|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Jun 09, 2017 10:39 AM EDT|
(Photo : US Navy) An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter prepares to land aboard the USS Coronado.
The U.S. Navy will deploy its new Independence-class littoral combat ships (LCS) to Asia to keep China at bay, and will start by stationing two of these shallow draught warships to Singapore.
The trimaran hull Independence-class is one of two LCS classes, the other being the Freedom-class. The navy plans to build 13 ships of each class.
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Of the 13 Independence-class LCSs, four are in service while seven more are fitting out or building. Those in service are the USS Independence (LCS-2); USS Coronado (LCS-4); USS Jackson (LCS-6) and USS Montgomery (LCS-8) built by Austal USA, a subsidiary of the Australian firm Austal plc, a major defense contractor.
What makes these 3,000 metric ton warships different from all others is their extremely shallow draught; they can sail through littoral or coastal waters only four meters deep.
Rear Admiral John Neagley, Program Executive Officer, Littoral Combat Ships, said two of these LCS' will operate out of Singapore. A Freedom-class LCS will operate out of Bahrain for the first time in the program's history.
"I think it's going to be really powerful to have two ships operating together, so you kind of get the synergy of two platforms operating together, doing dual operations, and you get the benefits of having those two crews on station doing that work," said Adm. Neagley.
"But having a 15-foot draft ship, being able to do those kinds of operations, I think provides us a lot of flexibility."
Adm. Neagley also said the shallow draught also allows the Independence -class "to be able to go into ports that we haven't really been able to go into before because we have a relatively shallow draft, we're talking about a 15-foot draft, has opened up some things for us."
He noted that "for that part of the world (Asia) they're a really good size ship to operate with our partners out there."
The navy is now preparing for more complex LCS operations in Asia and the Middle East. It's previously deployed three LCSs overseas so far: USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) built by Lockheed Martin and the USS Coronado (LCS-4). All these warships were previously deployed to Singapore.
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