Navy charting a new course : Set to christen first of next generation of agile warships

The name may not exactly roll off the tongue, but when the Navy christens its first littoral ship next month, it will inaugurate a new breed of warship that Navy leaders say is perfectly tailored to confront the emerging, unconventional threats of the 21st century.

So named because they can navigate shallow coastal waters known as littorals, the new-generation vessels are fast, agile, relatively inexpensive and full of innovations to confront enemies ranging from terrorists to pirates.

“We need this ship in the water yesterday,” said retired Adm. Vern Clark, the former chief of Navy operations, who is widely credited with pioneering the concept.