The US Navy has decommissioned its Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Sioux City (LCS 11) on 14 August after only five years of naval service – just one of nine that are due to be axed this year according to the navy’s 2022 action plan.

Sioux City completed four successful deployments between 2020-22: she bolstered the US Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Fleets, integrated within a carrier strike group, performed exercises with partner navies and conducted joint manoeuvres with other US warships.

Originally commissioned in November 2018, LCS 11 is the first warship named after the city of Sioux City, Iowa, representing the people of the Sioux Nation.

Problems with the LCS programme

The LCS is a family of US Navy shallow-draft surface ships that are fast, manoeuvrable and networked to operate in littoral waters countering growing potential ‘asymmetric’ threats of coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and small, fast, armed boats.

With the twin designs in a single LCS ‘class’, the programme created the monohull Freedom– and the trimaran Independence-class variants, each broadly intended to fulfill a similar set of missions but using dramatically different platforms to achieve the goal.

With an intended force structure of 32 LCSs, the navy’s count has since reduced to 24 active ships, ten of which remain in the Freedom-class fleet according to the Naval Vessel Registry. The longest running ship that the navy decommissioned this year, having served for 12 years, is USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), while the shortest running vessel is USS St Louis (LCS 19) with just 3 years’ service.

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Decommissioning and afterlife of Sioux City

The decommission follows the announcement of an $8.9m engine replacement for USS Witchita (LCS 13), a sister ship that has narrowly missed the same fate as Sioux City. The navy decided to lengthen its lifetime to maintain a credible force structure.

Likewise, the US Department of Defense has recently contracted the original equipment manufacturer of the Freedom-class fleet Lockheed Martin to modernise the integrated tactical trainers (ITT) of LCSs to ensure the fleet’s continued lethality and survivability.

Upon decommissioning, LCS 11 will be placed into a ‘Foreign Military Sale disposition status’, meaning the vessel will be deemed an ‘excess defence article’ and disposed. The Defense Logistics Agency will sell the exhausted naval asset at a reduced cost to eligible customers.