U.S. Navy officials view the four-month milestone maintenance of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Freedom — which started the last week of July — as a chance to do a deeper-dive review of several of the ship’s systems.

“In dry-dock the contractors can better focus on our water jets to make sure they are fully functional, our impeller shafts and water jet tunnels,” says Cmdr. Matthew Weber, Freedom’s gold crew commanding officer. “Topside, they are doing various alterations to improve it for future operations with our magazine modifications and our mooring configuration change.”

Every new ship conducts a post-shakedown availability (PSA), during which the Navy and contractors take test-and-evaluation results and make any fixes, repairs or design improvements necessary to operationally deploy the ship.

After the availability, Freedom will go through final contract trials and begin scheduled fleet operations while continuing mission module and other testing. The Freedom is currently scheduled to complete the final contract trials in December.

Weber notes that the repairs and design improvements made on the lead ship in the class will not only be helpful to Freedom, but also will cascade into subsequent ships of the class as they are built.

“A lot of the changes that the contractors are making will make my job easier,” says Lt. John Buss, Freedom’s navigator. “For example, they are making a block zone on the bridge smaller so as officer of the deck, I will have better visibility when I’m driving the ship.”

One item that does not appear to be on the list for this PSA is the cracking revealed earlier this year on the superstructure of the Freedom, also called LCS-1.

“Welding repairs to the cracks in the super structure were addressed in the previous maintenance availability,” Weber says.

Further, according to officials for contractor Lockheed Martin, the construction process has been tweaked to improve those welds and prevent further cracking in later LCS ships.