Gates Visits Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence

NAVAL BASE MAYPORT, Fla, May 7, 2011 — See­ing one of the lit­toral com­bat ships in the flesh was one of the items on Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates’ buck­et list, and he got to mark that off yes­ter­day­fol­low­ing a vis­it to the USS Inde­pen­dence here.
“This ship is the embod­i­ment of the rev­o­lu­tion in mil­i­tary affairs,” Gates told the crew gath­ered in the ship’s hangar.

U.S.S. Independence, Littoral Combat Ship 2, in Mayport, Fla.
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates tours the U.S.S. Inde­pen­dence, Lit­toral Com­bat Ship 2, in May­port, Fla., May 6, 2011.
Defense Depart­ment pho­to by Cherie Cullen
Click to enlarge

The crew size is just one aspect of the rev­o­lu­tion Gates was talk­ing about. There are only 40 crew­men (eight offi­cers and 32 enlist­ed) who man a ship 104 feet wide by 418 feet long. The crew is aug­ment­ed by sailors in charge of the var­i­ous “pack­ages” the ship takes aboard, and it can be con­fig­ured for dif­fer­ent mis­sions.

In its dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tions, the ship can per­form anti-mine war­fare, anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare, sur­face war­fare and human­i­tar­i­an relief.

The ship can car­ry heli­copters, unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles or a mix of the two. It is a tri­maran with a top speed of 44 knots, and while it is labeled the LCS-2, it is the first of its class. Much of the ship is alu­minum, and sev­er­al sailors spoke about how that means they don’t have to paint it.

The Navy plans to buy 55 of these lit­toral com­bat ships.

Gates joked that the first Navy ship that bore the name USS Inde­pen­dence was bought in 1814 to fight pirates. The cur­rent Inde­pen­dence, which can oper­ate in blue water and “green water” close to shore, will be handy in the same mis­sion. “The more things change… ” Gates quipped.

The sec­re­tary received a tour of the ship with chiefs and pet­ty offi­cers explain­ing just how dif­fer­ent the ship is from any­thing else the Navy has.

The bridge is huge, and sailors don’t steer with the typ­i­cal wheel. Instead, the ship is steered at com­put­er sta­tions and a joy stick. The bridge is car­pet­ed, and the ship is like a float­ing com­put­er net­work.

The berthing area is also a rev­e­la­tion with some rooms hav­ing two-men per room and oth­ers four. The crew is rel­a­tive­ly senior, with the low­est-rank­ing per­son on the crew being a pet­ty offi­cer sec­ond class, and all per­son­nel are trained in mul­ti­ple jobs on the ship.

In May­port, the ship was at the end of a long dock with the tra­di­tion­al Arleigh Burke frigates. The first view of the ship is strik­ing. One mem­ber of Gates’ par­ty not­ed that the ship looks like a float­ing Stealth Fight­er.

“It looks sin­is­ter,” the sec­re­tary said. “That’s a good thing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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