Littoral combat ships (LCS) are small surface combatant ships with specific, yet flexible, capabilities. The ships employ a system-of-systems approach through a series of modular mission packages, unmanned vehicles and an innovative hull design.
The force flexibility means commanders can pair capabilities with the specific mission requirements. Duty aboard an LCS as part of the rotating Blue/Gold crews is challenging and exciting. What more could a Sailor ask for than a new ship, more opportunities to learn and train, and a variety of missions to conquer!
Here are five things to know about littoral combat ships and serving aboard them.
1. LCS Sailors do more than their specific rating requires; they become experts in additional jobs and areas around the ship. “My main job is CS, a culinary specialist,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mariah Marie Cords. “Other jobs that I do [are] anchor windlass, I’m a part of line handling, and I’m also part of flight deck firefighting.” LCS Sailors have the opportunity to learn more and use that training and experience the rest of their career.
2. There are two distinct variants of LCS ships – the Independence-Class and the Freedom-Class. Each have unique strengths and benefits to the program, and though they tackle the same missions, are very different ships. The Freedom-Class LCSs look like a more traditional Navy vessel, both inside and out, with a sleek hull design aimed at speed, and a unique quick-release system for boat operations. The Independence-Class ships feature a unique and futuristic-looking tri-hull design, and an interior featuring wider passageways and staircases instead of ladderwells. Independence-Class ships feature a much larger mission bay, allowing for quicker changes between mission packages.
3. Enlisted Sailors, chiefs, and officers all share in the duties and work on the ship. It is not uncommon to see the command master chief washing his own dishes in the galley, or seeing high-ranking officers walking side-by-side with seamen picking up foreign objects during FOD walkdown before flight operations.
4. The smaller crew creates crew familiarity, stability and a sense of ship ownership. “You’re working with such a tight-knit group, it feels like a family. I know that the Sailor standing next to me has my back no matter what,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Nguyen.
5. The LCS program employs three distinct mission packages, which can change depending on what the ship is assigned to do. While the primary mission packages are surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare, LCSs can also be outfitted for unique missions utilizing their mission bays, including humanitarian assistance and special operations. “Whatever a combatant commander decides they want the Navy can resource and build, we can plug it into this ship and have it on station,” said Commander Kevin Meehan, the commanding officer aboard USS Gabrielle Giffords.
*This content originally appeared on All Hands Magazine’s website, here.