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The $362 million warship the US Navy just decommissioned wasn't even in service 5 yearsRyan Pickrell
Aug 17, 2023, 4:32 AM GMT+8
USS Sioux City in the Caribbean Sea in April 2021. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marianne Guemo
- The US Navy officially decommissioned USS Sioux City this week.
- The $362 million Littoral Combat Ship has been in service roughly four years and nine months.
- The LCS program has long faced problems, and the Navy has sought to redirect its focus elsewhere.
The US Navy officially decommissioned a warship with a reported cost of $362 million this week after less than five years of service. It was meant to serve for 25 years.
USS Sioux City, a Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship, was commissioned into service with the Navy on November 17, 2018. Roughly four years and nine months later, the ship's crew took down its flag for the last time during a ceremony at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on August 14.
A sailor takes down USS Sioux City's ensign during the decommissioning ceremony on August 14. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brandon J. Vinson
During its short service life, the ship completed four deployments in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Fleet area of operations.
Among the Sioux City's few deployments was one to European waters last year, marking a first for the LCS. The ship also aided the Coast Guard in drug-interdiction missions.
Sailors aboard USS Sioux City during its decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport on August 14. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brandon J. Vinson
The Sioux City, named for the city in Iowa, is the fourth relatively new Littoral Combat Ship to be decommissioned, though its service life is significantly shorter than the others. In September last year, the Navy decommissioned the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado after just eight years of service.
"Though our ship's service ends today, her legacy does not," Capt. Daniel Reiher, commander of Littoral Combat Ship Training Facility Atlantic, said at the Sioux City's decommissioning ceremony. "For years to come the Sailors who served onboard will carry forth lessons learned and career experiences gained."
"As those lessons and experiences are used to forge those that follow us, the legacy of Sioux City will strengthen our Navy for generations to come," he added, putting a positive note on an complicated situation resulting from years of problems with Littoral Combat Ship program.
USS Sioux City in Souda Bay, Greece, for scheduled maintenance in May 2022. US Navy photo by Nicholas S. Tenorio
The goal of the LCS program was to build a fleet of small, agile surface ships that could cheaply tackle a wide range of missions and operate as both light frigates and near-shore patrol vessels, but the ships have long failed to meet expectations.
The suitability of the LCS to the desired mission sets, their reliability, and their survivability have been called into question, there have been longstanding problems across both classes with the propulsion system, and the ships are almost as expensive to operate as a destroyer.
Facing these problems, the Navy has pushed to divest of these platforms to save money on repairs and upgrades and is looking to new platforms like its upcoming frigate to execute key missions the LCS was unable to handle, such as anti-submarine warfare. The Sioux City is just one of a number of Littoral Combat Ships the Navy seeks to decommission.
USS Sioux City conducts a passing exercise with an Egyptian Navy frigate in the Red Sea in July 2022. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas A. Russell
Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott expressed frustration with the decision to decommission the ship named after his city, per Iowa Public Radio.
Scott called the ship's commissioning "one of the proudest days of Sioux City" and said "there were all kinds of Sioux City citizens there because the community got behind that did a great job of showing the Navy how proud we were to have a ship named after us."
"And then this is what the Navy does to us in return," he added, calling the move a "joke." He said it is "unacceptable" to spend $350 million on the ship knowing that the Littoral Combat Ships were "supposedly a problem and wasting taxpayers' money."
A sailor aboard USS Sioux City as it gets underway for its first deployment in August 2020. USS Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Juel Foster
Other observers suggested throwing away ships doesn't make a lot of sense when the US is falling behind its primary rival, China, in numbers of warships being built.
"Hard to figure this one out," retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis said on social media. "Hate to see anything decommissioned when we are so far behind China in overall ship count."
Counterarguments have been that the US needs to focus its attention on fielding systems that are survivable in a 21st-century fight against a capable adversary, even if that requires tough calls.
Stavridis said that, at the very least, the US should transfer the ship to a partner navy, which is something the Navy has looked at doing with unwanted Littoral Combat Ships.
The Navy said in a statement on the decommissioning of the roughly 4,000-ton Sioux City that the vessel will be put in a "Foreign Military Sale disposition status" and that its crew will receive new naval assignments.