On Saturday we went and toured the new USS FREEDOM, one of the U.S. Navy's newest ships. It is an LCS, which stands for "Littoral Combat Ship." It's pretty neat.
First of all, it has this submersible which goes on seek and identify missions to target mines in minefields.
They send this thing out to detect where the mines are, a minesweeper, basically, so that the sailors do not have to lose their lives doing it as they have in the past. When it finds mines, or things it thinks are mines, they can control it and help it take photos of the items (it may be a refrigerator or a sunken car), and mark the latitude and longitude of the item, which is uploaded to a system all the ships in the Navy can access. Then they send the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) boys out to dispose of it.
They also have this neat little boat which allows them to deploy and put in sonar or radar detectors - basically spy on sub threats. They operate it by remote control from the ship up to 50 nautical miles away (i think):
Here is the big gun on the front of the ship. The ship only has a 13 inch draft in the water so it can get really close to shore to shoot ya.
And in the back of the USS Freedom is a helicopter hangar where three unmanned helicopters are stored. Here is the hangar:
What is an unmanned helicopter, you may ask? It's basically a drone, an aircraft capable of flying missions without a pilot. The individuals on the ship program it with either the recon targets it needs to perform surveillance on or the other points it needs to visit and shoot. Here is a photo of the helo:
And, finally, the ship is almost entirely enclosed and has smooth sides. This is for two reasons: 1) to reduce the radar signature, i.e., to provide less surfaces for the radar waves to bounce off of, and 2) in the case of WMD chemical warfare, to give the sailors less exposure to the lethal air outside.