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Navy orders three more littoral combat ships

Lockheed Martin and Austal USA will construct the vessels, and the Navy indicated that it may order more LCSs in 2019.

By Stephen Carlson
Navy orders three more littoral combat ships
USS Montgomery (LCS 8) transits from Naval Base San Diego to the Pacific Ocean to conduct routine operations and training. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Ross/Muckley Photography/U.S. Navy

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has announced that Lockheed Martin and Austal USA will construct LCS 29, LCS 32 and LCS 34, and suggests it may order more in 2019.

The contracts, announced Tuesday by the Department of Defense, are for future LCS 29, LCS 32 and LCS 34. LCS 29 will be built by the Lockheed-owned Fincantieri at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc. LCS 32 and LCS 34 will be built at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

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"These contract awards represent an important next step in delivering critical warfighting capability to the Fleet," LCS program manager Capt. Mike Taylor said in a press release.

The Navy awarded fiscal year 2018 shipbuilding and conversion funds for all three ships, but did not announce the amount of funds awarded or obligated to either company.

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"The Navy may release a competitive solicitation(s) for additional LCS class ships in fiscal 2019, and therefore the specific contract award amount for this ship is considered source selection sensitive information and will not be made public at this time," officials said when announcing the contracts announcement.

The LCS is designed to be modular and carry a variety of mission packages depending on the model. The vessels come in two highly similar models, the Freedom-class by Lockheed Martin and the Independence-class by Austal USA.

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The LCS has been criticized for design issues and a lack of significant firepower. Though production continues, it is expected to be supplemented by a new class of Guided Missile Frigates that carry vertical launch systems for missiles and other heavy weaponry.

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Sixteen LCSs have been delivered to the U.S. Navy. With current purchases, 32 LCSs have been ordered, with 10 ships under construction and six more ships under contract.

The LCS is designed specifically to operate in shallow coastal waters, along with regular sea operations. It is designed to be modular, allowing multiple weapons and sensor packages depending on the mission of the ship.

Its standard armament is a MK 110 57mm gun. It can also be equipped with RIM-110 RAM surface-to-air missiles and a variety of other ordnance. It can carry up to two helicopters and vertical take-off drones like the MQ-8 Fire Scout.

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