Independence-class littoral combat ship

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For the class of aircraft carrier, see Independence-class aircraft carrier.
USS Independence LCS-2 at pierce.jpg
Class overview
Builders: Austal USA
Operators: United States Navy
Cost: $704 million First Ship[1] Future Ships $360 million
Building: 2
Planned: 12
Completed: 2
Active: 1 with 1 being fitted out
General characteristics
Type: Littoral combat ship
Displacement: 2,307 metric tons light, 3,104 metric tons full, 797 metric tons deadweight[2]
Length: 127.4 m (418 ft)[2]
Beam: 31.6 m (104 ft)[2]
Draft: 14 ft (4.27 m)[2]
Propulsion: MTU Friedrichshafen 20V 8000 Series diesel engines, 2x General Electric LM2500 gas turbines,[3] 2x American VULKAN light weight multiple-section carbon fiber propulsion shaftlines, 2x LJ160E and 2x LJ150E Wärtsilä waterjets,[4] retractable bow-mounted azimuth thruster, 4× diesel generators
Speed: 44 knots (51 mph; 81 km/h)[5]
Range: 4,300 nm at 18 knots[6]
Capacity: 210 metric tons (206 long tons, 231 short tons)
Complement: 40 core crew (8 officers, 32 enlisted) plus up to 35 mission crew
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
and decoys:
Aircraft carried:

The Independence-class is a class of littoral combat ships built for the United States Navy.

The hull design evolved from a project at Austal to design a 40 knot cruise ship. That hull design evolved into the high-speed trimaran ferry HSC Benchijigua Express and the Independence class was then proposed by General Dynamics and Austal as a contender for Navy plans to build a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. Two ships were approved, to compete with Lockheed Martin's Freedom-class design for a construction contract of up to 55 vessels.

As of 2010, the lead ship is active, while a second ship, Coronado, was commissioned in 2014. Despite initial plans to only accept one of the Independence and Freedom classes, the Navy has requested that Congress order ten additional ships of each class, for a total 12 ships per class. In February 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the fifth Independence-class littoral combat ship will be named USS Gabrielle Giffords, and the sixth USS Omaha.[11][12] In April 2013, the name Manchester was assigned to LCS-14,[13] while in June 2013, the name Tulsa was assigned to LCS-16.[14] In January of 2015, Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus announced that the next Independence-class ship, LCS-18, will be named USS Charleston.[15]

Planning and construction[edit]

USS Independence (LCS-2) under construction, 2007.

Planning for a class of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone began in the early 2000s. In July 2003, a proposal by General Dynamics (partnering with Austal USA, the American subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder Austal) was approved by the Navy, with a contract for two vessels.[16] These would then be compared to two ships built by Lockheed Martin to determine which design would be taken up by the Navy for a production run of up to 55 ships.

The first ship, USS Independence was laid down at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, on 19 January 2006. The planned second ship was cancelled in November 2007, but reordered in May 2009, and laid down in December of that year as USS Coronado, shortly before Independence was launched.[17][18]

The development and construction of Independence as of June 2009 was running at 220% over-budget. The total projected cost for the ship is $704 million. The Navy had originally projected the cost at $220 million.[1] Independence began builder's trials in July 2009, three days behind schedule because of maintenance issues.[19] A leak in the port gas turbine saw the order of trials altered, but builder's and acceptance trials were completed by November.[20][21] and although her first INSURV inspection revealed 2,080 deficiencies, these were rectified in time for the ship to be handed over to the Navy in mid-December, and commissioned in mid-January 2010.[18][22]

Navy leaders said that the fixed price competition offered the Austal design an equal shot, in spite of its excess size, cost and limited service.[23]

After much inconsistency on how testing and orders were to proceed, in November 2010, the Navy asked that Congress approve ten of both the Independence and Freedom classes.[24][25][26]


The Independence-class design began life at Austal as a platform for a high-speed cruise ship. The principal requirements of that project were speed, stability and passenger comfort, and Austal's team determined that the trimaran hull form offered significant passenger comfort and stability advantages over both a catamaran and a monohull. The high-speed cruise ship project evolved into Austal's commercial high-speed trimaran ferry HSC Benchijigua Express. The ships are 127.4 m (418 ft) long, with a beam of 31.6 m (104 ft), and a draft of 13 ft (3.96 m).[2] Their displacement is rated at 2,176 tons light, 2,784 tons full, and 608 tons deadweight.[2]

