The first of the Navy’s littoral combat ships, the USS Freedom, set off on her maiden deployment March 1, leaving her home port of San Diego for an eight-month deployment to Singapore. After a stop at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to replenish, refuel and recharge her crew, the 3,000-ton prototype arrived in Southeast Asia in late April. The Defense Logistics agency is supporting the ship’s food and fuel needs as it goes through its first major cruise.
The ship’s deployment to Singapore will allow the U.S. to participate in joint operations with smaller navies in the region, said Hubert Woods, Defense Logistics Agency Pacific liaison officer to Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
“The Freedom presents the opportunity for increased training and interoperability with many of the smaller navies in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility,” he said, “Over there, our larger ships often cannot operate in the littorals.”
Littorals are shallow seas close to shore. As the first ship in her class, with a top speed reported to be 40 knots, the 378-foot Freedom can easily perform coastal patrols, Woods said.
“Littoral literally means close to the shore, as opposed to deep-water or blue-water navy,” he said. “It’s a new concept for coastal patrol. The big thing with the LCS is they’re a shallow draft. That’s the amount of the ship below the water line. A shallow draft allows them to operate closer to land. An aircraft carrier, or deep-draft ship, couldn’t get that close.”
One of four already delivered littoral combat ships, the Lockheed Martin-built Freedom also marks a change in the type of logistic support she receives, Woods said.
“The new platform is so compact, it can’t carry a lot of repair parts like a regular ship does,” he said. “Because the store rooms on the ship are smaller, they’re space constrained, so they only carry their maintenance items on board as opposed to repair parts. Plus they’re supported under a new system, called distance support. That means if something breaks and they’re on the West Coast, their logistics support will be provided from San Diego.”
Since the ship doesn’t carry repair parts, keeping abreast of maintenance requirements becomes a top priority for the crew, Woods said.
“The Navy uses the Preventative Maintenance System,” he said. “For the end user, it’s very simple: It’s basically a required maintenance card that tells the operator the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance actions. Whatever the equipment is, the periodic service requirement is on there.”
In addition, the condensed size of the Freedom means subsistence items also have to be restocked on a regular basis, said Jose Jamir, subsistence chief at DLA Troop Support Pacific.
“All of the subsistence requirements the ship needs for the next six months have already been pre-positioned at DLA’s prime vendor location in Singapore,” he said. “The ship has extremely limited space for storage; in fact, they can only hold eight pallets of food. That means they need to be replenished consistently throughout their deployment. With limited manpower and only three cooks, they are not nearly as robust as a regular ship.”
With a forward stock of specialty menu items such as frozen lasagna for her rotating crew, the Freedom is scheduled to receive several replenish-ments while at sea, mainly from Singapore. During her stopover March 11-14 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the ship received its first replenishment from DLA Troop Support Pacific, Jamir said.
“Once the ship arrived in Hawaii, [DLA Troop Support Pacific] went into action delivering food,” he said. “They needed to stock a lot of prepared foods, and we delivered eight pallets worth $26,700 March 12 while the ship was in port.”
Most of the ship’s fuel will come from DLA Energy bunker contracts, allowing fuel to be purchased globally at reduced rates, Woods said.
“The LCS is a modular ship,” he said. “For this deployment, the ship is using the surface module, which means she’ll primarily require regular diesel fuel. There’s a defense fuel supply point in Singapore where she’ll be able to get most, if not all, of her fuel.”
With long-term plans indicating future LCS deployments will be split between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Freedom’s first deployment will be one of discovery, Woods said.
“Right now, DLA has its finger on her because she’s a major muscle movement for the Navy,” he said. “Once the crew gets the concept down, the ship’s requirements can be better forecasted. It always takes longer to identify initial requirements. Once you do though, the rest is just stamping them out.”