The USS Independence backed up beside a pier at Naval Station San Diego and, with the help of a tugboat, cruised sideways to dock.
“It is literally a jet ski,” Lt. j.g. James Masterson told U-T San Diego. “We can turn pretty much on a dime.”
Part of a new class of warships built for combat in coastal waters but also capable of open-ocean warfare, the Indy looked like a Stealth bomber for the sea as it arrived Wednesday at its home port of San Diego for the first time.
Families first saw the ship at 11:11 a.m. as it crossed in front of them but waited until after noon before being allowed on the pier to greet their loved ones and tour the vessel—docked besides the cargo ship Bob Hope.
A band played, Winston the Walrus mascot entertained the kids and flags and homemade signs were waved. The crew had been gone five months.
The ship left its shipyard in Mississippi last month, went through the Panama Canal, made a stop in Mexico and completed a mine detection and clearance exercise off the Florida coast.
While capable of operating in open waters, the new ship is specifically designed to operate in coastal regions in water as shallow as 20 feet and confront such threats as swarms of fast surface craft, quiet diesel submarines and mines.
Unlike traditional ships with fixed armament, littoral combat ships can be fitted with different types of weapons at different times, depending on the mission. They can also launch helicopters, as well as unmanned mine-hunting vehicles.
The 419-foot ship, operated by a core crew of 40, adds an alternating specialty crews—identified by colors. The Gold Crew turned the Independence over to the Blue Crew upon arrival in San Diego, according to the Navy.
“We are proud to be pulling into San Diego and bringing our ship to her homeport for the first time,'' said Cmdr. Jerry Olin, commanding officer of Independence's Gold Crew. “This is the culmination of two years of testing and hard work by this crew since commissioning, and it feels great to be almost home.”
Independence—an aluminum trimaran, the first such design in the surface fleet—is powered by four water jets, two diesel and two gas turbine engines and is capable of speeds of more than 45 knots.
The Navy regards the littoral combat ship concept as revolutionary, embodying the latest in naval warfare technology, and envisions an LTC fleet of 55 vessels, all of which are to be based in San Diego.
“LCS is the future of our surface Navy,” Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, the Naval Surface Forces commander, said in January 2010, when the Independence was
The vessels have been plagued by cracks and corrosion, but the Navy said the problems have been corrected.
The $37 billion program is being investigated by the Government Accountability Office. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D- Mich., asked Tuesday for the examination to be expanded.
Last week, legislation authored by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, that would require the Navy to deliver a comprehensive update on the progress of the program passed the House Armed Services Committee.
City News Service contributed to this report.