USS Freedom, touted as the US Navy’s future tool for dominating coastlines, left California for Singapore in early March on its first international deployment. This type of vessel, called the Littoral Combat Ship, has been hailed as a visionary craft and lambasted as a costly black hole. The ship currently in the Pacific is not as capable as the one envisioned, but Navy officials say the hard lessons from its development are leading to improvements in the next versions. – JP
Cost: At R6,2 billion, the LCS is cheap – that is, when compared with larger US Navy ships. But that is more than triple what the Navy projected, and the lifetime cost to support the first two LCSs is rising faster than anticipated.
Crew: The LCS was to have a core crew of 40. However, open-water testing
increased the need to 60. It’s still a lean staff: a Navy frigate, by comparison,
has a crew of over 200.
Weapons: The LCS was to be armed with a US Army missile that could sink enemy ships 21 nautical miles (about 39 km) away, but the Army cancelled its development. The replacement (until at least 2016) is the AGM-176 Griffin, which has a range of only 3 nautical miles.
Defenses: A Pentagon report stated that the LCS would not survive “in a hostile combat environment” since a missile hit would be lethal to the lightly armoured vessel. The Navy says its 40-plus knot speed will befuddle enemy targeting.
Boat launch: Hosts underwater robots or Special Operations teams in boats.
Spacious hangar: Accommodates various unmanned aerial vehicles.
Shallow draught: Operates along coasts where larger warships can’t go.