The Littoral Combat Ship is the first design of the U.S. Navy's next-generation surface combatants. Intended as a relatively small surface vessel for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore), the LCS is smaller than the Navy's guided missile frigates, and has been compared to the corvette of international usage. However, the LCS adds the capabilities of a small assault transport with a flight deck and hangar large enough to base two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, the capability to recover and launch small boats from a stern ramp, and enough cargo volume and payload to deliver a small assault force with armored vehicles to a roll-on/roll-off port facility. The standard armament for the LCS are Mk 110 57 mm guns, while modules containing Non-Line-of-Sight Launch Systems or Mark 54 MAKO Lightweight Torpedoes are available. It will also be able to launch autonomous air, surface, and underwater vehicles. Although the LCS design offers less air defense and surface-to-surface capabilities than comparable destroyers, the concept emphasizes speed, flexible mission module space and a shallow draft.
The concept behind the littoral combat ship, as described by Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, is to "create a small, fast, maneuverable and relatively inexpensive member of the DD(X) family of ships." The ship is easy to reconfigure for different roles, including anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, homeland defense, maritime intercept, special operations, and logistics. Due to its modular design, the LCS will be able to replace slower, more specialized ships such as minesweepers and larger assault ships.
On 9 May, 2005, Secretary of the Navy Gordon England announced that the first LCS would be named USS Freedom (LCS-1). Her keel was laid down on 2 June 2005 at Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wisconsin. On 23 September, 2006, LCS-1 was christened and launched at the Marinette Marine shipyard.
On 12 April, 2007, the Navy canceled the contract with Lockheed Martin for the construction of LCS-3 after negotiations to control cost overruns failed. The second General Dynamics ship (LCS-4) was also canceled on November 1, 2007 after similar cost overruns on their first ship. The Navy currently plans a brand new bidding process for the next three ships, with the winner building two ships and the loser only one.