The standard ship's company is 40, although this can increase depending on the ship's role with mission-specific personnel. The habitability area with bunks is located under the bridge. The helm is controlled by joysticks instead of traditional steering wheels.[27]

Although the trimaran hull increases the total surface area, it is still able to reach sustainable speeds of about 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph), with a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi).[citation needed] Austal claims that the design will use a third less fuel than the competing Freedom class, but the Congressional Budget Office found that fuel would account for 18 percent or less of the total lifetime cost of Freedom.[28]

The lack of bridge wings on the Independence class had been noted as the top problem in the entire LCS program to the extent that these will need to be retrofitted onto existing ships.[29]

The lightweight aluminum construction of the Independence-class ships makes them more vulnerable to damage than the Freedom-class ships.[30]

The first ships of both LCS classes were delivered before the designs were mature so that improvements could be built into future ships. The Navy is improving the Independence-class with bridge wings for safety and replacing the 5.1-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) with a 7-meter boat. An improved cathodic protection system will enhance corrosion protection. Like the Freedom-class, the Independence will be getting axial flow water jets which pushes water parallel to the shaft of the impeller to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance; they will also be upgraded to handle the horsepower provided by the gas turbine propulsion system. A winch control system will modulate the motion of the anchor to reduce the reliance on manual hand brakes. The mission bay side door will be redesigned for reliability and the platform lift elevator reconfigured to better handle weapons and ordnance.[31]

Modular mission capability[edit]

Stern view

The Independence class carries a default armament for self-defense, and command and control. However, unlike traditional fighting ships with fixed armament such as guns and missiles, tailored mission modules can be configured for one mission package at a time. Modules may consist of manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, off-board sensors, or mission-manning detachments.

The interior volume and payload is greater than some destroyers and is sufficient to serve as a high-speed transport and maneuver platform. The mission bay is 15,200 square feet (1,410 m2), and takes up most of the deck below the hangar and flight deck. With 11,000 cubic metres (390,000 cu ft) of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted.

One Mobicon Flexible Container Handling System is carried on each ship in order to move mission containers.[32][33]

In addition to cargo or container-sized mission modules, the bay can carry four lanes of multiple Strykers, armored Humvees, and their associated troops. An elevator allows air transport of packages the size of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) shipping container that can be moved into the mission bay while at sea. A side access ramp allows for vehicle roll-on/roll-off loading to a dock and allows the ship to transport the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.[34]

Armament and sensors[edit]

Loading a SEARAM missile launcher

The Raytheon SeaRAM missile defense system is installed on the hangar roof. The SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system with an 11-missile launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, creating an autonomous system.[35]

The Independence-class ships also have an integrated LOS Mast, Sea Giraffe 3D Radar and SeaStar Safire FLIR. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated sensor fusion of on and off-board systems in the Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) used on the LCS.[36] The vessels have an Interior Communications Center that can be curtained off from the rest of bridge instead of the heavily protected Combat Information Center found on Navy warships.[37]

Side and forward surfaces are angled for reduced radar profile. The Fleet-class unmanned surface vessel is designed for operations from Independence-class ships.[38]

The flight deck, 1,030 m2 (11,100 sq ft), can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. H-60 series helicopters provide airlift, rescue, anti-submarine, radar picket and anti-ship capabilities with torpedoes and missiles. DARPA's Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program aims to build a Medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) that can operate from LCS-2 and can carry a payload of 600 pounds (270 kg) out to an operational radius of 600–900 nautical miles (1,100–1,700 km).[39] First flight of a TERN demonstrator is expected in 2017.[40] The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5.[41] Austal USA vice president Craig Hooper has responded to critics of the class's light armament by suggesting that the ships employ long range drones instead.[42]

Control system[edit]

