The Navy's first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), left Naval Station Mayport Feb. 16 for her maiden operational deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) areas of focus.
During the independent deployment, Freedom will participate in counter-illicit trafficking (CIT) operations off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea. A U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) is embarked aboard Freedom to facilitate CIT operations.
In addition, Freedom is scheduled to make theater security cooperation (TSC) port visits in Colombia, Mexico and Panama.
Rear Adm. Vic Guillory, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, made a point to personally send off the crew of Freedom, commenting that their sacrifice and hard work in preparing the ship to deploy early is in itself worth recognizing.
"We are very excited about what LCS brings to the operational mission – not only its inherent capabilities – its sprint speed, modularity, and tremendous amount of automation … but its new tailored surface warfare mission package as well as its airborne use of force capabilities and the LEDET, will be key enablers to the CIT and TSC mission with our partner nation navies," said Guillory.
In addition to the Coast Guard LEDET, embarked aboard Freedom are Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 2, based in Norfolk, Va., and the first tailored LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package (SUW MP), based in San Diego.
Freedom, the first ship of the revolutionary LCS program, is a fast, agile, mission-focused ship that demonstrates the latest in naval warfighting technology. The LCS is specifically designed to defeat "anti-access" threats in shallow, coastal water regions, including quiet diesel submarines, fast surface craft and mines.
Freedom's TSC activities during the deployment will center on working closely with partner nation civil and maritime forces, building upon already strong relations and interoperability and enhancing maritime security in the region.
Freedom's deployment will conclude when she arrives at her new homeport of San Diego this spring.