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USS Coronado Is Forward Deployed in Southeast Asia

LCS is fast, forward, and flexible

 

Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association.

USS Coronado (LCS 4) called at Langkawi, Malaysia on March 25, 2017, to participate in the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA). During the event, which featured an airshow, displays and maritime demonstrations, Coronado joined ships from Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam for a sea phase involving formation steaming, divisional tactics and a maritime interdiction operation.

And we’re flexible, because we can rapidly reconfigure our mission package payload rapidly to support different missions as required.

Coronado is in the middle of an 18-month deployment to the Western Pacific, and represents the third deployment of an LCS to Seventh Fleet, and the first of the Independence-class variant (the previous two deployments by USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) were Freedom-class variants).

Commanding Officer Cmdr. Scott Larson said that Coronado was “fast, forward and flexible.”

“We’re forward. LCS deploys for roughly 18 months. We arrived in October 2016 and operate out of Changi Naval Base in Singapore. We’ll stay in this AOR [area of responsibility] until December 2017,” he said. “This allows for more stable partnership building for greater cooperation and interoperability with our partner navies in the region.

“We’re designed to go 40 knots or more. For a ship this large, that’s very fast,” said Larson.

“And we’re flexible, because we can rapidly reconfigure our mission package payload rapidly to support different missions as required.”

coronado bow-on

The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway during the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise with the Republic of Singapore and Royal Thai navies. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis

In addition to the ship’s core combat capability, she is currently configured with the anti-surface warfare (ASUW) mission package, comprised of two 11-meter RHIBs and two sim-person VBSS boarding teams and two 30-mm cannons for use against surface targets. The systems are managed by a 19-person mission detachment.

Coronado’s air detachment includes both a manned MH-60S helicopter and a pair of MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), a combination which makes LCS uniquely suited to the region,” said Larson.

While the 418-foot Coronado is a big ship, she has a small crew of 50, augmented by the mission detachment of 19 and the 25-person aviation detachment. “We’ve invested in a lot of automation that minimizes the burden on the crew,” Larson said.

Coronado’s air detachment includes both a manned MH-60S helicopter and a pair of MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), a combination which makes LCS uniquely suited to the region,” said Larson.

Lt. Liz Hegarty is one of the pilots with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 Det 5. “We’re a composite detachment. We’re dual qualified to fly the MQ-8B Fire Scout and the MH-60S helicopter. Our Fire Scout mission payload operators are also rescue swimmers and crew chiefs on the MH-60S.”

The Fire Scout UAV provides surveillance and reconnaissance with radar, electro-optical and thermal imaging cameras and a communications data link.

mh-60 and fire-scout

An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft, left, and an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter are staged on the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) prior to flight operations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

Coronado is armed with the SeaRAM missile, which combines the CIWS close-in weapon system with the RAM missile for air and missile defense. “We’ve conducted two SeaRAM live firings at a Navy test range off Point Mugu, Calif., and in both cases Coronado successfully neutralized the hostile target,” said Larson. “One shot, one kill.”

Prior to deployment, launchers with four Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missiles have been installed on the foc’sle. “Harpoon is considered part of our core weapons system. It’s not part of the ASUW mission package,” Larson said. “Having an over-the-horizon anti-ship missile makes us a force to be reckoned with.”

The MK 110 57-mm gun is also part of the core combat system. “It can fire 220 rounds per minute, which is a high rate of fire, and it’s extremely accurate. My crew has a lot of experience operating and shooting that gun. For anti-surface threats, that gun makes us a very capable and lethal asset.”

The standard 57-mm round has a programmable fuse that can be set for proximity, time delay or point detonation.

The Harpoon installation is not standard for LCS. In fact the Harpoon launcher is built above the space for the vertical launch cells for the anti-ship missiles that will be part of the ASUW mission package. As of now, that weapon is going to be the Hellfire Longbow missile.

“We’re not sure how long the Harpoons will stay,” Larson said. “But for now they’re here.”

The normal Harpoon installation on a U.S. Navy combatant is two four-tube launchers, but Coronado carries just four missiles for weight considerations. LCS is an aluminum ship designed for speed, and weight impacts speed, so design tradeoffs are made deliberately and carefully.

