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Navy's newest littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis arrives in Mayport

The littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) transits into the St. John's River at Naval Station Mayport on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Indianapolis is the Navy's newest littoral combat ship and will call Mayport its homeport.

MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 1ST CLASS BRIAN G. REYNOLDS/U.S. NAVY

By THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION Published: November 26, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — The USS Indianapolis arrived at Naval Station Mayport on Tuesday, the seventh littoral combat ship to be based here.

After leaving from the shipyard in Marinette, Wis., the Indianapolis officially joined the fleet on Oct. 26 when it was commissioned in Burns Harbor, Ind.

The ship's arrival at Mayport is the second time in a year that a littoral combat ship arrived here just before Thanksgiving. Another littoral combat ship, the USS Sioux City, docked in Mayport just before Thanksgiving last year.

"It's great for the crew and their families for the Indianapolis to arrive here right at Thanksgiving," said Bill Austin, a Mayport spokesman.

The Indianapolis is the Navy's 19th littoral combat ship and was designed for operation in near-shore environments — yet capable for open-ocean operation — to deal with threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

LCS are designed to hold a 50-person crew, not the hundreds required to man more traditional Navy fighting ships.

The 388-foot ship, designed for a maximum draft of 14 feet, is part of a Navy push to use smaller, lighter ships that are equipped for changing missions in shallow coastal waters.

The USS Indianapolis is the fourth ship to bear the name of Indiana's largest city.

The most recent Indianapolis was a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, commissioned in 1980, which served through the end of the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1998.

The first Indianapolis was a steamer built for the U.S. Shipping Board (USSB) and commissioned directly into the Navy in 1918. After two runs to Europe, the ship was returned to the USSB following World War I.

The second Indianapolis — a Portland-class heavy cruiser — is perhaps the best known of the three.

In July 1945, the Indianapolis was on top-secret mission to deliver parts of Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon used in combat when it dropped on Hiroshima, The ship then left on a training mission to the Philippines.

Shortly after midnight on July 30, the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese Navy submarine and sank in 12 minutes.

Of 1,195 crewmen, about 300 went down with the ship. The rest, 890 men faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks while stranded in the open ocean with few lifeboats and almost no food or water.

It was four days before the Navy learned the ship sank when survivors were spotted by the crew of a plane routine patrol. Of the men who went into the water, just 316 survived.

Only 316 survived. The sinking of Indianapolis resulted in the greatest single loss of life at sea, from a single ship, in the history of the US Navy.

The fourth Indianapolis is part of the growing LCS squadron based at Mayport. The Navy said it is scheduled to have 14 littoral combat ships at Mayport by 2023. Prior to the arrival of the Indianapolis, the most recent, the USS Billings, arrived in August.

Features of the LCS include:

— Forty percent of the hull can easily be reconfigured to integrate missiles, 30-mm guns, and manned and unmanned vehicles.

— Top speed of 40 knots an hour.

— An LCS is equipped with Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) and a Mark 110 gun, capable of firing 220 rounds per minute.

The vessel's crew is among the best, according to Colin Kane, commanding officer of the Indianapolis,

"The crew gives the ship its own personality and war-fighting spirit. The men and women of USS Indianapolis exemplify patriotism, grit, and what this great country of ours stand for," Kane said in an earlier interview. "I am extremely proud to have all of [the USS Indianapolis crew] as shipmates."

The next variant in the class is LCS 19, the future USS St. Louis, which is on track to begin sea trials later this year.

©2019 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
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