Lockheed Martin will debut its first-ever live stream launch of the future USS Little Rock on Friday at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. The warship, named after the Arkansas capital city, is the latest in the line of the nation’s new fast and mobile small surface Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) that is intended for stealth combat operations close to the shore.
Called the “smartphone of the seas,” the LCS is the Navy’s newest class of warship that comes in two variants, the Freedom- and Independence-class. Under the Navy contract award, Lockheed was appointed to build the Freedom-class LCS warships at its shipyard facility in Marinette, Wis.
The USS Little Rock, which will be launch on its side into the Menominee River during Friday’s ceremony, is the fourth Freedom-class LCS being built at the Marinette Marine shipyard. The USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth are already operational and have been involved in operations in the dangerous South China Sea region.
The Lockheed Martin-led team built the Navy’s first LCS, the USS Freedom, in 2013. It was said to be involved in cat-and-mouse patrols between the U.S. and China in the disputed territorial waters in Southeast Asia. According to the Navy, the LCS is in dry dock for repairs and will be redeployed in the latter part of 2016.
The USS Fort Worth, also built at the Marinette facility, was deployed in November 2014 on a 16-month journey to Southeast Asia. It is currently involved in maneuvering exercises with the Philippine Navy in the South China Sea area, Navy officials said.
Australian shipping giant Austal USA is the lead contractor on the Independence LCS version. Last year, the Pentagon announced that it would cap the current buys of both variants of LCS at 32 ships — 20 less than the Navy had planned.
The USS Independence (LCS 2) departed San Diego on Jan. 30 for Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., to conduct operational evaluations and testing of the mine countermeasures mission package. That ship, which is tailor-made for drug interdiction missions, is expected to dock again in San Diego later this year.
Both LCS variants are capable of operating in a wide-range of environments, from the open ocean to coastal and littoral or waters. LCS uses an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems, and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain and sustain maritime supremacy in the littorals or lake areas, assuring access to critical areas of operation, Pentagon officials said.
According to the Navy, the average LCS ship costs around $360 million to build. The USS Little Rock is the second ship to bear the name of the capital city in Arkansas. The USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4) was originally a Cleveland-class light cruiser that served after World War II, and was one of six to be converted to a Galveston-class guided missile cruiser. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1976 and now holds a place of honor as a museum ship in Buffalo, N.Y.
Little Rock will be designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal waters. A fast, agile surface combatant, the LCS provides the required war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore, such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare.
The new version of the Little Rock is 378 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 57 feet, displaces approximately 3,000 tons, and makes speeds in excess of 40 knots. According to some media reports, the crew of the new stealth warship may be headed to a diplomatic hot spot in the South China Sea, where the U.S. and China have both conducted war games in the disputed waters.
To view Friday’s live stream on the USS Little Rock, go here.
Go here for photos and the latest news on the Navy’s newest defender.