By: Vice Adm. Tom Copeman
Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
USS Freedom’s (LCS 1) maiden 10-month deployment validated the Navy’s overall concept of operations and provided us with valuable feedback on its operation, manning, and logistics. The insights gained on the deployment will be used to further improve the operational flexibility, maintainability and efficiency on future deployments for this newest class of ship in the U.S. Navy.
Below are some of the take-aways from this deployment:
- We must be more innovative in the manner in which we schedule maintenance to allow for operational flexibility while forward. Further, connectivity requirements ashore were validated and provided a baseline that will allow us to more accurately define the requirements for host nation support in this key area.
- We also determined that the addition of 10 more Sailors to the core crew improved manning challenges across the range of operations we have asked this ship to perform.
- Operating in the littorals places unique demand on a propulsion plant. The littoral combat ship (LCS) was designed with innovative engineering to meet the challenges of operating in that environment, but while stressing the ship in real-world conditions we found that modifications and improvements were needed to increase the ship’s reliability. Those modifications are being applied to LCS 3 and follow-on ships.
- We better defined the chain of command to ensure we received timely logistical support in order to meet operational requirements.
We had some well-publicized engineering reliability challenges that impacted some of the planned operations for this maiden deployment, but they were not wholly unexpected. The main reason Freedom deployed was to shake out the ship in a realistic operational environment—to operate, to learn, and to apply the insights to future deployments and improve future ships of the class.
We pushed the crews and the ship hard. To paraphrase what has been said of “character,” you learn what a ship and a Sailor are made of when challenged. Expectations were high for Freedom and her crews. The Sailors were professional and exceeded our high expectations. In light of the fact that this was a maiden deployment of an R&D-funded ship, they did exceptionally well.
The bottom line is that Freedom’s first deployment and forward-basing proved that LCS can do the job as envisioned years ago, and that the Navy made the right call to build these high-speed, shallow-draft multi-mission ships. In the process of the operational validation, we found many ways to improve the physical platform, as well as the support needed to operate them successfully in the years to come. I anticipate we will become increasingly efficient in the operations, maintenance, training and logistical support of these ships as they enter the fleet in greater numbers.
I am proud of the accomplishments of Freedom and her crews, and look forward to USS Fort Worth’s (LCS 3) deployment in late 2014.
Editor’s note: This blog was previously published online, Jan. 5, 2014.