The U.S. Navy is releasing or acknowledging more details about the initial Western Pacific deployment of the first Littoral Combat Ship ( ), the USS Freedom, saying that while the ship missed some planned commitments with a relatively low operational tempo (optempo), it still proved the LCS operational concepts.
Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) recently gained access to Freedom deployment information that showed the ship’s optempo was less than 40%—meaning the ship was essentially available to the fleet a bit more than third of the time.
“While I won’t discuss specific classified optempo rates or [their] effect on operations, I will tell you the maiden overseas deployment of USS Freedom was a success,” says Cmdr. Steven Curry, a Navy spokesman. “We expected problems in this proof-of-concept deployment, and Freedom’s underway time was in line with expectations. As with any first-of-class ship, there are going to be lessons learned—and the first thing we learned is that we have more work to do. We are using what we learned aboard Freedom to evaluate desired optempo rates for the upcoming deployment of LCS-3 USS Fort Worth.”
The information made available to AWIN also shows that while the ship conducted missions three times in the Spratly Island region, one event had to be canceled due to ship equipment failures. “As a matter of policy we do not discuss the details of operational missions, but can confirm that Freedom operated in the South China Sea during her deployment,” Curry says.
Overall, during Freedom’s deployment, AWIN has learned, the ship missed at least three events and “partially missed” a similar number due to equipment failures.
“Freedom successfully met the majority of her scheduled commitments, and as we said before the ship deployed, challenges were anticipated,” Curry says. “The Navy was proactive in publicly discussing engineering casualties and resulting repair periods, which impacted Freedom’s participation in some exercises. For example, Freedom missed much of the underway portion of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) Singapore due to generator problems, and her participation in Carat Brunei was reduced to a port call and brief at-sea passing exercise (Passex) due to a steerable waterjet casualty.”
As Fort Worth and others from the LCS fleet deploy to the region, Curry says, the Navy expects to see better performance, which will mean fewer contractor “ship riders” will be needed to troubleshoot and provide operational or maintenance guidance.
“Freedom is a first-in-class warship, and ship riders were a fact of life during her maiden overseas deployment,” he says. “As the Littoral Combat Ship program matures and follow-on deployments become routine, the functions performed by civilian contractors will shift increasingly to U.S. Navy crewmembers and shore support staff. This process is not due exclusively to operational security concerns, but rather is an inherent part of LCS program evolution.”
Navy officials say the Freedom deployment has yielded a treasure trove of data and information to help with shipboard and shore-side maintenance logistical planning.
“We learned a lot when its radar went down,” says Adm. Harry Harris, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander.
The ship reported a minor casualty to the SPS-75 air search radar, Capt. Darryn James says, adding: “The SPS-75 had a failed air compressor that could not be replaced through the normal supply channels. But as the admiral said to you, our supply and maintenance teams learned a lot in working to eventually procure a component that fixed the issue. No operational commitments were missed as USS Freedom had an operating SPS-75 when underway.”