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Proud to serve: Sailing with the Littoral Combat Ship

February / March 2012 - Navy
By LT Jan Shultis, USN
Public Affairs, Naval Surface Forces Command

It’s fast. It’s agile. It’s a networked surface combatant designed to operate in the littoral but capable of open-ocean tasking.

It’s the littoral combat ship (LCS), the Navy’s newest ship class; and it’s manned by 40 Sailors who are proud to be there.

“It feels great to be part of such an ambitious project,” said LTjg Scott Tollefson, Weapons Officer onboard USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2). “People are excited about the INDEPENDENCE and for good reason––we work with cutting edge equipment. The fundamentals are the same as any Navy ship, but we hone those skills to make the absolute most of our 40-person crew.”

LCS will be used to establish and maintain dominance in the littorals, a critical part of the Surface Force’s ability to provide credible capability for deterrence, sea control, and power projection around the world; to deter or detain conflict; fight and win wars; and support our interests in an era of uncertainty. The Navy is committed to growing the class to a full 55 ships. The LCS fleet includes two ship designs, greatly enhancing operational flexibility and the Surface Force’s ability to respond to emergent tasking. In December 2010, the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin Corporation and Austal USA each a fixedprice contract for the construction and design of ten ships each, for a total of 20 ships by fiscal year 2015. Each ship is equipped with aviation features, large payload capacities and flexible mission configurations, all operated within a fast, stable and efficient sea frame.

“The global environment presents complex and uncertain challenges,” said VADM Richard Hunt, Commander, Naval Surface Forces. “We need the right Surface Fleet with the right warfighting capabilities and readiness to ensure we remain engaged with other nations, operations forward, projecting credible combat power, ensuring stability and security across the strategic crossroads. We must encourage innovation in both concepts of operation and new capabilities to develop the ‘game changers’ that will ensure we remain the world’s most dominant Navy.”

Each LCS is manned by two rotational crews–– blue and gold. Sailors are made ready for duty through a train-to-qualify process that connects the initial LCS training model to personnel qualification standards. Qualification is shifted from the ship to shore training, which means that LCS Sailors report aboard ready to stand their watch and execute assigned duties.

The Shore Based Training Facility (SBTF), located in San Diego and managed by the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) Detachment there, is the cornerstone of this training. The LCS SBTF is the first surface warfare training facility to provide integrated bridge and combat systems tactical scenario training for Sailors serving on board an LCS.

“The mission of the SBTF is two-fold,” explained Brian Deters, CSCS’s first technical support director. “It provides integrated training for Sailors and serves as the primary training venue for LCS off-crew preparing for deployment certification.” LCS crew members often remark on the significance of serving on such a technologically advanced platform, where, among other things, a Zoomba robot helps keep the decks clean and driving the ship involves a joystick.

“Being a part of the USS INDEPENDENCE is a dream come true for me,” said LTjg Samuel Bryant, Main Propulsion Assistant. “The platform is at the cutting edge of military technology and the forefront of the Navy’s overall combat initiative. I feel like I am part of a crew that is ready to answer that call and meet that challenge.”

The core crew is not the only team expressing pride and a sense of accomplishment. With aviation and mission module personnel embarked, the number of personnel onboard grows to approximately 75.

“The aviation community in general and the rotary-wing community in particular has much to be proud of with respect to operations conducted onboard USS FREEDOM,” said LCDR Roy Zaletski, Officer in Charge, HSC-22, deployed onboard FREEDOM. FREEDOM first deployed in 2010, over two years ahead of schedule. While operating in the U.S. 4th and 3rd Fleet areas of responsibility, she conducted successful counter-illicit trafficking operations, successfully integrated with a carrier strike group, performed exercises with partner navies and conducted maneuvers with other ships and an embarked Fire Scout.

“The successes achieved during the counter-illicit trafficking mission were some of the most memorable moments of my career,” said LCDR Zaletski. “To participate in such high-intensity operations as part of an incredibly competent and interoperable team was quite rewarding.” “Rewarding” is a term you hear a lot aboard LCS.

Where are they now?

