LBK type "Freedom" in the sea
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it will hold a competition in September to develop a new corvette project for the needs of the Naval fleet. We are talking about the ship, which should replace the project 20380 (the lead ship is “The Guardian”). It is expected that five companies will participate in the competition, three of which are part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation. Other participants are likely to be a foreign company and some design bureau specializing in general in the design of civilian vessels.
The Russian Navy would like to receive a mobile, high-speed, multifunctional ship with a hangar for a helicopter, which has a modular layout of weapons and key nodes. Such a corvette is suitable for a wide range of tasks, including for the protection of coastal waters and a convoy of ships, and can also be used as an anti-submarine ship and a minesweeper.
Meanwhile, the US has already developed and passed the first tests of a new generation coastal zone ship. The experience of its creation must certainly be taken into account by Russian shipbuilders before a decision is made to develop a new corvette for the Russian Navy.
Recently, according to the results of the first long-distance cruise of the Independence, the lead ship of the second type, created under the program of littoral warships (LBT; Littoral Combat Ship or LCS), the US Navy command requested an additional 5,3 million to "eliminate the identified deficiencies" According to the assessment of the command of the American fleet, this will make it possible to bring the Independence to full combat status more quickly and to study its combat potential more fully - all this is simply necessary to proceed to the next stage of the program.
The program of construction of littoral warships is one of the main ones being implemented today by the US Navy. Its goal is the serial construction and commissioning of more 50 high-speed and highly maneuverable warships equipped with the most advanced attack and defensive armament complexes and radio-technical armament into the fleet's combat personnel. The main task of ships of this type is the fight against "unconventional" for the American nuclear-missile ocean fleet with the forces and means of the enemy in the coastal area, and not his own, but the enemy.
The program received the "green light" under the head of naval operations (in Russian terminology - commander) of the US Navy Admiral Verne Clarke, who can even with certain reservations be called "the father of the LBK". According to Vern Clark, LBK should occupy the zone of naval operations where the use of ships of the ocean zone is either too risky or extremely expensive pleasure.
It's about the so-called littoral zone. However, the use of the term “battleship of the littoral zone” or “littoral battleship” in domestic naval literature is not entirely consistent with Russian practice and is a necessary step — a so-called distorted translation. The fact is that in the domestic science the term “littoral” means “the seabed zone flooded at high tide and drained at low tide” (you can see it at least in the Naval Dictionary) and located, therefore, “between water levels at the lowest ebb and highest tide. ” As we can see, this zone is not so significant, from the point of view of the naval strategy, significance, in order to build a very large series of surface ships of the main class for actions in it.
If we take into account the other - mostly foreign - interpretation of the term "littoral zone", then we get the zone of "interaction between sea and land", consisting of the sea shore, coastline and coastal submerged slope and capable of reaching a width of several meters to several kilometers. If we take into account this description, then in the domestic naval terminology it is possible to find the corresponding term - “coastal sea zone” (by the way, one of the meanings of the word “littoral” is just “coastal”). So the American ships of the LCS family (of the “Freedom” and “Independence” types) we should call the “warships of the near sea zone”. Although - this is all a matter of taste, by and large.
According to the Americans, LBK should become an organic addition to powerful shock forces, and their main "enemies" - low-noise non-nuclear submarines, surface ships of medium and low displacement, mines and mine complexes exposed at mine positions, as well as objects of the coastal defense system of the enemy.
As former Secretary of the Navy Gordon Ingland emphasized, “our task is to create a small, high-speed, maneuverable and reasonably inexpensive ship in the family of warships DD (X)” that would have the ability to quickly reconfigure, depending on the specific combat mission. launches of cruise missiles and actions of special operations forces (MTR).
The main feature of the new ships is their modular construction principle: depending on the assigned task and the theater of operations, various combat systems and auxiliary systems can be installed on board the LCS. In addition, the design was carried out using the "principle of open architecture", which will allow in the future to quickly and easily introduce new technical means and use the most modern technologies. As a result, the LBK fleet will be able to become a powerful and universal force, distinguished by high combat potential, maneuverability and secrecy of actions.
