The U.S. Navy has announced that Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS10) is patrolling the South China Sea while deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).
“Part of Destroyer Squadron 7, Giffords is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet helping enhance interoperability with partners & serve as a ready-response force,” the Navy message states.
USS Gabrielle Giffords is a modular, reconfigurable ship, designed to meet validated fleet requirements for Surface Warfare (SUW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), and Mine Countermeasures (MCM) missions in the littoral region. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems, and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain, and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint forces access to critical theaters.
The Defense News reported that U.S. Navy patrols near disputed features claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea hit a record high last year, newly released figures show, as the Trump administration ramped up its efforts to challenge China’s territorial claims in the contested waterway.
US Navy vessels sailed within 12 nautical miles of features claimed or occupied by China seven times in 2019, according to data released by the US Pacific Fleet – the highest number of so-called freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPs) since Beijing controversially began constructing artificial islands around disputed reefs in the waterway in 2014.
China views the patrols as irritating and unlawful intrusions into its waters.