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Littoral Combat Ship USS LITTLE ROCK LCS 9
All the Latest News...  with the latest news
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Right now. . .  Sea Trials !!         Next. . .  Commissioning in Buffalo, NY !!

 Commissioning of the new USS LITTLE ROCK LCS 9

At the present time, it appears that the commissioning of the new USS LITTLE ROCK LCS 9
will occur no sooner than mid - to - late November 2017.

At such time as the commissioning date is firmly established we will advise all Association members.

We expect to hold some Association events in Buffalo, concurrent with the LCS 9 commissioning.  

Association members who have already requested an invitation to the LCS 9 commissioning
will remain on the list and no further action is necessary.

Posted 06 June 2017

Mayport set to welcome two more 'ships of the future'

Mayport set to receive boost as part of big Littoral Combat Ship program changes
Posted: 4:17 a.m. Friday, Dec. 30, 2016

New engineering training ordered for class of Mayport-bound ships
By Rich Jones

Jacksonville, FL - Excitement is in the air as Naval Station Mayport officially welcomes USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) and USS Detroit (LCS-7).

Mayport is going to become home for all of the Navy's Freedom variant LCS's. Milwaukee and Detroit lead the way for Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) Two.

"Not only great for our national security, which shows you the importance of Northeast Florida, but also a tremendous impact on our local economy with all the ships and planes and people", said retiring US Representative Ander Crenshaw.

"The Littoral Combat Ship, the so-called ship of the future, all of those on the east coast are going to be headquartered right here in Mayport", Crenshaw said.

The Navy says Mayport will be home to 12 LCS, meaning more Sailors and families coming to the First Coast. This comes at an important time for the base, which has seen ship levels drop with the decommissioning of Navy frigates.

LCS vessels were designed to be high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ships capable of operating independently or with a strike group. They are designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in coastal waters. A fast, maneuverable and networked surface-combatant, LCS's provide the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions such as surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-
submarine warfare.

USS Milwaukee was commissioned Nov. 21, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since arriving in Mayport last February, the ship's crew has successfully completed full-ship shock trials and is currently
undergoing planned maintenance availability at BAE Shipyard.

USS Detroit was commissioned Oct. 22, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. On Nov. 23, the ship arrived at Mayport and has been conducting combat system ship qualification testing (CSSQT).

Over the next year three more ships, which have yet to be commissioned, will call Naval Station Mayport home: USS Little Rock (LCS-9), USS Sioux City (LCS-11) and USS Wichita (LCS-13).

Mayport LCS Crew 109 Volunteers With USS Little Rock Association

By Lt. Heath Sivley - LCS Crew 109

Six Sailors from littoral combat ship (LCS) Crew 109 joined members of the USS Little Rock Association at the museum ship USS Little Rock (CL 92/CLG 4) in Buffalo, N.Y., to perform restoration on the decommissioned ship prior to the start of the summer tourist season.

For 24 years, former Sailors who served aboard the Cleveland-class light cruiser reunite annually to restore and maintain the ship while sharing sea stories and preserving the ship's history.

The original Little Rock was commissioned in 1945, and was decommissioned in 1976.  The ship was converted to a museum and relocated to the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park 1980.    She is the last remaining Cleveland-class light cruiser.

Sailors from LCS Crew 109, the Warhawgs, traveled from their homeport in Mayport, Fla. to assist in the annual restoration project.  Crew 109 is made up of a core crew of 50 Sailors and serves as the commissioning crew for USS Little Rock (LCS 9).  The newest Little Rock will be the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship, and is scheduled to be commissioned in Buffalo later this year.

 "This year has turned out to be a record-setter with respect to the number of participants in the USS Little Rock Association's annual work party," said Art Tilley,  a former Missile Technician 2nd Class who served aboard Little Rock from 1962-1963. 

"The additional six active-duty Navy personnel from LCS Crew 109 enabled us to work on more than double the number of projects, including installing weather deck canvas, prepping and painting significant portions of the Missile House exterior and repositioning several exterior deck drains," said Tilley.   "It goes without saying that this will be a work party which will be remembered by the 'old' crew as unquestionably the most successful working party ever, thanks to the fantastic efforts and the much appreciated can-do attitude of our Crew 109 sailors."

"This has been a great opportunity for Sailors from the namesake Little Rock and the future LCS-9 to get together and not only build personal relationships but also preserve the history of the ship as well," said Cmdr. Paul Burkhart, commanding officer of the future Little Rock. 

When the future Little Rock is commissioned, it will mark the first time a U.S. Navy ship is commissioned alongside her decommissioned namesake.  This bridging of generations was evident as Sailors from the two ships worked together.

"The opportunity to see their heritage being passed down and perpetuating the legacy from the former crew to the new crew has been a treat for the staff here at the Buffalo Naval," said retired Aviation Hydraulic Structural Mechanic John Branning, a maintenance supervisor for the Buffalo Naval Park.

"Not to mention the sheer amount of painting and general material condition upkeep that the two groups have accomplished really helps us," Branning added. "Working parties like these are truly invaluable and having actual active-duty Sailors who have damage control and maintenance training really helps bring in updated view points and technological knowledge that some of us Old Guard are lacking."

"Meeting and working alongside other Little Rock Sailors was an experience within itself," said Engineman 2nd Class Kyler Ayscue from Crew 109. 

"Hearing their stories and experiences, it's amazing how, even after 40 years or more, our stories can still relate."

In addition to assisting with the restoration and maintenance of the museum ship, LCS Crew 109 Sailors took advantage of their time in Buffalo visiting patients at the Buffalo VA Medical Center and attending a Buffalo Bisons' baseball game.

Posted in the U.S. Naval Station - Mayport "Mirror"
 Wed, 06/08/2016 - 2:52pm

New USS Little Rock to be commissioned in Buffalo

By Chris Caya - April 26, 2016

An historic event is in the works for the USS. Little Rock at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

The Navy's new USS. Little Rock LCS 9 is going to be commissioned in Buffalo's Inner Harbor. Maurice Naylon, chairman of the local commissioning committee, says it's an historic event.

"Ships are commissioned throughout the Navy. But there's never been a ship commissioned... in the 240 year history of the Navy - right beside its namesake. And that's going to happen when the new U.S.S. Little Rock arrives in our port to be commissioned right beside its namesake," Naylon said.  

The new ship's Commander, Paul Burkhart, is a Rochester native. Burkhart says no date has been set yet, but he says the new Little Rock will be in Buffalo for a week-long commissioning celebration.

"New USS Little Rock to be commissioned at Canalside" 

By Aaron Besecker -
16 Apr 2016

Buffalo is going to be part of U.S. Navy history.

A new combat vessel will officially join the Navy's fleet during ceremonies on the city's waterfront later this year or early next year.

The new USS Little Rock, a Littoral Combat Ship, will be commissioned at Canalside next to the decommissioned ship of the same name, the first time an event will have happened with the vessels in such proximity in the Navy's history.

The new Little Rock will enter active duty next to the former cruiser,  now a floating museum in the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park. The event also will mark the first time in the city's modern history that a ship entered the Navy's fleet here.

And the man in charge of the ship will be Commander Paul Burkhart, who graduated from high school outside Rochester in 1985.

