Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The USS Independence, part of a new class of warships built for combat in coastal waters but also capable of open-ocean warfare, is scheduled to arrive at its home port of Naval Station San Diego for the first time today.
The ship left its shipyard in Mississippi last month, went through the Panama Canal, made a stop in Mexico and completed a mine detection and clearance exercise off the Florida coast.
While capable of operating in open waters, the new ship is specifically designed to operate in coastal regions in water as shallow as 20 feet and confront such threats as swarms of fast surface craft, quiet diesel submarines, and mines.
Unlike traditional ships with fixed armament, littoral combat ships can be fitted with different types of weapons at different times, depending on the mission. They can also launch helicopters as well as unmanned mine-hunting
The 419-foot ship, which can be operated by a crew of 40, also can have alternating crews -- identified by colors. The gold crew will turn the Independence over to the blue crew upon arrival in San Diego, according to the Navy.
"We are proud to be pulling into San Diego and bringing our ship to her homeport for the first time,'' said Cmdr. Gerald R. Olin, commanding officer of Independence's Gold Crew. "This is the culmination of two years of testing and hard work by this crew since commissioning, and it feels great to be almost home.''
Independence -- an aluminum trimaran, the first such design in the surface fleet -- is powered by four water jets, two diesel and two gas turbine engines and is capable of speeds of more than 45 knots. The Navy regards the littoral combat ship concept as revolutionary, embodying the latest in naval warfare technology, and envisions an LTC fleet of 55 vessels, all of which are to be based in San Diego.
"LCS is the future of our surface Navy," Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, the Naval Surface Forces commander, said in January of 2010, when the Independence was commissioned.
The vessels have been plagued by cracks and corrosion, but the Navy said the problems have been corrected.
The $37 billion program is being investigated by the Government Accountability Office. U.S. Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D- Mich., Tuesday asked for the examination to be expanded.
Last week, legislation authored by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, that would require the Navy to deliver a comprehensive update on the progress of the program passed the House Armed Services Committee.