Independence-class littoral combat ship
|Operators:||United States Navy|
|Cost:||$704 million First Ship Future Ships $360 million|
|Active:||1 with 1 being fitted out|
|Type:||Littoral combat ship|
|Displacement:||2,307 metric tons light, 3,104 metric tons full, 797 metric tons deadweight|
|Length:||127.4 m (418 ft)|
|Beam:||31.6 m (104 ft)|
|Draft:||14 ft (4.27 m)|
|Propulsion:||2× MTU Friedrichshafen 20V 8000 Series diesel engines, 2x General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, 2x American VULKAN light weight multiple-section carbon fiber propulsion shaftlines, 2x LJ160E and 2x LJ150E Wärtsilä waterjets, retractable bow-mounted azimuth thruster, 4× diesel generators|
|Speed:||44 knots (51 mph; 81 km/h)|
|Range:||4,300 nm at 18 knots|
|Capacity:||210 metric tons (206 long tons, 231 short tons)|
|Complement:||40 core crew (8 officers, 32 enlisted) plus up to 35 mission crew|
The hull design evolved from a project at Austal to design a 40 knot cruise ship. That hull design evolved into the high-speed trimaran ferry HSC Benchijigua Express and the Independence class was then proposed by General Dynamics and Austal as a contender for Navy plans to build a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. Two ships were approved, to compete with Lockheed Martin's Freedom-class design for a construction contract of up to 55 vessels.
As of 2010, the lead ship is active, while a second ship, Coronado, was commissioned in 2014. Despite initial plans to only accept one of the Independence and Freedom classes, the Navy has requested that Congress order ten additional ships of each class, for a total 12 ships per class. In February 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the fifth Independence-class littoral combat ship will be named USS Gabrielle Giffords, and the sixth USS Omaha. In April 2013, the name Manchester was assigned to LCS-14, while in June 2013, the name Tulsa was assigned to LCS-16.
Planning and construction
Planning for a class of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone began in the early 2000s. In July 2003, a proposal by General Dynamics (partnering with Austal USA, the American subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder Austal) was approved by the Navy, with a contract for two vessels. These would then be compared to two ships built by Lockheed Martin to determine which design would be taken up by the Navy for a production run of up to 55 ships.
The first ship, USS Independence was laid down at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, on 19 January 2006. The planned second ship was cancelled in November 2007, but reordered in May 2009, and laid down in December of that year as USS Coronado, shortly before Independence was launched.
The development and construction of Independence as of June 2009 was running at 220% over-budget. The total projected cost for the ship is $704 million. The Navy had originally projected the cost at $220 million. Independence began builder's trials in July 2009, three days behind schedule because of maintenance issues. A leak in the port gas turbine saw the order of trials altered, but builder's and acceptance trials were completed by November. and although her first INSURV inspection revealed 2,080 deficiencies, these were rectified in time for the ship to be handed over to the Navy in mid-December, and commissioned in mid-January 2010.
Navy leaders said that the fixed price competition offered the Austal design an equal shot, in spite of its excess size, cost and limited service.
The Independence-class design began life at Austal as a platform for a high-speed cruise ship. The principal requirements of that project were speed, stability and passenger comfort, and Austal's team determined that the trimaran hull form offered significant passenger comfort and stability advantages over both a catamaran and a monohull. The high-speed cruise ship project evolved into Austal's commercial high-speed trimaran ferry HSC Benchijigua Express. The ships are 127.4 m (418 ft) long, with a beam of 31.6 m (104 ft), and a draft of 13 ft (3.96 m). Their displacement is rated at 2,176 tons light, 2,784 tons full, and 608 tons deadweight.
The standard ship's company is 40, although this can increase depending on the ship's role with mission-specific personnel. The habitability area with bunks is located under the bridge. The helm is controlled by joysticks instead of traditional steering wheels.
Although the trimaran hull increases the total surface area, it is still able to reach sustainable speeds of about 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph), with a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi). Austal claims that the design will use a third less fuel than the competing Freedom class, but the Congressional Budget Office found that fuel would account for 18 percent or less of the total lifetime cost of Freedom.
The lightweight aluminum construction of the Independence-class ships makes them more vulnerable to damage than the Freedom-class ships.
