The USS Freedom (LCS-1), the first of the Littoral Combat Ships, took part in real operations during its first major overseas deployment last year, a deployment that had been billed as an opportunity to evaluate the ship’s capabilities and crew training, sizing and rotation.

The USS Freedom during its deployment to the Asia-Pacific. Photo: U.S. Navy
The USS Freedom during its deployment to the Asia-Pacific. Photo: U.S. Navy

Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, the commander of surface forces for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, declined to provide details, but confirmed the Freedom took part in patrol operations for the 7th Fleet in the South China Sea, as well in other operational activities while returning from Singapore to its homeport in San Diego.

“She was tasked to do some South China Sea patrols in some areas that we have an interest in, and that’s what she did,” Copeman told reporters on a conference call Monday.

Copeman characterized Freedom’s first major overseas deployment, which lasted 10 months and ended in December, as an overall success despite a handful of problems that in some cases forced the ship to return to its Singaporean port at Changi Naval Base.

One key event was a brief loss of propulsion after a diesel generator shut down due to an exhaust leak in July, a problem that prevented the ship from participating in an exercise. Copeman said the problems were not unusual when putting a new ship through a rigorous deployment.

The lessons from the challenges will be applied to the production process starting largely with the fifth LCS, the future USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), Copeman said.

The Milwaukee is the third of the Freedom variant of the LCS. The second, the USS Fort Worth, delivered to the Navy in 2012, and is currently being used to test the surface warfare mission package, one of three swappable mission packages being designed for the ships. The other two are mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare.

The Fort Worth is scheduled to begin a 16-month deployment to Singapore this fall, Copeman said.

The Navy has yet to send the Independence variant, the USS Independence (LCS-2), on a prolonged deployment, nor has it hard plans to do so with the future USS Coronado (LCS-4)–also an Independence variant–scheduled to commission in April.

Copeman said the current priority for those ships is to help develop the mission packages, adding they too will eventually be deployed abroad, although he did provide a timeframe.

“We do plan on deploying the LCS-2 class as soon as practical, but the primary emphasis right now is the mission package operational test and evaluation,” he said, noting that the Independence will conduct OT&E for the mine countermeasures package in 2015 in the Gulf of Mexico.