Navy Commissions Latest Littoral Combat Ship in Annapolis
LCS-11, the USS Sioux City, boasts a lethal and flexible configuration to combat against asymmetrical threats.
The U.S. Navy added another ship to the fleet on Saturday with the commissioning at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, of the USS Sioux City, the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), known as LCS-11.
The 387-foot LCS-11 has one of the largest flight decks of U.S. surface combatants, and offers reconfigurable spaces topside for flexible armament of guns and missiles, for the medium caliber 57-mm Mk 110 deck gun and Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), according to Lockheed Martin, the LCS Freedom-variant industry team lead.
The USS Sioux City’s flexible spaces aft allow the ship to be reconfigured for various missions, including mine warfare, antisubmarine warfare or surface warfare operations. The hanger space can house two H-60 helicopters, equipped with electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensors and two vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles (Firescouts), also equipped with EO/IR. It also can carry two 11-m rigid hull inflatable boats.
The ship’s lower draft of 13.5 feet allows it to operate in shallow waters, making it ideal for mine warfare.
At the commissioning celebration on Saturday, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, USN, described the USS Sioux City as "a capable and lethal and tough ship,” designed to combat asymmetric threats.
“We’ve made these ships more lethal and survivable, steadily improving them, adding over-the-horizon missile capabilities, advanced sensors and a combination of manned and unmanned vehicles to support a wide range of missions well into the future,” Adm. Richardson said.
“Not everybody around the world is celebrating today,” the CNO noted. “For those [adversaries] who would threaten our free flow of goods, those who would threaten our interests, today is not a day of celebration. Today, in fact, is a day that has kept them up at night, …. because they know that soon the USS Sioux City will be out there on patrol, the fourth of four ships in the East Coast surface warfare division, our most effective fleet asset to counter the asymmetric small craft threats.”
The Navy made a block purchase for the production of 15 Freedom-variant LCSs from Lockheed Martin, Fincantieri Marinette Marine and other partners to be built at the shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.
The USS Sioux City and the other Freedom-variant ships have a water jet propulsion system powered by a combined diesel and gas turbine system, explained Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Small Combatants and Ship Systems, Joe DePietro, during a media event with reporters last week in Annapolis. LCS-11 is the sixth commissioned Freedom-variant ship, after LCS-1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The Lockheed team is building the odd-numbered hulls, which are the Freedom-variant, while Austal USA is building the even-numbered Independence class trimaran ships in Mobile, Alabama.
“At this stage of the program we have delivered seven ships and seven [additional] ships are in multiple phases of construction,” DePietro said. “LCS-15 is underway, in builder’s trials right now, LCS-17 was launched earlier this year, and we are on track to launch LCS-19 in the middle of December, and then once LCS-19 moves out, LCS-23 will go into the production building. So we’ve been busy, and are really hitting our stride.”
In August, the LCS team laid the keel at Marinette for LCS-23, which will be called the USS Cooperstown.
The company’s capital investments modernized the Marinette shipyard, and LCS-11 was the first ship of the series to fully go through the yard’s new capabilities, he added.
In addition, as the LCSs are produced, they will be outfitted with updated technologies. For example, while the USS Sioux City includes 3D air search radar, ships after LCS-15 will have 4D air search radar in their hull and SeaRAM, versus RAM.
The USS Sioux City is the first warship ever to be commissioned in Annapolis. The ship’s shallow draft enabled it to come up the Severn River and moor at the academy for the commissioning celebration.
The ship is under the command of Cmdr. Randy Malone, USN, and will be assigned to the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf.