WEAPONS BOOST FOR LCS ON ASIA-PAC PATROL
Efforts to increase the lethality of the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will receive a considerable boost during the next deployment of the type, via installation of an Over-The-Horizon (OTH) Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM).
Exactly what weapon has not been disclosed, but the Independence Class LCS Coronado has previously been used for testing the Norwegian-origin Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM). Coronado is expected to sail on her maiden deployment to the Western Pacific region in the second half of 2016, after the lead ship and namesake of the Freedom Class LCS returns from operating in the same area for the second time.
The boost to weapons systems comes at a time when tensions are rising in Asia-Pacific, particularly due to Beijing laying claim to vast areas of the South China Sea as its own. America is determined to show such zones are in reality international waters with deliberate cruises through them, one of which was recently conducted by USS Freedom.
It is believed Freedom will also be fitted with the missile in question, the intention being to fit all LCS of both classes in a similar fashion, as well as those under construction. The search for a suitable missile for the LCS has been going on since cancellation of the XM-501 Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) missile in 2010.
The Hellfire missile is capable of being fired from the LCS, but is of limited range and only suitable for smaller targets. It is likely, therefore, that the missile being installed in the LCS is either the NSM or even Harpoon (of which a longer-ranged variant is being developed).
MODERNISATION FIRST FOR CRUISERS
USS Cowpens is to be the first of the Ticonderoga Class cruisers to undergo the CG Phased Modernization Program (CGPMP), which will significantly improve the capability of the warship.
Cycling the Ticonderoga Class through the CGPMP will preserve the vessels’ ability to protect carrier strike groups from aerial threats but will not disrupt long term shipbuilding plans by building a wholly new class.
Improvements are focused on giving the ships’ AEGIS system naval integrated fire control-counter air capability, SPQ-9B multipurpose radar and an electro-optical sight system.
Also integrated during overhaul will be an AN/SQQ-89A(V)-15 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) suite that includes a multi-function towed-array. Hull mechanical and electrical upgrades will also be made. It is anticipated the improved cruisers will be able to handle any likely threat across the spectrum. Service life is also being extended from 35 years to 44. The next Ticonderoga Class cruiser to be put through the modernisation process will be USS Gettysburg.
CORVETTE SAILS HOME
Algeria’s first Chinese-built C28A corvette, Adhafer, has completed her homeward bound voyage to North Africa. The lead of a class of three, she was constructed by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group in Shanghai and is a further development of the Type-053H3/Jiangwei II family of frigates.
Though classed as a corvette, the C28A is only marginally smaller than the preceding F-22P frigate, but has notably enhanced stealth features and more modern and capable sensors. These include Thales Smart-S Mk2 3D PESA radar. Armament is also generally the same as Pakistani ships (including the rather limited SAM fit of eight FM-90 missiles) bar deletion of the ASW rocket launchers.
The Algerian ships are to embark the AgustaWestland Super Lynx helicopter instead of the Chinese Harbin Z-9. Algeria is proceeding with an ambitious naval modernisation programme blending Chinese, European, Russian and South African platforms and weaponry to build a very capable navy. Alongside the rapidly modernising Egyptian navy it is the most capable of African fleets in terms of equipment.
NEW INDIAN DESTROYER
India has commissioned its second Kolkata Class (Project 15A) destroyer, Kochi, following successful completion of sea trials. Her commissioning has taken less time than that of sister ship and lead vessel of the class, Kolkata, due to lessons learned from the first ship that allowed work to progress at a faster pace.
Though ultimately tracing her lineage to the Delhi Class destroyers, the Kolkata is a radically improved vessel, mainly due a range of foreign and indigenous sensor and weapon systems. The most notable is the Israeli EL/M-2248 MF-STAR multi-mission AESA radar, housed in a very distinctive mast.
It gives the ship a good surveillance capability for air and surface targets with automatic tracking. It also handles fire control of the medium to long range Barak 8 SAMs, of which 32 are carried in a Vertical Launch System (VLS) housing.