USS Freedom cuts a profile unlike any other ship. She's the Navy's first littoral combat ship, designed to operate close to shore. It can reach 40 knots and can go shallow because of its 14-foot draft. "We're a sports car out here amongst a bunch of family sedans, to be honest," notes OS2 Joshua Merrill.
The $637-million vessel has a rotating core crew of 40 sailors with a four-months on, four-months off rotation; also aboard is an aviation detachment of 20 plus a mission package of another 15 men and women; in all, 75 people serve aboard the 13-month-old ship.
"The concept is you get in close and you launch what you have to launch and then we get out of harm's way," explains Commander Kris Doyle. "It's to provide an ability to meet the threats that we've seen since 2001." Her 57 mm gun gives the crew the ability to defend against small diesel submarines, mines and small patrol craft.
Freedom and the three other ships like her, also have rigid hull inflatable boats with which reinforcements can be sent in, if needed. Freedom has been based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story since her commissioning last year. The ship will leave Hampton Roads in January for its new home in San Diego.