This is the Navy’s newest combat ship

By November 19, 2018Uncategorized

Originally published by We Are The Mighty
November 16th, 2018
By Logan Nye

 

On November 17, 2018, the Navy will officially commission the USS Sioux Citythe newest littoral combat ship. It’s a quick and lethal addition to the fleet that can carry missiles, helicopters, and mines, despite being one of the smaller commissioned ships the U.S. Navy has.

The PCU Sioux City will be commissioned on November 17, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Stan Bailey)

The Sioux City is a Freedom variant of the LCS, and it carries a 57mm gun, Rolling Airframe Missiles, .50-cal. machine guns, and the ALEX decoy system by default. The Sioux City also has a Mk. 50 torpedo, a lightweight torpedo that’s great for hitting fast-moving and deep-diving submarines.

The 57mm Bofors gun can fire airburst or conventional rounds at up to 4 rounds per second, shredding small boats or attackers on shore. The RAM allows the ship to engage anti-ship missiles, aircraft, and surface vessels and can even track and engage multiple targets at once. And the ALEX decoy allows the ship to create a massive radar signature to spoof missiles heading at the LCS or a fleet that it’s supporting.

One of its best core assets is the new radar, which can keep track of 1,000 contacts at once.

The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City transits the Thames River as it arrives at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

But all of those are just the ship’s “core” systems. The LCS was specifically designed to carry “mission modules,” which greatly expand its capabilities. There are three modules: surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures.

The surface warfare module adds an MH-60R helicopter equipped with Hellfire missiles, a Firescout drone helicopter that can be equipped with guided rockets, and a pack of 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles that can be launched in rapid succession if necessary. This allows the LCS to slaughter swarm attacks as well as threaten ships and troops operating near the shore. The ship carries rigid-hull inflatable boats in this configuration which it can launch and recover from its stern ramp.

When the ship is equipped for anti-submarine warfare, it brings an MH-60S and the Firescout, but it pads those out with an active sonar, a towed sensor array, and a decoy system that fools incoming torpedoes. The Sioux City even brings a NETFIRES Precision Attack Munition with it in this configuration, allowing it to punch through armored targets up to 25 miles away.

The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City pulls alongside the pier at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

When working against mines, the MH-60S and Firescout stay, but the ship brings airborne mine detection and neutralization systems, additional sensors for scanning the coastal areas, and multiple drones, including the Knifefish underwater drone.

The ships can reach speeds up to 50 knots, but it tops out at 45 knots in sea state 3. Going that fast drains fuel, though; its maximum range at 50 knots is 1,500 nautical miles. If it slows to 20 knots, it can travel 4,300 nautical miles.

The Sioux City will be the fifth of the Freedom-class LCSs, and the Navy already has 11 Independence-class littoral combat ships.

The future USS Sioux City is launched into the Menominee River seconds after ship sponsor Mary Winnefeld, wife of retired Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, christened the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship.

(U.S. Navy)

The LCS add a lot of capability to the fleet in small packages and with small crews — the Sioux City can be fully manned with 75 sailors, and it can do most of its core missions with only 15 to 50 sailors — but they have been critiqued for their high cost and limited survivability systems.

The LCS program has been rife with cost overruns, the ships have needed excessive maintenance, and they’re fragile for combat. They are highly susceptible to damage with little protection for critical ship systems and limited redundancy for propulsion, sensors, etc. This is obviously a problem for ships supposed to operate near enemy shores and mine layers.

The Navy’s Guided Missile Frigate Replacement Program calls for unmanned systems that will operate in the same waters the LCSs are currently tasked to be, so there’s a chance that the LCS will be replaced by more expendable unmanned systems in the coming years.