A littoral combat ship has finally deployed in Europe

For the very first time, a US Navy littoral combat ship, the Freedom USS class City of the Sioux, operates in European waters. The years-long deployment now comes at a time of unprecedented tensions in the region following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This also follows the service’s announcement that it is now considering decommissioning this vessel and all of its other existing examples of this type of LCS following the discovery of a critical design flaw.

The Navy’s Sixth Fleet, which oversees virtually all of the service’s operations in Europe and around Europe and Africa from its headquarters in Italy, announced City of the Siouxin its area of ​​responsibility today. It’s unclear when the ship left its homeport at Naval Station Mayport in Florida, but the Navy has quietly released photos of it sailing the Atlantic Ocean with the Arleigh Burke USS-class destroyer Paul Ignatius yesterday.

A photo of the USS City of the Siouxseen on the left, sailing in the Atlantic, taken from the deck of the Arleigh Burke USS-class destroyer Paul Ignatius May 3, 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trey Fowler

City of the SiouxDeploying the LCS allows us to integrate the unique operational capability of the LCS into our already diverse fleet,” Vice Admiral Gene Black, Chief of Sixth Fleet, said in a statement. “The agility of littoral combat ships allows them to operate in both close-coastal and oceanic environments, enhancing our ability to provide security and stability throughout the European theatre.”

“USS City of the Sioux is a combat-ready warship manned by combat-minded sailors who are prepared and equipped to execute any mission given to us,” added Cmdr. Scott Whitworth, ship’s commanding officer. “This deployment will expand the relevance of these ships, particularly their ability to relieve larger surface combatants in key surface mission areas.”

What City of the Sioux, which also carries two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC 22), will actually be loaded when deployed in Europe remains to be seen. Previously, the ship had only made operational deployments to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of counter-narcotics operations. He had just returned from one such deployment in December 2021.

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from HSC-22 aboard USS Sioux City during a 2021 deployment. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marianne Guemo/Released

“The ship’s size, speed and agility enable her to carry out maritime security operations, theater security cooperation engagements and freedom of navigation patrols – keeping critical maritime trade routes open. , deterring conflict and coercion, and providing a comparable ship to strengthen partnerships with other nations,” a Navy press release said.

That of the navy Freedom and Independence Class LCSs have all long struggled to meet service expectations since the first examples began entering service over a decade ago. The hope was that LCSs of both classes would provide additional and flexible capability in various roles, as well as be cheaper and easier to use than larger surface fighters, especially through the use of mission packages interchangeable modules and the allocation of two complete crews. each ship.

The ASU Freedomleft, sails alongside USS Independence. USN

Last year, the Navy admitted it cost almost as much to operate an LCS, on average, as a much larger and more capable one. Arleigh Burke class destructor. As part of rolling out its fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, the service has now all but confirmed that the modular mission package and dual-crew concepts are dead, and says LCS will no longer be expected to perform operations anti-submarine warfare (ASW). at all. Future Constellation class frigates will be used to meet this ASW requirement instead.

Interestingly, the current commander of Sioux City is the leader of the ship’s so-called “blue” crew. The commander of his alternate, or ‘gold’, crew was relieved in February due to “loss of confidence in his ability to carry out his duties” due to what were later described as ” well-founded concerns about sexual harassment”. The navy said the aid would have “no impact on the ship’s mission or schedule.”

The Navy has had some limited success in recent years with the Independence classroom. This has included arming a growing number of these ships with Naval Strike Missile (NSM) anti-ship cruise missiles, giving them a much-needed boost in firepower and expanding their deployments in the region. Peaceful. On the other hand, the Freedom class ships remain limited in their capabilities and have suffered repeated breakdowns – including an incident that caused $23 million in damage to City of the Sioux itself – something that ultimately revealed a key design flaw in their propulsion system which you can read more about here.

It is not immediately clear whether or not City of the Sioux received the fix that was developed to address the class-wide propulsion system issue, which can prevent these ships from reaching their maximum speed of 40 knots. The Navy announced that it had taken delivery of its first Freedom class ship, the future USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, with the patch installed in November. This ship should be officially commissioned in May.

It was this propulsion system issue that caused the biggest upheaval in the LCS program to date, and which derailed a plan to send a Freedom class ship to Europe in 2020. The Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget request has now laid out a plan to decommission all existing ships Freedom class ships by the end of 2024. This includes City of the Siouxwhich only entered service in 2018, along with four even younger ones.

All this can only do City of the SiouxThe arrival of in European waters is a bittersweet achievement and raises questions about what its real operational value in theater might be, especially at a time of such pronounced crisis in the region. Given the Navy’s now very public view of the usefulness of its current fleet of Freedom class LCS, it’s hard to see how any of them could send a signal, outside of working alongside other much more capable ships, to Russia or America’s allies and partners in Europe .

Anyway, USS City of the Sioux has now become the first LCS of any type to cross the pond. This could prove to be the most significant achievement in the ship’s short life if the Navy is allowed to send her into mothballs next year, as is currently planned.

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