Littoral Combat Ships get their name because they operate in waters close to shore.

The new Little Rock will be 378 feet long and 56 feet wide and will weigh about 3,000 tons.

That's shorter and lighter than ships in the destroyer class.

"We're going to be fast and agile. We'll go above 40 knots - other Navy ships don't quite make it that fast," Burkhart said.

The ship will be able to undertake three types of combat missions: anti-submarine, anti-mine and surface warfare.

Because of its abilities, the ship also will be well suited to take on illicit-trafficking operations in places like the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, as well as counter-piracy operations like around the Horn of Africa, Burkhart said.

The ship will have a helicopter launch pad, a ramp for small boats and will have new water jet-propulsion.

A core crew of 50 will operate the ship, plus 20 to 23 more sailors depending on the mission-specific equipment brought aboard. That means the total size of the crew will peak at fewer than 100, far fewer than the 250 to 350 sailors aboard a destroyer, Burkhart said.

"It takes fewer people because it's more automated," the graduate of Churchville-Chili High School said. In his 30-plus year career in the Navy, this will be Burkhart's 10th ship.

He enlisted in the Navy in Buffalo in 1984, before his senior year in high school. He eventually took part in an enlisted commissioning program, which allowed him to rise through the ranks as an officer.

The new Little Rock, named after the capital of Arkansas as was its namesake, will be the ninth ship of the LCS class. It was christened last July 18 at Marinette Marine Corp.'s shipyard in Marinette, Wis., with an estimated cost of $360 million. There are two variants within the LCS class - the Freedom variant, which has a conventional hull; and the Independence variant, which is a trimaran, or multi-hull boat. The Little Rock is a Freedom variant.

Once the ship is commissioned, it will undergo several months of tests of its combat systems and then mission-specific testing before it is ready to be deployed.

The decommissioned Little Rock was put into service as a light cruiser in 1945 and decommissioned in 1949. It was recommissioned as a guided missile cruiser in 1960 and decommissioned in 1976. It opened to the public in the naval park in 1979.

When the new Little Rock arrives in Buffalo from the Menominee River north of Green Bay for its commissioning event at Canalside, members of the public will be able to tour the ship as part of weeklong festivities. A date for the event has not been finalized.

USS Little Rock LCS 9 Crew 109's commissioning ceremony marks the
first LCS Crew commissioning ceremony for NavSta Mayport

08 Jan 2016

Click HERE for more details

Click HERE for an excellent treatise on ship commissioning events.

Excerpts from "DefenseNews" (LINK)
Pentagon Cuts LCS to 40 Ships, 1 Shipbuilder

By Christopher P. Cavas
December 17, 2015

WASHINGTON - The US Navy's fight to buy 52 variants of its littoral combat ship (LCS) from two shipbuilders may have taken a fatal blow this week after the secretary of defense directed the service to cap its buy at 40 ships and pick only one supplier. The directive also orders the Navy to buy only one ship annually over the next four years, down from three per year.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a Dec. 14 memo to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the Navy to "reduce the planned LCS/FF procurement from 52 to 40, creating a 1-1-1-1-2 profile, for eight fewer ships in the FYDP, and then downselect to one variant by FY 2019."  FF is a Navy designation for frigate. Beginning with LCS 33, the Navy is planning to build a more heavily-armed LCS variant with the FF designation, the result of a 2014 directive from then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to produce a more powerful ship. The "1-1-1-1-2" profile would provide for one ship each year in 2017-2020 and two ships in 2021, the end of the current future years defense plan (FYDP).

Navy to make history when it commissions new USS Little Rock next to its namesake at Canalside

By Lou Michel - BuffaloNews Staff Reporter
August 5, 2015

Two pages of history will be written when a sleek new combat vessel cruises into Canalside and is commissioned as the USS Little Rock beside its namesake.

The commissioning will mark the first time in modern Buffalo history a ship has been accepted into the U.S. Navy’s fleet here, and the first time in Navy history that a ship has been commissioned beside a decommissioned ship bearing the same name, according to officials at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

And though the commissioning isn’t expected to happen until December 2016 or May 2017, depending on the weather in the Great Lakes and on when the new USS Little Rock completes its trial runs in Lake Michigan, park officials say it will mark a proud day for Buffalo and the region.

“As the time gets closer, it will give us an opportunity to showcase a little bit of the history of the Navy and its ships, and we’ll also be able to showcase the waterfront and really show off Buffalo,” said John M. Branning, superintendent of ships at the park.

The new USS Little Rock, built in Marinette, Wis., near Green Bay, got its name after crew members from the old USS Little Rock persuaded Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to assign the name to one of the Navy’s newest warships.

The new Little Rock is an LCS, or Littoral Combat Ship, which means it will operate in waters close to shore. The ships have a helicopter launch pad, a ramp for small boats, and can be used by small assault forces.

“LCS is designed to satisfy the urgent requirement for shallow draft vessels to operate in the littoral (coastal waters) to counter growing potential ‘asymmetric’ threats of coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and the potential to carry explosives and terrorists on small, fast, armed boats," according to

It wasn’t exactly a hard sell to get Mabus on board with naming the new ship the Little Rock. He served as a junior officer on the USS Little Rock in 1971 and 1972 and is a long-standing member of the USS Little Rock Association, which gathered in Buffalo about two weeks ago for its annual reunion. Mabus was among the more than 200 former shipmates who attended.

The name of the original Little Rock and the new one, of course, pay tribute to Arkansas’ capital city.

Initially Mabus kept association members guessing on whether he would keep the old ship’s name alive.

“When we presented this question regarding the naming of the ship to Secretary Mabus, he appeared to be skeptical, pointing out quite eloquently that there is a lot of political pressure in naming a ship. He genuinely left us with a question of whether it would happen,” said Art Tilley, the association’s webmaster and a guided missile technician on the ship in 1962 and 1963.

“I’m ecstatic, to say the least,” he added. “This preserves the legacy of those who previously served on Little Rock.”

The original USS Little Rock began its service as a light cruiser in 1945, when World War II was coming to an end. In 1949, it was decommissioned, but it was recommissioned in 1960 as a guided missile cruiser, patrolling the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, before it was permanently taken out of service in 1976 and brought to Buffalo.

So what officially happens at a commissioning?

Unlike the christening of a ship, when a bottle of champagne is broken on the bow and the vessel is launched into the water for the first time, a naval commissioning represents the start of the ship’s career.

“When the ship is commissioned, it is actually being brought into the United States Navy,” Branning said. “It’s when the Navy and its crew take charge of it. The commanding officer takes possession and his first order to the crew will be ‘bring the ship to life.’ Then the crew runs aboard.”

It is expected that many members of the USS Little Rock Association will attend the commissioning.

“Usually things like this do not happen in the lifetime of living ex-crew members,” Tilley said. “Come hell or high water, I’m planning to be there. It’s the culmination of a dream.”

LITTLE ROCK is Christened at Marinette Marine

18 Jul 2015

Launch Ceremony Invitation

An official invitation to the Christening Ceremony

Storm Front         Storm Clouds

An hour before the start of the Christening Ceremony it was beginning to look as if the weather wouldn't cooperate.
False alarm! The weather was perfect.

