On 5 May, the newest warship of the class was launched, the USS Beloit LCS-29.
The U.S. Navy is building a fleet of Freedom-class surface ships, designed to conduct maritime security operations, joint exercises, and freedom of navigation patrols in order to free up larger surface combatants for high-end missions.
LCS 29 is the 15th Freedom-variant LCS. It is the first ship named in honor of the city of Beloit, Wisconsin. Lockheed Martin is in full-rate production and has delivered 11 ships to the U.S. Navy. There are five ships in various stages of production.
The Freedom class was proposed by a consortium formed by Lockheed Martin as “prime contractor” and by Fincantieri through the subsidiary Marinette Marine as a contender for a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. In the latest deployment, the US Navy highlighted the Freedom class’ strengths, which included rapid speed, access to littoral waters, and the capacity to pick up routine taskings.
USS Beloit has a full load displacement of 3,500 tons, a length of 115 m, a beam of 17.5 m, and a draft of 3.9 m. Her powertrain includes two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines, with 48,000 hp, and two Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B 9,100 hp diesel engines. USS Beloit can reach a maximum speed of 47 knots, a range of up to 3,500 nmi.
The ships are configured with a helicopter deck and hangar. The deck can launch and recover the MH-60R helicopter and a tactical unmanned air vehicle. A core capability will be the deployment of Fire Scout unmanned air vehicle and the unmanned ribbed boat, Spartan unmanned surface vehicle, equipped with a basic payload of navigation radar, infrared camera and video camera.
The Freedom-class is armed with BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm naval gun system. The gun fires mk295 ammunition at a rate of 220 rounds a minute to a range of 14km. Other weapon systems include 1 Mk 49 launcher with 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Surface-to-Air Missiles, 4 12.7 mm machine guns, 8 RGM-184A Naval Strike Missiles. Other weapons as part of mission-specific modules.
In the last year, Freedom-variant Littoral Combat ships have supported the Navy on various missions including several counter-illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in narcotics seizures. Recently, the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship for the first time has deployed to US 6th Fleet, as a measure of assurance for NATO allies and partners in Europe and Africa.