First ever Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship has officially deployed to the Pacific
MOBILE, Ala. — The Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado departed its port in San Diego on Wednesday to set sail for its maiden deployment in the Western Pacific. Coronado’s journey will make it the first such ship to make an operational cruise.
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Ships, such as the Coronado, are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile, Ala.
Coronado’s crew will participate in the Rim of the Pacific International naval exercises (RIMPAC) involving ships, aircraft and personnel from 27 nations.
“We’re excited to have USS Coronado taking part in the world’s largest international maritime exercise,” Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, wrote in a press release. “This ship will play a critical role in the fleet and in our nation’s defense. RIMPAC provides a good opportunity for our partner navies to work with the ship and see how it can contribute to collective regional security.
Over the past few years, the construction of Alabama-made LCSs has been a subject of intense political debate. The Obama Administration has disputed the required number demanded by the U.S. Navy and members of Alabama’s congressional delegation.
Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley testified before congress that “our requirement for 52 small surface combatants is unchanged,” but President Obama and his Secretary of Defense Ash Carter have pushed for cuts.
Alabama’s U.S. senators have frequently pushed back, defended the ship-building program from attempts by the administration and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain to scale it back.
“[It’s] one of the most dramatic changes in shipbuilding I’ve seen in a number of years here in the Congress,” Sessions said of the attempted cuts.
The LCS’s saving grace may be that Obama — and by default, Secretary Carter — is term limited and will be leaving office early next year.
In the mean time, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), whose district is home to Austal USA’s LCS production facility, took to Twitter to wish the Coronado “fair winds and following seas.”