‘Smart Phones of the Sea’ – A New Approach to Ship Design

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Lockheed Martin, which leads one of the industry teams that produces LCSs for the U.S. Navy, is providing the U.S. Navy with ideas on how to enhance current LCS designs with different levels of offensive and defensive capability.

When you buy a new smart phone, it comes ready to use with key programs – like email, messaging, telephone, maps, and calculators – already installed. It’s the ability to add custom applications and easily upgrade them that makes your phone most useful. Whether you install social media, fitness or productivity applications, a smart phone can accommodate added features to help you achieve your goals.

The U.S. Navy initiated a similar approach when officials developed the concept for the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) more than 10 years ago, focusing on making the vessels adaptable for the future. Today, the service is implementing that unique adaptability by looking at making changes to the current ship designs as they are modified to become the future fast frigates (FF). With the LCS and FF, technology allows the Navy to add more advanced, proven capabilities to a sophisticated platform.

Lockheed Martin, which leads one of the industry teams that produces LCSs for the U.S. Navy, is providing the U.S. Navy with ideas on how to enhance current LCS designs with different levels of offensive and defensive capability.

“The Navy’s approach to the LCS and FF focuses on modularity, or the ability to plug in different capabilities to address different needs,” said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems for Lockheed Martin. “Because the platforms are built to accommodate a multitude of added sensors, weapons and defense systems, the LCS and FF can be mission-ready in days or weeks, in contrast to other warships that may require several years to configure.”

“Apps” for the LCS and FF come as mission modules, which are interchangeable packages installed into the ship. These mission modules provide the ship with the systems needed for surface warfare, submarine hunting and mine clearing. The LCS and FF incorporate large reconfigurable spaces, such as a large aircraft hangar for launch and recovery, and a weapon zone that can accommodate offensive and defensive weapons.

Add-ons to these futuristic warships don’t track your favorite sports team or earn you rewards from your favorite coffee shop; rather, they help these ships to fight piracy, conduct drug interdictions and protect its crews from air, surface and underwater threats.

Though the Navy can’t download its LCS and FF mission modules or pull from the cloud (yet!) – they can be swapped out in less than a week using advanced technology.

“As threats continue to change now and in the future, the Navy can easily reconfigure the LCS and FF to address long range and short range surface threats, enhance detection abilities, and defend from air threats and electronic warfare,” North said. “Not only is this approach timely and effective, but also cuts the cost of upgrades.”

The Lockheed Martin team has delivered two LCS to the U.S. Navy, and six LCS are under construction at Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin.

The first LCS, USS Freedom, successfully completed a deployment to Southeast Asia in 2013.  During deployment, USS Freedom demonstrated the seamless integration of the Surface Warfare mission module, which included the MH-60R “Romeo” helicopter to extend the ship’s sensors and weapons in the air.

Currently, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) is deployed to Southeast Asia for 16 months, where its Surface Warfare capabilities have expanded upon USS Freedom’s by employing both manned and unmanned aircraft in tandem.

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