Defense giant Lockheed Martin announced Monday (Aug. 21) it has completed successful “sea trials” for the USS Little Rock, the U.S. Navy’s newest stealth warship named after Arkansas’ largest city.
The test runs for the USS Little Rock were completed in Lake Michigan this past weekend after a successful set of demonstrations that saw the nation’s fifth mobile small surface Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) reach speeds of up to 40 knots, which is equal to about 46 miles per hour. Littoral is a term meaning close to shore. (See video at the end of this report.)
“The Freedom-variant LCS plays a critical role in the U.S. Navy’s fleet, and we are committed to getting Little Rock and her highly capable sister ships into combatant commanders’ hands as quickly as possible,” said Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems. “These are complex vessels, and I’m proud of our workforce, who have the knowledge and expertise it takes to design, build and test these American warships.”
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.
Sea trials are designed to test the ship’s performance under a variety of operating conditions. During the builder’s trials, the industry team successfully demonstrated reliability and performance improvements on the ship’s propulsion system. All future Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ships will incorporate these improvements.
The Lockheed Martin-led team is now preparing Little Rock for acceptance trials in the coming weeks, when the U.S. Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) will conduct inspections and witness final demonstrations before the ship is delivered to the Navy this year.
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. 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.
The Lockheed Martin-led industry team is in full-rate production of the Freedom-variant of the LCS. The team is on track to complete sea trials for LCS 9 and LCS 11 this year and deliver each ship shortly thereafter. The remaining hulls under contract will be delivered to the U.S. Navy at a rate of two ships per year. The Lockheed Martin-led LCS team is comprised of shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, and more than 800 suppliers in 42 states.
NAVY SHIP OPERATIONS UNDER SCRUTINY
The likely commissioning of the USS Little Rock later this year comes at a time when the Navy operations are under scrutiny in the heavy-trafficked South China Sea region, the same area where the USS Little Rock crew is expected to operate.
Navy Admiral John Richardson, head of U.S. naval operations, on Monday called for a full investigation and “pause” of the Navy’s Pacific fleet operations after two recent collisions and the fourth accident at sea in 2017.
The USS John S. McCain on Sunday (CST) collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. According to Navy officials, there are 10 Sailors missing and five injured. Four of the injured were medically evacuated by a Singapore Armed Forces helicopter to a hospital in Singapore for non-life threatening injuries.
Four days ago, the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald were relieved of their duties by the vice admiral of the Pacific 7th Fleet following that ship’s June 17 collision with the Filipino merchant vessel ACX Crystal about 80 nautical miles southwest of Tokyo.
Navy officials said that collision – which claimed the lives of seven Fitzgerald Sailors and injured three more – was avoidable and demonstrated poor seamanship. Several junior officers were also relieved of their duties due to poor seamanship and flawed teamwork as bridge and combat information center watch standers.