Freedom Fleet Shore View                                  Freedom Fleet Air Viw

Two nice views of Marinette Marine. The LITTLE ROCK is furthest from the camera...  on the launching ways.
The two ships in the water are both Freedom Class ships, most likely DETROIT and MILWAUKEE.

Little Rock poised for launch

LITTLE ROCK  in full dress shortly before launching.

Access Ramp        Champagne Bottle Smash

                                             Looking up the access ramp to the spot                                                           LITTLE ROCK's sponsor Ms. Janee Bonner
                                        where the champagne bottle is to be broken                                                           breaks the "sacrificial" champagne bottle
                                                          on LITTLE ROCK's bow.                                                                                            with a single swing.

Bottle Hit Long View

LITTLE ROCK's sponsor Ms. Janee Bonner breaks
the bottle in one perfect swing!


Moments later the newly christened LITTLE ROCK slides down the ways
with a very impressive splash, and.....

Afloat at last

.... floats majestically in her new element.  All "Hail" LITTLE ROCK !!

The Boat Builders

Some of the proud workers from the Lockheed Martin / Marinette Marine Corporation team.

Well Done Folks!

LITTLE ROCK Mast Stepping Ceremony - Sometimes referred to as the "Coin Ceremony"

23 Apr 2015

History / Purpose: Ceremony involves placing or welding one or more items into or under the mast of a ship, and is thought to bring good luck.  Origins in the naval histories of the Vikings, Greeks and Romans .

Items typically used: 
Plaques, time capsules, coins, “challenge coins", boatswain’s pipes, name tags (youngest / oldest crew members), uniform parts, coins representing hull number (year and or "value"), keys,  parts from sister-ship, parts from other ship(s),  personal mementos.

Long term significance:  Historic connection to sister ship(s), builder / contractors, commissioning location, sponsor, crew member(s) past & future.

Mast Stepping Contributions

Mast Stepping contributions will be placed in the large container in the rear.
USS Little Rock Association contribution is small plastic container (3rd item from the right)

Mast Stepping Container

Mast Stepping Container with items inside prior to sealing.

MCPO Ken Mutzabaugh

Master Chief Ken Mutzabaugh describes the contents of the Association's contribution.
(Ken is the last of the "old" USS Little Rock crew still on Active Duty!)

Mast Stepping Operation 1  Mast Stepping Operation 2

                     LCS 9 Mast being swung into position                               LCS 9 Mast being lowered onto the ship                                     

                Completing the installation of Little Rock's (LCS 9) main mast on April 23, 2015 marking the latest milestone
                in the ship's completion schedule. The 5,070-pound mast, standing 27’-10” tall, supports the ship's suite of
                communication, navigation, and combat systems antennas and radars.

 Photos and text are from the Spring 2015 issue of "The Beacon" a publication of Marinette Marine Corporation

Navy continues funding for Marinette Marine combat ships

By Ted Miller
April 1, 2015

The U.S. Navy will continue providing funds for building Littoral Combat Ships at Marinette Marine.

The company announced the Navy modified its contract for one fully-funded LCS worth $362 million, along with a $79 million advance payment on a second ship. The award includes an option for an additional ship in fiscal year 2016.

They will be the 11th and 12th Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships.

Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Littoral Ship Systems, Joe North, issued this statement: “We are proud to continue this partnership with the Navy in building the advanced Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, and we thank the Navy for maintaining the cost and schedule for the block buy.

“Thousands of people across the country contribute to this important program and will continue to do so as we transition to the new frigate upgrade in the coming years.”

The original Marinette Marine-built LCS, the USS Freedom, completed a successful deployment in Southeast Asia. Another, the USS Fort Worth, is on a deployment with the U.S. 7th Fleet until 2016.

Delivery of the USS Milwaukee to the Navy and the christening and launch of the USS Little Rock are both planned to happen this summer.

LITTLE ROCK is moved out of construction building

21 Mar 2015

Little Rock is moved out of shed

LITTLE ROCK LCS 9 is moved from the Hull Block Erection Building #10

Little Rock outside in yard

LITTLE ROCK - LCS 9 is moved to her new waterfront location on the Menominee River on
Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMT's). At this point she weighs over 7 million pounds!

Little Rock positioned on launching ways

LITTLE ROCK LCS 9 positioned on the launching ways.
Note that the ship's mast has not yet been installed.

Christening, Launching, and Commissioning of U.S. Navy Ships

01 Feb 2015
 by John C. Reilly
Head, Ships History Branch
Christening and Launching

“In the name of the United States I christen thee ________________," proclaims the sponsor while she shatters the ceremonial bottle of champagne against the gleaming bow of a new ship towering above her. As if the sponsor's very words have injected a spark of life, the ship begins to move slowly from the security of the building way to the water environment where she will play her destined role for the defense of the United States.

When a woman accepts the Secretary of the Navy's invitation to sponsor a new ship, she has agreed to stand as the central figure in an event with a heritage reaching backward into the dim recesses of recorded history.

The first description we have of an American warship christening is that of Constitution, famous "Old Ironsides," at Boston, 21 October 1797. Her sponsor, Captain James Sever, USN, stood on the weather deck at the bow. "At fifteen minutes after twelve she commenced a movement into the water with such steadiness, majesty and exactness as to fill every heart with sensations of joy and delight." As Constitution ran out, Captain Sever broke a bottle of fine old Madeira over the heel of the bowsprit.

The first identified woman sponsor was Miss Lavinia Fanning Watson, daughter of a prominent Philadelphian. She broke a bottle of wine and water over the bow of sloop-of-war Germantown at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 22 August 1846.

The actual physical process of launching a new ship from her building site to the water involves three principal methods. Oldest, most familiar, and most widely used is the "end-on" launch in which the vessel slides, usually stern first, down an inclined shipway. The "side launch," whereby the ship enters the water broadside, came into nineteenth-century use on inland waters, rivers, and lakes, and was given major impetus by the World War II building program. Another method involves ships built in basins or graving docks. When ready, ships constructed in this manner are floated by admitting water into the dock.
Fitting Out and Commissioning

Christening and launching are the inseparable elements which endow a ship hull with her identity. Yet, just as many developmental milestones must be passed before one takes his place in society, so too must the newly-launched vessel pass such milestones before she is completed and considered ready to be designated a commissioned ship of the United States Navy. The engineering plant, weapon and electronic systems, galley, and multitudinous other equipment required to transform the new hull into an operating and habitable warship are installed and tested. The prospective commanding officer, ship's officers, the petty officers, and seamen who will form the crew report for training and intensive familiarization with their new ship. Crew and ship must function in total unison if full potential and maximum effectiveness are to be realized.

Prior to commissioning, the new ship undergoes sea trials during which deficiencies needing correction are uncovered. The preparation and readiness time between christening-launching and commissioning may be as much as three years for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to as brief as twenty days for a World War II landing ship. Monitor, of Civil War fame, was commissioned less than three weeks after launch.

