Entering a new era of sea warfare and coastal threats, the US Navy began looking for a new generation of a smaller platform capable of operating independently or as part of a battle force. Thus, the littoral combat ship (LCS) program was developed in the early 2000s.

The program sought a dependable light frigate and littoral patrol ship as strong as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer but with less intense presence—just enough to oversee coastal duties.

Additionally, the Navy was looking to fill in the inevitable gap the outgoing Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates would leave following its decommissioning in the 2010s, which has proven to be a highly-capable platform for years.

During the mid-2000s, the Navy had granted a split construction contract for the LCS ships to America’s two major defense manufacturers. However, as promising as these vessels were at first, it wasn’t long before a slew of problems emerged—stirring doubts on whether the platform would even be a worthy investment.

Both variants have been plagued with technical challenges and design defects, with their viability in high-risk or contested areas a constant source of contention by authorities even up to the present.

In its fiscal 2023 report, the US Director, Operational Test & Evaluation stated that the survivability of the LCS was “challenged in a contested environment against selected kinetic threat types,” while viability for operations in cyber-contested environments was “currently unknown,” Naval Technology noted in an article posted earlier this year. Further citing the unsuitability of the LCSs due to propulsion failures and not mentioning the controversy regarding its “past cost growth.”

Accordingly, the Navy is said to have estimated that operating and supporting the anticipated 35 LCS warships will cost more than $60 billion. Of which, the Independence-class ships cost around $360 million each.

Despite providing a great platform for testing new technologies, the inadequacies of the LCSs have been the primary driver for the service to launch the FFG(X) program, known now as the Constellation class, which was announced in the mid-2010s.

The Even-Numbered Hulls

The Independence-class LCS, built by General Dynamics and Austal USA, features an aluminum trimaran hull with a slim “stabilized monohull” design intended to achieve a high speed beyond 40 knots.

It was initially a contender for the Navy’s future fleet of surface ships, which, in the early 2000s, was looking for a light, fast, shallow-draft vessels that could take on littoral or coastal waters missions. A stable ship that could operate in a near-shore environment, as well as “capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence” against 21st-century threats. Nevertheless, in May 2004, the service split the contract between Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, each responsible for building the first two ships of Flight 0, or first-generation LCSs, based on their proposed designs.

USS Freedom
USS Freedom (LCS-1) built by Lockheed Martin (Image source: DVIDS)

While Lockheed built steel-monohulled Freedom-class ships classified with odd numbers, General Dynamics would go on to construct the Independence-class vessels with even number classifications.

General Dynamics received the contract for USS Independence (LCS-2) in October 2005, laying its keel three months later at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.

Its construction, however, was not as smooth sailing as the Navy hoped.

First of all, the construction budget grew three times its original price tag, and trials ran behind schedule due to technical issues. Secondly, the first inspection conducted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) found hundreds of deficiencies. After much time consumed in rectifying the ship’s flaws, Independence was finally handed over in mid-December 2009 and entered service shortly after.

The increase in cost eventually became a concern, prompting the Navy to reevaluate the program and, as a result, suspend the construction of the second ships from both manufacturers in 2007.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mess. All Ahead Backwards

Read Next: The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mess. All Ahead Backwards

Construction on the USS Coronado (LCS-4) resumed two years later when General Dynamics was granted the contract. Lockheed also received a building contract and continued to produce its LCS variant.

Originally, the program is speculated to fund up to 60 LCSs—30 each from the manufacturers—however, its final number has become unclear with the challenges it is facing even up to the present.

Even so, General Dynamics and Austal USA have successfully produced 14 Independence-class LCSs to date, with 12 presently in service and two already decommissioned after 11 and 8 years of deployment, respectively. Meanwhile, five ships are under construction.

Technical Specifications and Armaments

At first glance, one can already see the unique design the Independence-class ships features, particularly its trimaran hull, said to be making it more fast and agile, all while bearing a rear deck large enough to accommodate at least one MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopter or two MQ-8B Fire Scouts or one MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned tactical chopper. In addition, this class can also launch speedboats and other unmanned surface vehicles.

Tasked with operations like antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and surface warfare against small boats, the ship’s unusual hull shape increases its capacity to reflect radar, making it more stealthy.

The General Dynamics variants typically measure about 127.8 meters (419.3 feet) in length, a maximum beam of 31.5 m (103.35 ft), and about 4.25 m (13.94 ft) in the draught, with a full load displacement of 2,637 tons.

For its power and propulsion, an Independence-class ship is outfitted with two Rolls-Royce MT30 36MW gas turbines and two Fairbanks Morse Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B STC diesel engines, which drive the vessel’s four massive acoustically optimized Rolls-Royce waterjets. Meanwhile, four Isotta Fraschini Model V1708 ship service diesel generators provide the LCS’s auxiliary power, while an installed Fincantieri Marine Systems North America supplies its ride control system. With this, each LCS can reach a maximum speed of 45 knots within an 8,000-kilometer (18 knots) range.

Moving on to its complement. The Independence-class LCS has a core crew of 40, including eight officers and 32 enlisted, plus up to 35 special mission crew. Moreover, capable of carrying provisions for 21 days before needing replenishment.

NAVSEA Warfare Centers Support USS Canberra (LCS 30) Combat System Quals
A SeaRAM Ship Defense System equipped aboard the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Canberra (LCS-30) (Image source: DVIDS)

Each ship is armed with BAE Systems mk110 57mm naval gun system for its main armaments, firing mk295 ammunitions at a rate of 220 rounds a minute up to 14 kilometers (9 miles). Furthermore, 50-caliber machine gun mounts are fitted port and starboard on the walkways on each side of the hangar and in the stern near the helicopter deck.

