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11 November 2015

Lockheed Martin FREEDOM-Class Ship Variant Enters the Waters of the International Market

This 19 October, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency n (DSCA) notified the US Congress that a variant of Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship Freedom (LCS-1)–class will form the centerpiece of the ships, their onboard systems, and weapons and munitions of the long awaited Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP II). The program has an estimated (US)$20 billon price tag and will enhance the aging US-built Saudi fleet operating in the Persian Gulf.

This October 19 the US Congress was notified that a variant of Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Ship FREEDOM (LCS-1)–class will form the centerpiece of the ships, their onboard systems, and weapons and munitions of the long awaited Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP II). (Photo: US Navy)

While the US and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) governments declined to provide additional details on this significant development, this 10 November, Joe Dougherty, a Lockheed Martin LCS programme spokesperson, provided more information on this proposed sale.

The Saudi LCS ship variants formally known as Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), take the proven capabilities of the US LCS and the inherent flexibility of the FREEDOM hull to meet different maritime requirements. Beyond the basic hull form there are significant differences between the two ship classes.

Dougherty said that where the US Navy’s LCS uses swappable mission packages for anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures, the MMSC will incorporate fixed systems, including the vertical launch system (VLS) and the proven COMBATSS-21 combat management system.

The October DSCA notification indicated the four MMSC ships will emphasize traditional anti-air warfare. Accordingly, the four vessels will be built around two eight-cell Lockheed Martin Mk 41 VLS and an Airbus TRS-4D active electronically scanned array air search radar.

The equipment list also included 532 Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), which can be loaded four to a Mk 41 cell. With 16 cells per hull, the Saudi MMSCs will be able to potentially field 64 anti-air missiles per-ship, significantly increasing the RSNF’s naval order of battle.  

Asked about MMSC construction sites, the corporate spokesperson said: “Lockheed Martin is working the US Navy to integrate domestic construction schedules and International FREEDOM-variant based ship opportunities.”

The SNEP II programme will build upon a mature US- KSA military relationship and enable the Saudis to build their maritime defense capacity with systems and platforms that are interoperable and common. “The RSNF’s interest in modernizing its Eastern Fleet with US capability is evidence of US industry’s position in providing proven, advanced, sophisticated defense systems and platforms,” Dougherty remarked.

Beyond RSNF Contract 

Of additional significance, this first Lockheed Martin success in providing its LCS baseline technology for an international customer is attributed to the successful performance of US Navy FREEDOM-class LCS deployments to the Asia Pacific. Indeed, by 2018 at the latest, the service plans to rotationally station four – one at a time – LCS in Singapore as part of Washington’s pivot to Asia.

This has created interest in the Lockheed Martin ship and our maritime capabilities,” the corporate spokesperson said and noted, “We are responding to customer navy requests from several regions around the globe. We are listening to navy customers’ needs as we support requirements definition and capability-matching for their ships using the flexible design of the LCS FREEDOM-class. We look forward to providing Freedom class ships, tailored to international partner requirements, in the future.”
Marty Kauchak is a retired US Navy Captain, a defence writer, and a regular contributor to MT.