Austal-designed and built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Independence has officially joined the operating forces of the United States Navy following a commissioning ceremony held near Austal’s Mobile, Ala. facility.
Thousands of Navy officials, politicians, industry delegates and spectators joined in welcoming USS Independence into the U.S. Navy fleet, where it will serve as a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments. The ship is designed to defeat asymmetric "anti-access" threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.
U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, was the principal speaker at the ceremony, which marked the birth of a new breed of naval surface combatant. Utilizing Austal’s proven low resistance trimaran hull form, USS Independence offers superior maneuverability and stability, endurance to travel 4,300 miles at 18 knots, three weapon zones, capacity for any two mission packages simultaneously, and a flight deck larger than any other surface combatant other than aircraft carriers.
The 416.6-ft all-aluminium vessel is capable of being outfitted with reconfigurable payloads (Mission Packages) which can be changed quickly to support mine countermeasure, anti-submarine and surface warfare missions. The vessel has a maximum speed of more than 45 knots.
The performance benefits of the vessel’s trimaran hullform have been proven by the 416.6-ft Benchijigua Express which has been in commercial service in Spain since 2005. The hullform is also used for Austal’s next generation 334.6-ft trimaran ferry which was recently launched in Western Australia.
Doreen Scott, wife of the former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry Scott, served as ship's sponsor. In a time-honoured Navy tradition, she gave the first order to "man our ship and bring her to life!" following the breaking of the commissioning pennant. At that point Independence officially became a United States Ship (USS).
Construction is already underway on Austal’s second U.S. Navy LCS, Coronado which is expected to be delivered in 2012. Austal USA has also begun construction of the first Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) which will be named Fortitude (JHSV 1). As Prime contractor, Austal will design and build up to 10 of the 338-ft JHSVs between now and FY13 – five for the US Navy and five for the US Army.