In 2008, the first of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) was commissioned. Each class of U.S. Navy ship takes its name from the first ship of that class. So the Freedom Class got its name from the USS Freedom (LCS-1).
The term “Littoral” refers to an area close to shore. So the LCS ships are designed to be fast and versatile, able to function in a variety of missions. While not equipped with the massive fire power of cruisers, destroyers or frigates, these new ships may take over roles of slower minesweepers and amphibious assault ships. LCS’s are smaller than U.S. Navy frigates, and their angular designs are intended to give off less of a radar signature.
Interestingly, the U.S. Navy simultaneously unveiled two classes of LCS’s, the Freedom and the Independence classes. Freedom Class ships were designed and built by a team headed up by Lockheed Martin. The USS Independence (LCS-2) was designed and built by a team headed up by General Dynamics. The two classes look very different from each other.
Originally, the Navy was supposed to select one design and one design team to contract the building of 52 LCS’s. Due to budget cuts, the number of ships was reduced to 32. The two competing teams lowered their costs, eventually allowing for the compromise of contracts of ten LCS’s to be built from each team. The odd numbered ships would be Freedom Class, and even number would be Independence Class.
Currently, there are four LCS’s in service. There are two Freedom Class ships, the USS Freedom (LCS-1) and the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3). And there are two Independence Class ships, the USS Independence (LCS-2) and the USS Coronado (LCS-4). More ships of both variants are on the way, including the USS Milwaukee (5), Jackson (6), Detroit (7), Montgomery (8), Little Rock (9), Gabrielle Giffords (10), Sioux City (11), Omaha (12), Wichita (13), Manchester (14), Billings (15), Tulsa (16), and Indianapolis (17).
The Navy warships appear to be getting leaner and faster. But not to worry, these speedy new LCS’s, as well as the aircraft carriers, still require support from cruisers, destroyers and frigates.
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Military Connection: Meet the Navy’s Newest Ships: By Debbie Gregory