The U.S. Navy will commission its latest warship, the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Gabrielle Giffords, in Galveston, Texas on June 10, according to local media reports.
The ship is named after former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. The ship 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 commissioning ceremony will be attended by a host of dignitaries, including Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose wife, Jill Biden, will serve as the new USS Gabrielle Giffords’ sponsor. She also christened the warship in June 2015.
“That our Navy chose to give my name to this ship is an incredibly humbling honor — one I would never have imagined, one I will never forget, and one for which I always remain grateful,” Giffords told the New York Times. “When we celebrate the commissioning this weekend, I will be thinking of the thousands of hardworking Americans who built this ship and the brave men and women who will serve aboard her.”
Naming the ship after the former congresswoman was not free of controversy, because of Giffords’ 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,” I reported last year. Among other things, the LCS designs did not envision the need for anti-ship missiles.
The USS Gabrielle Giffords will likely be armed be armed with a 57 millimeter forward gun, 32 vertical launch system missiles, two close-in weapons systems, six anti-submarine warfare torpedoes, and the so-called Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS) capable of firing RGM-84D Harpoon Block 1C missiles.
The U.S. Navy operates two LCS variants, the Independence and Freedom class. The Independence-class LCS features a unique trimaran hull and a larger flight deck than the Freedom class. Furthermore, the Independence class has more fuel capacity and consequently a wider operational range. Independence-class ships, in comparison to the Freedom variant, are also capable of accommodating two rather than one helicopter.
The LCS program has not been without controversy as I explained previously:
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.
The U.S. Navy plans to commission another Independence-class LCS this year, the USS Omaha, along with two Freedom-class LCS: the USS Sioux City and USS Little Rock.