Hagel Tours Forward-based Littoral Combat Ship in Singapore
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore, June 2, 2013 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today stepped aboard the Navy’s first littoral combat ship, the USS Freedom, forward-deployed and currently docked at the Singapore Navy’s Changi Naval Base.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addresses the crew of the USS Freedom in Singapore, June 2, 2013. Hagel toured the ship, visited with sailors, and watched a demonstration of a waterborne mission. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Freedom arrived here in April on the first of several planned LCS rotational deployments to Singapore. Hagel, who is visiting this city state for the annual Asia-Pacific security conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, toured the ship and spoke to sailors aboard. The Freedom is the first ship he has visited as secretary.
Hagel told the crew they are making history.
“We appreciate your good work,” he said. “… What you represent to our country and our partnerships in the Asia-Pacific I don’t think can be overstated. You are really defining a new era of partnership.”
The secretary noted Freedom’s crew are highly accomplished sailors, and their presence here “is a big deal for our country, and a big deal for you.”
Hagel also thanked the sailors and their families for their service.
The Navy says the Freedom will join regional navies and other 7th Fleet units in select phases of exercises Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training. Occurring throughout Southeast Asia, both provide Freedom opportunities to train extensively with comparable-sized ships.
The Freedom is 419 feet long with a draft of 103.7 feet and is capable of operating in coastal waters close to shore as well as on the open sea. The ship’s top speed is 47 knots and it’s designed to be highly maneuverable.
Littoral combat ship platforms use “plug-and-play” modules designed for different mission types: surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare. The Freedom is manned by its "Gold" crew of 91 sailors, including mission package personnel and an aviation detachment.
Navy public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. Clay Doss explained the ship’s configuration to reporters traveling with Hagel.
“This seaframe has the surface warfare mission package,” he said. “Two 30mm guns, and then this maritime security module.”
The maritime security module includes two 11-meter rigid-hulled inflatable boats, each with an 8-person visit, board, search and seizure team and maintenance specialists assigned, Doss said. He added the boats, which can be launched and recovered from the ships’ stern or side, can be used to intercept other vessels such as smuggling boats.
The Freedom also carries an embarked MH-60 Romeo helicopter, which Doss called “probably the most advanced type of multimission helicopter in the Navy.” The helicopter takes off and lands from a small flight deck at the stern.
Doss explained that LCS modules include personnel, sensors and equipment, and modules are designed so the outgoing and incoming “modular” personnel, working together, can exchange them in place in 96 hours. Only the surface warfare module is deployable now, he said; the other two are still in development.
Doss noted the ability to configure the ship for different missions within four days, while it is forward-deployed, has clear advantages. “Compare that to deploying an asset from the states; it would take two to three weeks,” he said. Eventually, he said, LCS modules minus the associated people will likely be stored in-theater for rapid exchange.
All littoral combat ships that rotate into Singapore will be home ported in San Diego, as the Freedom is, he said.
After he leaves Singapore, Hagel will travel to Brussels for meetings with other NATO defense ministers.