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US Navy decommissions another littoral combat ship, the USS Milwaukee

The ship was in service for less than eight years.
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The littoral combat ship the USS Milwaukee in 2021. ( photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy is well underway in scrapping its fleet of littoral combat ships. The latest to hit the chopping block is the USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), which was decommissioned on Friday, Sept. 8 at Mayport, Florida. 

The littoral combat ship program was supposed to give the Navy fast and powerful ships that could operate near shores, taking on coastal targets as well as submarines. Instead, the program grew in cost, as the Navy and the U.S. military as a whole began shifting its strategy and doctrine toward peer-to-peer combat, around the Pacific Ocean. The Navy pushed to phase out the ships, with the budget for the 2023 fiscal year calling to decommission nine of the Freedom-class LCS vessels. The ships have been given the nickname in some circles as “little crappy ships.”

The USS Milwaukee, a Freedom-class LCS variant, was commissioned in November 2015, in service for less than eight years. Last month the USS Sioux City was decommissioned after only five years of service. 

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“We are all very proud of the way this ship served our Navy and our nation since that cold day in November 2015.” Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, a retired Navy officer and the former chairman of Milwaukee’s commissioning committee said at Friday’s ceremony. “She was the first true serial production ship of the Freedom Class, having incorporated literally hundreds of changes, lessons learned from Freedom and Fort Worth.”

The Milwaukee only deployed twice, in 2022 and earlier this year. It worked with law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard. In its second deployment, the ship’s crew was involved in intercepting drug traffickers, seizing $30 million in cocaine bound for the United States. 

 “Throughout the life of the ship, the sailors that sailed Milwaukee led the way in training and operations that led to fleet improvements and culminated with operational success that supported national security objectives and demonstrated U.S. commitment to our allies,” Cmdr. Jason Knox, the ship’s commanding officer, said at the ceremony. “Not only can her sailors be proud of their distinctive accomplishments, but the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin can be proud of their ship, too.”

An investigative report by ProPublica detailed the issues with the littoral combat ships. The Navy, it found, vastly underestimated what it would cost to manufacture these. Meanwhile the ships were plagued by repeated breakdowns and mechanical failures, while a reliance on contractors left many sailors untrained in how to fix their own ships. 

The crew of the USS Milwaukee is set to receive new assignments elsewhere in the Navy. 

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