In the design process, the developers had the task to create a ship that most fully meets the following requirements of the US Navy:
- to act autonomously and interact with the forces and means of the armed forces of the allied states;
- solve tasks in the conditions of intensive electronic countermeasures of the enemy;
- to ensure the operation (reception and lifting) of manned or unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely-controlled surface and underwater vehicles (a separate condition is the ability to integrate helicopters of the MH-60 / SН-60 family);
- to be in a designated patrol area for a long period of time - either as part of a squad of warships, or in autonomous navigation;
- availability of an automatic control system for combat and other damage;
- automated, with elements of artificial intelligence, the ship’s air defense / missile defense system, whose main task is the fight against enemy anti-ship missiles and attack aircraft;
- the maximum possible use of stealth technology to reduce ship visibility in various ranges;
- to achieve an effective speed of the economic course of the ship during patrols and distant ocean crossings;
- low level of intrinsic noise in various ranges;
- sufficiently small draft, allowing to operate without fear in shallow areas of coastal waters;
- high combat survivability of the ship and the necessary degree of security of the crew;
- the ability to perform short-term maneuvers at maximum speed - in the process of separation or, conversely, the pursuit of non-nuclear submarines or high-speed craft of the enemy (for example, torpedo or missile satellites);
- the possibility of over-the-horizon detection of targets and their destruction before entering the affected area of their airborne vehicles;
- interfacing with modern and future control systems and communications of the Navy and other types of armed forces, including allied and friendly countries;
- the possibility of receiving fuel and cargo on the go at sea;
- duplication of all major ship systems and complexes weapons;
- acceptable purchase cost and after-sales service costs.
The tactical and technical assignment issued by the US Navy Command to the developers provided for ensuring that modules with systems of various classes and types can be installed on the ship, which will most fully solve one of the following priority tasks:
- anti-hacking defense of single ships and ships, detachments of warships and ship convoys;
- fulfilling the duties of the Coast Guard (border guard) ships;
- reconnaissance and surveillance;
- anti-submarine defense in the coastal areas of the seas and oceans;
- anti-mine operations;
- support of MTR actions;
- material and technical support in the process of transferring troops, equipment and cargo.
Initially, six companies showed interest in the tender announced by the US Navy command under the LCS program - in 2002, they received contracts for 500 thousand dollars each for pre-sketch design. After evaluating the results of their works, the Navy in July 2003 selected three consortia headed by companies to participate in the tender for LBK:
- General Dynamics - the main contractor (the main work assigned to the Bath Iron Works Division), as well as the company Austal USA, BAE Systems, Boeing, CAE Marine Systems and Maritime Applied Physics Corp .;
- Lockheed Martin is the main contractor, as well as Bollinger Shipyards, Gibbs & Cox and Marinette Marine;
- Raytheon is the main contractor, as well as the John J. Mullen Associates, Atlantic Marine, Goodrich and Umoe Mandal.
The consortia were awarded contracts for the implementation of preliminary design - the first received a contract for 8,9 million dollars, and the remaining two - for 10 million dollars. The following year, they presented their draft projects to the fleet.
The first group developed a trimaran surface class vessel, which was chosen by General Dynamics after analyzing the results of a study conducted by experts at Bath Iron Works and based on trial operation of trimarans built earlier by Austal (in particular, the Australian trimaran was widely used "Benchinga Express"). Among other things, the ability of a trimaran to develop a full speed of more than 50 nodes and the possibility of efficient ship operation by a crew of all 25 – 30 people has been proven. One of the significant advantages of the LBK-trimaran is its high seaworthiness, especially stability, buoyancy, handling and handling. On the other hand, it should be emphasized, in contrast to competitors, it was originally planned with a lesser degree of universality than that of competitors, and, according to the plan of developers, it should solve the following tasks:
- counteraction to pirates and terrorists (today it is LBK of the Independence type that many foreign experts and specialists in the fight against piracy see as the main potential means of struggle against the unleashed “sea robbers”);
- the fight against high-speed spacecraft, especially if they use the method of attack in the "dismembered" order;
- search and destruction of non-nuclear submarines;
- implementation of mine action;
- the transfer of personnel and cargoes in the interests of the United States OSS and the United States Emergency Commission, including landing and receiving special forces on board.
