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« em: Março 24, 2007, 11:01:12 am »
Começam a vir a público declarações de interesse de outros países em adquirir uma plataforma do tipo LCS mas mais equipada. Poderá ser uma oção a ter em conta no futuro.

Saudi Arabia Eyes Heavily Armed, Aegis LCS


Saudi Arabia could be poised to become the newest member of an exclusive naval club: those countries who operate warships fitted with the advanced Aegis combat system.
Even more surprising is the ship the Saudis want to ride in on: the General Dynamics (GD) version of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
Sources familiar with the proposal said Riyadh has examined several surface warship designs, including an Aegis variant of the Lockheed Martin LCS.
But while Lockheed Martin designers were able to fit the system into their monohull design, the results have left little margin for growth or design changes, and the Saudis prefer the greater margins found in GD’s trimaran.
“The Saudis love it,” said one industry source familiar with the proposal of the GD Aegis LCS. “They love the volume” in the design “and the ability to operate multiple helicopters.”
“They have expressed a clear preference for Aegis,” said another industry source.
If the deal goes through — and all sources interviewed emphasized that no agreement has been reached — Saudi Arabia would become the seventh operator of the world’s most advanced naval combat system and the first Arab customer.
The Aegis system was created by Lockheed Martin in the late 1970s and has been updated ever since. Today, the system is fitted on all current U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers, and one of the latest versions has been adapted for ballistic missile defense.
Japan, Spain and Norway operate Aegis ships today, while South Korea is building a new class of destroyers with the system and Australia has committed to install it aboard its new Air Defence Destroyers.
Israel also has received U.S. approval to buy it, but so far has not. An Israeli Navy proposal to build a large amphibious ship fitted with Aegis was rejected in 2004 by the Israeli government as too expensive.
Israel also is considering buying the LCS. In April, the U.S. Navy gave Lockheed a $5.2 million contract to study the feasibility of an Israeli LCS.
U.S. officials said no similar contract has been issued for any other country, although Malaysia and Norway, among others, have expressed interest.
The Foreign Military Sales potential of the LCS has been a prime element of the program. U.S. Navy officials touted the ship’s adaptability to multiple customer requirements and said the modular mission concept would attract foreign buyers.
But sources familiar with foreign navy discussions said countries generally don’t want to spend the money to buy multiple mission modules. The U.S. Navy is struggling to control costs on the modules, which include numerous manned and unmanned vehicles.
Instead, according to the sources, foreign navies are eager to put permanent systems in place in the spaces reserved in the LCS designs for the modules and their vehicles.
A Mini-Destroyer
Sources said the LCS design being contemplated by the Saudis is far more heavily armed than U.S. versions. Among the desired characteristics:
• The SPY-1F version of Aegis, similar to that fitted in new Norwegian frigates.
• A 57mm gun.
• Two Mark 41 eight-cell vertical launch systems, able to handle 16 Standard surface-to-air missiles or 64 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles.
• Two quad-pack Harpoon surface-to-surface launchers.
• Two 20mm Close In Weapon Systems.
• Two triple Mark 32 torpedo tubes for anti-submarine torpedoes.
• Four remote .50-caliber guns.
• Chaff launchers.
• The General Dynamics Canada Hydra dipping sonar.
• A mine detection center.
• A hangar able to house two MH-60R helicopters.
Direct comparisons with U.S. Navy LCS versions are difficult because of the many variations in the mission modules.
The Saudi ship would lose some of its speed in the Aegis configuration, but could still top 40 knots, the sources said.
Although the craft would lack the range and weapons load-out of a destroyer or cruiser, it would emulate on a smaller scale the capabilities of the bigger ships.
Details of the design being prepared for Israel remain closely held, but one source described it as carrying Barak and Harpoon missiles.
“It’s a missile gunboat,” the source said.
Sources said the cost of the Saudi Aegis LCS ranges between $400 million and $500 million. The U.S. Navy’s versions, including two mission modules, come in at just under $400 million.
Work on the Saudi design has been a closely guarded secret, and all those interviewed for this story expressed surprise that word was getting out.
Ironically, if the Saudi Aegis proposal is approved, Lockheed Martin would be a key participant in both LCS designs. The Navy is building competing designs from Lockheed and General Dynamics and envisions choosing one for further development or continuing in production with both types.
The U.S. Navy declined to discuss specifics aimed at potential foreign customers, but Lt. John Gay, a spokesman at the Pentagon, acknowledged that “the LCS has received significant interest from other navies.”
“The Navy is working closely with its global partners and looks forward to the possibility of foreign military sales of littoral combat ships to our allies,” Gay said. •
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