Apr. 18, 2013 - By Christopher P. Cavas – Defense News
USS Freedom, the U.S. Navy’s first littoral combat ship, arrived in Singapore on Thursday, just over six weeks after leaving San Diego for the type’s first major overseas deployment, the U.S. Navy announced.
“Freedom has met every milestone of this deployment on time and with the professionalism you would expect of U.S. Navy Sailors,” Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, commanding officer of the ship’s Gold Crew, said in a press release. “I’m proud of Freedom’s accomplishments to date, but I’m also looking forward to putting the ship through its paces over the next several months while deployed more than 8,000 miles from homeport.”
U.S. Navy officials said the ship arrived at Changi Naval Base around 11:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) in Singapore, a long-standing U.S. ally that is providing assistance supporting the Freedom’s deployment.
The Freedom’s arrival in Singapore is a major milestone in the development of the LCS, a new type of warship the Navy is counting on to execute several key missions, including anti-mine and anti-submarine warfare. For the planned 10-month mission to the southwest Pacific, the Freedom is equipped with a surface warfare module, including two 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, two 30mm remote-controlled gun mounts, and an MH-60R helicopter.
“We plan on spending most of our time here in Southeast Asia. This will be Freedom’s neighborhood for the next eight months,” Wilke said. “We are eager to get out and about, work with other regional navies and share best practices during exercises, port visits and maritime security operations.”
In May, the ship will take part in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference in Singapore. Operating with the U.S. Seventh Fleet over the spring and summer, the Freedom will take part in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercises with international partner navies. Both series of exercises have multiple phases.
The 378-foot-long, 3,300-ton Freedom is considerably smaller than the U.S. Navy’s next-larger surface combatants, 9,500-ton destroyers of the Arleigh Burke class. The U.S. has been looking forward to having the LCS operate with comparably-sized ships of other nations, which are far more typical of many navies in the western Pacific.
Midway through the deployment, the ship will conduct a crew swap, and the Blue Crew commanded by Cmdr. Patrick Thien will take over.
Commissioned in November 2008, the LCS has spent the past four years training, being modified and refitted. She left San Diego on March 1 and called at Guam and Manila, Philippines before reaching Singapore.
After the Freedom returns to San Diego early in 2014, the U.S. expects to base four more LCSs in Singapore.
U.S. officials have said another eight LCSs are to be based in Bahrain by 2020. All told, the Navy plans to buy 52 of the high-speed craft.