By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Rhonda Burke, Navy Region Midwest Public Affairs
Marinette Marine Corporation, which is building the Navy's first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), was the final stop, Jan. 14, for Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead
on his eight-day tour of private and public shipyards throughout the U.S.
Roughead received a progress report on the ship, designed to provide the U.S. Navy with greater flexibility and capability in operating in the littoral or "green water" coastal areas.
"The Navy has a gap we need to fill in the littoral and that is what LCS is going to do for us," Roughead said. "This ship is perfectly suited to operate near the shore and to engage in Maritime Security Operations that will ensure the free-flow of commerce and resources around the world. I predict that the LCS is going to be a workhorse in the United States Navy
CNO said the Navy is closing in on some of the critical milestones to get the first LCS to sea. He was pleased with the progress he saw during his visit.
"Bringing a ship into the final stage and getting it to sea is not an easy thing," Roughead said. "The critical thing is to get it to sea, get it tested and get it to work doing the Navy's mission."
As the crew prepares for the final months before bringing the ship to life at its commissioning this fall, the CNO reiterated to them the importance of their mission to the future of the Navy.
"They are fulfilling a very important role in this program and in our Navy. They are the ones who will be responsible for making sure this ship goes to sea and realizes its full potential at sea. They are the ones, the only ones, that will set this class of ship up for success," Roughead said. "It is a significant responsibility. But it is a responsibility well suited to a United States Sailor. They are ready and they are eager and I look forward to them taking this ship to sea."
The 377-ft. Freedom is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and can operate in water less than 20 feet deep. The ship will act as a platform for launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles. Its modular design will support interchangeable mission packages, allowing the ship to be reconfigured for antisubmarine warfare, mine warfare, or surface warfare missions on an as-needed basis.
Freedom will be manned by one of two rotational crews, blue and gold, similar to the rotational crews assigned to Trident submarines. The crews will be augmented by one of three mission package crews during focused mission assignments.
Freedom was christened Sept. 24, 2006. She is slated for commissioning the fall of 2008 in Milwaukee, Wis., and will be homeported in San Diego.
As detailed in the 2007-2008 CNO Guidance, building the Navy's future fleet is a top priority for Roughead. The trip served to deepen Roughead's understanding of the shipbuilding industry and help inform shipbuilding decisions.
"It is vitally important that I have up-to-date, first-hand knowledge of the latest developments, technological advances, and infrastructure improvements in the shipyards," Roughead explained.
He said that a stable shipbuilding plan relates directly to the quality and quantity of ships the Navy acquires.
"Shipbuilding is complex, and the decisions I'll make regarding it are critically important to the future of the Navy," Roughead added.
The eight-day trip also included visits to Portsmouth Shipyard (Portsmouth, N.H.); Bath Iron Works (Brunswick, Maine); three Northrop Grumman Ship Systems sites to include: Ingalls (Pascagoula, Miss.), Avondale (New Orleans, La.) and Gulfport (Gulfport, Miss.); Austal USA Shipbuilding (Mobile, Ala.), and National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (San Diego).
This visit will also play a larger role as CNO emphasizes his commitment to making the Navy a "Top 50" workplace. On this trip and in those of the future, Roughead will meet with Sailors, Navy civilians
and family members, as well as business leaders and educators to help define the Navy's way ahead and integrate change, as needed.
"I'm a firm believer that if you don't walk the ground, you will not have a good sense of what's going on," Roughead said.