Commissioning in the early United States Navy under sail was attended by no ceremony. An officer designated to command a new ship received orders similar to those issued to Captain Thomas Truxtun in 1798:

“Sir, I have it in command from the president of the United States, to direct you to repair with all due speed on board the ship Constellation lying at Baltimore. It is required that no Time be lost in carrying the Ship into deep water, taking on board her Cannon, Ammunition, Water, Provisions & Stores of every kind completing what work is yet to be done shipping her Complement of Seamen and Marines, and preparing her in every respect for Sea . . . It is the President's express Orders, that you employ the most vigorous Exertions, to accomplish these several Objects and to put your Ship as speedily as possible in a situation to sail at the shortest notice.”
Commissionings were not public affairs and, unlike christening-launching ceremonies, no accounts of them are to be found in contemporary newspapers. The first specific references to commissioning located in naval records is a letter of 6 November 1863 from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to all navy yards and stations. The Secretary directed: "Hereafter the commandants of navy yards and stations will inform the Department, by special report of the date when each vessel preparing for sea service at their respective commands, is placed in commission."

Subsequently, various editions of Navy Regulations mentioned the act of putting a ship in commission, but details of a commissioning ceremony were not prescribed. Through custom and usage, however, a fairly standard practice emerged, the essentials of which are outlined in current Navy Regulations.

Officers and crew members of the new ship are assembled on the quarterdeck or other suitable area. Formal transfer of the ship to the prospective commanding officer is done by the Naval District Commandant or his representative. The transferring officer reads the commissioning directive, the national anthem is played, the ensign is hoisted, and commissioning pennant broken. The prospective commanding officer reads his orders, assumes command, and the first watch is set.

In recent years, commissioning ceremonies have come to be public occasions more than heretofore had been the practice. Guests, including the ship's sponsor, are frequently invited to attend, and a prominent individual may deliver a commissioning address.

Whether for a massive nuclear aircraft carrier, destroyer, submarine, or amphibious type, the brief but impressive commissioning ceremony completes the cycle from christening and launching to full status as a ship of the United States Navy. Now, regardless of size and mission, the vessel and her crew stand ready to take their place in America's historic heritage of the sea.

The foregoing is excerpted from a somewhat lengthier article written by the late John C. Reilly, Head, Ships History Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC.

LCS Now Officially Called A Frigate

15 Jan 2015

WASHINGTON — Since its inception in 2001, the US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program has been described as needed to replace the fleet's frigates, minesweepers and patrol ships. But the ship's place in the line of battle continues to be debated. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus thinks one of the reasons the ship is misunderstood is the nontraditional LCS designator. He directed an effort to find a more traditional and appropriate designation for the LCS and several other recent ship types, such as the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB).

The first of the types to be redesignated is the LCS. "If it's like a frigate, why don't we call it a frigate?" he said Thursday morning to a roomful of surface warfare sailors at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium just outside Washington. "We are going to change the hull designation of the LCS class ships to FF," Mabus said, citing the traditional hull designation for frigates. "It will still be the same ship, the same program of record, just with an appropriate and traditional name."

Mabus has long been irked by the habit in recent years of applying program-like designations to ships, and LCS is an example. In the Navy's designation system, the first letter sometimes is the key to the overall role of the ship, and "L-class" ships are widely considered to be those involved in carrying Marines and their equipment for an amphibious assault. LCS is the sole exception — a ship the Navy counts as a surface combatant, not an amphibious lift ship.

"When I hear L, I think amphib," Mabus said. "And it's not an amphib. And I have to spend a good deal of my time explaining what littoral is." Re-designating the ships as FF puts the ship squarely back in the surface combatant category, and is appropriate, since the Pentagon direction in developing the modified LCS was to make it more "frigate-like."

Navy sources said it was intended to designate only the modified LCS as frigates, but many of the upgrades intended for those ships are to be back-fitted into earlier LCS hulls, blending the types. So in the end, the decision was made to make the change to the entire class. Navy sources said a decision on what hull numbers the ships will carry has yet to be made. There are several possibilities — if the ships pick up with the frigate series, the next number available is FF 1099. The fleet's last guided-missile frigates (FFGs) will be decommissioned in September, and the next number in that sequence is FFG 62. But unlike the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates being phased out, the LCS doesn't carry an area air-defense missile such as the Standard missile — the basis for the "G" — so the FFG series isn't entirely appropriate.

The Navy also could decide not to change the hull numbers but simply change the designator — something that was done in the late 1970s when new Aegis guided-missile destroyers were redesignated as cruisers without changing the numbers. Mabus said he would announce additional ship changes in coming weeks.

By Christopher P. Cavas, DefenseNews (a Gannett Company)

Changes to Littoral Ships

16 Dec 2014

Changes to littoral ships to increase armor, weapons systems.

Workers are still building Mayport’s first expected littoral combat ship, the future USS Little Rock, but Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered large-scale changes to the program Thursday. Hagel announced in February that the government would freeze the last 20 of the 52 planned ships while the Navy searched for answers to questions about the ship’s firepower and survivability. “The Navy is doing a review of the LCS, because there were some questions in terms of threats and vulnerability and that sort of thing and I think they recognize that,” Hagel told the Times-Union in July. “Like anything that’s new, there will be some modifications and they’ll find things that they can do better.”

Hagel said Thursday (Dec 16, 2014) the orders for the last 20 ships would begin in 2019, albeit with significant upgrades to a still unidentified version of the ship. The upgrades are expected to cost $65 to $75 million per ship, more than doubling the original per-ship costs of $220 million to over $500 million. What that means for Mayport’s program remains unknown. “Right now, we’re just focusing on our program here at Mayport and receiving the USS Little Rock in 2016,” said base spokesman William Townsend.

Hagel raised the possibility early this year that an entirely new design would be considered for the remaining 20 ships. Instead, Hagel and the Navy decided to go with an upgraded version of one or both of the current designs. Currently, Mayport is slated to only receive ships of the Lockheed-Martin Freedom-Class design, while Austal and General Dynamics build the Independence-Class variant that will make up a portion of Naval Station San Diego’s fleet.

An August report by the Congressional Research Service detailed the myriad concerns over the program. “The LCS program has been controversial due to past cost growth, design and construction issues with the lead ships built to each design, concerns over the ships’ survivability (i.e., ability to withstand battle damage), and concerns over whether the ships are sufficiently armed and would be able to perform their stated missions effectively,” according to the report.

Obviously, at least some of those concerns were legitimate. The numerous upgrades to the ships nearly all focus on increasing the ship’s own firepower and it’s ability to avoid, or at least survive, that of the enemy. Added armor will help shore-up the ship’s aluminum skin. The newly introduced SeaRAM, or rolling airframe missile, currently in-use with the Independence-class of ships, will be added to all of the final 20 ships.

The SeaRAM is a radar and optics-guided remote missile system that can destroy close-in targets in the air and on the water’s surface. A pair of 25mm guns, in addition to the ship’s main 57mm gun, will also added. Offensively, a surface-to-surface missile system with a range of about 70 miles will give the ship some of the punch it has been accused of lacking.

Designated as the East Coast hub for the new ships, Mayport is currently scheduled to receive at least six of the ships — along with 900 sailors — in the coming years.

Times-Union / Jacksonville, FL

Mayport, Florida

13 Nov 2014

Today the U.S. Naval Station Mayport newspaper the "Mirror" ran an article by Paige Gnann the Mirror editor entitled:

"Mayport Moves Closer To Being LCS Hub On East Coast"

Here are some excerpts from the article:

The landscape of Naval Station Mayport’s basin is quickly changing, and establishment of Commander Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two (LCSRON Two) is further emphasizing the steady growth of the base. . . . .

