The other half of the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, the development of the Freedom-class warship, has struggled with many faults—a mess, if you will, that the service had to keep allocating funds just to salvage each millions-worth of these vessels.

Looking for a robust yet light frigate suitable to conduct littoral missions, the Navy awarded a split contract between the two American defense contractor giants to build dozens of these ships beginning in the early 2000s.

Lockheed Martin kickstarted their part of the program by producing the first LCS ship, the USS Freedom (LCS-1), and all the succeeding odd hull numbers. At the same time, General Dynamics constructed USS Independence (LCS-2) and all subsequent even hull numbers—which eventually became the lead ship of its respective class.

The Odd-Numbered Hulls

Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics initially competed for the LCS program contract, only for the Navy to grant both, making the program a two-variant class of warships.

Each bears unique styles, with Independence sporting a peculiar aluminum trimaran design, while Freedom stuck with the conventional steel monohull. Its contractors designed these small surface vessels for maritime operations in coastal waters or near-shore missions.

In general, the LCS is designed to be modular, with interchangeable mission packages that allow the ship to be quickly reconfigured for different missions, such as anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, or surface warfare. A relatively small vessel comes with a relatively small core crew, with just over 50 sailors. This, however, can accommodate additional personnel for specific missions.

Lockheed laid the keel of the first ship in the class, the USS Freedom (LCS-1), in 2005, through its subsidiary manufacturer Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin.

Like the first two ships in its twin-class variant, the USS Freedom (LCS-1) development also faced rough seas. It went through technical challenges, exceeding its initial budget, consequently attracting criticism from the Navy and Congress.

The entire LCS program sought affordable, adaptable, and highly capable vessels for starters. But the cost overruns and delays led many to question the overall affordability, with some estimates putting the total program cost at more than $30 billion.

Moreover, critics have argued that the cost of the ship is too high compared to other Navy vessels and that the program has failed to deliver the promised capabilities and flexibility not to mention the concerns about its effectiveness with all the technical problems that would later emerge, including issues with its propulsion system.

Nonetheless, the LCS-1 saw through its production and, by 2008, entered service.

A total of 16 Freedom-class LCS were initially granted to Lockheed. However, in 2020, the Navy announced it would reduce the planned production number from 52 to 35 for the entire LCS program and shift to a new frigate design under the FFG(X) program to replace some of the remaining LCS. As a result of this decision, the number of Freedom-class LCS production and deployment is now uncertain.

Technical Specifications and Weaponry Systems Onboard

The Freedom-class LCS has a length of 387 feet (118.1 meters), a beam of 57.7 ft (17.6 m), a draft of 14.1 ft (4.3 m), and a full load displacement of approximately 3,450 metric tons. It has a top speed of over 45 knots, or about 52 miles per hour (83 kilometers per hour), making it one of the fastest US Navy ships. This is all thanks to its combined propulsion system comprising two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines and two Colt-Pielstick diesel engines.

As mentioned, each Freedom-class ship has a complement of 50 core crew members, plus accommodation for mission module personnel of around 65.

Its armament includes a BAE Systems Mk 110 57mm naval gun, four .50 caliber machine guns, a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher with 21 missiles, two 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II guns, and provision for various missile systems to support mine, anti-submarine, and surface warfare.

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It also has various sensors and processing systems to support multiple missions, including AN/SPY-1F air search radar, AN/SQS-62 sonar, AN/SQQ-89F undersea warfare systems, and many other electronic warfare systems.

Each Freedom-class LCS has aviation facilities, including a flight deck and hangar that accommodate one MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopter or up to two MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Expected to be a versatile and adaptable platform, the class variant had struggled with a handful of issues through the years, from its design and construction components to its mission modules issues, which suppose to be its unique features.

Maintenance and reliability were also an itch that the service seemed to not get rid of, contributing to the influx of spending on the LCS.

Overall, while the Freedom-class LCS has faced some budget and cost issues, it remains an integral part of the Navy’s fleet and will likely continue to play a role in future missions and operations.

Freedom-class Littoral Warship

Out of the 16 ordered LCS vessels, Lockheed has delivered 11 to the US Navy, wherein one was already decommissioned in 2021, and nine are set to be transferred to reserve this year as proposed last year.

