The USS Freedom was the first littoral, or close to shore, combat ship built by The Marinette Marine Corporation. Mission adaptability is what makes this ship class so unique. Instead of needing an entirely different type of ship for a mission; the USS Freedom can dock, swap out equipment, and proceed on to complete the mission. It is also a very fast ship that is able to sail in relatively shallow water.
The Freedom was designed and built by a Marinette Marine team led by Lockheed Martin. Production began in 2005. After some testing, there were many problems found with the Freedom. Out of over 2,500 errors that were discovered, 21 of these were very big issues (Potts, 1). These repairs were completed in Virginia, and then the Freedom was finally delivered to the navy in late 2008 (Petty, 1). With the Freedom being the first ship of its kind there are obviously going to be many changes and tweaks as time goes on. All these changes will become standard in the next ship in the fleet. The littoral combat ship class will continue to improve as time goes on.
The Freedom is a smaller ship being about 380ft in length. It has the deck space to hold two helicopters (Potts, 2). Helicopters are very useful to the Freedom because it expands the amount of missions it can handle, and the ways it carries out the mission. For example if the Freedom is sent on a search and rescue mission the helicopter would be extremely useful. It would allow for a larger area to be searched faster. Also it could lift people or objects out of the water. Having a helicopter to use during missions simply allows for more options during each mission. There are four water jets that propel the ship. It can reach speeds over 45 knots, or 51mph. The hull is designed to operate in shallow waters. Sandbars pose little threat to the ship because of the water jets being used instead of actual propellers (Jones, 1).
The most unique aspect of the Freedom is its ability to adapt from mission to mission with its various mission packages. The whole idea of this ship revolved around modularity. The ability to swap out equipment very fast allows this ship to tackle a wide variety of missions. It is no longer needed to wait for a completely different ship to get to the mission location. Just dock the Freedom for a few hours, and swap out everything that is irrelevant for the mission (Hutto, 1). Cmdr. Donald Gabrielson said, “Modularity is important fact. You’ll have a ship you can upgrade as fast as you need to,” (Fein, 1). However, the Freedom can’t handle every single task. It will not always be able to switch gear, and complete the mission. Yet, the wide variety of missions it can complete is very impressive. The Freedom can handle missions like search and rescue, anti-submarine, and many more (Fein, 1). It will be very unlikely to see this ship in actual heavy combat. The Freedom’s hull was designed for smaller caliber engagements in shallow waters. If it goes up against higher caliber guns it will not last long (Potts, 2). However, this doesn’t mean that the ship would be useless if a war ever broke out. It would just need to be used in the areas that it was designed for. Then the Freedom would be just as useful as other ships.
The crew on the Freedom is very unique as well. The ship can be fully functional with only 40 people manning it. After its first long deployment the crew size was increased to 50 sailors to cope with fatigue (LaGrone, 1). This small crew size means everyone has to be able to accomplish many jobs. Whether its navigation or radar monitoring everyone needs to be able to accomplish the task they are given (Hutto, 2). There are two 50 sailor teams for the Freedom. The first is called Gold team and the other is Blue team. While one team is operating the ship the other is on shore. They might be on leave with there families or possibly going through more training. Both teams change their respective roles about every four months (Potts, 1).
The Freedom has been deployed several times. On February 13 the Freedom began its very first deployment. The ship left port headed towards the Caribbean to help counter drug trafficking. It was a joint operation between the U.S. Coast guard, SOUTHCOM, and the Joint Insurgency Task Force. The ship and crew had success on four separate occasions while deployed. In total the Freedom seized over five tons of cocaine along with two drug boats, and thirteen smugglers (Early, 1). “Freedom completed all operational tasking in superb fashion, its inherent design capabilities of sprint speed, shallow draft and modularity were key enablers in accomplishing the counter-illicit trafficking mission,” said Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, commander, NAVSO/C4F. “Every Sailor on the ship should be proud of what they´ve accomplished – they helped move our 21st century Navy forward.” After the fourth drug seizure the Freedom returned to its new home port in San Diego, California. In total, the length of the deployment lasted about 50 days (Early, 1).
It went on a ten month deployment to the South China Sea. The Freedom left San Diego, California on March 1st, and arrived in Singapore on April 18th. The purpose of this deployment was to perform training exercises. However, on this deployment the ship and its crew were plagued with technical problems. Two of the ship’s water jet engines broke down which forced the ship to return to port for repairs. Another problem was the engines were not getting lubricated properly. This again caused the ship to return to port for repairs. The last major problem encountered was a broken seawater pipe which was flooding the inside of the ship. Once again the ship needed to return to port (LaGrone, 1). Despite the many problems the ship and crew had faced, they still achieved success in a few situations. They were still able to perform many training exercises. The ship and crew also delivered relief supplies to an area in the Philippines after a typhoon hit (Pacific Fleet, 1). U.S 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Tom Copeman commented on the Freedom saying, “I don’t agree the deployment was characterized by a series of breakdowns. This is a research and development platform we took a pretty significant risk with. While the ship was deployed for ten months, it was available for 70 percent of the time for the operational commander, which is on par with most other ship in the fleet for forward deployed,” (Early, 1).
The USS Freedom is a very unique vessel. Its modular abilities allow it to quickly adapt from mission to mission. While it is not designed for heavy combat, the ship still would have many strategic uses if a war ever broke out. The USS Freedom is capable of traveling at speeds greater than 45 knots. The Freedom is manned by a multi-talented crew suited for various needs. Despite some of the problems it has had, it will be a fine addition to the United States navy.
- Early, Ed. (2010). ‘Multiple Drug Seizures Highlight USS Freedom´s 4th Deployment‘. Southcom.mil. N.p., 2015.
- Fein, Geoff. (2005). “LCS Will be Revolutionary Change For Navy, Ship’s First Commander Says,” Defense Daily 7 July 2005. Academic OneFile.
- Hutto, Jonathan, Sr. (2009). “Multimission Ship Multipurpose Crew,” All Hands July 2009: 20+. Academic OneFile.
- Jones, Meg. (2008) “Navy’s Vessel of Versitality,” Jsonline.com. N.p., 2015.
- Lagrone, Sam. (2014) “Navy: Freedom LCS Conducted More Than Training Missions in the South China Sea.” USNI News. N.p., 2014.
- Petty, Dan (2015). “Littoral Combat Ship Class – LCS,” Navy.mil. N.p., 2015.
- Potts, JR. (2015). “The Freedom-class is a relatively new breed of surface warship led by the USS Freedom LCS-1, launched in 2006,” Militaryfactory.com. N.p., 2015.
- U.S. Pacific Fleet (2013). “USS Freedom Delivers Relief Supplies to Tacloban, Philippeans,” N.p., 2015.