The Navy's award in late May of two contracts for phase two of the littoral combat ship (LCS) program pushed the vessel onto center stage, as the second member of the "transformational" family of ships intended to redefine surface warfare for close-in, shallow -water operations. The first program, the DD(X) land-attack destroyer, is on line for lead-ship contract award next year, aiming at delivery in 2011. Concept work is under way for the third family member, the CG(X) next -generation cruiser.
The LCS milestone, aimed at construction of four "Flight O" ships, also highlights the new emphasis on modular design for ship systems the Navy hopes will promote the shift to highly reliable commercial interfaces and components, thereby slashing procurement, training, and maintenance costs, and boosting mission effectiveness in all naval warfare domains.
The missions envisioned for LCS include special operations launch, intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, maritime interdiction, homeland defense, and antiterrorism force protection. Other missions may be added later.