The United States Navy (USN) originally envisioned a large class of warships categorized as "littoral combat ships". The class was been developed along the lines of speed and agility primarily for operations in "close to shore" environments all the while retaining blue water capabilities. In this way, these ships could support amphibious operations close to shore or undertake deep water missions with the fleet as required. The multi-mission capability was made up of "Mission Package" modules which would allow for the neutralization of enemy submarines, fast attack surface craft, and naval mines.
The USN took on two variants to fulfill the LCS requirement and these became the Independence-class (by General Dynamics) and the Freedom-class (by Lockheed Martin). The LCS program began in 2002 and produced USS Freedom (LCS-1) in September of 2008 with USS Independence (LCS-2) following in January of 2010. Twelve ships in the Freedom-class are now planned (down from the original 32 expected) with two in active service as of this writing (2015 - USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth). USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) represents the second ship in the class which will include twelve total by the end. The contract to build Fort Worth was awarded in March of 2009 to Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC) of Marinette, Wisconsin and her keel was laid down on July 11th, 2009. She was launched on December 7th,2010 and the Navy took delivery of her on June 6th, 2012. Commissioning was on September 22nd, 2012 and she remains in active service as of 2015.
Fort Worth's profile includes a relatively unobstructed forecastle save for a single turreted deck gun. The bridge superstructure is found immediately aft and forms the frontal section of the hull superstructure proper. Her smoke funnels are concealed in the design for stealthiness. Her aft section is made up of a helicopter landing deck with hangar access. Various systems and processing equipment are mounted on her superstructure and a single contained mast is featured.
USS Fort Worth displaces at 3,900 tons (short) and carries a length of 387 feet, a beam of 58 feet, and a draught of 13 feet. Her propulsion system includes 2 x Rolls-Royce MT30 36MW gas turbines with 2 x Colt-Pielstick diesel engines an 4 x Rolls-Royce waterjets. She is capable of reaching 45 knot speeds in ideal conditions making her a fast warship for her size. Range is out to 3,500 nautical miles. Her crew numbers around 125 personnel and onboard stores allow her to remain at sea for just over twenty days. She carries RHIB (Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat) fast boats for interception/boarding actions and her stern-located flight deck supports up to 2 x Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk naval helicopters (complete with full hangar facilities) and launching/recovery of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 "Fire Scout" helicopter UAV (this aircraft detailed elsewhere on this site).
Warfare systems include the TRS-3D air and surface search radar, the Lockheed COMBAT SS-21 Combat Management System (CMS), and the AN/PQS-2A passive sonar array. Her armament suite is led by the 57mm BAe Systems Mk 110 series deck gun and showcases the RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) surface-to-air system (Mk 49 launcher, 21 missiles), the Lockheed/Raytheon XM501 "NETFIRES" PAM ("Precision Attack Munition") missile system, 2 x 30mm Mk 44 "Bushmaster" autocannons, and 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns.
After commissioning in September of 2012, Fort Worth was sent on trials in late 2013 to prove her weaponry and situational awareness systems sound. She also conducted successful launching and recovery of the aforementioned Fire Scout UAV. She deployed to Singapore in November of 2014 and, the following month, was used to search for the missing Indonesian AirAsia Flight 8501 (to no avail). In January of 2015, she was assigned to the contested South China Sea region in support of American allies and interests (primarily as a deterrent to North Korean instigation and Chinese aggression).
During this period, the vessel was part of a simulation event that reportedly left her vulnerable to attack. The simulations showcased weaknesses in her design after some of her systems were "damaged" during "fighting" which has led to some reservations about the viability of the LCS program going forward. After 2019, the USN is expected to purchase a further 20 LCS ships, these with improvements to the armament suite, sensors/processing systems, and general armoring.