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Breaking the Ice with LCS

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Things are heating up for the U.S. Navy's first Littoral Combat Ship, after a long frozen winter in a Wisconsin shipyard.

The 377-foot Freedom is expected to head for open water once the ice melts. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin had hoped to set sail before the winter freeze, but ended up needing a few extra months for further development.

This week, the company announced a new testing milestone, as the new warship's electric plant fired up for the first time. The so-called "light off" of four diesel generators and a three-megawatt electrical power plant involved putting the entire system through its paces, at full power.

"This marks a significant milestone for Freedom as her electric plant is completely functional and able to support all tests, evaluations and operations at sea," Lockheed Martin said at this week's Navy League conference.

Freedom will be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2008 and will be homeported in San Diego. The new ships are intended to hunt mines, submarines and small boats in coastal waters. In addition to the Lockheed Martin design, the Navy also is buying a separate LCS design from General Dynamics. Both prime contractors are working with small U.S. shipyards to build the new ships, which are a lot smaller than the Navy's traditional carriers, cruisers and destroyers.

-- Rebecca Christie

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