“We don’t have propellers or rudders, Larson said. “We have waterjets, which makes Coronado the world’s largest Jet Ski.”

Whenever were going to increase the weight or displacement of the ship, there’s a corresponding tradeoff.

“Our speed gives us a tactical advantage,” Larson said. “We use speed as a weapon. When you can bring 40 knots into the equation we become a much harder target to hit. It disrupts the enemy’s kill chain. When you can confuse the enemy’s ability to develop a fire control solution against you then you have the tactical advantage.”

coronado searam

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jacob Boyles conducts maintenance on a Mark 15 Close-In Weapon System aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado’s SeaRAM system combines the RAM missile with the tried-and-true CIWS. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

The bridge is wide and spacious, and looks different than the bridge of a traditional ship. “It looks more like the cockpit of an aircraft,” Larson said.

There are only two watch standers on the bridge.  They can set the autopilot to maintain course. The radar, navigation, communications and engine controls are right there at the console. “There are no paper charts,” Larson said. “It’s all electronic.”

They work closely together, like a pilot and copilot, to operate the ship safely. “At 40 knots things happen very quickly, so they have to communicate so they know what each other is doing at all times,” he said.

“We don’t have propellers or rudders, Larson said. “We have waterjets, which makes Coronado the world’s largest Jet Ski.”

The ship has two LM2500 gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesels, which together can deliver 76,000 horsepower. Each engine drives its own steerable waterjet, and all four can be controlled from the bridge console. Combinators are used to control the speed and direction of the jets. There’s also a retractable bow thruster, so Coronado is highly maneuverable.

Coronado normally cruises using its fuel-efficient diesels. The gas turbines are used for sprint speed. The ship is able to refuel at sea and has made a number of underway replenishments during the deployment.

“This is a textbook littoral region,” said Le. “LCS is a perfect platform for Southeast Asia.”

An active ride control system with stability fins counteracts the effects of roll, and interceptors on the transom to help manage the ship’s trim. “As the ship burns fuel it sits further aft, so the trim tabs on the transom allow us to allow us to stay on plane and minimize drag,” Larson said.

During the deployment Coronado has conducted a number of engagements with navies in the region to help both participants gain a deeper mutual understanding for how the other team operates. “We flex the ability to communicate, and we share tactics, techniques, and procedures that could prove useful during future integration,” Larson said. “Additionally, when contingencies arise that demand a rapid and effective response between combined maritime forces, the trust we build and the interoperability we enhance by conducting bilateral engagements with other navies serve as an invaluable force multiplier.”

coronado lcs-4

The littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) transits the South China Sea. The ship is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region’s littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing the U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler

“This crew left San Diego nine months ago and is still performing at an extremely high level,” Larson said. “They have written the book on how these ships will deploy and perform their mission sets.”

When Larson’s crew returns to San Diego, they will have a stand down period for rest and recuperation, and then begin the training cycle to prepare to deploy again. The crew must “train to qualify” for the jobs they will perform before they come aboard the ship, because there isn’t time to conduct work-ups while the ship is deployed. When someone comes aboard they need to be able to stand watch and operate immediately. But each crewmember must demonstrate proficiency to the CO before they are certified for the watch stations and duties they will perform.

Captain H.B. Le is the commander of Destroyer Squadron 7 and the operational commander for Coronado. DESRON 7 oversees a number of exercises and operation with partner navies, such as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT).

“This is a textbook littoral region,” said Le. “LCS is a perfect platform for Southeast Asia.”

Coronado has a draft of under four and a half meters, so it can go places where other ships, like our cruisers and destroyers, can’t get to. “LCS can train hull-to-hull more comparably than a destroyer with its 300-plus men and women on board,” said Le.

“The flight deck is huge, and it has a cavernous mission bay that makes it adaptable, reconfigurable and scalable, and of course it’s modular,” said Le. “It’s a very flexible platform.”

“We’re just starting to tap the potential of LCS,” said Larson.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...