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Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) - Design

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a small specialised variant of the DD(X) family of future surface combat ships. LCS complements, but does not replace, the capabilities of DD(X) and CG(X). The Littoral Combat Ship was intended to take advantage of the newest generation hull form and was intended to have modularity and scalability built in. It focuses on mission capabilities, affordability, and life cycle costs.

The LCS is an entirely new breed of U.S. Navy warship. A fast, agile, and networked surface combatant, LCS's modular, focused-mission design was intended to provide Combatant Commanders the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to ensure maritime dominance and access for the joint force. LCS was intended to operate with focused-mission packages that deploy manned and unmanned vehicles to execute missions as assigned by Combatant Commanders.

LCS was intended to also perform Special Operations Forces (SOF) support, high-speed transit, Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP). While complementing capabilities of the Navy's larger multi-mission surface combatants, LCS was intended to also be networked to share tactical information with other Navy aircraft, ships, submarines, and joint units.

Secretary of the Navy Gordon England described this new ship as "a small, fast, maneuverable, and relatively inexpensive member of the DD(X) family of ships, which began construction in FY 2005. The goal is to develop a platform that can be fielded in relatively large numbers to support a wide range of joint missions, with reconfigurable mission modules to assure access to the littorals for our Navy forces in the face of threats from surface craft, submarines, and mines."

LCS was intended to transform naval operations in the littorals: The littoral battlespace requires focused capabilities in greater numbers to assure access against asymmetrical threats. The LCS is envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals. This relatively small, high-speed combatant was intended to complement the U.S. Navy's Aegis Fleet, DD(X) and CG(X) by operating in environments where it is less desirable to employ larger, multi-mission ships. It was intended to have the capability to deploy independently to overseas littoral regions, remain on station for extended periods of time either with a battle group or through a forward-basing arrangement and was intended to be capable of underway replenishment. It was intended to operate with Carrier Strike Groups, Surface Action Groups, in groups of other similar ships, or independently for diplomatic and presence missions. Additionally, it was intended to have the capability to operate cooperatively with the U.S. Coast Guard and Allies.

LCS was intended to be a "Network-Centric," Advanced Technology Ship: The LCS was intended to rely heavily on manned and unmanned vehicles to execute assigned missions and operate as part of a netted, distributed force. In order to conduct successful combat operations in an adverse littoral environment, it was intended to employ technologically advanced weapons, sensors, data fusion, C4ISR, hullform, propulsion, optimal manning concepts, smart control systems and self-defense systems.

LCS was intended to be a Modular Ship. The platform was intended to support mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface boat modules. The LCS concept is presently being defined and is envisioned to be an advanced hullform employing open systems architecture modules to undertake a number of missions and to reconfigure in response to changes in mission, threat, and technology.

Primary missions are those that ensure and enhance friendly force access to littoral areas. Access-focused missions include the following primary missions:

  • Anti-surface warfare (ASuW) against hostile small boats
  • Mine Counter Measures (MCM)
  • Littoral Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and may include the following secondary missions
  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)
  • Homeland Defense / Maritime Intercept
  • Special Operation Forces support
  • Logistic support for movement of personnel and supplies.

The mission packages are not included in the basic LCS ship cost, but are paid for separately. The ships were projected in early 2007 to cost between $300 million and $400 million.

There was initially some interest in LCS as a possible candidate for future U.S. Coast Guard applications as part of the service's Integrated Deepwater System, as well as potential export opportunities. LCS was intended to be a "small, fast, affordable ship": Speed and agility was intended to be critical for efficient and effective conduct of the littoral missions. The LCS must be capable of operating at low speeds for littoral mission operations, transit at economical speeds, and high-speed sprints, which may be necessary to avoid/prosecute a small boat or submarine threat, conduct intercept operations over the horizon, or for insertion or extraction missions.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was designed to achieve a different naval warfare mission than the Coast Guard multi-mission Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The LCS was designed as a sprinter. It has high speed and a short range, and is designed to take on various naval warfare mission modules. The concept of operations for the OPC is different. It isn't a sprinter. The Deepwater system delivers speed with its off-board vehicles (armed helo, VUAVs, LRI, and SRP). The OPC needs the ability to remain on station for extended periods of time and have a greater range than the LCS. Deepwater has partnered with the Navy in regards to the LCS to share useful information, identify risk mitigations to new technology, and to ensure commonality where it is practicable and cost effective.

One of the primary, focused missions of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was intended to be littoral ASW. The LCS was intended to be capable of carrying unmanned air, surface and undersea vehicles and other sensors that complement the substantial ASW capabilities planned for DD(X) and the follow on Advanced Cruiser (CG(X)). Revolutionary advances in propulsion, materials, and hull forms are being incorporated into transformational design concepts for the LCS. It was intended to have superior speed, maneuverability, sea keeping, signature reduction and payload modularity to perform focused or special missions in the littorals.

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