This Labor Day weekend, we had the extraordinary opportunity to tour the USS Independence (LCS-2) — one of the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships. She is No. 2 in a new class of ships, but bears little resemblance to LCS-1. LCS-1 is a single hull and LCS-2 is a tri-hull that can sprint from 0-40 knots in a matter of seconds, and slow to a dead stop just as quickly. Thanks to its draft of just under 4m, LCS-2 was able to cruise into the friendly port of St. Petersburg with its crew of 40. That’s right– only 40! The Navy had to send reinforcements to staff the tour.

The technology on board the Independence is staggering. You turn the LCS-2 with joysticks, not wheels. She uses waterjets instead of propellers, not unlike a Jetski. The vacuums aboard are Dyson! And she’s got guns– lots of ’em! The Mk110 57mm is mounted forward, fires at a rate of 220rpm, and can hit targets 10 miles away. My mom loved how each round costs $2300. There is also a SeaRAM missile system, a couple Browning M2 50BMGs, a host of FN 240Bs, and a bunch of small arms: M14, M16, M4, and M9s for the crew. Oh, and some German Shepherds that you wouldn’t want to mess with!

For the aviation buffs, we were treated to an old SH60B Seahawk flown down from JAX. Newer MH60R and MH60S models will be assigned to the LCS-2. If you’re into R/C helis, there’s an MQ-8 Fire Scout as well!

Only 1200 civilians were allowed to tour the USS Independence this weekend, so it was an honor and a privilege. One of my friends used to say, “If you’re not early, you’re late!” So, I arrived at the ticket booth last Thursday an hour and a half early to queue up in line. The tickets sold out in less than 45min. Remember: if you’re not early, you’re late!

Click here for the photo gallery of the USS Independence (LCS-2). God bless the United States Navy!

— Evan