  • Two LCS have already joined the fleet – USS FREEDOM (LCS 1), homeported in San Diego and USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2), homeported in San Diego and currently operating out of Mayport.
  • PCU FORT WORTH (LCS 3) is under construction at Marinette Marine; it was launched 4 Dec. 2010 and delivery is expected in 2012.
  • PCU CORONADO (LCS 4) is under construction at Austal USA; it was launched 14 Jan. 2011 and delivery is expected in 2012.
  • MILWAUKEE (LCS 5) and JACKSON (LCS 6) are in the early phases of construction – MILWAUKEE by Lockheed in Marinette, Wis., and JACKSON by Austal in Mobile, Ala. n DETROIT (LCS 7) and MONTGOMERY (LCS 8) are continuing pre-production efforts in Marinette by Lockheed and Mobile by Austal, respectively.

From the air––LCDR Roy Zaletski, Officer in Charge of helicopter detachment HSC-22, on operating onboard USS FREEDOM (LCS 1) during her maiden deployment and unique contributors to success:

  • Utilization of LINK-16 technology enabled maintenance of communication beyond the typical range and allowed for secure interaction between ship and helicopter, enhancing battlespace awareness.
  • FREEDOM’s closing speed increased the range at which counter-illicit trafficking targets could be searched for and prosecuted. (The U.S. Coast Guard’s guide for Airborne Use of Force prohibit the use of disabling fire on a suspected trafficker unless there is a Navy or Coast Guard vessel that can close on the target in a prescribed amount of time.)
  •  Successful completion of air operations at consistently high speeds and relative winds provided validation of the safety of operating at these speeds.

Post Rating


The Chief
# The Chief
Tuesday, February 07, 2012 5:21 PM
the Navy has to do a better job of showcasing these ships...sending them around to various ports ...saw one in Jacksonville when myself and a group of veterans made a visit there. The PAO could get access for us...there were 50 of us ....we ended up getting a tour of the helicopter squadron ...great bunch of young sailors ...but it would have been nice to make a tour of this type of ship.
The Chief
# The Chief
Tuesday, February 07, 2012 5:24 PM
typed to fast...PAO couldn't get us onboard the LCS in Jacksonville
Capt John C. Baker, USNR (ret)
# Capt John C. Baker, USNR (ret)
Sunday, February 12, 2012 7:02 AM
The clear excitement and pride which LT Shultis shows in her ship and her duty in this innovative ship compare to mine when assigned in 1983 to rather the opposite end of Naval ship design, the USS New Jersey (BB62) although updated and technologically advanced for the times. It occurs to me that the LCS class of ships may well have more combat ability than a battleship with her speed and various modules added. I would appreciate such a comparison. The pictures of the class, of course, bare no real insight into the ship's capabilities, but clearly ship visits will happen in the future, and I'll be one of the first in line to go onboard when either Philadelphia or NYC are on the schedule. Thank you for your service, Lieutenant, and for the article. By the way, how does Congress classify your position onboard a combat ship as not being directly in combat? This argument continues in our "hallowed halls" in Washington, to some, like myself, a rediculous arguement as those quslified to serve should serve in any available poisition in our military regardless of gender. I'd appreciate a better undertsanding of how the Navy seems to be able to bypass the restrictions found in the other services.
alicson katich
# alicson katich
Monday, February 27, 2012 1:27 AM
Can someone tell me why they aren't going with the proven Mk 41 VLS tubes? Both LCS builders said that their ships can accommodate 16 of them. Is it to save costs or is there a capability gap to be filled?Criminal Defense Lawyers Minneapolis MN
Crystal C
# Crystal C
Thursday, March 14, 2013 5:01 AM
It is really very great experience to remain engaged with nations operations, projecting credible combat power and ensuring stability and security across the nation.
Morris Davis
# Morris Davis
Monday, March 18, 2013 2:40 AM
It might be a great experience for LCDR Zaletski to participate in such high-intensity operations as part of an incredibly competent and inter-operable team.
# emiecarter
Thursday, March 21, 2013 1:31 AM
Good to know about utilization of LINK-16 technology which enabled maintenance of communication and allowed for secure interaction between ship and helicopter.
Regards,social security defenders
Ethan Allen
# Ethan Allen
Tuesday, April 09, 2013 8:31 AM
I read the blog and the detail you provided about SBTF is really unique for me, I found so many new and interesting thing over here.
peter pen
# peter pen
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 2:18 AM
All the data you shared about SBTF is really good and can you provide any detail how i can join this.ABWE

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