NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO -The USS Freedom (LCS-1) is on pace to conduct final delivery sea trials in November as modifications to the vessel are nearing completion here, the ship's commanding officer said.
Freedom has been drydocked since June 27 as it undergoes final, post-delivery modifications. Since its initial deployment in February 2010, Freedom has been drydocked twice to implement re-designs and alter other aspects of the ship, including on mooring and engine ventilation.
Barring "something unexpected," Freedom is set to be returned to the water in September and will be put through final sea trials in November, Cmdr. Matthew Weber said Monday.
Freedom is the first of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class, which is designed to engage in close-to-shore surface and anti-submarine warfare, minesweeping and other operations. But the program has been plagued by cost-overruns and delays, drawing sharp criticism from members of Congress who have questioned its viability.
The questions mounted after Freedom suffered from a crack in its hull and parts of its aluminum structure earlier this year, and after corrosion was found on the aluminum hull of the second of the class, the USS Independence (Defense Daily, July 29, 2011). The welding cracks on Freedom were repaired earlier this year, Weber said.
The LCS class is based on two ship designs. Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the Freedom design, while General Dynamics [GD] built the Independence . The Navy plans to buy 10 of each design and reopen the competition to other shipbuilders with the same two designs in the future.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), criticized the the LCS acquisition strategy during a July confirmation hearing for Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the nominee to become the next chief of naval operations (CNO). McCain said building two designs of the ship was not sustainable and that the program required "serious attention." Confirmed by the full Senate, Greenert is expected to formally take over as CNO in late September.
Greenert stood by the LCS strategy but acknowledged there were challenges the Navy must address. "We've got a way to go. We've got to get (the ships) out on time. We've got to bring them into the fleet and integrate them. As it stands now and I look at it, it's a good program. We need to work on it."