It can adapt to counter emerging threats. It can evolve to add new capabilities. It can meet the U.S. Navy’s growing needs for affordable combat systems. It’s the Lockheed Martin team’s Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship - designed for survivability and lethality. Its flexible and scalable approach provides value to the Navy in its current design, and the company has already designed variants for international navies that could be leveraged by the U.S. Navy as it determines future requirements.
The Freedom’s steel monohull is scalable from the current length of 118 meters down to 67 meters or up to 140 meters. Its missions include self-defense, air-theater warfare, mine countermeasures, and surface and anti-submarine warfare. Paired with the MH-60R helicopter on board, the platform delivers robust air defense and lethality. Feedback from the recent USS Freedom deployment noted the MH-60R integrated seamlessly into the ship’s combat suite and provided an extension of the ship's own sensors and weapons.
“We have a design that is highly flexible,” said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ship Systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “It exists and has been proven in both small and large scales, showing its tremendous versatility, and offers lower risk in terms of how quickly our industry team’s current design and manufacturing processes can be adjusted to accommodate changes.”
Among those proposed changes to the ship’s design is the Multi-mission Combat Ship (MCS), which Lockheed Martin has studied as a foreign-market variant. The Navy could use the MCS as a baseline to pursue an increased self-defense capability for a next generation LCS and/or small surface combatant. Adding another layer of self-defense capabilities would increase the ship’s survivability in high threat environments while also enabling it to simultaneously defend other ships by conducting additional missions like anti-submarine or mine countermeasures.
“We’ve got the flexibility and the experience and the proven systems, both combat and hull, mechanical and electrical to put into the ship to meet the requirements at any level the Navy is looking for,” North said.
At the heart of its combat capabilities is the COMBATSS-21 management system, which is derived from the trusted Lockheed Martin Aegis Combat System. Aegis has shielded ships and sailors against air threats for more than four decades, and provides commonality in LCS for sailors who are already familiar with the system.
“There is a wealth of sailors out there right now who could come off an Aegis destroyer or cruiser and go onto a LCS and be very comfortable and familiar with the system they need to operate,” said North.