The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Gabrielle Giffords during a ceremony on December 23, the service announced in a press release. It is the ninth LCS overall and the fifth Independence-class variant to be delivered to the U.S. Navy.
“We are pleased to receive the future USS Gabrielle Giffords into the LCS class,” a senior naval officer said on December 23. “Gabrielle Giffords will join her sister littoral combat ships in their homeport of San Diego in 2017, commencing testing and training for deployed operations upon arrival.”
According to the service, USS Gabrielle Giffords will be the 16th U.S. warship to be named for a woman and only the 13th since 1850 to be named for a living person. The $475 million ship has undergone extensive sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2017.
The Independence-class variant of the LCS features a unique trimaran hull and a larger flight deck than the Freedom-class. In addition, it has more fuel capacity and a wider operational range. The ship is specifically designed to operate in shallow coastal regions.
In October, Independence-class LCS USS Coronado began its forward deployment to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations in Singapore—the first Independence-class vessel to be deployed to Southeast Asia. (The arrival of the LCS was delayed by a month due to an engineering casualty.)
As I reported previously (See: “Conventional Deterrence: Littoral Combat Ship Arrives in Singapore”), “the USS Coronado is the first LCS to be equipped with an over-the-horizon anti-ship capability. The ship carries four-cell launcher anti-ship missile system, the so-called Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS) capable of firing RGM-84D Harpoon Block 1C missiles.”
Both LCS variants have been accident prone and had to deal with various technical problems and human error over the last couple of months (See: “Three Times a Charm: US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Damaged Again”). As a result, the commander of all U.S. Navy surface forces, Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, ordered a stand down for all LCS in order to retrain the ships’ crews.
“There were a few instances of human error that contributed to engineering casualties on some littoral combat ships. The stand down focused on addressing procedural compliance issues and reminding our Sailors of the importance of operating equipment in accordance with established procedures,” the admiral said in an interview with The Diplomat.
“Given that we are operating two completely different and complex ships, along with the fact that each new ship slightly deviates from the last version of the particular variant, it was important that we took the time to review our processes, discuss various issues, and share lessons learned,” he added.
Naming the latest LCS after Gabrielle Giffords caused some controversy among conservatives who have been opposing the former Arizona congresswoman’s advocacy for stronger gun laws. Ironically, Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has recently referred to the LCS as an “alleged warship” due to concerns over its ability to perform in combat (See: “Littoral Combat Ship: The US Navy’s Alleged Warship”).