A group of companies led by Lockheed Martin for the first time unveiled their LBK project in April 2004, during the Aerospace and Naval Exhibition in Washington DC. Its distinctive feature was the use of a semi-gliding type during the design of the hull form - in the West it is called the “Sea Blade”. A similar hull form was used for the first time on high-speed civilian vessels, which achieved a record speed on the transatlantic lines, and today it is used in adapted form and on larger high-speed military and civilian transport vessels. In order to increase their chances of winning, the developers from this consortium took into account, as far as possible, all the requirements of the US Navy — especially in matters of universality, modularity and interchangeability of individual units and modules of weapons and various equipment.
And finally, the last group, the leader of which was Raytheon, proposed a project developed on the basis of a Norwegian small patrol ship of the Skjold type. In this case, the main contractor was responsible for the development of individual systems and the integration of all components on board the ship, while the John Mullen Association acted as an expert group on the design of the ship. It should be particularly noted that this modification was designed as a “skeleton-type hovercraft” (in Western terminology - “surface-effect-ship”, or SES), which designed the Russian missile hovercraft of the Bohr project 1239. However, the Raytheon project was ultimately rejected by the US Navy 27 in May 2004, although LCS program manager from the US Navy Rear Admiral Charles Hamilton noted that he has "a very interesting body shape and a number of other promising solutions."
While the Pentagon, Congress and shipbuilders settled preliminary questions, gradually approaching the official start of the program, the admirals tested the concept of high-speed and maneuverable warships designed using non-traditional schemes and a modular construction principle. To this end, under the auspices of the US Naval Research Department, the design and construction of, if I may say so, “experienced LBK” was carried out - the program received the designation “Littoral Surface Craft - Experimental or LSC (X)), and ship - the name "Sea Fighter" (Sea Fighter, translated from English - "Sea Warrior"). Moreover, the ship is often referred to only as "X-craft" (X-craft) - by analogy with the experimental aircraft created in the United States under the program "X-planes".
The design was based on the scheme of a “ship of a catamaran type with a small waterline area” (the term SWATH - Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull is used in the West), which provides high seaworthy qualities in near and far sea zones, in simple and stormy conditions. At the same time, one of the main conditions that the developers had to ensure was the modular construction principle of the ship - depending on the assigned combat tasks and the theater of military operations, the ship had to ensure the integration of certain specialized “interchangeable combat modules”. In addition, "Sea Fighter" was obliged to ensure the reception / release of helicopters and UAVs, as well as small boats, including uninhabited boats.
The ship was designed by the British company BMT Nigel Gee Ltd., and its construction was carried out on the previously built high-speed ferries of the shipyard of Nichols Bros. Boat Builders (Freeland, WA). The order for it was placed on 15 on February 2003 of the year, the keel was laid on 5 on June 2003 of the year, it was launched on 5 on February of 2005 on February and 31 on May of the same year was accepted by the US Navy. The displacement of the “Sea Fighter” is 950 m, the greatest length is 79,9 m, the length of the waterline is 73,0 m, the greatest width is 21,9 m, and the draft is only 3,5 m. The ship is equipped with a combined diesel-gas turbine GEM consisting of two diesel MTU 595 and two LM2500 gas turbine installations: diesel engines are used at cruising speed, and turbines for high speeds. Two rotary water-jet installations are used as propellers, one placed in two catamaran hulls. The successful combination of the power plant and propulsion allows the ship to reach a cruising speed of up to 50 knots. Cruising range - 4400 miles (8100 km), crew - 26 people. On board the ship, two runways are equipped to receive and release helicopters and UAVs at speeds up to full, the crew have a stern device that allows launching and taking on board boats or submarine sabotage or anti-mine vehicles up to 11 meters long.
According to the assessment of the US Navy command, Sea Fighter was supposed to allow the fleet to solve two main tasks: to study the potential capabilities of the ships of this scheme, and also to work out the modular principle of forming the onboard armament of the ship. In the latter case, it was possible to install various container-shaped modules into the ship’s hull, allowing, depending on the type of module, to solve the tasks of the PLO, PMO, combat the enemy’s surface ships, participate in amphibious operations and ensure the operations of the MTR, as well as solve the tasks of transporting troops and military cargo by sea and launch sea-launched cruise missiles. A distinctive feature of the “Sea Fighter” is the presence of a through-deck cargo - the type of Ro-Ro class ships.
