NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. -- Over 400 feet long and shaped like a pair of needle nose pliers, the USS Independence is far from a typical Navy ship.
"We've heard a lot of things, a lot of different quotes about what our appearance actually resembles -- almost a science fiction starship," laughed Commander Kenneth Coleman, the ship's captain.
PICTURES: Outside USS Independence
The first of its design, the LCS 2, or Littoral Combat Ship, was commissioned in 2010. The Independence is built to move quickly and operate in very shallow water.
"Every other ship I've been on in the Navy, it takes forever to get somewhere because it goes so slow," said Petty Officer First Class Shawn McFall. "With this boat being so fast, you can get anywhere you want in the world in a couple days."
Independence is modeled after a high-speed ferry, so it has an extremely narrow hull, but a very wide flight deck. That space allows the crew a lot of flexibility when landing aircraft or performing other missions.
PICTURES: Inside USS Independence
The ship currently has three different "mission packages:" surface warfare, underwater warfare and mine counter-measures.
Each "package" has different equipment and crews attached to it because each is highly specialized. Once assigned to a mission, the package can be put on board in just a matter of days, meaning the LCS 2 can change functions at the drop of a hat.
The concept is still being tested. This fall, members of the mine counter-measure team were underway on Independence testing their equipment and how it should work in the brand new mission bay.
"The Navy has all kinds of instructions and stuff on how you're supposed to do things," explained Lieutenant Commander Jason McGhee, who is in charge of the 15-person mine team. "Well, a lot of those instructions don't really apply to us."
That means the crew onboard Independence is charting its own course and learning better ways to operate the ship. The procedures they perfect will be used on future LCS. The Navy is slated to have 17 of them based in Mayport by 2020.
"Little did we know we were going to be a part of something even bigger," said McFall.
First Coast News