The US Navy's Stealth Littoral Combat Ship: USS Independence
The Darth Vader of the Sea
The first of the US Navy's new generation of combat ships is making its test runs, the USS Independence (LCS-2). There 10 scheduled for completion by 2019 but only two are near completion. The shipyard in Mobile, Alabama has 4500 workers making them. Each of the new "stealth" ships is 400 ft. long and can zip along the sea at an amazing 50 mph due to their aluminum trimaran hulls that create less drag. The ships can operate in only 20 ft. of water, have a crew of 75, have helicopter decks and is a multi-mission ship usually deployed along shallow coastlines.
Like the stealth aircraft, the ship has many angles to deflect electronic search devices, which makes it "invisible" to them but not to the human eye. Should the stealth fail, the ship's hull can easily be penetrated by a single missile and do more damage. The ship will replace the older frigates and minesweepers. In recent trials, the USS Independence did fine until the hull sprang a leak and its equipment failed to distinguish between underwater mines and glints of light bouncing off waves. That is a big OMG. Worse, after the trials, a report was written that said the ship is not expected to survive in combat. But, hey, it is fast and can turn on a dime!
Visually, it does look like a nasty Darth Vader until you see that it is not heavily armed. The making of the ship has been a tale of woe, after one problem after another came up. The worse is rising costs. Originally, each ship were to cost $400 million, but the first two, USS Independence and USS Coronado, will cost $700 million!
The ship has two diesel and two turbine engines, two Seahawk helicopters, one 57mm gun, one 30mm chain gun, and one SeaRAM CIWS. It weighs 2800 tons fully loaded.
In today's economy, that is a lot of money that can go elsewhere, yet President Obama insists on going forward with the shipbuilding. The USS Independence could have its first combat action in the Persian Gulf very soon.