USS Billings is the eighth warship of the Freedom-class group of "littoral combat ships". The class was conceived by the United States Navy (USN) as a relative compact, multi-mission-minded warship designed to operate close-to-shore, providing support to amphibious operations, patrolling / denying strategic areas and the like. Two very distinct classes of littoral combat ships were eventually developed for the service - the aforementioned Freedom-class and the trimaran Independence-class. The Freedom-class takes on a more conventional warship appearance with its singular hull line.
USS Billings was awarded to Marinette Marine on December 29th, 2010 and saw her keel laid down on November 2nd, 2015. She was launched on July 1st, 2017. Named after the American city of Billings, Montana, the Billings is expected to be delivered to the United States Navy before the end of 2017.
The vessel follows the standard design qualities set down by lead ship USS Freedom (LCS-1). It displaces nearly 4,000 tons and showcases an overall length of 378 feet, a beam of 57 feet and a draught of 13 feet (dimensionally smaller than a frigate, more akin to a corvette). The shallow draught is of note for it provides the warship the ability to operate in areas close-to-shore. Power is from 2 x Rolls-Royce MT30 36 MW gas turbines coupled with 2 x Colt-Pielstick diesel engines. 4 x Rolls-Royce waterjets are used for fine-tuned maneuvering. Expected speeds are in the vicinity of 45 knots and the hull can sustain the Sea State 3 environment. Range is out to 3,500 nautical miles.
The base crew numbers about fifty personnel with about seventy-five more making up the mission contingent. The vessel holds enough provision aboard to allow for operations exceeding twenty-one days at sea.
Outwardly, the warship is given the usual stealth qualities common to modern warships including faceted sides, integrated smoke funnel and a low profile. The forecastle's only protrusion is its turreted deck gun. The bridge superstructure is just aft of this emplacement and features a stepped appearance. The pole-type mast is of a low-profile design as well. Over the stern is a helicopter flight deck and full-service hangar to support a medium-lift navy helicopter. Typically 2 x Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters will be carried with provision also being had for the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout UAV helicopter.
Armament includes 1 x 57mm Mk 110 turreted deck gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launchers and Mk 50 series torpedoes. In this way the single warship can engage at-sea threats in the air, on the water or under it. 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns are carried for extreme close-in defense.
This article will be updated as new information allows.