The Freedom-class littoral combat ship is the future of the United States Navy (USN) with fourteen planned for the group. The mono-hulled class is being built alongside the Independence-class, which varies in its use of a trimaran hull design, and both will used to fulfill the "littoral combat ship" role, operating close-to-shore in support of marine, navy and land units.
USS Sioux Falls (LCS-11) is one of their number and her keel was laid down on February 19th, 2014. She was launched to sea on January 30th, 2016 and delivered to the United States Navy in mid-August of 2018.
The vessel is an all-modern surface combatant outfitted with a bevy of advanced sensors, systems and weaponry. The vessels in the class are distinguished by their stealthy-like appearance in which protrusions are kept to an absolute minimum and angled panels are used throughout. A turreted deck gun sits at the forecastle with a helipad and hangar structure positioned over the stern. At midships is the mass of the hull with the bridge fitted forward and the hangar aft. Atop the warship is its impressive array of sensors and systems including surface-search radar, communications arrays and an air-search system.
The warship is designed to operate with a minimal core crew of fifteen and up to fifty can staff the various positions and work stations aboard. The mission crew numbers an additional seventy-five trained professionals of various ranks in the USN.
Dimensions include an overall length of 378.3 feet, a beam of 57.4 feet and a draught of 13 feet. Displacement is 3,900 tons (short) under full load.
Aboard are several 40-foot RHIB high-speed boats to support interceptions sorties, special forces missions and ship-to-shore actions. There is enough food stores to carry the crew at sea for over twenty days before seeking replenishment.
Installed armament is comprised of the BAe Systems Mk 110 series 57mm turreted deck gun at the forecastle. The warship also carries the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) family of short-to-medium surface-to-air missiles as an aircraft deterrence or airspace denial tool. Honeywell Mk 50 torpedoes provide an anti-ship / anti-submarine capability at range. 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns are carried for extreme close-in defense against suicidal motor boats or for boarding excursions.
The helipad-hangar combination area over the stern houses a Sikorsky MH-60R/S Seahawk navy helicopter internally and can support the launching and retrieving of another externally. The helicopters are critical to the function of the ship, providing an inherent over-the-horizon capability as well as anti-submarine / anti-ship services. Furthermore these systems can be used for at-sea replenishment and Search and Rescue (SAR) sorties. Beyond this the warship is equipped to support VTOL UAVs such as the unmanned Northrop MQ-8 Fire Scout (detailed elsewhere on this site).
Installed power is 2 x Rolls-Royce MT30 36mW gas turbines mated to 2 x Colt-Pielstick marine diesel units offering speeds reaching 45 knots in ideal conditions out to a range of 3,500 nautical miles. Four Rolls-Royce waterjets supply fine-tuning for the ship when needed.
Currently (2018), USS Sioux City is assigned to Littoral Combat Ship (Squadron Two) and will be stationed in the Persian Gulf region as part of the United State Navy's 5th Fleet.
A commissioning date for the vessel is set for November 17th, 2018 to occur at Annapolis, Maryland.