The Navy christened the littoral combat ship Coronado (LCS 4) , on Jan. 14, 2012, in a ceremony at Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition Sean Stackley delivered the principal address at the ceremony.
Susan Keith of Coronado, Calif., the ship’s sponsor, broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship. In 1966 she served as the “matron of honor” for USS Coronado (AGF-11) when that ship was launched, and her mother christened that ship as its sponsor.
“Susan Keith is a bulwark of the Coronado community and from a long-lined Navy family,” said Cmdr. John Kochendorfer, Coronado’s prospective commanding officer.
“Today’s ceremony is a testament to the hard work and dedication of Austal’s talented shipbuilders,” said Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Rella. “We are proud of our accomplishments and honored to be building these magnificent warships that are already shaping the future of the modern day Navy.”
The City of Coronado has strong ties to the Navy. Coronado is the home of Naval Air Station North Island and the Naval Amphibious Base. It is also the home of Commander Naval Surface Forces, Commander Naval Air Forces and Commander Naval Special Warfare Command. There have been two previous ships named USS Coronado, including PF-38, a Tacoma-class patrol frigate, which earned four battle stars for supporting landings in New Guinea and Leyte during World War II; and LPD-11/AGF-11, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock later re-designated as an auxiliary command ship that served as flagship for the Third Fleet and was decommissioned in 2006.
The Navy is building two variants of the littoral combat ship. A 418-foot, 2,700-ton all-aluminum trimaran, Coronado is the second of the Independence-class of LCS.
The other LCS version is the Freedom class, a 378-foot, 3,000 ton semi-planing monohull being built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin by a team led by Lockheed Martin. USS Freedom (LCS 1) was commissioned in November of 2008. Freedom is currently serving in the U.S. Pacific Fleet and is homeported in San Diego.
Rear Adm. Jim Murdoch, the Program Executive Officer for LCS (PEO LCS), said that the LCS 2 construction required too many labor hours. The Austal ships now feature a more modular and economic construction process.
The new Modular Manufacturing Facility at Mobile will build both LCS and the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) for the Navy. Both ships are made from aluminum on an assembly-line where large blocks of the ship are built with piping and wiring already installed and tested. “The MMF has 17 acres under one roof to fabricate and assemble the sections of LCS and JHSV,” says Mike Wysong, Austal’s business development manager.
Both Lockheed Martin Corp. and Austal USA have a fixed-price incentive contract for the design and construction of a 10-ship block-buy, for a total of 20 littoral combat ships from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2015. The average ship target-price across the entire dual-block buy for the Lockheed Martin LCS variant is $362 million; and the average ship target-price for the Austal USA LCS variant is $352 million, according to Navy officials. Murdoch says the Navy remains committed to a total of 55 littoral combat ships for the fleet.
Both LCS variants have standard interfaces for mission packages, so the ship’s combat capability can be changed quickly by exchanging containerized modules. The combat capability of the ships can be kept current by updating the mission packages instead of performing a major overhaul on the ship. There are mission packages for each of the focused missions LCS was designed to address: mines warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare.
A platform for the launch and recovery of offboard manned and unmanned vehicles, Coronado’s combination of large volume for mission modules, large flight deck and hangar for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, speed in excess of 40 knots and draft of less than 20 feet make it an ideal platform to address anti-access threats in the littorals.
Coronado will be manned by a Blue and Gold rotational crew. In addition to the core crews that operate the ship, mission detachments and an aviation detachment. will come aboard with their respective mission packages. Kochendorfer, who commands the Blue crew, is from Dana Point, Calif. The commanding officer of the Gold crew will be Cmdr. Michael “Shawn” Johnston, from North Carolina. Coronado will eventually be homeported in San Diego, Calif.
Murdoch says LCS 4 has some improvements over Independence. He says the LCS 4 centerline waterjets, for example, are larger than on the first ship so as to take full advantage of the power generated by the two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines. “These are small ships with a lot of propulsion plant in them,” Murdoch says.
Construction of Jackson (LCS 6) has begun in Mobile.