The control system for this class is provided by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems through an open architecture computing infrastructure (OPEN CI),[43] while Lockheed provides their own control system for their variant of the LCS.[44] OPEN CI includes the information technology (IT) infrastructure for the combat and seaframe control systems. This IT infrastructure also includes the primary operator interface for the control and monitoring of mission module operations.[45]

The General Dynamics OPEN CI is also used on the Spearhead-class Joint High Speed Vessel, also built by Austal.[46]

Corrosion management[edit]

After the lead ship of the class suffered from aggressive disintegration due to galvanic corrosion, Austal has made changes to the remaining ships in the class. Coronado will have "new anti-corrosion surface treatments", and Jackson will have "an array of tested corrosion-management tools and processes".[47]

Small Surface Combatant[edit]

In December 2014, the Navy's recommendation to base the Small Surface Combatant on upgraded versions of both Independence and Freedom LCSs was accepted. The SSC is an attempt by the Navy to increase the LCS' firepower and protection. Although Austal submitted improvements including vertical launch systems, 76 mm guns, and advanced combat systems and sensors, the Navy opted to keep the 57 mm gun, not add a VLS, and chose to add an upgraded 3-D radar. Other changes included installation of an unspecified over-the-horizon missile, Mark 38 25 mm guns, a torpedo countermeasures system, a multifunction towed array system, installation the SeaRAM launcher (on the Freedom-class), an upgraded countermeasures decoy system, an upgraded electronic warfare system, armor added to vital spaces, and improved signature management. The SSC will focus in SUW and ASW with these additions, as well as retaining all other features of their mission packages; the SSC is not required to perform MCM, which will continue to be handled by the LCS. The vessels will retain a degree of modularity to concentrate on one mission set and will still have mission bays, although they may be reduced. SSC vessels are planned to begin procurement by 2019, and it is being investigated if the enhancements can be added to existing LCS hulls.[48]

Derivative designs[edit]

Austal has proposed a much smaller and slower trimaran, called the 'Multi Role Vessel' (MRV 80). Though it is only half the size of their LCS design, it would still be useful for border protection and counter piracy operations.[49]


Two Independence-class LCS ships have been commissioned. Three more are under construction by Austal USA. Five more are on order. An additional two ships are planned.

As of November 2014, the latest order for Independence-class LCS ships was for LCS-18 and LCS-20. On March 11, 2014, the Navy awarded contract options to fund construction of LCS-18 and LCS-20, the seventh and eighth ships in a 10-ship contract.[50]

Ship Hull Number Laid down Launched Commissioned Fate
Independence LCS-2 19 January 2006 26 April 2008 16 January 2010 Active in service
Coronado[51] LCS-4 17 December 2009 14 January 2012 5 April 2014 Active in service
Jackson LCS-6 1 August 2011 14 December 2013 Fitting out
Montgomery LCS-8 25 June 2013 6 August 2014 Fitting out
Gabrielle Giffords LCS-10 16 April 2014 Fitting out
Omaha LCS-12 On order
Manchester LCS-14 On order
Tulsa LCS-16 On order
Charleston LCS-18 On order
LCS-20 On order
LCS-22 Planned
LCS-24 Planned

In popular culture[edit]

