Destroying enemy helicopters on the open sea, hitting attacking enemy drones and countering opposing surface ships from safer stand-off distances are all combat missions now being emphasized by the Navy as it prepares its Littoral Combat Ship for massive “blue water” warfare – an effort designed to widen the ship’s attack potential and build upon its expansive scope of shallow water missions.
As part of this, the Navy has fired a HELLFIRE missile from an Independence variant of its LCS to better arm the ship for offensive attack. The test-firing, described by Naval Sea Systems Command as a “structural test firing,” involved the shooting of a Longbow HELLFIRE on the Point Mugu Sea Range on June 11.
Referred to as the Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, the weapon is being prepared as part of an integrated suite of combat technologies for the LCS. For many years now, the Navy has been working vigorously to evolve the LCS mission scope from an initial focus upon littoral operations including land attack, countermine operations and closer in combat operations — to include preparation for dispersed, long-range, major deepwater warfare against a heavily armed near-peer adversary.
While utilizing speed and shallow draft to access areas less available to larger, deeper draft ships, the LCS is still very much intended to perform closer-in missions. However, given the ever-evolving “great-power” competition and focus upon near-peer threats, the service has for several years been immersed in a large-scale effort to better arm its surface fleet – especially the LCS – with combat equipment necessary for large-scale war. This adaptation involves not only adding weapons and sensors but also adjusting and utilizing its existing war assets such as counter-submarine warfare, surface attack and countermine missions.