Earlier this week, the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Sioux City (LCS 11) was decommissioned at Mayport, Florida, ending a short-lived service for the vessel and its dedicated crew. The ship’s solemn decommissioning ceremony highlighted its significant contributions to defending our nation and preserving maritime freedom.
Sioux City’s Versatility and Maritime Impact
Sioux City and its crew played a pivotal role in shaping the operational success and deployment capabilities of the modern LCS platform. Defined by its four successful deployments, the ship’s operational history has demonstrated both versatility and adaptability throughout its course.
In December 2020, July 2021, December 2021, and October 2022, Sioux City completed deployments to the US Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Fleets. These deployments showcased its seamless integration with carrier strike groups, joint maneuvers with other US Navy warships, and exercises with partner navies. Sioux City’s presence also played a critical role in enabling the free flow of commerce in key trade corridors, ensuring maritime security for global trade.
USS Sioux City (LCS 11) Freedom-variant littoral combat ship being decommissioned today in Mayport, Florida after two deployments and less than 5 years in service – August 14, 2023 #usssiouxcity #lcs11
SRC: FB- Naval Station Mayport pic.twitter.com/HAMZABVT4C
— WarshipCam (@WarshipCam) August 15, 2023
Maritime Vigilance and Enduring Legacy
One of Sioux City’s remarkable achievements was its participation in counter-drug trafficking operations alongside the US Coast Guard. This collaboration resulted in the seizure of over 10,000 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $500 million. Such contributions underscore the LCS’s capabilities and commitment to upholding maritime security.
During the decommissioning ceremony, Capt. Daniel Reiher, Commander of the Littoral Combat Ship Training Facility Atlantic, commended the ship’s crew and emphasized that while Sioux City’s service may have come to an end, its legacy will endure. The experiences and lessons learned by the sailors who served on board will continue to shape the Navy for generations to come.
“As those lessons and experiences are used to forge those that follow us, the legacy of SIOUX CITY will strengthen our Navy for generations to come,” said Reiher.
Commander Michael Gossett, Sioux City’s commanding officer, acknowledged the ship’s enduring impact, highlighting the culture, memories, and successes that will remain with those who served on board. This sentiment serves as a testament to the dedication and pride exhibited by the ship’s crew during its operational service.
Tribute and Evolution
Built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine, USS Sioux City holds a unique distinction as the first US Navy warship named after the city of Sioux City, Iowa. The ship’s namesake pays tribute to the rich heritage of the Sioux Nation, representing a fusion of the Dakota and Lakota Native American Tribes. Sioux City’s decommissioning will not mark the end of its journey entirely, as it will enter a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) disposition status, and its sailors will transition to new assignments.
LCS vessels like USS Sioux City are designed for near-shore environments, equipped to counter 21st-century coastal threats. Their versatility allows them to support a wide range of fleet missions while operating alongside regional navies and coast guards. These vessels play a crucial role in forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions across the globe.
Members of U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) launch a Willard Marine SeaForce 1100 RIB from the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City in preparation for a suspected drug interdiction. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of… pic.twitter.com/okp21rqgAw
— Willard Marine (@willardmarine) August 8, 2023
Navigating Operational Challenges: Freedom-Class LCS and the Path Forward
Despite Sioux City’s notable achievements, the broader Freedom-class LCS variant has faced operational challenges throughout its service. The design flaws and issues in the class’s performance
have led to a relatively short period of active service, with all ships in the class decommissioned within five years of their commissioning.
In 2022, the US Navy announced plans to retire all nine vessels in the Freedom-class LCS variant – the youngest of which was only commissioned in 2020 – ahead of their original scheduled end-of-service timeline. These LCS ships include USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), USS Detroit (LCS-7), USS Little Rock (LCS-9), USS Sioux City (LCS-11), USS Wichita (LCS-13), USS Billings (LCS-15) and USS St. Louis (LCS-19)—with an estimated $3.6 billion in savings, as cited by USNI News. Its operational issues, including problems with the combining gear, which limited the ships’ maximum speed, and delays in the development of mission packages essential for mine countermeasures, surface warfare, and anti-submarine missions influenced the decision of its early decommission.
The challenges faced by the LCS program prompted the Senate Armed Services Committee to block the inactivation of the USS Sioux City, along with other ships, including cruisers and dock landing ships. This ongoing contention reflects the complexity of decisions surrounding naval assets and their readiness for potential future mobilization.
Nonetheless, the last Freedom-class ship, the future USS Cleveland (LCS 31), was launched in April, finally concluding the manufacturing of the LCS series.
In summary, the decommissioning of USS Sioux City (LCS 11) marks the conclusion of a storied chapter in the US Navy’s history. The ship’s legacy is one of dedication, service, and adaptability, demonstrated through its operational successes and contributions to maritime security.
While the Freedom-class LCS program has encountered challenges, the lessons learned from vessels like Sioux City will continue to shape the Navy’s approach to future operations and deployments. As the Navy navigates the complexities of ship decommissioning and future mobilization, the legacy of USS Sioux City will endure as a symbol of honor, resilience, and unwavering commitment to safeguarding our nation’s maritime interests.