The US Navy (USN) will commission the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Cooperstown (LCS 23) on 6 May at a ceremony in New York City, with the vessel the 12th Freedom-class variant introduced into service and the 23rd across the LCS class as a whole.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin at Marinette, the mono-hull Freedom-class LCS, together with the trimaran Independence variant, are intended to perform a range of maritime duties, such as forward presence operations, sea control, and deterrence missions around the world.

Overall, the LCS programme envisages up to 32 vessels to be built for the US Navy, split across the two variants. Construction began on the Freedom-class LCS 1 (USS Freedom) and Independence-class LCS 2 (USS Independence) in 2005 and 2006 respectively, which were similarly spaced in their commissioning into service, with the USS Freedom joining the USN in November 2008 and the USS Independence following in January 2010.

The platform was, in part, intended to fill the naval surface ship gap left by the outgoing Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates, sturdy platforms that have found new homes in navies around the world following their removal from USN service.

However, the LCS class have been dogged by a number of issues through development and service, with criticism that they are unable to operate in a contested environment.

Freedom class on the way out?

According to an official 2022 USN report to the US Congress on the annual plan for construction of naval vessels for FY2023, nine Freedom-class LCS (USS Forth Worth, USS Milwaukee, USS Detroit, USS Little Rock, USS Sioux City, USS Wichita, USS Billings, USS Indianapolis, and USS St Louis) were to be decommissioned in 2023 and placed into reserve.

Were this to be the case, and despite the warships having a nominal 25-year service life, only Forth Worth (LCS 3) will have made it into double figures (12 years), with the USS St Louis removed from active service after just three years in operation.

The difficulties experienced by the LCS also appear in part to have been the motivation behind the US decision to initiate the FFG(X) programme, now known as the Constellation class, which will deliver up to 20 frigates into USN service.