Redeeming Freedom -- Changes for the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship

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Credit: U.S. Navy

It is rare the U.S. Navy makes drastic tack changes in its public persona for major shipbuilding programs once a course has been set and navigated, but that is exactly what the service brass has done with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

After months of denying negative reports about the condition of the lead ship of the class, the USS Freedom, Navy leaders now acknowledge that the ship indeed needed significantly more work. Furthermore, they say, the whole program is going through a rebranding.

The Navy brass invited Aviation Week  -- the Freedom's most vocal critic of late -- aboard the ship at the end of November to see just how much work had been done to get it ready for its Singapore deployment, scheduled for early next year. My second (but first "official") visit to the Freedom took place just when the Freedom's "gold crew' was going through critical exercises to determine whether it would be certified for the Asian deployment.

Me talking to Cmdr. Tim Wilke, commanding officer of the USS Freedom

At first blush, this seems like a risky move for the service. After all, the Freedom had a very checkered past in similar trials. But if the ship could prove successful during such an exercise, with such a critic aboard, then the Navy could go a long way to resurrecting the credibility of the Freedom and the LCS program.  It is a gutsy move that shows more than a bit of moxie.

To see how the Freedom and Navy fared, see Aviation Week's exclusive report on the Freedom's certification exercises and Navy's LCS rebranding efforts.

The bridge of the USS Freedom

A Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat is launched

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