General Dynamics Pushing Multi-Mission Combatant in Middle East
By WENDELL MINNICK, ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates
General Dynamics is pushing its General Dynamics Multi-Mission Combatant (GDMMC), a variant of the U.S. Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) at IDEX, with high hopes of attracting Middle East customers.
Its first U.S. Navy LCS, the USS Independence (FCS 2), is about 45 percent complete and will be delivered in 2008, said retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Robert Sprigg, who directs advanced warfare concepts for GD’s Bath Iron Works shipyard.
The Independence is being built in partnership with Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, and is based on the Austal trimaran design. “The ship is designed to be a host for modular mission packages,” said Sprigg. “This ship is basically an empty volume with a core self-defense system. The initial package includes three types, anti- submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and mine warfare. You can tailor it to fit these three missions at any time. They roll on these modules and roll them off as needed.”
“‘Any console, any application,’ was the guideline for the development of the LCS,” said Michael McDermott, who directs GD’s LCS export efforts.
During IDEX, General Dynamics is giving a virtual reality tour of the LCS and displaying scale models of both the LCS and the Multi-Mission variant.
The U.S. Navy may buy up to 56 LCS ships.
The standard LCS has three versions — anti-submarine warfare, anti- surface warfare and mine warfare, but Sprigg said that variants could include special forces, rapid deployment missions, and humanitarian operations.
GD launched the Multi-Mission Combatant program after the U.S. Navy asked it to create an integrated multi-mission platform for international customers not interested in the LCS program. Sprigg said Navy officials told GD that more than 26 countries were interested in the variant, most with an eye toward the integrated version.
“Navies in the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia are interested in the Multi-Mission variant. Both platforms can integrate indigenous weapons systems with little difficulty. You can go from Harpoon to Exocet without a problem,” he said.
The armament options include a 32-missile vertical launch system, one 57mm bow gun, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two Close-In Weapon Systems, and six anti-submarine warfare torpedoes.
Its 1,000-square-meter flight deck can handle two Sikorsky H-60s or one Sikorsky H-53 helicopter, and the hangar can handle two H-60s, making LCS one of the few ships of this size capable of handling the larger helicopters.
The ship displaces 3,120 metric tons and has a mission bay of 11,800 square feet.
One MH-53E Sea Dragon Airborne Mine Countermeasures helicopter is participating for the first time in IDEX, part of a visiting ship contingent of the U.S. Navy visiting Abu Dhabi for the show. The Sea Dragon is accompanying the USS Ardent and USS Dextrous mine countermeasures vessels.
General Dynamics is also discussing with Saudi Arabia the sale of its Logistics Support Ship.
“There are preliminary discussions between the U.S. Navy and Saudi Arabia on an Foreign Military Sales case for two of these ships,” said Robert Massey, marketing manager, navy programs, General Dynamics. Saudi Arabia is interested in procuring two for underway replenishment and humanitarian relief and evacuation missions. “It will be able to handle two helicopters and be able to accommodate 900 persons,” he said.
GD is currently building 14 Lewis and Clark class logistic support ships for the U.S. Navy.