At $670.4 million, one would think Lockheed Martin would deliver a gem. But the USS Freedom has been plagued by design flaws, failed equipment, hull cracks and engine-related failures.
The U.S. Navy released an inspection report last year that stated the ship had failed 14 of 28 inspection tests, which included the fire-fighting systems, communications, electrical systems and forward propulsion. In fact, the USS Freedom was sidelined for maintenance issues in July when it lost propulsion and it was determined the sea generator was suffering from electrical problems.
In early 2013, the Pentagon released a study to Congress that said the USS Freedom was “not expected to be survivable” in combat. A few months later, a Navy team of computer hacking experts found cyber vulnerabilities during its cybersecurity tests.
The USS Freedom, a “Littoral Combat Ship” (LCS), is in Singapore for an eight-month stay. Littoral means “relating to, or situated on the shore of the sea.” The ship, built by Lockheed Martin, is 377 feet long (115 m), displaces 3,000 metric tons, can travel at a top speed of over 40 kn (46 mph) and carries a crew of 60.
The ship’s design is a steel monohull with an aluminum superstructure and an angular design making it difficult for radar systems to detect. The USS Freedom has been designed with large reconfigurable mission modules, a flight deck 1.5 times the size of ships of its type and 750-kilowatt Fincantieri Isotta-Frascini diesel generators providing 3 MW of electric power to run the ship’s systems.
The ship has a shallow draft allowing it to operate along coastlines where larger warships can’t go. It also has a hangar area spacious enough to accommodate unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters. Finally, the USS Freedom has a boat launch at the stern and along the side where underwater robots and special operations boats are housed.
To defend itself, the USS Freedom has an anti-aircraft RAM missile launcher, a 57 mm gun turret and .50-caliber gun mounts on the topside. Initial plans were to arm the vessel with an Army missile that could sink a ship 21 nautical miles (34 km) away. Instead, the revised plan will arm the ship with an AGM-176 Griffin that has a range of three nautical miles and is scheduled for completion in 2017.
Purpose of LCS
LCS is built to be deployed in a two- or three-ship squadron to operate along shorelines and: 1) counter anti-access forces 2) support operations of the U.S. Navy 3) ready itself for shallow water anti-submarine warfare 4) mine countermeasures 5) defend against small boat attacks. The ship is networked to share tactical information from other naval units.