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Navy’s next Littoral Combat Ship will be named USS Mobile

USS Independence (Photo: U.S. Navy, Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)
USS Independence (Photo: U.S. Navy, Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)

WASHINGTON — Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) on Thursday announced that a future Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will be named after the City of Mobile.

“It is such an honor for a future Littoral Combat Ship to be named after the City of Mobile,” Byrne said in a statement. “Our area takes such pride in building these fine ships, just the latest vessel in Mobile’s long history of shipbuilding. I know the spirit and patriotism of Mobile will be encapsulated in this ship.”

Roughly 4,000 Alabamians in Austal USA’s Mobile facility are involved in building the LCS, 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.

“The LCS is the perfect vessel to fulfill multiple missions including surface warfare, mine counter-measure warfare, and anti-submarine warfare,” explained Rep. Byrne.

The congressman expressed appreciation for Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has testified that the his branch of the armed services requires 52 littoral combat ships, a number determined by an assessment performed in 2014.

“I appreciate Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus for working with us to make this possible, and I look forward to one day standing in the Mobile waterfront to christen and commission this fine ship,” he said.

The announcement of the USS Mobile came from the Secretary of the Navy today during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Another LCS will be named after the City of Marinette, Wisconsin, where the Freedom-variant of the LCS is built.

The LCS program has been the subject of intense debate inside the Pentagon, where its detractors include the Obama administration’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

The internal sparring has spilled over into the public in an unusual way and resulted in what defense budget expert Mackenzie Eaglen describes as “a semi-open war” between Secretary of Defense Carter and Secretary of the Navy Mabus.

Politico explains:

Mabus and other Navy leaders used an annual military symposium [in January] to offer a forceful defense of the littoral combat ship, the same warship that Carter wants to pare back to allow more spending on destroyers, munitions, submarine upgrades, and the F-35 and F-18 fighter jets.

Mabus was also unabashed about his emphasis on building up the overall number of ships — in sharp contrast to Carter, who has admonished the Navy secretary for making “quantity” a higher priority than “lethality.”

The Navy’s director of surface warfare, Rear Adm. Peter Fanta, even employed a mocking tone toward the littoral combat ship’s critics, while pleading for an audience full of industry executives to help him defend the program.

“Yes, there are still naysayers,” Fanta said at the symposium. “You know what a lot of those naysayers’ problems are? ‘You didn’t write the stack of reports that was required to build this ship.’ Aww.”

Alabama’s U.S. senators have frequently defended the ship-building program from attempts by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain to scale it back.

Senator McCain has decried the LCS program as “shameful” on the Senate floor and has constantly fought for the Pentagon to cut it, in spite of Navy leadership insisting they need it.

McCain was pleased late last year when the Obama administration’s efforts to shrink the military hit the LCS program. Secretary Carter directed the Navy to slash its previous order of ships by twelve and reduce its annual orders by tho-thirds.

The Navy’s stated goal for years has been to build up its capacity to 308 ships. There are currently 273 ships in the fleet, and Navy advocates on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon argue that cutting the LCS procurement will make the Navy’s capacity goal impossible to achieve.

Alabama senators have repeatedly fought off McCain’s attempts to cut the LCS before, and they’re vowing to continue going forward.

Those fights will take place on another day, however, Thursday was all about the future USS Mobile.