The Navy accepted delivery of two Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships on Wednesday, as Lockheed Martin and the Marinette Marine shipyard turned over custody of the future Sioux City (LCS-11) and Wichita (LCS-13).
The two ships are the 14th and 15th LCSs total to be delivered to the Navy, and the sixth and seventh Freedom-variant ship. Under the fleet’s LCS homeporting model, both will head to Mayport, Fla., to serve in LCS Squadron (LCSRON) 2. Sioux City will serve as the final of four surface warfare-focused LCSs, and Wichita will serve as the first mine countermeasures-focused ship.
“The future USS Sioux City is a welcome addition to the East Coast Surface Warfare Division. Both her Blue and Gold crews are ready to put this ship though her paces and prepare the ship to deploy,” LCSRON-2 commander Capt. Shawn Johnston said in a Navy statement.
“The future USS Wichita is the first East Coast Mine Warfare Division ship. She will have a chance to test some of the latest and greatest mine warfare systems after she completes her remaining combat systems trials.”
Before heading to Mayport, both ships will be commissioned later this year – Sioux City in Annapolis, Md., and Wichita in Jacksonville, Fla. According to a Lockheed Martin news release, Sioux City will be the first combat ship ever commissioned at the Naval Academy.
“The future USS Sioux City is a remarkable ship which will bring tremendous capability to the Fleet. I am excited to join with her crew and celebrate her upcoming commissioning at the home of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis,” LCS program manager Capt. Mike Taylor said in the Navy news release.
“Today also marks a significant milestone in the life of the future USS Wichita, an exceptional ship which will conduct operations around the globe. I look forward to seeing Wichita join her sister ships this winter.”
With a production line intended to deliver ships about every six months, it is unusual to have two LCSs deliver on the same day. Sioux City didn’t complete its acceptance trials until late May, a major delay due to both weather and mechanical issues, retired Navy Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, chairman of the USS Sioux City Commissioning Committee, told the Sioux City Journal.
“As they upgrade, they continue to find challenges. It takes longer than expected. The Navy, when it comes to bringing a ship to life, is overoptimistic,” Thorp told the newspaper. The article added that “Thorp said sea trials near a Wisconsin shipyard on Lake Michigan planned for last fall were not done before the lake froze over. Those trials now are tentatively scheduled to begin in May, following the lake’s anticipated thaw in April. Mechanical problems identified during trials will then be repaired before Navy personnel take the ship to sea for acceptance trials. Once those trials are completed and the Navy accepts the ship, it will sail through the Great Lakes to Norfolk, Virginia, for final preparations before arriving at Annapolis for commissioning.”
In total, Lockheed Martin’s LCS delivery schedule is running an average of 11 months late, Bloomberg News reported in December 2017.
Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine have seven LCSs in various stage of production at the Wisconsin shipyard, according to the Navy news release. The future Billings (LCS-15) is preparing for trials in spring 2019. The future Indianapolis (LCS-17) was christened and launched in April. The future St. Louis (LCS-19) is scheduled for christening and launch this fall. The future Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) is preparing for launch and christening in spring of 2019. The future Cooperstown (LCS-23) had its keel laid earlier this month and is undergoing construction in the shipyard’s erection bays. The future Marinette (LCS-25) started fabrication in February, while the future Nantucket (LCS-27) is scheduled to begin fabrication in the fall.