Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert cited the Littoral Combat Ship, Mobile Landing Platform and Joint High Speed Vessel as critical new ship programs essential to the service’s future surface warfare strategy.
“We’ve got to integrate and embrace these new ships that are coming in and make them work and make them part of the scheme of the equation,” he said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association’s Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.
The emerging Littoral Combat Ship program will increasingly become an integral part of the fleet, Greenert said. He explained that the LCS would be key to naval operations and that ships would be in Bahrain, the South China Sea, Singapore and other strategically vital parts of the globe.
Overall, the Navy plans to buy 52 LCS ships. The first LCS, the USS Freedom, recently finished up a 10-month maiden deployment. Other LCS vessels have been built, tested and christened while many others are under construction.
“They are going to start coming at us and we have got to accept them and move along, bring that mission package capability into the fleet,” he said.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom and Independence — designed and built by two industry teams, respectively led by Lockheed Martin and an Austal USA-led team. Contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin and Austal USA on December 29, 2010, for the construction of up to 10 ships each.
So far, the first three LCS ships have been commissioned and the fourth, the USS Coronado, is slated for commissioning in April of this year, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Matthew Leonard said.
LCS 5 and 6 launched in December of last year, and ships 7 through 16 are in different stages of production, Leonard added. The Navy plans to wind up delivering four LCS ships per year.
The LCS ships are configured with modular or interchangeable mission packages, groups of technologies designed to accomplish a certain set of aims such as countermine, anti-submarine and surface-warfare missions.
Greenert also praised the emerging Joint High Speed Vessel, or JHSV, program, saying it will bring important technology to the fleet. The Navy plans to acquire as many as 11 JHSVs, ships engineered for fast transportation of troops, vehicles supplies and equipment.
“They are capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in austere ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. JHSVs also have an aviation flight deck and berthing space for up to 104 personnel and airline-style seating for up to 312,” a Navy statement said.
The fourth ship, JHSV 4 or USNS Fall River, was christened on Jan. 11, 2014. Greenert said a JHSV is leaving for a deployment to EUCOM, AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM areas of responsibility.
“We have 11 of them coming and two more of them coming this year. We’ll have four about a year from now, with three of them on deployment,” Greenert said.
Another ship in development emphasized by Greenert was the Mobile Landing Platform, or MLP.
Built by NASSCO, the Navy’s first Mobile Landing Platform recently completed contract trials and is slated for final delivery in March of this year. The MLP is a massive 80,000-ton, 785 foot-long commercial Alaska-class crude oil carrier configured to perform a range of military missions such as amphibious cargo on-load/off-load and logistics support.
“It is big. It has volume and persistence. Imagine what we could have done with this in Operation Damayan,” he added.
The mobile landing platform is able to accommodate MV-22 Osprey helicopters and maybe be able to accept F-35B Joint Strike Fighter landings, Greenert explained.
The Navy plans four new sea-basing ships to include two Mobile Landing Platforms, or MLPs and two modified MLPs, configured into what the Navy calls Afloat Forward Staging Bases, or AFSB.
“This thing is designed to support land operations, airborne operations, and special forces operations,” Greenert said.