The U.S. Pacific Fleet announced Thursday that the Navy's first littoral combat ship USS Freedom will visit Hawaii on Mar. 11 after departing her homeport of San Diego on March 1 for her maiden deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.
Making good on a pledge made initially by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the 2011 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Freedom will deploy to Southeast Asia and Singapore for approximately eight months. Marking the first of many planned rotational deployments to the Western Pacific for the new LCS platform, Freedom will conduct maritime security operations with regional partners and allies.
"Freedom's maiden deployment is another clear signal of the Navy's enduring commitment to maintain security and stability in the vital Asia-Pacific region," said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on March 1. "Rotationally deploying our new littoral combat ships improves our warfighting capability and directly supports the Navy's rebalance strategy to the Asia-Pacific.
"Even in the face of potential budget cuts, there should be no doubt that the U.S. Pacific Fleet remains on watch and that we will continue to deploy our most capable units forward to operate with our allies and partners."
After making initial port visits in Hawaii and Guam, Freedom is expected to participate in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) in Singapore and in select phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series in Southeast Asia.
During the first-ever LCS deployment, Freedom will demonstrate her operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. Fast, agile, and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare. Freedom will be initially manned by her "Gold" crew of 91 Sailors to include mission package personnel and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter.
"We are genuinely excited about our deployment," said Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, Freedom's Gold Crew commanding officer on March 1. "The men and women of Freedom have worked extremely hard to get us to where we are today, and I couldn't be prouder. We're ready to get out there, work with regional navies and show the world what this ship can do."
Freedom will remain homeported in San Diego throughout this rotational deployment to Southeast Asia. Midway through Freedom's deployment, a crew-swap will be conducted with her "Blue" crew, commanded by Cmdr. Patrick C. Thien.