Since its inception in 2001, the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program has been described as needed to replace the fleet’s frigates, minesweepers and patrol ships. But the ship’s place in the line of battle continues to be debated.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus thinks one of the reasons the ship is misunderstood is the nontraditional LCS designator. He directed an effort to find a more traditional and appropriate designation for the LCS and several other recent ship types, such as the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB).
The first of the types to be redesignated is the LCS.
“If it’s like a frigate, why don’t we call it a frigate?” he said Thursday morning to a roomful of surface warfare sailors at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium just outside Washington.
“We are going to change the hull designation of the LCS class ships to FF,” Mabus said, citing the traditional hull designation for frigates. “It will still be the same ship, the same program of record, just with an appropriate and traditional name.”
Mabus has long been irked by the habit in recent years of applying program-like designations to ships, and LCS is an example. In the Navy’s designation system, the first letter sometimes is the key to the overall role of the ship, and “L-class” ships are widely considered to be those involved in carrying Marines and their equipment for an amphibious assault. LCS is the sole exception — a ship the Navy counts as a surface combatant, not an amphibious lift ship.