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Navy decommissions USS Independence, first littoral combat ship of its class

The USS Independence, the U.S. Navy's first Independence-class littoral combat ship, was decommissioned on Thursday in a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego. Photo by MCS1 Jason Abrams/U.S. Navy
The USS Independence, the U.S. Navy's first Independence-class littoral combat ship, was decommissioned on Thursday in a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego. Photo by MCS1 Jason Abrams/U.S. Navy

July 30 (UPI) -- The USS Independence, lead vessel in a class of littoral combat ships, was ceremonially decommissioned at Naval Base San Diego, ending 11 years of service.

Its crew delivered the ship's ensign and commissioning pennant in a private ceremony on Thursday.

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Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, the keynote speaker at the event, praised the crew by noting, "Without their efforts and experiences, the ship class would not be where it is today with six ships deployed throughout the world."

"Those improvements, made largely in part due to this crew's experience and input, will continue to carry the LCS class into the future," Kitchener said.

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Commissioned in 2010, the USS Independence was the first of the Independence variant of LCS, a small, aluminum trimaran design with a flight deck wider than those found on larger destroyers.

Although not intended to fight warships, the LCS concept is suitable for shallow-water missions including mine countermeasures and hunting submarines.

At 418 feet in length and carrying nine officers and a crew of 41, the heavily-armed ship is also capable of fast speed in open water.

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With the companion Freedom-class littoral combat ships, the Navy currently has 27 LCS vessels.

The first two Independence-class ships, the USS Independence and the USS Coronado, have been decommissioned, as have the first two in the Freedom class, the USS Freedom and the USS Forth Worth.

Seven more Freedom-class LCS, and six more of the Independence class, have been ordered by the Navy.

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The ships are notorious for a lack of reliability -- in June, a Navy task force identified 32 reliability issues in its LCS fleet.

"We've been working a lot of issues on LCS," Kitchener said at the time. "One of the biggest factors we've seen [is] the downtime that was created [by] unreliable parts or parts on critical systems that were failing."

The Freedom class is notorious for transmission failures caused by ineffective engineering of combining gears, which connect engines. Three ships in the class have experienced breakdowns leaving them unusable.

In January, the Navy stopped accepting new ships until a fix is found.

The Independence class has seen breakdowns at sea of the USS Montgomery and the USS Coronado.

A Government Accountability Office report in April noted that the Navy's maintenance program for its littoral combat ships includes the cost of significant unplanned work.

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