As the Navy beats the drum on its concept of distributed lethality on the seas, contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. has a plan to put elements of its missile defense system on a new class of ship.
Talking to reporters Monday ahead of the start of the Surface Navy Association annual symposium, Jim Sheridan, director of Aegis programs at Lockheed, said the company was exploring ways to put a missile launch system and elements of its Aegis missile defense software on the Navy's San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks.
"The LPD-17, or the San Antonio class, was designed with space and weight for the Mark 41 vertical launching system," Sheridan said. "So you think of taking a Mark 41 vertical launching system, along with some of the capabilities that are inherent in the [Aegis] common-source library and transitioning that to that class, that's where you can really exploit [distributed lethality]."
The MK 41 VLS is an eight-cell module designed to accommodate a wide variety of missiles. It's currently in use by the Navy's fleet of cruisers and destroyers, which are equipped with the Aegis system.
San Antonio-class amphibs are primarily used as platforms to transport Marines, sailors and equipment. This year, Marine leaders have begun to speak publicly about their interest in using the available space aboard the ships to house a vertical launch system.
At a U.S. Naval Institute conference in December, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said he'd like to see the ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles.
“There’s a VLS cell on every LPD; we just don’t put any missiles on there,” he said. “Those forces are not just out there doing amphib stuff, but they’re a part of doing maritime domain operations, shaping the environment, fighting the naval campaign, along with the carriers, service action groups, submarines, maritime aircraft.”
With the 12th of the San Antonio-class ships, the Fort Lauderdale, to be under construction soon, and contract competition coming up this year on the non-Aegis ship self defense system currently in use on amphibious ships, Sheridan said the idea was ripe for exploration.
"One great tagline I saw in the back of the document here is if it floats, it fights," Sheridan said, referring to Navy Surface Force Commander Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden's new Surface Force Strategy document, published this week. "That’s an opportunity we can do."