United States littoral combat ships (LCSs) will soon be equipped with over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missiles, according to the director of surface warfare at the Pentagon.
Littoral combat ships operate in the littoral zone, the area of the ocean close to the shore. American LCSs have been without surface-to-air missiles since 2010, when a plan to boost the LCSs’ weaponry with a heavy Non-Line-of-Sight missile was cancelled. The ships needed a weapon able to pack a punch against larger ships.
Now, the next LCSs scheduled for deployment – the Freedom and the Coronado – will be fitted with an unspecified over-the-horizon missile system. The Freedom and the Coronado will be redeployed in the first quarter or calendar year 2016 and the second or third quarters respectively.
The directive concerning the missiles was sent from Rear Adm. Pete Fanta, director of surface warfare at the Pentagon, to the Program Executive Officer for Littoral Combat Ships and the Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems at the Naval Sea Systems Command. It mandated that each ship should be equipped with “the maximum number of missiles possible within the space, weight, power and cooling margins available. The initial design should be able to spiral to an eventual goal of eight missiles per ship.”
A specific missile has not yet been mentioned, although the Navy has sent out a request for information from industry suppliers. Likely candidates are the Boeing Harpoon and Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM), according to sources in contact with Defense News. One model of missile may be tried on both LCSs variants.
The NSM has not been tested in service with any US ships, but has been in service with the Norwegian Navy. On the other hand, the Harpoon has been used in US warships since the 1970s.
The launch system for the missiles has not yet been determined either. Fanta wrote that complete integration between the LCS and the missile system isn’t necessarily essential: the missiles could simply be installed on top of the ship with a stand-along console or computer for control. Defense industry companies are also working on how to integrate the missiles with the ships’ designs. Lockheed Martin proposed a vertical launch system for the Freedom class. Austal SA has already proposed vertical launch systems, while Fanta offers box launchers, which would be less costly but almost impossible to reconfigure for improved versions of the OTH or different missiles.
The Freedom will be deployed to the western Pacific to relieve the Fort Worth, while the Coronado will be the first deployment of a ship in the Independence class.
(Via Defense News)
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