“If you look at Mayport 20 years ago… Mayport had a lot of frigates,” said Rear Adm. Pete Gumataotao, Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic. “Now we’re looking at the [frigates] starting sundown. It’s the turning of the guard, of the watch.”. . . . .

“The LCS is here for a specific mission …that is very diverse, very dynamic, very fast moving and very challenging in an anti-axis area denial environment,” Gumataotao said. . . . . .

With the establishment of LCSRON Two, six Freedom Class ships will be stationed at Naval Station Mayport within the next four years.  These ships include USS Little Rock (LCS 9), USS Sioux City (LCS 11), USS Wichita (LCS 13), USS Billings (LCS 15), USS Indianapolis (LCS 17), and (LCS 19), ship name to be determined. . . . . .

Construction is currently underway for a two-story building with a reinforced concrete foundation, masonry walls and a pitched standing seam metal roof. The building will serve as a logistics support facility for the Littoral Combat Ship Squadron and other organizations which support the LCS.

Oct  2014 - Marinette Marine Corporation photo

LCS 9 Under Construction, Oct 2014
The new USS Little Rock LCS 9 takes shape at Marinette Marine Corporation.
This photo shows the new LITTLE ROCK under construction at
Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin in October 2014.

USS Little Rock LCS 9 Basing

07 Aug 2014

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announces that Naval Station Mayport, FL, will be receiving 6 Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ships: LCS 9 Little Rock, LCS 11 Sioux City, LCS 13 Wichita, LCS Billings, LCS 17 Indianapolis, and LCS 19.

NS Mayport, which recently lost its frigates, will pick up about 900 Sailors and support personnel.

Source: Maritime Executive, “Six Navy LCS’ Find Homeport”.

 Article on LCS Program

04 Aug 2014

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress
By Ronald O' Rourke - Specialist in Naval Affairs

Manning and Deployment / Reduced-Size Crew

The LCS employs automation to achieve a reduced-sized core crew (i.e., sea frame crew).  The program’s aim was to achieve a core crew of 40 sailors, although the Navy has now decided to increase that number to about 50.  Another 38 or so additional sailors are to operate the ship’s embarked aircraft (about 23 sailors) and its embarked mission package (about 15 sailors in the case of the MCM package), which would make for a total crew of about 88 sailors (for an LCS equipped with an MCM mission package), compared to more than 200 for the Navy’s frigates and about 300 (or more) for the Navy’s current cruisers and destroyers.

“3-2-1” Plan

The Navy plans to maintain three LCS crews for each two LCSs, and to keep one of those two LCSs continuously underway—a plan Navy officials refer to as “3-2-1.”  Under the 3-2-1 plan, LCSs are to be deployed for 16 months at a time, and crews are to rotate on and off deployed ships at 4-month intervals. The 3-2-1 plan will permit the Navy to maintain a greater percentage of the LCS force in deployed status at any given time than would be possible under the traditional approach of maintaining one crew for each LCS and deploying LCSs for six to eight months at a time. The Navy plans to forward-station up to four LCSs in the Western Pacific at Singapore, and up to eight LCSs in the Persian Gulf at Bahrain.

Article in "Breaking Defense"

23 Dec 2013

USS Little Rock, From Light to Guided Missile Cruiser: Lessons For The Littoral Combat Ship
By Norman Friedman

The Littoral Combat Ship has come under light fire from Congress because they worry especially about findings by operational testers that the ships cannot survive a firefight. Norman Friedman, a consultant at Gryphon Technologies with more than 30 military books to his name, argues in the following piece that critics need to consider that “change is at the core” of the LCS design, marking a welcome change in naval design. He believes LCS marks “the most fundamental change in warship design” in decades. Friedman compares the just-launched LCS ship USS Little Rock with the history of its predecessor, a light cruiser built near the end of World War II, mothballed a few years later and later rebuilt as a guided missile cruiser at considerable cost. Before critics dismiss Friedman’s argument, bear in mind that his book, “The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War,” won the Royal United Services Institute’s Westminster Prize in 2001. The man knows his history, as well as the capabilities of the US Navy. Read on. The Editor.
Warships are built to last a long time, so when they are laid down they are in essence bets on the future. But legendary baseball great and sometime philosopher Yogi Berra had it right, “It’s tough making predictions… especially about the future!” The increasing cost of modern warships makes it even more important that these platforms are capable of changing as threats evolve or new breakthroughs in warfare emerge.

Lost in all the discussions and debate swirling around the design, engineering, construction, and introduction of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the most fundamental change in warship design since the introduction of the Vertical Launching System or the AEGIS Weapon System decades ago, and that is the concept of modularity. One of the most important characteristics of the LCS program is its inherent modularity and how that will facilitate affordable and timely modernization of the LCS ships throughout its expected 30-year service life. As is often the case in these technical debates, a look at history is helpful in understanding and placing modularity into a 21st-Century context.

The history of the World War II-era light cruiser the USS Little Rock (CL-92) showed how right Yogi was; her life was full of operational and technical surprises. She was laid down in 1943 as one of a large number of light cruisers that were just showing how effective they could be in combat versus Japanese cruisers in murderous night gun battles in the Solomon Islands. By the time she was completed in June 1945, her mission had changed, and the same cruisers were now wanted primarily to protect aircraft carriers, the fleet's main striking arm. The war ended, however, before Little Rock could see actual combat, and the world’s geo-strategic situation soon changed dramatically.

Amid the postwar political disorder, it mattered a great deal that the United States could deploy powerful cruisers. Little Rock spent the early postwar years patrolling the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas – regions where the new Cold War was brewing. By 1949, however, money for defense was short and many cruisers like Little Rock had to be laid up. In 1943, very few observers could have imagined a nuclear world in which the U.S. Navy’s main priorities would be strike carriers and anti-submarine warfare, while general-purpose gunships like cruisers would no longer be essential.

The real surprise, however was that Little Rock was still valuable – because she was large enough to adapt to undertake new missions and to accommodate new technology. The new jets of the 1950s out-classed the shipboard anti-aircraft guns that had been so useful against kamikaze attacks in 1945, so the Navy led in the development of the first generation of ship-to-air guided missiles. It took a big ship to accommodate these new weapons, and in its inventory of war-built cruisers the Navy had exactly the right ships for this new mission.

Removed from “mothballs” in 1957, after three years of shipyard work and hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades, Little Rock was re-commissioned in June 1960, as one of the first guided missile cruisers (CLG/CG-4) in the Fleet. Not only did she carry missiles, she was also large enough to be outfitted as a fleet flagship. Both the missiles and the flagship capacity made her extremely useful in the new Cold War.

Little Rock returned to the Mediterranean as flagship of the Sixth Fleet, the most powerful Navy flotilla in that turbulent arena. As such, she was present when war erupted in the Middle East in 1967. After the Israelis inadvertently attacked the Navy surveillance ship USS Liberty, Little Rock provided medical aid and other emergency assistance to the stricken U.S. warship. As a command ship, she served as the hub of NATO forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. Besides Mediterranean operations, in 1961 Little Rock steamed off Santo Domingo to provide command and control capabilities for U.S. forces trying to stabilize that country after dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated. The crises may have changed, but the United States is still vitally interested today in both of those regions in which the original Little Rock once steamed. Little Rock was decommissioned in 1976, after two separate naval lives and providing valuable service to the nation.

