U.S. Navy commissions 12th Independence-variant LCS USS Oakland

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USS Oakland during sea acceptance trials (Credit: Austal)

The U.S. Navy commissioned the newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), USS Oakland, (LCS-24) during a ceremony held in Oakland, California on 17 April.

Acting Secretary of the U.S. Navy Thomas W. Harker, managed the commissioning ceremony. Ms Kate Brandt, Google Sustainability Officer, is the ship’s sponsor. The ceremony was highlighted by a time-honoured Navy tradition when Ms Brandt gives the order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

The 3,200-ton Oakland was built by Austal USA/General Dynamics in Mobile, Alabama. The ship is 127 meters in length, has a beam of 32 meters, and a navigational draft of 4.4 meters. The ship is powered by two gas turbine engines, two main propulsion diesel engines, and four waterjets to reach speeds up to 40-plus knots.

Oakland is the third ship to bear the name. She is the 12th Independence-variant LCS to join our battle force. The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, while capable of open-ocean tasking and winning against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and swarming small craft. The LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.

USS Oakland will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego, California.

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12th Independence-vairant LCS USS Oakland

Independence-variant LCS:

Austal’s Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), developed for the US Navy, is a high-speed, agile, multi-mission combatant that delivers superior seakeeping and performance. The Independence-variant LCS is an open ocean capable vessel but is designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance in the coastal water battlespace.

A fast, manoeuvrable and networked surface combatant, the Independence-variant LCS provides the warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to accomplish multiple, critical missions including mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare with inherent capabilities that also support missions such as special operations and maritime interdiction.

Independence variant LCS delivers combat capability from core self-defense systems in concert with rapidly interchangeable, modular mission packages and an open architecture command and control system. The Independence variant’s aviation facilities and watercraft launch and recovery capability support focused mission packages are outfitted with both manned and unmanned air, surface, and sub-surface vehicles. A mission bay and three weapons modules provide support service interfaces between mission package weapons, sensors and vehicles and the seaframe.

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LCS-2 in the dry dock

Modularity maximizes the flexibility of LCS and enables commanders to meet changing warfare needs, while also supporting faster, easier technological updates. LCS is networked to share tactical information with aircraft, ships, submarines, joint and coalition units both at sea and on shore, and with LCS operating groups.

The trimaran construction is unique to the US Navy and lends the Independence variant some unique capabilities and seakeeping characteristics. Its flight deck is the largest of any current US Navy surface combatant, and its hangar bay is able to hold two MH-60 helicopters.

General Dynamics was the prime contractor for LCS 2 (USS Independence) and LCS 4 (USS Coronado), whilst Austal has been the Prime contractor for all Independence variant LCS thereafter (from LCS 6 onwards).

The Raytheon SeaRAM missile defense system is installed on the hangar roof. The SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system with an 11-missile launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, creating an autonomous system. The Independence-class ships also have an integrated LOS Mast, Sea Giraffe 3D Radar and SeaStar Safire FLIR. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated sensor fusion of on and off-board systems in the Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) used on the LCS.

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Sailors aboard littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2), along with civilian personnel, hoist a training round into the Sea Rolling Air Frame Missile(SEARAM) launcher. (Wikipedia)

Side and forward surfaces are angled for reduced radar profile. The Fleet-class unmanned surface vessel is designed for operations from Independence-class ships. The flight deck, 1,030 m2 (11,100 sq ft), can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. H-60 series helicopters provide airlift, rescue, anti-submarine, radar picket and anti-ship capabilities with torpedoes and missiles. DARPA’s Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program aims to build a Medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) that can operate from LCS-2 and can carry a payload of 600 pounds (270 kg) out to an operational radius of 600–900 nautical miles (1,100–1,700 km). First flight of a TERN demonstrator is expected in 2017. The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5. Austal USA vice president Craig Hooper has responded to critics of the class’s light armament by suggesting that the ships employ long range drones instead.

In late July 2014, the U.S. Navy confirmed that the Naval Strike Missile would be tested aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4). By May 2017, the extended-range Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon and Lockheed Martin LRASM had been withdrawn from the Navy’s Over-the-Horizon Weapon System (OTH-WS) competition, leaving the NSM as the only remaining contender. The NSM will be designated as the RGM-184A in US service.