The very first tests brought very encouraging results, the obtained data were actively used by developers in the framework of the LBK program of both types. It is worth noting, however, that recently the command of the US Navy and the US Coast Guard is increasingly exploring the possibility of preferential use of the Sea Fighter type of ships not as warships of the fleet, but to ensure safety and law and order in their internal waters, as well as for protection of national interests in the exclusive US economic zone. In the case of the need to increase the forces and means of the fleet away from their own coast, ships of this type, due to their high speed and cruising range, can be quickly transferred to the designated area.
IMPLEMENTATION OF LBK PROGRAM
In February, the Joint Supervisory Board for the Design of IWT finally approved the document submitted by the US Navy Command, justifying the need to purchase LBK, and on May 2004, the US Navy announced that the two groups of companies headed by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, received contracts, respectively, cost 27 million and 78,8 million dollars to complete the design work, after which they begin to build experienced ships (prototypes) of the zero series (Flight 46,5): Lockhe ed Martin is LCS 0 and LCS 1, and General Dynamics is LCS 3 and LCS 2. Moreover, it was announced that, together with the costs of building LBK prototypes, the cost of contracts could increase to 4 million and 536 million dollars, respectively. It was exactly this amount that the naval command offered to lay in fiscal years 423 – 2005 budgets (about $ 2007 billion were planned for the construction of nine LBKs for the period up to and including 2009). Lockheed Martin pledged to transfer the first ship, the LCS 4, already in 1, and General Dynamics, its LCS 2007 - in 2. After the construction of the first 2008 LBK and the corresponding tests, the command of the US Navy was to choose the type of LBK for subsequent serial construction - the contract for the remaining 15 LBK was supposed to be issued to one company. Moreover, the possibility of adaptation of individual, well-established during trial operation, constructive or other elements from the “loser” type to the “winner” was not excluded.
Finally, 2 on June 2005 of the first type LBK - Freedom LCS 1 - was laid at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wis., And on September 23 of 2006, it was launched into the water (transferred to the 8 fleet on November 2008 of the year) . A consortium led by General Dynamics began to build its trimaran 19 2006 for the trimaran in January 30 - the Austal USA Shipyards shipyard in Mobil, Alabama was chosen for this (it was launched in 2008 16 in April 2010 January XNUMX year).
The complacent mood, however, soon came to an end. The reason, as is the case with many other programs of the Pentagon, was an uncontrolled rise in prices. As a result, 12 January 2007, the US Navy Minister Donald Winter ordered even to suspend for a period of 90 days all work on the construction of the second Freedom ship - its cost increased from estimated 220 million dollars to 331 – 410 million dollars. 86%, not to mention the fact that at the very beginning of the program, the unit price was estimated at 90 million in general, and the lead ship was supposed to be transferred to the fleet in the 2007 year - both of which remained only on paper.
The result was the cancellation of 12 on April 2007 of the LCS 3 contract, and on November 1 on LCS 4. They were resumed only in March (on Fort Worth LCS 3) and May 2009 of the year (on Coronado LCS 4), and on April 6 2009 of the year Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced funding for three LBKs in 2010 and the intention to acquire a total of 55 ships. It should also be noted that during the tests of both lead ships, a lot of flaws and serious technical omissions were revealed. Thus, in the process of acceptance tests of “Fridom”, the commission fixed 2600 technical deficiencies, of which 21 was recognized as serious and subject to immediate elimination - until the transfer of the ship to the fleet, only nine of these 21 were eliminated. Nevertheless, 15 February Freedom 2010 - two years ahead of schedule - went into its first independent long-distance voyage and even took part in the first combat operation, preventing an attempt to transport a large shipment of drugs near the coast of Colombia.
However, after the promulgation of the military budget for the 2010 fiscal year, it became clear that the total purchase price of the leading ships of two types of LBK - Freedom and Independence - turned out to be 637 million and 704 million dollars, respectively! And 4 in March 2010, a sensation came from the performers - the management of Austal USA, which is involved in the construction of Independence, an American unit of the Australian company, announced its withdrawal from the agreement with the Bath Iron Works and the intention to independently fight for subsequent contracts under the LBK program.