For a few days during her nine-week initial deployment, the USS Freedom (LCS-1) operated alongside a partner navy, demonstrating that the Navy's newest surface combatant can interoperate with allies, according to a service official.
Early on in the LCS program Navy officials pointed out that along with all the systems, technologies, and capabilities the Littoral Combat Ship would bring to the fleet, it would also enable the U.S. Navy to more easily conduct exercises and operations with international naval partners.
LCS is more than a hundred feet shorter than a cruiser and a destroyer and roughly 40 to 50 feet shorter than a frigate. U.S. Navy officials have said showing up to international naval exercises with ships like crusiers and destroyers often looked like overkill when pairing up with smaller allied patrol or littoral vessels. LCS, they added, would alleviate that issue.
"I think there is something to be said for having similar sized vessels operating together when you are working with two different countries that are not normally working together day-in and day-out, but you are doing an exercise or deployment for a brief period," Cmdr. Randy Garner, commanding officer of the Gold Team, told reporters during a conference call yesterday.
He said Freedom and the Mexican navy's frigate Nicolas Bravo (F-201) worked well together.
"There were no specific challenges to operating with the Bravo that we saw, no problems at all," Garner said. "I can't say there was any specific Achilles [heel] we saw."
During the couple of days the Freedom and Nicolas Bravo operated side-by-side, the two crews conducted maneuver and communications exercises, an at-sea refueling event and a visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) exercise in which crews from both ships took turns boarding each other's vessels for training purposes, he added.
During the comms exercise, for example, the two ships established communications at whatever range they could, just to test the ability of the systems to talk to each other, Garner said.
"What we saw was what we'd expect. We communicated in several different circuits, then had comms in preparation for maneuverers," he added. "We used certain types of publications, ones we exercised with our allies, and those comms procedures, they are more procedures than equipment checks, those procedures went well, too."