USS Freedom (LCS 1) departed Singapore’s Changi Naval Base on Nov. 16 for the final time as part of her maiden overseas deployment to Southeast Asia.
Freedom has used Singapore as a logistics and maintenance hub since arriving there April 18. Though Freedom is departing Singapore, she is expected to remain in the region over the coming weeks, before beginning the transit back across the Pacific Ocean to her homeport in San Diego.
Over the past several months, Freedom has worked with many regional navies that operate comparable-sized ships during a series of port visits, exercises, and exchanges. These engagements directly support the Asia-Pacific rebalance and further reinforced cooperation and interoperability among the Navy’s partners and allies throughout Southeast Asia.
“We greatly appreciate the hospitality and warm welcome Singapore extended to Freedom during this first rotational deployment, and especially the Republic of Singapore Navy's support when the ship was at Changi Naval Base,” said Rear Adm. Cindy Thebaud, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Logistics Group Western Pacific.
As many senior Navy officials noted recently, the maritime crossroads and vital waterways that connect Southeast Asia to the global economy are exactly where the Navy needs to be present, now and well into the future. Rotational deployments of littoral combat ships will help the Navy sustain presence, expand access to vital waterways and interact with littoral regions in unprecedented ways.
USS Freedom's first rotational deployment to Southeast Asia began March 1, when the ship departed San Diego and commenced a Pacific Ocean transit that included port visits in Hawaii, Guam and Manila. Since arriving in Singapore April 18, Freedom has participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX), two phases of the bilateral naval exercise CARAT with Malaysia and Singapore, and the multinational exercise Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT). During port visits, Freedom hosted thousands of dignitaries and visitors from throughout Southeast Asia.
Prior to getting underway, Freedom accomplished repairs to the feedback cable in the port steerable waterjet, which delayed her participation in exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei. All wajerjets are now functioning normally, and Freedom still expects to conduct a brief port visit in Brunei as part of the exercise.
"As we've said before, lead ships are difficult. One of the main reasons for this deployment was to push the ship and crews hard, and to identify areas that required improvement,” said Thebaud. “We did just that, and as expected, had some challenges. That said, Freedom's crews rose to the challenges again and again, and I cannot say enough about their perseverance, dedication and skill both operating and sustaining the ship while rotationally deployed for the first time."
Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare.
Q&A (if asked only):
Q1. Is Freedom supporting Operation Damayan?
A1. Freedom has been tasked to support Operation Damayan, and following a brief stop for fuel in Brunei, expects to get underway en route to the Philippines.
Q2. Is Freedom carrying any HA/DR supplies?
A2. Yes. Freedom is carrying ten pallets of HA/DR supplies, including five pallets of hygienic supplies and five pallets of medical supplies. For comparison, fleet replenishment oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193) was loaded with 54 HA/DR pallets in Singapore on Nov. 15.
Q3. What are Freedom’s HA/DR capabilities.
A3. Like other U.S. Navy ships supporting Operation Damayan, Freedom’s MH-60R helicopter is one of her most important HA/DR assets. Freedom deployed to Southeast Asia with a Surface Warfare mission package to conduct maritime security operations with regional allies and partners, and as such is not configured specifically for HA/DR missions. LCS class ships have capable but small crews and no excess berthing capacity. That said, similar to any US Navy combatant, LCS-class ships operating in a region such as Southeast Asia that routinely experiences floods, earthquakes and strong tropical storms could provide limited "first-responder" support to HA/DR efforts. The shallow draft and speed capability built into LCS-class vessels could provide relatively fast response and access to affected areas and potentially provide very limited medical/food/water relief or limited personnel/cargo lift over short distances. In scenarios involving significant personnel casualties, infrastructure/ property damage and extended recovery timelines, other U.S. and international assets are better suited to support HA/DR missions.