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That was the US Navy’s idea for the low-end backbone of its future surface combatant fleet.Inspired by successful experiments like Denmark’s Standard Flex ships, the US Navy’s billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes. In practice, the Navy hasn’t been able to reconcile what they wanted with the capabilities needed to perform primary naval missions, or with what could be delivered for the sums available.Given the diversity of possible missions in the shallow-water and near-shore littoral zones, and the potential threats from forces on land, any ship designed for these tasks must be both versatile and stealthy.History also suggests that they need to be able to take a punch.Meanwhile, the reality of ships that are expected to remain in service for over 30 years gives rise to a need for electronic longevity.As the saga of the USA’s cost-effective but short-lived FFG-7 frigates proved, “future-proofing” and upgradeability for key systems, electronics, and weapons will be critical if these small surface combatants are to remain useful throughout their mechanical lives.
It offers an especially large flight deck (7,300 square feet) and internal mission volume (15,200 square feet mission bay) for its size, with a 3,500 square foot helicopter hangar.The hull is aluminum, but the trimaran design offers additional stability options, and may help the ship survive side hits.The Independence Class will carry a General Dynamics designed combat system, and standard LCS weapon fittings.Team Lockheed Martin’s LCS-1 Freedom Class offers a proven high-speed semi-planing monohull, based on Fincantieri designs that have set trans-Atlantic speed records.The design will use the firm’s COMBATSS-21 combat system as the fighting electronic heart of the ship, has shock-hardened the engine systems, and uses a combination of a steel hull and aluminum superstructure.
In contrast to the traditional approach, which is to cram a wide-ranging set of bolted-in compromise equipment into fixed installations, “flex ships” can radically changes the ships’ capabilities, by swapping in a full breadth of equipment focused on a particular need.