In June 2013, the keel of a new USS Little Rock was laid. The latest incarnation is the Navy’s ninth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-9), and her design reflects the great lesson of her predecessor's life; ships last, but the world and missions can change quickly. The first Little Rock was never conceived to be re-built with entirely new weapons and electronics for new types of missions; no one could have imagined what those might be in 1943. The ship was worth re-building because she was large enough, fast enough and had a great deal of hull and machinery life still left in her. The second, latest iteration of Little Rock, on the other hand, is a very different proposition already. Change is at the core of her design. LCS-9 is conceived from the keel up to carry weapons and sensors that would be installed by placing standard shipping containers on board and connecting them to a “plug-and-fight” combat system.

Right now, the mission options are what might be expected for the littoral arena: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and mine countermeasures. To support those options, the new Little Rock can carry helicopters – manned and unmanned – and she can launch unmanned surface and underwater craft. She is designed to connect not only with craft she may launch, but also with other off-board sensors and systems. Both the unmanned vehicles and the off-board systems will undoubtedly become more and more important over her lifetime. We don't know exactly what new missions she may be called upon to perform at a future date, but we do know that adapting to changing missions cannot take three years of shipyard work and hundreds of millions of dollars before she is ready to confront those changing operational demands.

As the new Little Rock is designed and built, the Navy remembered the lesson of the past: change is inevitable, and the service must build ships that can change as needed. Accordingly, the new Little Rock will be able to swap in-and-out tailored mission packages quickly – on the order of days if not hours—vice months or years.

The other lesson of the two Little Rocks is that the sea does not change. There is a reason the cruiser Little Rock spent years in the Mediterranean in both of her incarnations, and a reason she also spent time in the Caribbean. The sea is still the main way in which the United States connects with the rest of the world – and in a globalized world, we cannot lose that intimate contact. It is the primary way in which the United States supports its friends and Allies abroad, because only by sea can we move masses of material, including airplanes.

The new Little Rock is a littoral combat ship because more and more of the action at sea is likely to be in the littorals – that strip of land influenced by what happens offshore, and the strip offshore influenced by what happens ashore. That means mine warfare, anti-ship missiles and diesel-electric submarines – operational problems the containerized, modular LCS systems are intended to surmount.

If the modularity concept is so important, why then have the LCS mission modules taken so long to develop and field? The short answer would seem to be that the overall LCS program was uncertain until the decision was ultimately made to pursue the 20-ship contract. Why press ahead on mission packages when the basic hull itself and the need for 45-knot speed were in question?

It would appear that the program is now at the point where the Navy can place increased focus and resources on modular mission packages. If successful, these packages will be available to support matter-of-fact upgrades, as well as respond to unforeseen advances in technology, for Little Rock (LCS -9) and her sister ships. In short, modularity is a terrific idea and – apart from aircraft carriers, which are inherently modular – the LCS is the only modular ship we have. We need to get it right. Modularity is the future.

In many ways Yogi Berra was right, predicting the future is tough. But Little Rock LCS-9 and her sisters will have the flexibility to respond to — if not anticipate —  unforeseen change and take on new missions that we can only dimly forecast today.

Norman Friedman is an analyst in Gryphon Technologies’ TeamBlue National Security Programs. His recent naval works include “Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter in Three World Wars;” “Seapower as Strategy; Terrorism, Afghanistan, and America’s New Way of War;” Naval Firepower; and his two-volume histories of Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers. He also wrote five editions of the encyclopedic “Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems.” He is not consulting for either the Navy program office overseeing LCS or for the companies building the ships.
Breaking Defense

SecNav Ray Mabus visits LCS 9 at Marinette Marine Corp.

12 Sep 2013

SecNav Ray Mabus at new LCS 9
On Sept. 12, 2013 U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus (center) visited the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard to tour the Littoral Combat Ship production line. Shown above, left to right, on the hull of the future USS Little Rock LCS 9, is Dave Pyron, LCS 9 ship superintendent; Joe North, Lockheed Martin VP of Littoral Ships and Systems; Ray Mabus, U.S. Secretary of the Navy; Chuck Goddard, President and CEO of Marinette Marine Corporation; and Tom Perrine, Marinette Marine Corporation VP of manufacturing.

LCS9 Under Construction Photo 1

LCS 9 Under Construction - Looking Forward

LCS9 Under Construction Photo 1

LCS 9 Under Construction - Looking Aft

Navy Times Article
28 Jun 2013

By Associated Press

MARINETTE, WIS.    The Navy has celebrated the keel laying of the future USS Little Rock.

The traditional ceremony took place Thursday at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin, where the Littoral Combat Ship is under construction.

During the ceremony, ship sponsor Janee Bonner authenticated the keel by having her signature welded into it.

The keel is usually the first part of a ship's hull to be constructed. Laying the keel is often marked with a ceremonial event.

Keel Laying Ceremony
27 Jun 2013

The Navy celebrated the keel laying of the future USS Little Rock LCS 9 at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, where ship will be built. During the ceremony, ship sponsor Janee Bonner, wife of U.S. Rep. Joe Bonner (AL) authenticated the keel by having her signature welded into it.

Photos below are from the Keel Laying Ceremony. (Click any photo to enlarge it.)

Signing the plate
Welding the plate
The finished plate
Janee Bonner signs
the authentication plate

Welder Jason Tordeur adds
a bead to Ms. Bonner's initials

The finished plate, ready to be
attached to the LCS 9's hull

CLG4 Crew at Keel Laying
USS Little Rock Association members at LCS 9 Keel Laying Ceremony

Left-to-right:  SCPO Ken Mutzabaugh,  Cliff Wilson,  John Landwehr,  George Thomas,
CDR Kevin Ralston (LCS 9 CO),  Jason Tordeur (Welder),  LCDR Ken Lieberman (LCS 9 XO),
Ms. Janee Bonner (LCS 9 Sponsor),  Stephan Chase, Ray Cutter,  Bill Stankiewicz,  and Art Tilley.

Lockheed Martin Press Release
June 27 2013

The nation's ninth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) may be named Little Rock, but there was certainly nothing little about the recent celebrations that occurred in Marinette, Wis.

The U.S. Navy celebrated the keel laying of the future USS Little Rock June 27 at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin, where LCS 9 is under construction.

During the traditional ceremony, ship sponsor Janee Bonner, the wife of U.S. Rep. Joe Bonner of Alabama, authenticated the keel by having her signature welded into it. She was assisted by Chuck Goddard, President & CEO of Marinette Marine Corporation.

"It's a privilege to be named the ship sponsor of the future USS Little Rock" said Mrs. Janee Bonner. "The keel laying marks the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the ship and to the crews, and I am proud and honored to support the brave crews that defend our country.

The same day, just one mile from the Marinette Marine shipyard, Lockheed Martin held a ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of a new leased facility in downtown Marinette. Lockheed Martin will occupy 16,000 square feet of the previously vacant space, which can house 46 employees who support testing for the LCS program. With $500,000 spent in renovations, Lockheed Martin contracted local Marinette companies to upgrade the site.

