By Geoff Fein

While the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has garnered much of the attention of lawmakers and defense analysts since cost overruns have plagued the program, the chief component of the ship, the three different mission packages, remain on schedule, as Northrop Grumman [NOC] continues to roll out the first set of packages in FY ’08, a company official said.

In September ’07, Northrop Grumman delivered the first mine warfare (MIW) mission package to the Navy. Last week the first surface warfare (SuW) mission package was turned over at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Va., and, on Sept. 19, the first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) package will be rolled out in San Diego.

Even with delivery of the first three mission packages, Northrop Grumman is continuing its integration work in preparation for another round of deliveries in FY ’09, Marc DeBlasio, LCS Mission Package Integrator program manager, told Defense Daily yesterday.

The second MIW package will be delivered in December ’08. Prior to that, Northrop Grumman will be getting the sole source request for proposal (RFP) for the third MIW mission package–what DeBlasio said the company refers to as the "productionized versions of the prototypes that the labs built."

The RFP is expected in October, with a delivery date for the first production unit in June 2011, he added.

Delivery of the second ASW package is to be determined, DeBlasio said.

Part of the reason for not setting a delivery date for the ASW package is that there is a little more unknown quantity in the ASW package as far as how well things are going to work so the Navy doesn’t want to go and commit to the first prototype configuration, DeBlasio said.

"So the [ASW mission package] they are delivering in September, [the Navy is going to conduct] a Distributive Forces Exercise with the package with the Pacific Fleet in December ’08," he said. "After they do that and analyze the data early next year they will then have a good handle on how well did it operate, do [they] need widget A, do [they] need widget B, or do [they] need a new widget B…that kind of thing."

Delivery of the second SuW mission package is scheduled for September ’09. Although there will be more than a year between delivery of the first SuW package and the second, DeBlasio said there is a good reason for that.

While last week’s SuW mission package rollout was all about the two major components–the MK 46 30mm gun and the Non-Line-Of-Sight (NLOS) rocket system, NLOS will be missing from the first mission package, DeBlasio said.

"The NLOS system is a joint Army-Navy development and it is not complete yet. So NLOS is not in the first package, which was by design. These packages are incrementally built as far as capabilities, so the NLOS is still in development and that is pushing the second SuW package out to September ’09."

NLOS is developed by developed by Netfires LLC, a Lockheed Martin [LMT]-Raytheon [RTN] joint venture.

DeBlasio said there are some plans to change the mission packages, for instance, in follow-on MIW packages, Northrop Grumman will add more modules.

"Not until you get to MIW number five do you have a full-up system. MIW number five will be the first system to have the RAMICS gun in it," he said.

RAMICS, built by Northrop Grumman, is the rapid airborne mine clearance system.

The Navy will retrofit the earlier mission packages, DeBlasio noted.

"Because there was this incremental build, the modules are in different phases of development. Some are mature, some are still in development. Not everything is in their first package, and that is by design," he said.

The SuW mission package is in a similar situation. The first production version doesn’t arrive until mission package number five, DeBlasio said. Mission package number four will have all the components except it will have a NLOS engineering design model module as opposed to a production model, he added.

Retrofitting systems into the mission modules will be easy, DeBlasio said, because the design is done and the packages are modular. "That’s the beauty of it."

The MIW mission package is the largest of the three and encompasses eight standard ISO (shipping) 20-foot unit containers, all known as TEUs (Twenty Equivalent Unit).

"There are two for the MH-60 support equipment, one for the [AQS-20] underwater sensor," DeBlasio said.

Raytheon [RTN] makes the sonar that will be deployed and towed from a Sikorsky [UTX] MH-60S.

Besides the eight containers in the MIW package, there is also a cradle for the remote mine hunting system, and a cradle for the 11-meter unmanned surface vehicle (USV) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB).

Lockheed Martin makes the AN/WLD-1 Remote Mine Hunting Systems (RMS).

For the SuW package, there are only six containers, but not all go on the ship, DeBlasio pointed out.

"Several of the containers, I believe two, contain the missiles for the NLOS system. They get shipped in the container, go pierside by the ship, and then the ship takes them out of the container and puts them down below in the ship in the weapons zone," he said.

The SuW package also has a support container, which holds the electronics for the Mk 46 30mm gun. That module is dropped into the weapons zone, DeBlasio added.

"That’s one of the support components in SuW that we will be building for [the Navy]," he said. "Same thing for NLOS. There is a mounting and a couple of racks of equipment to support NLOS."

The ASW mission package is unique in that the containers, or flat racks, are TEUs without any sides, DeBlasio explained.

"It is literally a rack where you put the equipment on but there is no cover for it. It’s more durable and can be outside. It has a combination of flat racks, USV portable trailers and it does have four TEUs," he said.

All three mission packages share a number of components. Each of the mission packages carries a MH-60, either the armed R or S variant, DeBlasio said. "So there are two TEUs for support of the H-60 on each of the mission packages."

"The ASW and MIW both have 11-meter RIBs. They are a little different boat, but they have a common cradle. Same thing with RMS. [It] is both in the MIW and ASW and there is a common cradle," he added. "And then you have Fire Scout. It has one TEU for support equipment and that is common across all three [mission packages]."

The other thing that is common across all three mission packages is a what DeBlasio called the "heart and soul of the mission packages," the Mission Package Computing Environment (MPCE) and the Multi Vehicle Communication System (MVCS).

MPCE is comprised of four 19-inch racks. It has a common set of hardware that gets permanently installed inside LCS, unlike the other mission packages, he noted.

"This is how you get to the open architecture aspect and modularity. You just put in a different software load [for each of the three mission packages]," DeBlasio said. "So we will be buying and installing the MPCE and MVCS in all of the ships. Right now it is part of the mission package. We just installed, in June, the first MPCE onto Freedom (LCS-1), and checked it out. It was very successful."

The USS Freedom is being built by a Lockheed Martin-led team at Marinette Marine [MTW] in Wisconsin.

DeBlasio said Northrop Grumman expects to install MPCE onto General Dynamics‘ [GD] USS Independence (LCS-2) this fall.