With their speed, compact size and ability to fulfill multiple roles, the Littoral Combat Ships are proving to be a welcome addition to the U.S. Navy.
Surveillance to Anti-Submarine Warfare
The Littoral Combat Ships are among the newest ships in the U.S. Navy. The first Littoral Combat Ship – named Sea Fighter – entered service in 2003. Several other of the ships entered service between 2005 and 2009. There are two classes of Littoral Combat Ships – the Freedom-class and the Independence-class. The vessels are compact, fast and designed to operate in the "littoral zone," which means that they work "close to shore."
The Littoral Combat Ships serve a variety of roles ranging from surveillance and intelligence gathering to anti-submarine warfare and mine detection. The vessels have been designed so that they are easily reconfigured for different missions. U.S. Navy officials have stated that they will use the Littoral Combat Ships for reconnaissance, Maritime intercepts and homeland defense – among other operations.
Comparison to Old Corvette Ships
With their compact size and speed, the Littoral Combat Ships have been compared to the Corvette naval ships that were used during the Second World War to speed supplies and soldiers across the Atlantic Ocean. However, the modern Littoral Combat Ships have been designed to provide the U.S. Navy with a relatively inexpensive multipurpose vessel that can be used at home or abroad.
The Littoral Combat Ships are fitted with a flight deck and can carry two Seahawk helicopters. They also carry MK 110 57 millimeter guns and have enough cargo storage to transport a military assault force and armoured vehicles into battle.
Despite their many functions, the Littoral Combat Ships are not extremely durable and have been criticized for being vulnerable in hostile environments. Reports released by the Pentagon have labelled the vessels’ combat abilities as "modest."
Interest from Foreign Navies
Still, the Littoral Combat Ships have proven popular with naval personnel who like the vessels multiple capabilities. The ships have also caught the interest of foreign navies such as Canada, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. Foreign navies view the Littoral Combat Ships as ideal multipurpose vessels capable of helping to secure their coastal waters.