SASEBO, Japan-- The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) arrived in Sasebo, Japan Mar. 18, marking the first time an LCS has visited Japan.
The ship is in port to work with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force counterparts and conduct routine maintenance.
“We’re excited to be in Japan,” said Cmdr. Matt Kawas, Fort Worth Crew 103 commanding officer. “The Japanese are a strong maritime partner and we’re looking forward to bringing them aboard to show all that the LCS platform offers.”
Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the "3-2-1" manning concept, which allows LCS to sustain a 16-month rotational presence without fatiguing the crew during the extended deployment. It is named 3-2-1 because three rotational crews will support two LCS ships and maintain one deployed ship. Two additional crew swaps will occur during the remainder of Fort Worth's deployment, roughly every four months.
Following USS Freedom’s (LCS 1) 2013 deployment, Fort Worth is the second LCS to deploy to 7th Fleet as part of an initiative to simultaneously deploy up to four LCS in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the decade. The third and fourth LCS deployments are expected in 2016.
Working primarily out of Singapore as a maintenance and logistics hub, this is the first time an LCS has operated in Northeast Asia. Prior to arriving in Japan, Fort Worth participated in the U.S.-Republic of Korea annual exercise Foal Eagle.
“Foal Eagle was a great opportunity to work with our own Navy and our ROK partners in a realistic training scenario,” said Kawas. “Continued engagements and exercises like Foal Eagle will only help us recognize and expand LCS’ true operational potential.”
Following the Sasebo port visit and a brief routine underway period off the coast of Japan, Fort Worth will begin her return transit to Southeast Asia, where she will begin exchanges with regional navies such as the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) 2015 in Singapore before turning over to the next crew in late May.
Throughout the summer and fall, Fort Worth will take part in most of the2015 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations including, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Republic of Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
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. Fort Worth will employ the surface warfare (SUW) mission package for her entire deployment, augmenting her 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. Enhancing the SUW mission package is the embarked aviation detachment from Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 35, the Navy's first composite expeditionary helicopter squadron, which consists of one MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and one MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system. The Fire Scout complements the MH-60R by extending the HSM-35's range and endurance, enhancing maritime domain awareness.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.