The Department of Defense has signed off on an upgrade program for both variants of its oft-maligned littoral combat ship, addressing some of the foremost criticisms of the compact ship. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also upped the Navy's commitment to the LCS, ordering 20 additional ships for a total of 52, Defense One reports.

The upgrade programs will include more basic items, like heavier guns and armor, as well as more complex improvements, like new radar, towed sonar, electronic warfare systems, torpedo countermeasures and in the case of the Freedom-class ships, an SeaRAM missile system. A vertical-launching system, an item that critics have clamored for on the LCS, was not included in the upgrade.

The upgrade program should cost $60 to $75 million per ship, which is in addition to the $360 million that's already been sunken into each LCS. As for contractors, the Navy hasn't decided who will build the new upgrades, although Lockheed Martin and Austral USA, the builders of the Freedom-class and Independence-class (shown above, with the USS Coronado and the USS Independence), will install the the new systems on their respective ships.

According to Defense One, Defense Secretary Hagel ordered the Navy to develop an acquisition strategy for both the upgrades and the new 20 additional ships. Those ships, meanwhile, may be split between the two LCS classes, rather than limited to one particular variant.

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