  • USS Independence appears in the Discovery Channel documentary Inside: A 21st Century Warship, which also features USS Freedom (LCS-1).
  • A variants of this ship class appear in the Pixar movie Cars 2.
  • An Independence-class ship appears in the 2014 Godzilla reboot.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ewing, Philip, "LCS 2 delays trials after engine issue", Military Times, June 29, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Independence". Naval Vessel Register. Retrieved 22 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "GE and U.S. Navy Celebrate 40th Operating Anniversary of LM2500 Gas Turbine" (Press release). GE Aviation. 2009-10-27. 
  4. ^ USS Independence LCS-2 - GE LM2500 Gas Turbines
  5. ^ Navy's newest warships top out at more than 50 mph
  6. ^ In high-stakes LCS competition, disagreement on how to rank the best deal
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) High-Speed Surface Ship". Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  8. ^ GDLCS Media Center
  9. ^ Q & A with the U.S. Navy on Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles for Littoral Combat Ships -, 17 July 2014
  10. ^ Fire Scout Grows Up: Drone Getting Radar, Rockets, 2016 IOC -, 17 December 2014
  11. ^ "Navy Names Littoral Combat Ship Gabrielle Giffords". Retrieved 10 Feb 2012. 
  12. ^ "Introducing... The USS Omaha," WOWT, February 15, 2012.
  13. ^ "Secretary of the Navy Names Multiple Ships". Retrieved 7 Jun 2013. 
  14. ^ "SecNav Names Multiple Ships". Retrieved 7 Jun 2013. 
  15. ^ "USS Charleston an easy choice, Navy Secretary says". Retrieved 9 Jan 2015. 
  16. ^ "General Dynamics Bath Iron Works Team Wins Preliminary Design Award for U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship". General Dynamics press release, 17 July 2003.
  17. ^ "U.S.Navy Press Release No. 1269-07" (Press release). 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  18. ^ a b General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship Team Delivers Independence (LCS 2) and Lays Keel for Coronado (LCS 4)
  19. ^ Ewing, Philip, "LCS 2 begins sea trials after 3-day delay", Military Times, July 3, 2009.
  20. ^ Turbine-seal leak means more tests for LCS 2
  21. ^ Cava, Christopher P., "Trials successful for 2nd LCS hull", Military Times, November 21, 2009.
  22. ^ Navy News Service, "[1]",, January 16, 2010.
  23. ^ Navy says the field is level for teams competing for LCS contract
  24. ^ Sessions, Jeff "Sessions comments today regarding the Navy's proposal to purchase additional Littoral Combat Ship" Office of Jeff Sessions, 3 November 2010
  25. ^ "US Navy said to buy LCS warships from both bidders" Reuters 3 November 2010
  26. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. "Navy asks Congress to buy both LCS designs" NavyTimes, 4 November 2010
  27. ^ Cavas, Christopher P., "LCS 2 features large hangar, bigger berths", Military Times, January 11, 2010.
  28. ^ Navy not using fuel cost data in LCS competition
  29. ^ "Redeeming Freedom -- Changes for the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship."
  30. ^ "Ships Leaking $37 Billion Reflect Eisenhower’s Warning."
  31. ^ Navy Engineers LCS Changes -, 27 June 2014
  32. ^ "US Navy snaps up Aussie straddle carrier." SupplyChain Review, 25 November 2010
  33. ^ "Mobicon Flexible Container Handling System." Mobicon Systems, 2009
  34. ^ General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship brochure
  35. ^ "Raytheon Delivers SeaRAM to USS Independence". Reuters. 18 March 2008. 
  36. ^ Northrop Grumman-Led Team Demonstrates Means to Effectively Enhance Littoral Warfighting Capabilities
  37. ^ LCS 2: ‘It’ll blow your mind’
  38. ^ Sobie, Brendan (August 24, 2010). "AUVSI: Making a splash". Flightglobal. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 2012-04-20. 
  39. ^ "DARPA’s New TERN Program Aims for Eyes in the Sky from the Sea". DARPA. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  40. ^ "Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) Program Solicitation Number: DARPA-BAA-13-28". 26 March 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  41. ^ USS Independence LCS 2 - General Info
  42. ^ Cox, Matthew (8 April 2013). "LCS Maker Responds to Ship's Firepower Critics". Military Advantage. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  43. ^ General Dynamics to Deliver Open Architecture-based Combat Systems for 10 Littoral Combat Ships
  44. ^ Murtaugh, Dan. "Austal taps General Dynamics for LCS combat systems ." Press-Register, 3 January 2010.
  45. ^ General Dynamics Successfully Integrates Littoral Combat Ship Mission Package Computing Environment, General Dynamics Press Release, March 18, 2008
  46. ^ "The Power of Open Architecture."
  47. ^ Axe, David. "Plenty of Blame to Go Around for ‘Disappearing’ Warship." Wired, 5 July 2011.
  48. ^ Split Decision on New US Navy Ship -, 11 December 2014
  49. ^ "Multi Role Vessel MRV80". Austal. 2010. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  50. ^ "US Navy funds two further Littoral Combat Ships". March 11, 2014. 
  51. ^ "U.S. Navy to Commission Independence class Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4)". April 3, 2014. 

External links[edit]