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USS Independence (LCS-2), the class prototype for the Independence-class littoral combat ship, will be the sixth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the concept of independence. It is the design produced by the General Dynamics consortium for the Navy's littoral combat ship program, and competes with the Lockheed Martin-designed USS Freedom. It is intended as a small assault transport that can take on various capabilities with the installation of mission modules. The design for Independence is based on a high-speed trimaran hull built by Austal (Henderson, Australia). The 418-foot surface combatant design requires a crew of 40 sailors. Although the trimaran hull increases the total surface area, it is still able to reach sustainable speeds of about 50 knots (60 mph) with a range of 10,000 nautical miles. With 11,000 cubic meters of payload volume, it was designed with enough payload and volume to carry out one mission with a separate mission module in reserve, allowing the ship to do multiple missions without having to be refitted. The flight deck, 11,100 sq ft, can support the operation of two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, multiple UAVs, or one CH-53 Sea Stallion-class helicopter. The trimaran hull will allow flight operations up to sea state 5. The Independence carries a default armament for self-defense, and command and control. However unlike traditional fighting ships with fixed armament such as guns and missiles, tailored mission modules can be configured for one mission package at a time. Modules may consist of manned aircraft, unmanned vehicles, off-board sensors, or mission-manning detachments. The interior volume and payload is greater than some destroyers and is sufficient to serve as a high-speed transport and maneuver platform. The mission bay is 15,200 square feet and takes up most of the deck below the hangar and flight deck. The development and construction of Independence as of June 2009 was running at 220% over-budget. The total projected cost for the ship is $704 million. The Navy had originally projected the cost at $220 million. Independence began builder's trials near Mobile, Alabama on July 2, 2009, three days behind schedule because of maintenance issues. In response to problems with the propulsion plant, the ship experienced a leak in the port gas turbine shaft seal, General Dynamics resequenced the builder's trials to test other systems until this was fixed. The ship completed builder's trials on October 21, 2009 and acceptance trials on November 19, 2009. The ship was commissioned on January 16, 2010 in Mobile, Alabama and completed her maiden voyage in April 2010. In 2011 the corrosion problem was found to be even worse than expected and repair will require time in a drydock to completely remove the water jets. In response Austal blamed the US Navy for not properly maintaining the ship. Later Austal said it had found a fix for the problem that would be tested on the third Austal LCS ship. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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