By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West
SAN DIEGO (NNS) — The Navy’s first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) departed her homeport of San Diego to venture out to the Asia-Pacific region on its maiden deployment March 1.
Making good on a pledge made initially by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the 2011 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Freedom will deploy to Southeast Asia and Singapore for approximately eight months. Marking the first of many planned rotational deployments to the Western Pacific for the new LCS platform, Freedom will conduct maritime security operations with regional partners and allies.
“I expect this deployment to offer a great opportunity to work together with regional navies throughout Southeast Asia, as we continue to build our partnership with that region,” said Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, Freedom’s Gold Crew commanding officer.
During the first LCS deployment, Freedom will demonstrate her operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. Fast, agile, and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare.
“One of the things we’re working on is communicating what we can and can’t do with this ship,” said Wilke. “We need to figure out how to best employ littoral combat ships in our Navy and figure out how we can best use them when working with partner nations.”
After making initial port visits in Hawaii and Guam, Freedom is expected to participate in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) in Singapore and in select phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series in Southeast Asia.
“Freedom’s maiden deployment is another clear signal of the Navy’s enduring commitment to maintain security and stability in the vital Asia-Pacific region,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Rotationally deploying our new littoral combat ships improves our warfighting capability and directly supports the Navy’s rebalance strategy to the Asia-Pacific.”
Freedom will be initially manned by her “Gold” crew of 91 Sailors to include mission package personnel and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter. Midway through Freedom’s deployment, a crew swap will be conducted with her “Blue” crew, commanded by Cmdr. Patrick C. Thien.
Freedom will remain homeported in San Diego throughout this rotational deployment to Southeast Asia.