LCS Freedom Underway From Singapore, Begins Exercises (+ more pics)

The FREEDOM casting off from Changi Naval Base on June 11 to begin taking part in CARAT exercises. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Toni Burton)

Seven weeks after arriving at Singapore, the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) left Changi Naval Base June 11 to begin a series of regional exercises with the navies of friendly nations. The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises take place annually around southeast Asia, but the Freedom’s participation is expected to be one of the most-watched events in the history of the maneuvers.

“The opportunity to work side-by-side and interact with regional navies in exercises like CARAT is in large part why Freedom was deployed to Southeast Asia,” Rear Adm. Tom Carney, commander of Task Force 73 and U.S. naval forces for CARAT, said before the ship shoved off from Changi.

Although the ship has operated in the Caribbean and western Pacific Ocean since entering service in late 2008, the much-ballyhooed deployment to the Far East is putting the sometimes-troubled Freedom under a spotlight like no other 3,000-ton small combatant has had to endure. 

While at Singapore in May, the ship took part in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX) and the Singapore Navy’s Western Pacific Multilateral Sea Exercise (WMSX), where interest in the ship was very high. The intense media scrutiny was expected, and will likely continue through the cruise, expected to last through the year.

Commanding officer Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, his 50-sailor Gold Crew and the surface warfare and aviation detachments aboard have become used to visitors coming aboard, from high-ranking U.S. and foreign officials to more than 5,000 people who toured the ship over a Singapore open house weekend in mid-May.

Since arriving in Singapore on April 18, the list of distinguished visitors to tread the ship’s decks is impressive, and includes U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel; Navy Secretary Ray Mabus; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations; Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command; Vice Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The numerous foreign military and government visitors include Singapore defense minister Ng Eng Hen, and Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The CARAT exercises already are underway. The Indonesian phase was completed in May, and exercises in Thailand are winding up. Other U.S. ships taking part in the CARAT exercises include the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), amphibious ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), salvage vessel USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, and the supply ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11).  The Freedom is headed for Malaysia to begin her participation. Other navies taking part in CARAT include Bangladesh,Brunei,Cambodia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.

The Freedom will also take part in Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercises.

The FREEDOM is expected to operate through the summer on CARAT exercises. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Toni Burton)

Although tugs are standing by, two directional water jets give the FREEDOM exceptional maneuverability in tight spaces. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Toni Burton)

More than 5,000 visitors toured the Freedom during the Singapore Navy's Open House on May 19 at Changi Naval Base. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Cassandra Thompson)

U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel, left, is briefed in the ship's mission control center by commanding officer Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, center, on June 2. (Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, visited the Freedom on May 14 at Singapore. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Peter D. Lawlor)

It's not all pomp, parties and VIPs for the crew of the Freedom. Here, Hull Technician 1st Class Jaime Martinez tightens a valve on a main space drain line for the combining gear lube oil coolers. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Cassandra Thompson)

The CARAT exercises the Freedom will be taking part in already have begun. The Indonesian phase concluded in May, and exercises in Thailand took place in mid-June. In the Gulf of Thailand on June 10, U.S. Marines maneuvered amphibious assault vehicles from the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Tortuga to conduct a joint amphibious assault exercise with the Royal Thai Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Amanda S. Kitchner)

 

Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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