NEWS:The LCS: One Step Closer to Reality

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Lockheed Martin, Blohm + Voss Sign LCS Agreement

Talk of "The New Navy" to some may seem like a pre-programmed mantra helplessly repeating itself to no avail. For those not yet convinced of the wholesale transformation of naval assets, a trip out west to San Diego for the AFCEA West 2003 exhibition and conference would have been convincing. With a distinguished and varied panel of Admirals and Generals, and a packed crowd including a cross section from the World War II generation to Generation X, the topic "What Do We Want Our Ships To Do?" was debated, oftentimes in a heated fashion.

Moderated by Anteon’s Dr. Scott C. Truver and discussed by many, including VADM Alexander Krekich, USN (Ret), President and CEO of Norfolk Shipyard and Drydock Corp., and RADM George R. Worthington, USN (Ret), former Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, the discussion started and ended with LCS … the Littoral Combat Ship.

While the need for traditional deepwater assets such as the aircraft carrier is still very real, talk surrounding the Navy of tomorrow concentrates more on faster, lower cost vessels capable of playing a multitude of roles closer to shore via a network centric system of information generation and dissemination. Quite simply, the awesome power of an aircraft carrier is unmatched and irreplaceable, but the risks of bringing it too close to shore are too great. At the same time, close air support and logistics to support troops on the ground are more vital than ever.

The LCS

The Navy is currently mulling LCS designs from six competitors, and is expected in the next month to award contracts to three for further development. The designs range from the a futuristic "stealth bomber" look to designs seen many times on these pages, namely the high speed, high capacity entrants from both Austal and Incat. Just last month Lockheed Martin and Blohm + Voss announced an agreement to work together in providing the U.S. Navy with a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) solution capable of meeting the stated requirements of speed, range, payload, cost, capability, survivability and supportability. The agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, calls for a continuance of the relationship established between both companies for the Navy's ongoing Ship Concept Studies. The scope of work to be performed consists of integrated modular designs for both onboard and off board systems as well as development of an advanced propulsion system for a Focused Mission Ship (FMS).

The FMS is a proposed ship design intended for the Navy as a tool to evaluate a range of technology options, particularly in the areas of design and modularity, for an eventual LCS.

LCS, a transformational new ship class for the Navy, will be expected to engage numerous threats in the littoral environment, the most significant of which include diesel submarines, small boats engaging in swarm warfare, and mines. A key element to the overall ship design will be the development and integration of different modules, easily interchanged with LCS, to address the various threats in the littorals.

Dale Bennett, Lockheed Martin NE&SS-Marine Systems vice president and general manager, stated "Blohm + Voss understood the need for modularity in ship design and integration as early as the 1970s, by developing flexible mission modules that provide for ease of spiral upgrades to systems over time. This approach to modular ship design resulted in the extremely popular MEKO-class ships, found in 11 navies worldwide today." Dr. Reinhard Mehl, Blohm + Voss executive board member, expressed his satisfaction with the new strategic partnership, and believes his company's experience with the MEKO ships will be of critical importance to LCS.

"We have learned many lessons along the way in refining the MEKO design that we expect to be of great significance for our LCS efforts, particularly in the areas of signature reduction, enhanced survivability, advanced propulsion systems, fully integrated warfare systems based on an open system architecture, damage control and integrated monitoring and control systems.”

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