As the date for the Littoral Combat Ship ( ) USS Freedom’s deployment to Singapore approaches, the LCS Council of U.S. Navy brass is calling for an expanded workload and mission set for the new class of warship.
The Freedom is on schedule to depart March 1 for Asian waters as planned, says Vice Adm. Rick Hunt, director of Navy staff as well as head of the LCS Council.
The ship should arrive in Singapore “sometime in mid-April,” Hunt said Feb. 21 during a media briefing on the program.
The Navy is building in some extra time for the voyage to help sailors “get used to the ship,” he says.
Hunt detailed the successes of the special vessel group thus far as well as LCS future plans in a recently released Jan. 31 memo to Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations.
“There have been a number of LCS program accomplishments in the first five months of council activity,” Hunt says. “First, and most significantly, USS Freedom will deploy on schedule. Second, adjustments to manpower, training, maintenance, seaframe wholeness and conops [concept of operations] have postured the LCS program well for future success.”
Challenges remain for the LCS program, Hunt acknowledges, adding, “But there are great opportunities. Developing an accelerated acquisition process to more rapidly leverage the modularity and adaptability of this platform will be critical to its future. The council’s focus should be on positioning LCS at the leading edge of weapons and sensor technology development, expanding its capabilities beyond the three anti-access missions for which it was originally designed and continued improvement in managing total ownership costs with a focus on manpower.”
Hunt says the speed and space afforded by LCS should attract certain “groups” that value those attributes. LCS officers have noted special operations interest in using the ships.
The ships also have potential for energy weapons, Hunt says, and LCS vessels would make excellent test platforms for developing technology.
Key to initial council efforts was the development of an LCS plan of action and milestones (POAM) to ensure the LCS team is aligned and focused on producing effective ships now and in the future, Hunt says in his memo. “When executed, the POAM will place the LCS program on a course to evolve, improve and ultimately deliver critical combat power to our Navy,” he says.
The council established four lines of operation that “provided the framework to facilitate a systematic review of the key areas in the LCS program,” Hunt says. “Issues previously identified in LCS program reviews as well as additional items identified [by the council] across the acquisition, requirements and fleet enterprises were acted on and incorporated into the LCS POAM.”
In addition to POAM execution, he says, the council has identified the following areas to continue focusing on: mission module reviews; seaframe modification based on commonality and reliability reviews; and review and incorporation of USS Freedom deployment lessons learned.