BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) arrived in Busan March 14 to strengthen partnerships with the Republic of Korea (ROK) navy during her maiden 16-month rotational deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The visit to Busan comes after Fort Worth's inaugural participation in Exercise Foal Eagle where the ship conducted bilateral training with the ROK navy and the guided-missile destroyers USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), and USS Lassen (DDG 82).
"With Fort Worth's participation in Foal Eagle, the presence of littoral combat ships is becoming more routine throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and this exercise was a crucial first test as we integrate Fort Worth and future littoral combat ships into 7th Fleet exercises and operations," said Rear Adm. John Alexander, commander, Task Force 70.
Following an initial stop in Pyeongtaek at the beginning of Foal Eagle, Busan is the second Korean port visited by a littoral combat ship since these vessels began deploying to the region in 2013.
"These port visits provide great opportunities for the crew of Fort Worth to engage with their Korean counterparts on a personal and professional level and strengthen our ties with the ROK navy," said Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea. "This ensures our partnership with the ROK Navy remains strong, vibrant, and ready to contribute to the stability and peace on the Korean peninsula."
While in Busan, the Fort Worth crew will conduct theater security engagements and participate in cultural exchanges and outreach events in the local community.
"We are delighted to be here in Busan and we thank our ROK navy partners and the people of Busan for hosting the men and women of Fort Worth," said Cmdr. Matthew Kawas, Fort Worth Crew 103 commanding officer. "We look forward to the exchanges and engagement opportunities with our Korean navy hosts."
Exercise Foal Eagle in an umbrella of regularly scheduled, annual exercises that are the culmination of many months of planning and based on realistic training scenarios. The naval portion of the Foal Eagle exercises take place in international waters around South Korea and features a full spectrum of maritime operations.
Littoral combat ships are designed to operate in a wide variety of maritime environments including near the shore and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare.
Fort Worth is deployed with the surface warfare mission package and has a crew of about 100, to include sailors from the embarked aviation and surface warfare detachments. An aviation detachment from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35, the Navy's first composite expeditionary helicopter squadron, operates the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system, while the surface warfare mission package detachment augments Fort Worth's 57mm gun and rolling airframe missile launcher with two 30mm guns, two 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, and two six-member maritime security boarding teams.
Fort Worth is the second littoral combat ship to deploy to the region as part of an initiative for up to four rotational deployments of these ships simultaneously to the U.S. 7th Fleet in the coming years.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.