Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence Decommissioned 15 Years Early

LCS independence
Plankholders and former crewmembers at USS Independence's decommissioning, July 29 (USN)

Published Jul 30, 2021 1:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

The crew of the first-in-class littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) were recognized for their service at the vessel's early decommissioning ceremony, held Thursday at Naval Base San Diego. The socially-distanced ceremony centered on her plankowners' efforts to keep the vessel running as her mission set changed.  

"The Independence crew shouldered a heavy responsibility. Since the ship’s introduction into the fleet we asked her to serve for a specific purpose; to test emerging equipment and concepts," said Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "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 crew’s experience and input, will continue to carry the LCS class into the future."

The first CO of USS Independence's "gold" crew (which alternated with her "blue" crew), Capt. Michael Riley, said it was the sailors who rose to the occasion that made Independence work as well as she did. "What made Independence successful wasn’t the program managers, industry professionals or even her two captains. It was the officers, chiefs and sailors of the blue and gold crews that made it operational. They shouldered the burden of shifting programmatic guidance, incomplete documentation or one-of-a-kind systems, and got it to sea," said Riley. "They were honest in pointing out when system performances or operational processes failed to live up to their expectations. At the same time, they discovered hidden capabilities in the ship, repurposing equipment and systems to suit the situation."

Independence had a relatively small crew of nine officers and 41 enlisted sailors, who were tasked with keeping her systems running with help from civilian maintenance contractors. After resolving early problems with galvanic corrosion of her aluminum hull, Independence had a low-profile service life compared with other vessels in the LCS program, experiencing no headline-getting breakdowns. However, the Navy decided not to expend the funds to upgrade her weapons systems and other gear to match the latest LCS deliveries, and it assigned her to a test-and-train role instead. She was ultimately nominated for early decommissioning after just 10 years into her 25-year service life. 

After the decommissioning of Independence, 22 littoral combat ships remain in the fleet, including vessels of both the Independence and Freedom classes. The Navy has asked Congress for permission to decommission six in total.