MOBILE — Delivering the principal address at Austal USA’s christening of the future USS Mobile (LCS 26) on Saturday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) gave the thousands of people in attendance a powerful primer on how the ship will eventually play a vital role in defending our nation.
At 419 feet in length, LCS 26 — an Independence-variant littoral combat ship — has a draft of only 14.4 feet and can reach a sprint speed of over 40 knots. As Byrne explained, this means the future USS Mobile will be an ideal companion to the U.S. Navy’s larger warships.
Talking about the Mobile’s prospects after her scheduled 2021 commissioning, Byrne said, “She will join our fleet in the Pacific between her home port in San Diego, and the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, Japan, Singapore and many other places, because this ship can go where the cruisers and destroyers cannot because of her shallow draft.”
“She will be an ideal partner with smaller navies in the region,” he continued. “She will be more than competent in small surface combatant warfare, anti-mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare. And, now that the LCS can be fitted with over the horizon missiles, she is a threat to all maritime adversaries.”
Byrne, who has earned a reputation as one of Congress’ foremost hawks when it comes to China, outlined why the Indo-Pacific Command and LCS 26 serving in that region are so important in modern times.
“Mobile is going to a part of the world that is vitally important to us,” the coastal Alabama congressman stressed. “The Indo-Pacific Command covers an area comprising 36 nations, 14 time zones and more than half of the world’s population. We have formal alliances there with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand. In addition, we have special agreements with Singapore and Indonesia. All of these countries are relatively liberal democracies.”
“Did I mention that over half of the world’s trade comes through there? Our port here in Mobile ships and receives a lot to and from this region, especially now that we have the Walmart Megadistribution Center,” Byrne added.
“But, the big issue in that region is China,” he continued. “China wants to supplant the U.S. as the most powerful nation in the Western Pacific and replace the order we created in the aftermath of the Second World War with a new order dominated by them.”
Byrne warned against what a dominant China across the world would look like, considering the country’s record on human rights.
“Want to know what that looks like? Look at what the Chinese are doing to Hong Kong today. Look at their treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province. Look at what the Chinese have done to Djibouti and Sri Lanka,” he decried.
Byrne advised, “China challenges us in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, their so called ‘first island chain’ — which includes Japan and the Philippines. You know — our allies.”
“And they also challenge us across their ‘second island chain’ — which means Saipan to Tinian, Guam, Yap and Palau. Do these places sound familiar to you? They should,” he continued. “We liberated them from the Japanese Empire at a dear price during World War II. My dad and hundreds of thousands of Americans fought countless desperate fights there.”
Byrne, speaking on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, emphasized, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s be clear: we’re not giving up any of these places to the Chinese.”
“We’re not retreating back to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, back to December 7, 1941, 78 years ago today, a day that will live in infamy, when 2,400 Americans were killed and over a thousand wounded — all in a manner of a few hours,” he proclaimed.
“We didn’t realize until that morning that we were so vulnerable. And we will not let ourselves become so vulnerable again,” Byrne remarked.
LCS 26 will be among the fleet ensuring that type of vulnerability never does again exist.
“The Mobile will be part of the fleet standing in the gap, standing against Chinese aggression,” Byrne said proudly.
He added, “I’m going to make a prediction. If we stand in that gap, there will be no war — at least no ‘hot’ war. If ships like this one project power with our allies and friends in the region who strongly share our aversion to a Chinese dominated West Pacific, China will be careful not to pick a fight.”
“And this ship reminds me of Mobile’s own ‘Hammerin’ Hank Aaron,’ the true ‘Home Run King.’ He was quick and agile and hit the ball with deadly accuracy, strength and power. China doesn’t want to feel Mobile’s speed, agility, accuracy, strength or power,” Byrne commented.
He then drew a parallel between his wife, Rebecca, (the ship’s sponsor) and the ship itself in concluding his thoughts on the matter.
“Let me add a note about the sponsor of this ship. She will speak for herself — and I dare not attempt to steal her thunder,” the congressman told the crowd. “We’ve been married for 38 years, and I know her spirit, the spirit that will inhabit this ship. She has attractive, modern and stylish lines. She is equipped with the latest technology. She has grace in her movement and responds to human suffering with great compassion.”
“But don’t be fooled,” he noted. “She is tough as nails, the veritable steel magnolia, and when provoked will fiercely react. If you challenger her, you will not have a good day. I like a Navy ship with that spirit in her.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn