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Pre-Commissioning Unit Independence (LCS 2) will be commissioned Jan. 16.
Advanced technology, unique manning, and a very recognizable tri-hull � at first glance, nearly everything about Independence's steep angles, high bridge, and aluminum construction appears to be the first of its kind. That impression continues inside, where a spacious mission module bay is reached by stairs instead of shin-banging ladders, and down below, where four water jets compliment two diesel and two gas turbine engines.
LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused ship that demonstrates the latest in naval warfighting technology. The ship is specifically designed to defeat "anti-access" threats in shallow, coastal water regions, including fast surface craft, quiet diesel submarines, and mines. To meet the combatant commander's increased demand for mission-tailored forces packages, LCS features an interchangeable modular design that allows the ship to be reconfigured to meet mission requirements.
"The ship is large enough and flexible enough to hold just about anything you could think of in terms of coastal and littoral warfare," said Cmdr. Michael Riley, commanding officer, Gold Crew. "If you build modules we could carry them. That's one of the true unique things about Independence. I think we are going to expand way beyond the initial three mission sets the ship was designed to do, and of course do those extremely well."
The Sailors who will bring the ship to life on Jan. 16 are part of an innovative manning reconstruct that reduces crew size, demanding each Sailor maintain high levels of proficiency in multiple fields, and optimizes ship operability with multiple crews. Independence is manned by two rotational crews, "blue" and "gold," of 40 Sailors each. These crews are further augmented by detachment specialists for each of the mission modules.
"We ask every one of our Sailors to be on their game all the time, and in terms of manpower provide a great product," said Cmdr. Curt Renshaw, commanding officer, Blue Crew. "That team has come together, and with this great product and this great ship, we will be ready to take her and do the nation's tasking, hopefully sooner rather than later."
"Both LCS 1 and LCS 2 were designed to meet the same requirements with reduced manning," said Rear Adm. Jim Murdoch, LCS program manager. "In the last several years, we have conducted a great deal of assessment to be sure we implement this shift without any loss of efficiency or increase in vulnerability. Manning of the ship is centered around the question of whether you have enough people to fight it."
"On other ships, Sailors from every department help in the kitchen, and the cooks do just that � they cook," said Renshaw. "On LCS, we have three cooks who can also shoot a gun, fight a fire, manage systems, and stand anti-terrorism watches. Our Sailors have a lot of skills."
"My best machine-gunner is a culinary specialist; my best emergency medical technician is an electronics technician," Riley said. "We've really brought out the best in the Sailors we have on board."
The rotational crew model is already proving effective aboard USS Freedom (LCS 1), Independence's predecessor in the LCS class. Freedom is currently readying for her maiden deployment, accelerated approximately two years. The Navy expects to learn key operational lessons about Freedom in a deployment setting, and to integrate those lessons into the larger LCS fleet, projected to eventually reach 55 ships.
While Freedom prepares for early deployment, Independence looks forward to commissioning. The decision to commission the ship in Mobile, Ala., where construction began nearly four years ago, is testament to the incredible support the community has lent the Navy.
"By commissioning in Mobile, we are also fortunate to have many of the required resources in place to allow for detailed and efficient planning for this exciting occasion," said Renshaw.
"The city of Mobile has really made us feel welcome," Riley said. "I want to extend my gratitude for everything they have been doing and continue to do for us."
Following commissioning, Independence will conduct further testing and evaluation before eventually heading toward its homeport in San Diego.