USS Freedom, the Navy's first littoral combat ship, is scheduled to depart Friday for an eight-month deployment to Southeast Asia and Singapore, Navy officials said.
The Freedom will demonstrate its operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans, according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Freedom will be initially manned by a crew of 91 sailors, including an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter, but the crew will be swapped out halfway through the deployment.
“We are genuinely excited about our deployment,” said Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, the first crew's commanding officer. “The men and women of Freedom have worked extremely hard to get us to where we are today, and I couldn't be prouder. We're ready to get out there, work with regional navies and show the world what this ship can do.”
The Freedom is scheduled to visit Hawaii and Guam, then head to Singapore and Southeast Asia. It will conduct maritime security operations, participate in international exhibitions and train with other countries' vessels, Navy officials said.
Navy officials said the littoral combat ship's deployment marked the first of many planned to the Western Pacific.
“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.
“Even in the face of potential budget cuts, there should be no doubt that the U.S. Pacific Fleet remains on watch and that we will continue to deploy our most capable units forward to operate with our allies and partners.”
The type of vessel is designed for fighting in coastal waters and its top speed is over 40 knots, according to the Navy. Littoral combat ships took years to get off the drawing board and into active service because of problems with cracks, communications systems and hull corrosion.
– City News Service