|SAN DIEGO (Nov. 26, 2012) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) departs San Diego harbor to conduct operations off the coast of Southern California. The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, networked surface combatant designed to operate in the near-shore environment, while capable of open-ocean tasking, and win against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin/Released)|
Some modifications already have been made to Freedom to prepare for the deployment. One of the most significant was a decision to increase the ship's core crew and provide additional berths for the detachments and other teams. Several berthing areas that previously featured two-high “racks” now are fitted with three-highs, and some two-person officer staterooms have had a third berth installed.I am unsure how the numbers break down in all areas, but an increase from 40-person core crew to a 50-person core crew is a 25% increase, plus three officer berths which can and will be used for many things - including I suspect contractor support. That also means there are 10 additional berths for mission module crews.
Overall, 20 new berths were installed, bringing the total berthing capacity to 98. More can be accommodated in “berthing modules” installed in the mission bays.
When fully manned, the former 40-person core crew will have 50 sailors, plus racks for three junior officers learning the ship. Three “prospective” officers set to join the crew in a few months already were on board to prepare for LCS duty handling main propulsion and combat systems.
I don't believe anyone is surprised to see the final number of sailors for LCS is around 100 people. In the end success of the LCS manning initiatives will have to be proven, and the bet here isn't necessarily the number of sailors on the Littoral Combat Ships, rather the quality of contractor maintenance support will be decisive regarding the manning scheme for the platform.
The second item involves the much troubled launch ramp.
During the upcoming yard period, a new steel launch ramp will replace the original aluminum ramp in the waterborne mission zone. The lightweight ramp was not intended to store an RHIB, but crews operating Freedom greatly preferred leaving the boats in a ready position on the ramp, and a heavier installation was needed.
The upcoming yard period is the last 3-4 week availability in the yard before deployment. To me this seems like a fairly significant - albeit necessary - change to the platform that probably should have been done before the last minute.
The third bit of news is that FREEDOM is getting a new paint job.
The Navy already had decided on another basic change to Freedom for the Singapore deployment — painting the entire ship. Originally, only the steel hull was painted, and the aluminum superstructure was left untouched, primarily to eliminate the need to maintain the coatings.Later in the article we get to the reason why they are apparently going with the camouflage paint pattern.
Freedom's counterpart in the LCS program, the all-aluminum Independence, is not painted at all above the waterline.
But when Freedom emerges from drydock in late February, it should be sporting a new, four-color camouflage scheme conceived and designed by the Blue Crew — something not seen on a larger U.S. combatant ship in many years.
Thien pointed out several features of the camo pattern and noted how the white patterns conveyed a false bow wave on the port side, while hinting at a false bow on the starboard pattern. The black areas are strategically laid over diesel engine exhausts in the ship's side, where they might hide smudge spots.Check out the picture of USS Freedom (LCS 1) above and judge for yourself whether the ship needs a paint job. Pretty clear to me the ship needs it, and giving the ship a coat of paint before deployment isn't really a surprise. At some point it was going to happen. I would be more impressed with this if the Navy was applying one of the more modern, experimental paint blends that add low observable qualities to a ship in regards to radar.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is a ship funded with R&D money and the Navy is doing lots of things to make clear it is a test ship for the class. In my opinion, attempting to make the ship look like a 40-knot go fast instead of a 40-knot frigate on radar with low observable paint would have made a lot of sense for FREEDOM in conjunction with a camouflage paint scheme, but instead the paint job is to cover up the exhaust smudge from the diesel and other less sightly issues with the hull.
The ship will enter the yard by the end of the week, and 3-4 weeks later the ship will be out and prepped for deployment to Singapore.