The US Navy’s latest Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Charleston (LCS 18), has successfully completed its acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico.
Acceptance trials represent the final major milestone before the ship’s delivery and subsequent commissioning into service with the US Navy.
The test period follows a series of in-port and underway demonstrations for the navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).
LCS 18 underwent a series of intensive and comprehensive tests as part of the trial programme, which was carried out by an industry team led by Australian shipbuilding company Austal.
The tests demonstrated the vessel’s ship handling abilities, as well as the upgraded operational capabilities of its propulsion plant and auxiliary systems.
Furthermore, the LCS demonstrated its bow thruster and twin-boom extensible crane capabilities with an 11m-long rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB).
It also conducted surface and air self-defence detect-to-engage exercises, while also demonstrating its handling abilities and manoeuvrability.
Austal chief executive officer David Singleton said: “Of the eight Independence-variants LCS Austal has delivered, six are currently homeported at the San Diego Navy Base.
“These ships are being increasingly utilised by the navy in operations and the feedback on their versatility and capability is a fantastic endorsement of our unique Austal design.
“There’s no doubt these small-surface combatants are making, and will continue to make, a major difference in the US global force structure as the navy continues to grow to a 355-ship fleet.”
The ship is set to undergo a post-delivery availability upon being delivered to the US Navy, which is slated to include crew training, certifications and familiarisation exercises in Mobile, Alabama.
The future USS Charleston was originally christened on 26 August last year and is the seventh of 12 LCS vessels currently being built by Austal under a contract with the US Navy, which is valued at more than $3.5bn.