The US Navy launched its 13th littoral combat ship, the USS Wichita, on September 17, 2016. USS Wichita (LCS-13) will be a Freedom-class littoral combat ship of the United States Navy. It will be the third ship named after Wichita, the largest city in Kansas. The ceremonial “laying of the keel” was on 9 February 2015, at Marinette, Wisconsin. Sponsored by Kate Lehrer, wife of Wichita native Jim Lehrer, the ship was christened and launched on 17 September 2016.
The Freedom class is one of two classes of littoral combat ship built for the United States Navy.
The Freedom class was proposed by Lockheed Martin as a contender for a fleet of small, multipurpose warships to operate in the littoral zone. Two ships were approved, to compete with the Independence-class design offered by General Dynamics and Austal for a construction contract of up to 55 vessels.
Despite initial plans to only accept two of the Freedom and Independence variants, the Navy has since announced plans to order up to ten additional ships of each class, for a total twelve ships per class. As of 2015, three ships are active and an additional five are under construction. Starting in 2019, ships of this class will be designated as fast frigates (FF) which will include increased firepower and heavier armor.
On 1 April 2016, the US Navy awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin for LCS-25, the thirteenth of the Freedom-class variants. As of April 2016, delivery of LCS-25 is expected in 2020.
It was announced in early September 2016 that the first four vessels of the LCS program would be used as test ships rather than being deployed with the fleet. This includes the Freedom and Fort Worth.