Sunday, January 17, 2010

USS Independence Commissioned

MOBILE, Ala. (NNS) -- Nearly 500 guests braved the rain today in Mobile, Ala., to attend the commissioning of USS Independence (LCS 2).

Independence joins USS Freedom (LCS 1) in the revolutionary Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class, already making its mark on the fleet.

"LCS will have the secure the littoral regions upon which communities rely on for food, transportation and for their well-being," said Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, "and to protect critical chokepoints in the global supply chain, to launch unmanned air, underwater and surface vehicles that will keep our trade at sea and our men and women ashore safe from harm."

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused ship that demonstrates the latest in naval warfighting technology. The ship is specifically designed to defeat "anti-access" threats in shallow, coastal water regions, including fast surface craft, quiet diesel submarines, and mines. To meet the combatant commander's increased demand for mission-tailored forces packages, LCS features an interchangeable modular design that allows the ship to be reconfigured to meet mission requirements.

"LCS is the future of our surface Navy," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces. "This program will complement the strengths of larger warships. LCS will be a deterrent of green and brown water threats; the flexibility, versatility, and smart design of Independence make it well suited for joint operations."

Independence is a 419-foot aluminum trimaran, the first of its design in the surface fleet. It has a displacement of 2,800 metric tons, is capable of speeds in excess of 45 knots, and can operate in water less than 20 feet deep. Propelled by four water jets in addition to two diesel and two gas turbine engines, the ship boasts a range of over 3,500 nautical miles.

Independence was christened by Mrs. Doreen Scott, wife of the 10th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Terry Scott, in a ceremony in Mobile, Ala. on Oct. 4, 2008. The ship completed builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico, and was delivered to the Navy on Dec. 18, 2009.

"The crews are immensely excited to reach commissioning," said Cmdr. Curt Renshaw, commanding officer, Blue Crew. "They have been waiting and preparing a long time to do what they are doing today."

"We are also excited to have the people who built the ship be a part of the ceremony against the great backdrop of a supportive city," said Cmdr. Michael Riley, commanding officer, Gold Crew. "We are extremely pleased to celebrate this occasion in Mobile."

The Sailors who brought the ship to life today are part of an innovative manning reconstruct that reduces crew size, demanding each Sailor maintain high levels of proficiency in multiple fields, and optimizes ship operability with multiple crews. Independence is manned by two rotational crews, "blue" and "gold," of 40 Sailors each. These crews are further augmented by detachment specialists for each of the mission modules.

"It was a pretty special honor to be named as the first boatswain's mate of the watch," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Katrina Williams. "I will be the first watch on the USS Independence, and I was chosen by my superiors, that means a lot to me. "

"This is a chance for my parents and my fiancée's parents to come and see what I'm doing, where I live, the jobs I will be doing and most important, where I will be working," said Engineman 1st Class (SW) Benjamin Standon, who welcomed 15 members of his family to the audience.

The rotational crew model is already proving effective aboard USS Freedom (LCS 1), Independence's predecessor in the LCS class. Freedom is currently readying for her maiden deployment, accelerated approximately two years. The Navy expects to learn key operational lessons about Freedom in a deployment setting, and to integrate those lessons into the larger LCS fleet, projected to eventually reach 55 ships.

Independence will conduct further testing and evaluation before eventually heading toward its homeport in San Diego.