The Little Rock is the fourth LCS being built at the Marinette Marine shipyard. The Lockheed Martin-led team built the Navy's first LCS, the USS Freedom, which is currently in Singapore as part of its 10-month deployment to Southeast Asia.

USS Fort Worth, commissioned in September, is conducting post-shakedown availability following successful Final Contractor's Trials in April. Construction of Milwaukee (LCS 5) and Detroit (LCS 7) is underway, and long-lead construction material is being procured for Sioux City (LCS 11).

The Navy awarded contracts to the team for the Wichita (LCS 13) and the Billings (LCS 15) in March.

Blog post on the LCS program from Rear Admiral John F. Kirby

10 Jun 2013

Rear Admiral John F. Kirby,
Chief of Information for the Navy, states:

I’ve been following closely all the debate over the Littoral Combat Ship. I’ve even chimed in here and there to refute what I thought was bad reporting and erroneous claims by those using old information. I figure that’s part of my job as the Navy’s spokesman—not to staunchly defend but rather to inform and to educate.

The truth is, these are healthy debates. We need them. Talking about problems is a good thing. And yet, as a guy who also taught naval history at the Academy, I can't help but think how very often we've been here before. Throughout our history, it seems, the boldest ideas are often the hardest to accept.

Take legendary shipbuilder Joshua Humphrey’s, contracted in 1794 to build a new class of frigate for the fledgling American Navy. Longer and broader than traditional frigates, Humphrey’s ships were designed with graceful underwater lines for speed, packing an impressive 44 guns and over an acre of sail.

But to many, the design seemed freakish. With its angled hull curving inward from the waterline, unusually flush decks and several feet of extra beam, it was deemed too ungainly to be of service.

Worse yet, Humphrey’s design had only partial support from a reluctant Congress not particularly interested in stirring up the ire of the British or French, both of whom were at each other's throats again. We didn’t need a Navy, not now, they said. And even if we did, it shouldn't consist of anything quite as drastic as Humphrey’s frigates.

All that changed in 1797, when, in response to warming relations between the United States and Great Britain, French privateers began raiding American commerce. By the summer of that year, they had captured no less than 300 U.S. ships.

In a huff and in a hurry, Congress ordered the completion of three of Humphrey’s frigates: United States, Constitution and Constellation.

They would accord themselves well, proving vastly superior in speed and durability to their French foes. In one of the most famous battles of that short, little undeclared war, Constellation forced the surrender of one of France’s mightiest frigates, Insurgente, in little more than an hour. Humphrey’s frigates would go on to even greater glory against the Barbary pirates of the North African coast a few short years later.

The critics had been silenced.

Silencing critics became almost sport for a whole generation of ship designers and engineers in the early 1800s. Robert Fulton shut them up by proving the power of steam over wind; Commander John Dahlgren did it with a revolutionary new gun capable of far greater range and accuracy, and Swedish designer John Ericsson awed them with something called a gun turret.

Ericsson didn’t stop there, of course. He went on to design a whole new class of warship. He called them Monitors, and they changed naval warfare forever.

The Monitor's case is instructive for any discussion of LCS. Nearly everything about it was new and untried. Its features were striking: a long, low stealthy profile, making it hard to locate; a shallow draft and good maneuverability, making it perfect for work in the littorals; and a radically new weapons system that boasted the largest and most powerful gun in the Navy’s inventory—John Dahlgren’s.

The ship operated with less than a third the number of Sailors required of conventional warships. And it was multi-mission in scope, capable of offshore operations and supporting campaigns on land. Even the material used to form the hull—iron—was revolutionary and added to the ship’s defensive capability. Ericsson called it his “self-propelled battery at sea.”

Critics called it a mistake. Too small, too slow and too lightly armed it would, they argued, be no match for the larger, cannon-bristling sloops of the Confederate Navy. Even Union Sailors had taken to calling it a “cheesebox on a raft.”

It wasn’t until much later in the war, after improvements had been made to the design, that the Monitor-class would prove its worth.

There were Monitors with Farragut at Mobile Bay. They took part in the Red River campaigns of the West and proved ideal for coastal blockading work. A Monitor even served as then-Admiral Dahlgren’s flagship during the 1863 attack on Charleston. They proved durable ships and had an incredibly long service life, the last of them not being stricken from Navy rolls until 1937.

The spirit of Monitor—and every other type of revolutionary ship—is alive and well in LCS. As Monitor ushered in the era of armored ships and sounded the death knell for those of wood, so too will LCS usher in an era of a netted, flexible and modular capabilities.

With its interchangeable mission packages, its raw speed, and its ability to operate with so many other smaller navies around the world, LCS gives us a geo-strategic advantage we simply haven't enjoyed since the beginnings of the Cold War.

The response by Singapore and by other Pacific partners to Freedom's deployment, for example, has been overwhelmingly positive. They like the ship precisely because it isn't big, heavily-armed or overtly offensive. They like it because they can work with it. I fail to see how that’s a bad thing in today's maritime environment.

Let’s be honest. LCS was never intended to take on another fleet all by its own, and nobody ever expected it to bristle with weaponry. LCS was built to counter submarines, small surface attack craft, and mines in coastal areas. Thanks to its size and shallow draft, it can also conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations, maritime security and intercept operations, as well as homeland defense missions. It can support Marines ashore, insert special operations forces and hunt down pirates in places we can't go right now.

Let me say that again ... in places we cant go right now.

That counts for something. The CNO always talks about building a Navy that can be where it matters and ready when it matters. Well, the littorals matter. The littorals are where products come to market; it’s where seaborne trade originates. Littorals include the major straits, canals, and other maritime choke points so necessary to this traffic. It’s also where a whole lot of people live. Coastal cities are home to more than three billion people right now, a figure that some experts estimate will double by 2025.

In addition to strains on local economies and the environment, this rapid population growth will continue to exacerbate political, social, cultural and religious tensions. You don't have to look any further than today's headlines to see the truth in that. Consider the Levant, North Africa, the South China Seas. And you don't have to look any further than at our current fleet of ships to see what we’re missing.

We need this ship. We also need to be more clear about it—what it is and what it isn't. This ship is a light frigate, a corvette. I never understood why we didn’t just call it that in the first place. Maybe it’s because a corvette conveys something less muscular, less macho. I don't know. Maybe it’s because a corvette is something completely new to us, at least those of us with no memories of picket destroyers, PT-boats, and hydrofoils.

Remember the whole debate over the Perry-class frigates?  I sure do. My first ship was a frigate. Too small, the critics said, too slow, too vulnerable. It couldn't defend itself, they argued. The 76mm gun was little more than a pea-shooter. The Phalanx system, poorly situated aft on the O-2 level, fired rounds too small to be effective against incoming missiles.  The sonar?  Well, let’s just say that some people compared it being both deaf and blind. Sailors on cruisers and destroyers used to joke that “they wished they were on a ‘fig’ so they could get sub pay.”

As one contemporary observer noted, “When [then] Soviet Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkov goes to bed at night, he's not lying awake counting Oliver Hazard Perry frigates.”

And yet, the little frigates became one of the most useful—and most popular—ships in the Navy. “By saving money, manpower, and operating costs, the FFGs helped the Navy pass through the economic trough of the 1970s and, with upgrades available from increased defense spending in the 1980s, have served as a reliable platform through the end of the 20th century,” writes Dr. Timothy L. Francis, a naval historian.

