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Video: Second-to-Last Freedom-Class LCS Launched at Marinette

beloit
USS Beloit prepared for launch (Rep. Mike Gallagher)

Published May 8, 2022 10:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

Fincantieri Marinette Marine has launched the second-to-the-last Freedom-class LCS, USS Beloit. The ship is named after the Wisconsin city where Fairbanks-Morse has built engines for the U.S. Navy for generations.

Beloit native Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson (U.S. Army, ret'd) served as the ship's sponsor, and veterans from the city of Beloit were brought up by bus for the ceremony. 

“The future USS Beloit will be the first U.S. Navy ship honoring the proud naval contributions of Beloit, Wisconsin,” said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro in a statement “I have no doubt the sailors of USS Beloit will stand the watch with pride and be ready to respond to any mission, wherever, and whenever, there is a need.”

It was the second-to-the-last time that Marinette sends out a Freedom-class hull with a dramatic side launch. For the follow-on hulls built for Saudi Arabia (the Royal Saudi Naval Forces' Multi-Mission Surface Combatant, or MMSC), the yard will use a Travelift to hoist and lower the vessels into the water. This allows more construction to be completed in the assembly hall before launch. 

Beloit will deliver under unusual circumstances. If Congress allows, the Navy has proposed to decommission all Freedom-class LCS hulls through USS St. Louis, which was delivered less than two years ago. The service still plans to take delivery of six more that are currently in various stages of fitting-out or construction, including USS Beloit

The Navy says that it sees less need for the Freedom-class because a related program for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) equipment package has not delivered. The new AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar system was to be the core of LCS' ASW capability, but the Navy suspended the system's development earlier this year due to persistent underperformance. Without a functioning ASW sonar for the Freedom-class, the service says that it has little need for the ship itself.

"LCS is as noisy as an aircraft carrier and so there are some big challenges there that we should have pick[ed] up on way earlier," Adm. Gilday told Naval News. "I’ve been looking at the data on the ASW package for the last year-and-a-half to two years and it got to the point where a decision needed to be made and I wouldn’t put more money against it, and that left the future of those ships open."

The Freedom-class design has also been scrutinized for its weapons capabilities, operating costs and survivability. Previously delivered hulls also have an expensive flaw in the combining gear, the sophisticated gearbox that integrates power from the ship's diesel and gas turbine engines. In future production, both LCS classes will be phased out in favor of the new Constellation-class, a conventional multirole frigate based on a European design. The Constellation-class will also built at Marinette.