The first ships of both LCS classes were delivered before the designs were mature so that improvements could be built into future ships. The Navy is improving the Independence-class with bridge wings for safety and replacing the 5.1-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) with a 7-meter boat. An improved cathodic protection system will enhance corrosion protection. Like the Freedom-class, the Independence will be getting axial flow water jets which pushes water parallel to the shaft of the impeller to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance; they will also be upgraded to handle the horsepower provided by the gas turbine propulsion system. A winch control system will modulate the motion of the anchor to reduce the reliance on manual hand brakes. The mission bay side door will be redesigned for reliability and the platform lift elevator reconfigured to better handle weapons and ordnance.
Modular mission capability
The Independence class carries a default armament for self-defense, and command and control. However, unlike traditional fighting ships with fixed armament such as guns and missiles, tailored mission modules can be configured for one mission package at a time. Modules may consist of manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, off-board sensors, or mission-manning detachments.
The interior volume and payload is greater than some destroyers and is sufficient to serve as a high-speed transport and maneuver platform. The mission bay is 15,200 square feet (1,410 m2), and takes up most of the deck below the hangar and flight deck. With 11,000 cubic metres (390,000 cu ft) of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted.
In addition to cargo or container-sized mission modules, the bay can carry four lanes of multiple Strykers, armored Humvees, and their associated troops. An elevator allows air transport of packages the size of a 20-foot-long (6.1 m) shipping container that can be moved into the mission bay while at sea. A side access ramp allows for vehicle roll-on/roll-off loading to a dock and allows the ship to transport the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.
Armament and sensors
The Raytheon SeaRAM missile defense system is installed on the hangar roof. The SeaRAM combines the sensors of the Phalanx 1B close-in weapon system with an 11-missile launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, creating an autonomous system.
The Independence-class ships also have an integrated LOS Mast, Sea Giraffe 3D Radar and SeaStar Safire FLIR. Northrop Grumman has demonstrated sensor fusion of on and off-board systems in the Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) used on the LCS. The vessels have an Interior Communications Center that can be curtained off from the rest of bridge instead of the heavily protected Combat Information Center found on Navy warships.
The flight deck, 1,030 m2 (11,100 sq ft), can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple unmanned aerial vehicles, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter. H-60 series helicopters provide airlift, rescue, anti-submarine, radar picket and anti-ship capabilities with torpedoes and missiles. DARPA's Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program aims to build a Medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) that can operate from LCS-2 and can carry a payload of 600 pounds (270 kg) out to an operational radius of 600–900 nautical miles (1,100–1,700 km). First flight of a TERN demonstrator is expected in 2017. The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5. Austal USA vice president Craig Hooper has responded to critics of the class's light armament by suggesting that the ships employ long range drones instead.
The control system for this class is provided by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems through an open architecture computing infrastructure (OPEN CI), while Lockheed provides their own control system for their variant of the LCS. OPEN CI includes the information technology (IT) infrastructure for the combat and seaframe control systems. This IT infrastructure also includes the primary operator interface for the control and monitoring of mission module operations.
After the lead ship of the class suffered from aggressive disintegration due to galvanic corrosion, Austal has made changes to the remaining ships in the class. Coronado will have "new anti-corrosion surface treatments", and Jackson will have "an array of tested corrosion-management tools and processes".
Austal has proposed a much smaller and slower trimaran, called the 'Multi Role Vessel' (MRV 80). Though it is only half the size of their LCS design, it would still be useful for border protection and counter piracy operations.
One Independence-class LCS has been commissioned. A second has been launched. Two more are under construction, and four others have been named.
On March 5, 2013, the Navy awarded contract options to fund construction of LCS-14 and LCS-16, the fifth and sixth ships in its 10-ship block buy. 
An additional four Independence-class ships are planned.
- USS Independence (LCS-2)
- USS Coronado (LCS-4)
- USS Jackson (LCS-6)
- USS Montgomery (LCS-8)
- USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10)
- USS Omaha (LCS-12)
- USS Manchester (LCS-14)
- USS Tulsa (LCS-16)
Notable appearances in media
USS Independence appears in the Discovery Channel documentary Inside: A 21st Century Warship, which also featured USS Freedom (LCS-1)
- HSV Sea Slice, SLICE catamaran
- Sea Fighter (FSF-1), SWATH catamaran
- Sea Shadow (IX-529), stealth catamaran
- RV Triton, British trimaran warship demonstrator
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- Media related to USS Independence (LCS-2) at Wikimedia Commons