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The US Navy just decommissioned its first LCS after only 11 years of service

USS Independence (LCS 2) decommissioning
USS Independence (LCS 2) is moored alongside the pier during its decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy held a decommissioning ceremony for the first Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) at Naval Base San Diego on July 29.

In addition to being the first of its variant, Independence is also the first in its class to retire, having spent only 11 years in service.

It will, however, be joined by three more ships of the troubled class that will retire this year, the youngest of which will be only nine years old at the time of its decommissioning.

According to previous navy announcements, the other three ships that will be mothballed are Freedom, Fort Worth and Coronado. They are being placed in the Out of Commission, In Reserve (OCIR) status of a decommissioned ship being held in reserve for potential future mobilization.

During the July 29 ceremony, keynote speaker, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet, wished the crew of Independence fair winds and following seas as they bid farewell to their ship.

“The Independence crew shouldered a heavy responsibility. Since the ships introduction into the fleet we asked her to serve for a specific purpose; to test emerging equipment and concepts,” said Kitchener. “The crew accomplished that and so much more. 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 crews experience and input, will continue to carry the LCS class into the future.”

Independence maintained a crew of 9 officers and 41 enlisted sailors. The ship was built in Mobile, Alabama by Austal USA and commissioned Jan. 16, 2010.

Independence has been a test and training ship and was key in developing the operational concepts foundational to the current configuration and deployment of LCS today. The navy decommissioning of LCS 2 supports department-wide business process reform initiatives to free up time, resources, and manpower in support of increased lethality.

LCS are outfitted with mission packages (made up of mission systems and support equipment) that deploy manned and unmanned vehicles and sensors in support of mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare or surface warfare missions. All of the mission modules that are supposed to allow this capability have suffered years of delays. In addition, the Freedom-variant suffered a class-wide design defect related to their propulsion systems, which even prompted the navy to halt deliveries of new ships until the problem is fixed.

After the decommissioning of Independence, 22 LCS remain in service to the fleet.