On a relative basis, the
variant LCS is a bit of an unknown. In part this is because the class’ first
operational deployment is only now being undertaken despite the class having
been first commissioned in Jan-2010.
That’s six and half years without a deployment by a vessel of that
variant! So, we don’t have much
operational data to look at. Now, with
the arrival of USS Coronado, LCS-4, in Independence for a deployment, we’ll hopefully get some insight. Singapore
One of the unknown aspects is the variant’s aviation capabilities. Outside of brochures, there is little actual operational data. It is being reported that the ship is operating two MQ-8B Fire Scout UAVs and one MH-60S Knighthawk/Seahawk helicopter on this deployment (1). This is significant because multiple sources have reported to me that the Freedom variant’s flight deck, while large, is significantly understrength, structurally, thereby limiting the variant’s ability to operate numbers or weights of aircraft. The structural strength was reduced early in development as a cost saving measure. I have no reports as to the
variant’s flight deck structure so it’s interesting
to note the simultaneous operation of two Fire Scouts and one Seahawk. Of course, the Fire Scouts are the smaller
“B” version rather than the larger “C”.
This is an arrangement and number that has not been operated on the
Freedom variant, yet, as far as I know.
This may, possibly, indicate that the Independence variant’s flight deck strength and aviation capabilities
are a bit more robust than the Freedom’s. Independence
|Fire Scout MQ-8B|
Also of interest is the note that the Fire Scouts are equipped with the Telephonics Corporation AN/ZPY-4(V)1 radar. Of course, radar performance data shows ranges on the order of 14 miles so this is not exactly AWACS type monitoring (2).
We’ll keep an eye on this deployment – assuming no more engineering breakdowns! – and see what we can learn.
(1)USNI News website, “Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado Arrives in
”, Mike Yeo, Singapore 18-Oct-2016,