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U.S. Navy Decommissions Another Littoral Combat Ship Decades Early

coronado
USS Coronado's decommissioning ceremony, Sept. 15 (USN)

Published Sep 16, 2022 3:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy has decommissioned the littoral combat ship USS Coronado after just eight years of service, freeing up financial resources to prepare for the high-end fight. She was the second in her class and the second to exit after USS Independence, which was decommissioned in 2021 after 11 years of service. 

USS Coronado was commissioned in 2014 and designated for a test-and-training role in 2016, along with LCS-1, LCS-2 and LCS-3. The decision covered early LCS deliveries lacking some of the later upgrades to the two vessel classes, and at the time, the Navy said that the four hulls would "satisfy near and long term testing requirements for the entire LCS class." 

Coronado continued operations in 2017 with a deployment to Southeast Asia. She had a relatively uneventful service history until 2019, when the Navy discovered "cracks in higher-stress areas of the structure" indicative of a class-wide defect for all delivered Independence-class hulls. The cracking was located above the waterline, and the Navy planned to retrofit thicker deck plate and shell plate in the affected area on at least six sister ships. 

“Today we recognize the great contribution Coronado and its crew made in developing the operational concepts foundational to the current configuration and deployment of littoral combat ships,” said Rear Adm. Wayne Baze, the ceremony’s guest speaker and commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, in remarks at the decommissioning ceremony Thursday. “Thanks to Coronado, the future of LCS looks bright.”

The Navy wants to continue its LCS retirements by removing most Freedom-class littoral combat ships from the fleet. (The Freedom-class has little relation to the Independence-class, having a different hull design, material, builder and propulsion system.) These planned early retirements would cover the USS Freedom (already deactivated), Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Detroit, Little Rock, Sioux City, Wichita, Billings, Indianapolis and St. Louis. All of these delivered vessels have a gearbox defect which would take months of yard time to repair.

According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, the anti-submarine warfare sonar system for the Freedom-class has failed to perform, and since the system has been canceled, there is no need for the Navy to restore and operate so many Freedom-class LCS. With the funds saved, the Navy could invest in future technology for the high-end fight.