What Does Littoral Even Mean?
Littoral Combat Ship Primer, Part 1
It seems everyone is interested in the U.S. Navy’s new warship platform, Littoral Combat Ships, or LCS, but how much do you really know about them aside from how sleek and futuristic they look? You may wonder, “What is littoral?” Well, littoral is a coastal region or shore and today we’ll look at how the LCS is versatile enough to be as well suited for those areas as it is for open-ocean operations.
Creation of the LCS platform was spurred after the end of the Cold War, Operation DESERT STORM, fleet experiments, analytic studies and war games made it clear that the Navy needed a new class of small, fast, agile, shallow-draft ships designed to operate in congested near-shore regions. The Navy announced it would meet that need by building a new generation of ships and thus, the LCS class was born.
The LCS type consists of two variants; the Freedom variant is a steel semi-planing monohull ship that is designated with odd-numbered hulls and the Independence variant is an aluminum stabilized slender trimaran ship that is designated with even-numbered hulls. [See graphic].
These small, fast, reconfigurable, and agile ships are designed as focused-mission, modular platforms able to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft, like small boats, found in littoral areas.
While LCSs are smaller than frigates, they’re larger and more potential capabilities than Coastal Patrol Ships or Mine Countermeasure Ships. In fact, the Freedom variant is just 387.6 feet long with a draft of 14.1 feet and are capable of speeds of over 40 knots, while the Independent variant is just as fast at 418.6 feet long with a 14.4 foot draft. Their shallow draft means they can access more ports and waters than any other combatant, and their speed makes them capable of quick positioning in any theater. They’re perfect for building and strengthening maritime partnerships by training and operating with smaller, regional navies, as well as entering previously inaccessible, shallow-water foreign ports. That also means operational commanders will have an ideal asset available for Theater Security Cooperation tasking, freeing up large surface combatants to carry out other missions.
Since LCSs are meant to project a forward presence, half of the LCS fleet will be deployed at all times. This is possible through the 3:2:1 concept: there are 3 rotating crews, 2 rotating ships, and 1 ship deployed at all times. The 3:2:1 concept provides twice the forward presence over other surface combatants. LCSs also have the ability to deploy independently as theater-based ships, capable of changing primary missions through modular mission packages.
Currently, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) is on a 16-month deployment and has already seen three crew rotations.
Join us again next week as we look at the various mission packages the LCS can support and find out more about its missions.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2013) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) is underway conducting sea trials off the coast of Southern California. Freedom, the lead ship of the Freedom variant of LCS, is expected to deploy to Southeast Asia this spring. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (July 18, 2013) The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) demonstrates its maneuvering capabilities in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/Released)