The U.S. Navy has redeployed the first-in-class littoral combat ship USS Freedom to a layberth in Bremerton, ending her commissioned service 12 years short of her 25-year planned lifespan.
Freedom is one of the six lightly-armed LCS vessels that the Navy wishes to mothball early in order to “reallocate time, resources and manpower in support of increased lethality.” The first, USS Independence, was decommissioned on July 29 at Naval Base San Diego.
“I have never in my life seen or served alongside a more capable, dedicated, devoted, talented, and inspiring group of people than the sailors I served alongside with LCS and what I have watched in every day since,” said USS Freedom’s plankholding CO, Rear Adm. Donald Gabrielson (ret’d.), at a decommissioning ceremony last week. “As we acknowledge this bittersweet moment, I hope we’ll all remember that this ship was a vehicle to learn and innovate by doing.”
With congressional approval, the Navy has now successfully decommissioned LCS 1 and 2. Both vessels had long been relegated to a test and training role due to breakdowns. In the Pentagon’s defense budget proposal for FY2022, the Navy also sought authorization to decommission hulls 3, 4, 7 and 9, bringing the total number of early-retirement candidates to six.
The Senate version of the FY2022 appropriations bill incorporates language that would permanently limit the Navy’s ability to retire ships early, and it is aimed squarely at moderating the service’s regular requests to remove its oldest and least-cost-effective vessels. However, the clause includes a waiver process if the Secretary of the Navy determines that the vessel is not needed and cannot be maintained or stored.
Even with six hulls removed, the LCS variants will be a visible part of the Navy’s operations for many years to come. 21 are in service today, and 12 more are in various stages of construction. Further orders have been phased out in favor of the new Constellation-class frigate (FFG(X)).
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