Moreover,” he continues, “without these low-end ships the U.S. Navy never would have been able to grow to the numbers needed to conduct the last phase of the Cold War, which allowed the service to meet the multi-faceted challenges of that period.”

Criticism is good. Criticism is healthy. We should have to justify to the very public we are charged to protect how we are spending their hard-earned tax dollars. And we are. We’re working very hard to be as forthright and open as we can about all the problems still plaguing both variants of the ship. But let’s not forget that it was critics who laughed at the aircraft carrier, disparaged the F/A-18 Hornet and the MV-22, and scoffed at the idea of propelling submarine through the water with the power locked inside an atom.

The critics have been plenty wrong before. And even the most skeptical of us have to be willing to admit that they will be wrong again.

Look,  LCS isn't perfect—by any stretch. But it’s still experimental. It’s still a bit like Humphrey’s Constellation and Ericcson’s Monitor when they first joined the fleet. New and untried, yes, but valuable in their own way to making us a more capable Navy. It just takes a little time to prove the concept. Sailors didn’t exactly clamor for PT-boat duty in World War II until it became a tactically proven and exciting option for them.

Navy leaders have been very clear that all options for LCS remain on the table. If we find that LCS needs to be more lethal, we’ll make it more lethal. If we find the ship needs to be manned or maintained differently, we’ll do that too. Just like with the Perry-class, we’ll upgrade and we’ll update. We’ll change.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the dangerous world we live in. The threats and the opportunities we face are real. And, quite frankly, they are every bit as “multi-faceted” as were those we faced at the end of the Cold War.

As Aviation Week’s Mike Fabey wrote recently, “The Navy needs to rid the service of the ‘old think.’

Whether the Navy achieves operational or acquisition success with LCS remains to be seen,” he noted. “But we do most definitely have a ship that is designed to be operated far differently than any other warship before it. At the high-altitude conceptual level, that is precisely what the Navy wanted.”

He’s absolutely right. We want—and we need—a new class of ships that can meet these new challenges, that can get us on station fast and close, one that can perform in the coastal areas where our partners, our forces and our potential foes will also operate.

To the critics I say, this is such a ship. Give it time.


 04 Dec 2012

USS Little Rock Association President Steve Chase informed Association members: "As an update...  I just talked with the coordinator about progression of LCS-9.   Construction should be underway soon with a keel laying targeted for the summer of 2013; christening slated for fall of 2014; and commissioning notionally planned for the spring of 2016."

Ship Naming Ceremony

05 Oct 2011

SecNav Mabus with LR Mayor Stodola

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus, left, and the Mayor of Little Rock Mark Stodola speak during the official naming ceremony for the ninth littoral combat ship USS Little Rock (LCS 9).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Newsome  /Released)

The next Littoral Combat Ship will be named "USS Little Rock"

15 Jul 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next Freedom-Class littoral combat ship (LCS) will be named the USS Little Rock (LCS 9).

Little Rock is the second ship to bear the name of the capital city in Arkansas.

The USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4) was originally a Cleveland-class light cruiser that served after World War II, and was one of six to be converted to a Galveston-class guided missile cruiser.

She was decommissioned in 1976 and now holds a place of honor as a museum ship in Buffalo, NY.

Little Rock will be designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal waters.

A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore, such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare.

The LCS Class consists of two different hull forms, the Freedom variant and Independence variant ‚ a semi-planing monohull and an aluminum trimaran, designed and built by two industry teams; Lockheed Martin and Austel USA.

These seaframes will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly as combat needs demand.

These mission packages are supported by special detachments that will deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine, undersea and surface warfare missions.

Little Rock will be 378 feet in length, have a waterline beam of 57 feet, displace approximately 3,000 tons, and make speed in excess of 40 knots.

The construction will be led by a Lockheed Martin industry team in Marinette, Wis.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

Announcement of LCS 6 and LCS 8 Names

24 Mar 2011

Remarks by the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy

Mobile, AL

"Joe (Joe Rella, Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer), thank you, and Senator Sessions and Congressman Bonner, Mayor Jones, and some of the best workers in the world. This is a happy day. Last week we announced the contract award for the seventh and eighth ships of the littoral combat ship class – so we’re going to be keeping you busy here Austal.

We’re building these ships here for a couple reasons. One is that Austal and General Dynamics worked really hard to get the cost down. And we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Senator Sessions and Congressman Bonner getting Congress to push through legislation last November and December after the election in the waning days of Congress to allow us to build both versions of the ship, to buy 10 from Austal and 10 from Marinette so that we can get more ships faster, for less money to the Navy. That is a good deal for the Navy, that is a good deal for the taxpayers and that’s a good deal for America.  So, thank you and thank y’all.

The second reason we’re building them here is because y’all build great ships.

I have got a T-shirt that I was given to me on my last visit here and it’s got a picture of an LCS built here at Austal. And it says, “A pirate’s worst nightmare.” Well, I tell you, it’s not only a pirate’s worst nightmare, it’s a drug runner’s worst nightmare. It’s a submariner's worst nightmare. It’s anybody who wants to do harm to the United States of America or to the United States Navy – it’s their worst nightmare, too.

The LCS 2 that you have built here is out on sea trials right now and I can't wait to get it deployed.

The LCS that’s already been deployed in the Caribbean in the first three weeks seized over three tons of cocaine. And the reason that it did was, these drug runners’ fast boats would be going along and they'd see a Navy ship on the horizon, they'd see a gray hull and they'd just assume they could outrun it. Nope, couldn't do it.

The ability with shallow draft, very fast speed and modular weapons systems so that you can take one off, put the other one on – this is going to be one of the backbones of the fleet.

We’re going to buy 55 LCSs with Congress’ approval so that America will be safe, America will be protected, America will be secure for decades to come, thanks to the things you are doing here.

Now, I’ve always said that being Secretary of the Navy is one of the coolest jobs on earth, and one of the best things about it is you get to name the ships that sail on behalf of the United States as part of our Navy. And so 6 and 8 just doesn’t have that ring to it, so I thought they needed names. So I want to announce today that LCS 6 will be named for Jackson, Mississippi, which is where I’m from, and LCS 8 for Montgomery, Alabama.

I picked these two names because they represent two great capitals. They represent two great states, but they also represent the workforce that’s out here. We got a lot of people from Alabama, but we also got a lot of people from Mississippi that come over and work here at Austal. And this is to honor you, too.

Jackson has never had a ship named after it, and so this will be the first that has ever been named the USS Jackson. There has been one USS Montgomery, named after the state capital here, but it sailed during the Spanish-American War – it was a cruiser. So it’s been a few years since Montgomery has been similarly honored.

These two ships will take forth the history and the pride of Alabama and Mississippi for decades to come as they sail around the world, as they do the business of the United States.

Jackson and Montgomery have been through a lot. They have survived wars, they have survived other tumult. They have been part of the crucible that was the Civil Rights revolution. These two ships, the Jackson and the Montgomery, will protect the freedoms that were won in 1776 and in the 1960s. These two ships represent what is best about America and how good American products are that are built here at Austal.

Thank y’all very much."

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