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US Navy Changes Course, Sends LCS to Hawaii for RIMPAC

Turns out a littoral combat ship will be headed to Hawaii this summer after all.

Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations, told an audience in Washington Monday that the Independence will operate off Hawaii as part of the huge Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises to take place in June and July.

The move reverses an earlier decision that kept the Independence, along with the other three littoral combat ships in service, in southern California, carrying out tests and various exercises.

The recently commissioned Coronado, sister ship of the Independence, is participating in RIMPAC, but only in the waters off San Diego.

A spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor confirmed the Independence will take part in the seagoing phase of the exercises, scheduled to run July 6 through July 25.

“From the beginning of the RIMPAC 2014 planning process, we have looked for opportunities to involve our littoral combat ships. USS Coronado (LCS 4) has always been scheduled for the mine warfare and dive training portion off Southern California, that will also include USS Champion, USS Scout, a Canadian minesweeper and forces from seven other countries,” Capt. Darryn James said.

“In addition to USS Coronado’s RIMPAC participation, we recently modified the operational schedule of USS Independence (LCS 2) so that it will take part in the exercise portion off Hawaii. We remain confident both ships will continue to achieve future milestones and certifications.”

Freedom, the first LCS, took part in the 2010 RIMPAC exercises, and Navy leaders have frequently cited that experience as a significant event in getting the new type of ship to sea.

But no LCS showed up in 2012 for the biannual exercises — said to be the largest naval exercises in the world — and planners had not scheduled any of the four ships to visit Pearl Harbor. More than two dozen foreign ships are expected to voyage to Hawaii to join a similar number of US Navy ships in the exercises.

A highlight of this year’s events will be the first-time seagoing participation of the Chinese Navy. A four-ship squadron is coming to Pearl — a destroyer, frigate, replenishment ship and hospital ship — and will undoubtedly garner a major share of media attention.

With an LCS now headed for Hawaii, the American ship is also likely to attract a bright media spotlight. ■

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