Raytheon Technologies’ SeaRAM Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) is used for air defense. This advanced ship defense system can defend against supersonic and subsonic attacks by launching 11 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) with a nine-kilometer range in combination with the sensors of the Phalanx 1B CIWS.

The mine warfare modules aboard the LCS variant include Lockheed Martin’s AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System (RMS), Raytheon’s AN/AQS-20A mine-detecting sonar, organic airborne surface influence sweep, and airborne mine detection and neutralization systems. Moreover, it employs Lockheed’s tactical littoral ocean network Sea (TALON) underwater surveillance system, which combines a variety of acoustic sensors with semi-submersible vehicles and network-centric communications. A sophisticated deployable surveillance system, autonomous surface vehicles, helicopter-delivered missiles, and sonar were also installed on each class ship.

Lastly, for its anti-surface warfare, the ship employs two General Dynamics-built mk46 30mm cannons capable of firing 200 rounds per minute at ranges of up to two kilometers, as well as a new beyond-line-of-sight missile with a range of 40 kilometers. The MH-60R Seahawk helicopter on board may also be outfitted with guns and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, further increasing the overall firepower capacity of the LCS.

Independence-class Littoral Warship

All 14 LCSs bear the namesake of US states and capitals, except for USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), USS Manchester (LCS-14), and USS Canberra (LCS-30). Below are the photos of the Independence-class LCSs built between 2018-present. Out of which, two of the first commissioned were retired in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

USS Independence (LCS-2)

USS Independence (LCS 2) Decommissioning
LCS-2 anchored alongside the pier during its decommissioning ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on July 2021. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 26 April 2008

Commissioned: 16 January 2010

Status: Decommissioned (29 July 2021)

Berth: Bremerton, WA

USS Coronado (LCS-4)

USS Coronado (LCS 4)
LCS-4 returns to its homeport of Naval Base San Diego on June 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 14 January 2012

Commissioned: 5 April 2014

Status: Decommissioned (14 September 2022)

Berth: Bremerton, WA

USS Jackson (LCS-6)

“Victoribus Spolia (To The Victors, The Spoils)”

USS Jackson (LCS 6)
LCS-6 returns to its homeport of Naval Base San Diego on October 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 14 December 2013

Commissioned: 5 December 2015

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Montgomery (LCS-8)

“Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere (We Dare Defend Our Rights)”

USS Montgomery (LCS 8)
LCS-8 returns to its homeport of San Diego following the successful completion of a 12-month rotational deployment in June 2020. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 6 August 2014

Commissioned: 10 September 2016

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10)

“Je Suis Prest (I Am Ready)”

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)
LCS-10 arrived at its homeport of Naval Base San Diego in July 2017. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 25 February 2015

Commissioned: 10 June 2017

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Omaha (LCS-12)

“Fortiter In Re (Resolute In Deed)”

USS Omaha (LCS 12)
LCS-12 moored during its commissioning ceremony at Broadway Pier in San Diego, California, in February 2018. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 20 November 2015

Commissioned: 3 February 2018

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Manchester (LCS-14)

“Labor Vincit (Work Wins)”

USS Manchester (LCS 14)
LCS-14 sailed into Naval Base San Diego for the first time in June 2018. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 12 May 2016

Commissioned: 26 May 2018

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Tulsa (LCS-16)

“Tough, Able, Ready”

USS Tulsa (LCS 16) Returns to Homeport
LCS-16 maneuvers into its berth upon return from deployment in its homeport of San Diego in July 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 16 March 2017

Commissioned: 16 February 2019

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Status: Active in service

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Charleston (LCS-18)

“While We Breathe, We Fight”

USS Charleston (LCS 18)
LCS-18 transited the Pacific Ocean to support the Oceanica Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) program in May 2021. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 14 September 2017

Commissioned: 2 March 2019

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)

“Strength in Unity”

USS Cincinnati (LCS 20) Arrived in San Diego
LCS-20 arrived at its new homeport in San Diego for the first time in November 2019. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 22 May 2018

Commissioned: 5 October 2019

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Kansas City (LCS-22)

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

USS Kansas City
LCS-22 transits the Pacific Ocean during routine operations at sea in August 2021. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 19 October 2018

Commissioned: 20 June 2020

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Oakland (LCS-24)

“Fortitude, Determination, Communication”

USS Oakland Arrives at CFAY
LCS-24 arrives at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) for a scheduled port visit in September 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 21 July 2019

Commissioned: 17 April 2021

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Mobile (LCS-26)

“Victory through Perseverance”

USS Mobile Arrives in San Diego
LCS-26 arrives at its new homeport in San Diego for the first time in June 2021. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 11 January 2020

Commissioned: 22 May 2021

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Savannah (LCS-28)

“Not for Self, but for Others”

USS Savannah
LCS-28 arrives in its homeport of San Diego for the first time in March 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Launched: 8 September 2020

Commissioned: 5 February 2022

Status: Active in service

Fleet: US Pacific Fleet

Home Port: Naval Base San Diego

USS Canberra (LCS-30)

PCU Canberra
Pre-Commissioning Unit LCS-30 arrives at its homeport of San Diego for the first time in June 2022. (Image source: DVIDS)

Awarded: 6 October 2017

Launched: 30 March 2021

Status: Fitting Out

USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32)

Awarded: 18 September 2018

Launched: 12 November 2021

Status: Fitting Out

USS Augusta (LCS-34)

Awarded: 18 September 2018

Launched: 23 May 2022

Status: Fitting Out

USS Kingsville (LCS-36)

Awarded: 14 December 2018

Status: Under Construction

USS Pierre (LCS-38)

Awarded: 17 December 2018

Status: Under Construction