Meanwhile, four ships continue in the fitting-out phase, and one is under construction status, which would result in only one Freedom-class LCS remaining in active service once all the planned decommissioning occurs.

On its naming history, most of the ships in the class bear the namesake of US states and capitals with significant ties to the US Navy, except for the lead ship, which was named after the concept of freedom in America.

Below are the photos of the Freedom-class LCSs built between 2005-present.

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

“Fast, Focused, Fearless”

USS Freedom (LCS 1) departs for RIMPAC 2016
USS Freedom (LCS 1) departs for RIMPAC 2016 (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 23 September 2006

Commissioned: 8 November 2008

Status: Decommissioned (29 September 2021), In reserve

Home Port: San Diego, CA

USS Fort Worth (LCS-3)

“Grit and Tenacity”

USS Fort Worth LCS 3
USS Fort Worth transits out to sea from Naval Base San Diego (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 4 December 2010

Commissioned: 22 September 2012

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: San Diego, CA

USS Milwaukee (LCS-5)

“Strength – Freedom”

USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) arrives in Mayport, Fla.
USS Milwaukee approaches Naval Station Mayport Harbor for maintenance (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 18 December 2013

Commissioned: 21 November 2015

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Detroit (LCS-7)

“Swift Vigilance”

USS Detroit (LCS 7)
USS Detroit sails through the Atlantic Ocean (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 18 October 2014

Commissioned: 22 October 2016

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Little Rock (LCS-9)

“Back With A Vengeance”

USS Little Rock (LCS-9)
USS Little Rock departs homeport to embark on its maiden deployment (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 18 July 2015

Commissioned: 16 December 2017

Status: Decommissioned (31 March 2023), In reserve

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Sioux City (LCS-11)

“Forging a New Frontier”

USS Sioux City (LCS 11) transits the Caribbean Sea
USS Sioux City transits the Caribbean Sea (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 30 January 2016

Commissioned: 17 November 2018

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Wichita (LCS-13)

“Keeper of the Seas”

USS Wichita 2022
USS Wichita at the Caribbean Sea working alongside USS Billings (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 17 September 2016

Commissioned: 12 January 2019

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Billings (LCS-15)

“Big Sky Over Troubled Waters, Star Of The Big Ocean”

USS Billings Commissioned
USS Billings during its commissioning ceremony in 2019 (Image Source: DVIDS)

Launched: 1 July 2017

Commissioned: 3 August 2019

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Indianapolis (LCS-17)

“Legacy of War”

The Future USS Indianapolis (LCS 17)
USS Indianapolis conducts Acceptance Trials in Lake Michigan (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 18 April 2018

Commissioned: 26 October 2019

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS St. Louis (LCS-19)

“Gateway to Freedom”

USS St. Louis (LCS 19) Commissioned
USS St. Louis moored at its homeport during its commissioning ceremony in 2015 (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 15 December 2018

Commissioned: 8 August 2020

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21)

“Aut viam invenium aut faciam (I Will Find a Way or Make One)”

USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul Conducts Daily Operations
USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul anchored at the US Naval Academy pier (Image Source: DVIDS)

Launched: 15 June 2019

Commissioned: 21 May 2022

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Atlantic Fleet

Home Port: Mayport, FL

USS Cooperstown (LCS-23)

“America’s Away Team”

Bob Feller Bust Presentation to crew of USS Cooperstown (LCS 23)
Bob Feller Bust honors the crew of USS Cooperstown (Image source: DVIDS)

Awarded: 29 December 2010

Launched: 19 January 2020

Status: Fitting Out

USS Marinette (LCS-25)

“Freedom Done Wright”

USS Marinette
USS Marinette right after launch (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Awarded: 31 March 2016

Launched: 31 October 2020

Status: Fitting Out

USS Nantucket (LCS-27)

“Dominae griseae maris (Grey Lady of the Sea)”

USS Nantucket
USS Nantucket (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Awarded: 6 October 2017

Launched: 7 August 2021

Status: Fitting Out

USS Beloit (LCS-29)

“Forward for Freedom”

USS Beloit
USS Beloit launched in Marinette, WI (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Awarded: 18 September 2018

Launched: 7 May 2022

Status: Fitting Out

USS Cleveland (LCS-31)

“Forge a Legacy”

Awarded: 15 January 2019

Status: Under construction