U.S. Navy Adds Two Independence-Class LCS to Decommissioning Wish List
The U.S. Navy has quietly added two Independence-class littoral combat ships (LCS) to the list of vessels it hopes to decommission early, based on information in the service's long-awaited long-range shipbuilding plan.
Like the Navy budget request for FY2023, the shipbuilding plan calls for inactivating the first 10 Freedom-class littoral combat ships - USS Freedom (already decommissioned), plus USS Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Detroit, Little Rock, Sioux City, Wichita, Billings, Indianapolis and St. Louis.
The Navy says that it no longer needs these hulls because it wants to end the development of the anti-submarine warfare mission package for the LCS program. Instead, if Congress approves, the ASW function would be filled by the new Constellation-class frigate. Without a need for LCS hulls to carry the ASW mission package, the service says that it does not need as many LCS, and it can afford to decommission every currently-active Freedom-class hull. The remaining Independence-class LCS hulls would carry out the program's other two mission sets, anti-surface warfare and mine countermeasures.
In its new 30-year shipbuilding plan, the service added two more LCS decommissionings to the list, as first reported by USNI News. The plan shows that Independence-class hulls USS Jackson (LCS 6) and USS Montgomery (LCS 8) are now on the chopping block, without further explanation. The Navy has already decommissioned first-in-class USS Independence (LCS 2) and has sought to decommission USS Coronado (LCS 4), though Coronado remained in service as recently as March.
Last year, the Navy estimated that each LCS costs in the range of $50-70 million annually to operate and maintain, approaching the opex for a larger and more capable Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. According to the Navy, that price tag is driven by multiple component failures, coupled with a maintenance program that relies heavily on paid contractors during port calls.
The 30-year shipbuilding plan also calls for accelerating the decommissioning of the service's aging Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which carry a vast number of vertical launch missile cells but cannot "see" as well as modern warships with the latest radar and fire-control systems. The 30-plus-year-old Ticonderogas are also increasingly costly to maintain, and one was forced to return to port twice in 2021 because of leaks in a corroded fuel tank. Five more Ticonderoga-class hulls are on the list for removal, including USS San Jacinto, Lake Champlain, Bunker Hill, Mobile Bay and Vicksburg.