USS Fort Worth shows leaner, smarter future of US Navy




Posted on May 21, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 22 at 1:38 PM

MARINETTE, Wis. -  It is more fire power with less man power. 

The US Navy is upgrading its fleet to be faster, smarter, more adaptable, and the newest combat ship has Fort Worth written all over it. 

The ship that will be named the USS Fort Worth is just days away from being handed over to the Navy.  It recently passed its acceptance trials on Lake Michigan.

Marinette Marine, the ship builder based in Marinette, Wisconsin, said the Littoral Combat Ship was one of its best performers. 

"It's quite a spectacle on the lake here, and it's well known around the area that when she comes out stay out of her way," said Chuck Goddard, CEO of Marinette Marine.

Sailors are ready to take the helm in June, but there will be fewer of them on board because of all the technology upgrades.

Gunners Mate David Daigle is one in a crew of forty, all of whom are cross trained to handle multiple duties normally manned by 250.

"Where you typically have more manning on bigger ships, we only have a few to do many jobs," said Daigle. "So we wear many different hats around here."

Daigle said on a legacy ship he would be responsible for weapons, ammunition and weapons systems.  On Fort Worth, he also checks radar, keeps watch, and does his own dishes and laundry.

The trade off for a smaller crew is more space. The Commanding officer has private dining quarters and the biggest bed. In Fort Worth's state rooms, sailors are stacked two to a bunk. Modern aircraft carriers have three to a rack.

Daigle pointed to the spacious bunks.

"So here, our lowest ranking seaman - an E5 - gets what a captain would have on a carrier," he said.

The smaller ship still packs a Texas sized punch. 50 caliber machine guns will mount the sides.

A 57 millimeter sits ready on the bow. Missile systems are on the stern, and a sliding door below allows Fort Worth to take on new equipment and personnel for different missions.

Joe North leads Lockheed Martin team that dreamed up Fort Worth's predecessor, the LCS 1, USS Freedom.

He said the Navy gave the contractor a blank sheet of paper with one requirement - design the fastest, most adaptable ship ever, operated with the smallest crew.

The bridge that once needed 11 men now needs just three. Interchangeable packages allow manned and unmanned helicopters to land on the flight deck.

Every computer on board is ready for upgrades to map, mines and hunt submarines. 

Those missions that once required three ships that will be phased out by the incoming LCS class.

The LCS has water jets let the ship cruise in just 13 feet of water.

"We can now take this ship where we couldn't go before as a US Navy," North said. "They can fight it with different packages, and it's very adaptable to come back to the pier and change out."

At $400 million, Fort Worth is not cheap, but it is now the envy of every sailor. 

Daigle said some sailors have to go through two years of training before they are assigned to one of the three existing LCS. There are orders to build as many as 50 more.

"It's the fastest ship we got. It's the Navy's new toy," Daigle said.

Here are some of the highlights of LCS 3 - The USS Fort Worth according to Lockheed Martin.

LCS class Freedom-variant (Lockheed Martin-led) program

  • LCS is a critically important shipbuilding program for the US Navy to defend our national interests and demands the best skill and effort from industry teams to be successful.
  • The 55 LCS-class ships will replace 30 FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, 14 MCM Avenger Class mine countermeasures vessels, 12 MHC-51 Osprey Class coastal mine hunters.
  • As designed, LCS operates with considerably less manning (40 core sailors) plus support crew for the aviation and mission packages to operate the reconfigurable mission modules (Mine Warfare / Anti-Submarine Warfare / Surface Warfare).
  • With each ship produced, the team is increasing efficiency and working to drive down costs.

We are incorporating lessons learned from the actual construction and the feedback from the sailors who operate USS Freedom, to follow on ships.

The Navy has said that they committed to a 55-ship LCS program

Capable of open-ocean tasking, LCS is equipped to fight and win against 21st century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft

About Fort Worth (LCS 3)

  •     The Lockheed Martin-led industry team continues its on-time, on-budget mission to deliver LCS3 to the U.S. Navy in summer 2012.
  •     Acceptance Trials were successfully completed in May 2012.
  •     LCS 3 is 99 percent complete and has been constructed with nearly 30 percent fewer production labor hours as a result of lessons learned from designing and building USS Freedom.

Changes from LCS 1 to LCS 3: on LCS 3 and subsequent hulls, the hull below the water line was lengthened.  This not only adds buoyancy, but additional space for gas—10 percent more fuel capacity—and with the extra length, the ship is actually faster. Also, follow on ships have a more robust shaft seal system, improvements to the stern door, a redesigned stern ramp to permit heavier loads, larger bridge windows.