of the high end warfighting capability that the US Navy (USN) 118m version has fitted.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian programme for four Freedom class derivatives was still at the negotiation phase.

Of the Freedom class LCS a total of 13 ships are contracted for the company, which is producing half of the total fleet in with Austal manufacturing the Independence-class

Lockheed Martin has delivered four ships to the USN while long lead items have been ordered for the final two of the currently ordered batch. Seven vessels are in various stages of construction.

Officials said that they expect the drumbeat of work to see a keel laid, launched or ship undergo sea trials every six months.

On Saturday, LCS7 will be commissioned into service at a ceremony in Mayport, while LCS9 is expected to complete sea trials ahead of a delivery at the end of 2017.

The US Department of Defense cut the LCS programme from 52 ships down to 40 last year and although there are still negotiations ongoing, any additional vessels could instead be the upgraded future frigate version.

Conversion to the future frigate variant will take place from hull 31 onwards.

A June paper published by the US Congressional Research Service stated that the modified LCS design included ‘additional or improved built-in equipment for ASuW, ASW, and AAW’ as well as changes to ‘make the ship harder for adversaries to detect and changes to improve the ship’s ability to withstand battle damage’.

The paper added that these ships will be slightly heavier than the original LCS and ‘have less capacity than the baseline LCS design for accepting LCS mission packages’.

‘The [US] Navy does not intend to use the frigates as MCM platforms; their primary missions are to be SUW and ASW. The frigates could also perform the additional potential missions listed above for the baseline LCS design,’ the paper stated.

Lockheed officials said that the future frigate would be able to operate unescorted if needed as well as play a role in carrier or other naval battlegroups, in a similar way to how the Oliver Hazard Perry class FFGs were operated in service.

The specially designed Captas 4 towed sonar array was also being considered for both the LCS and future frigate, with officials saying that it provided the capabilities required.

Initial deployments by early version LCS met with a number of structural and propulsion problems, as well as with equipment and systems that were operating far less capably than manufacturer Lockheed Martin was initially led to believe.

However, officials said that lessons learned from deployments and the ongoing build programme, that saw some of the structure upgraded, addressed these issues.

For more from Euronaval 2016, see our dedicated news page.

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