SAN DIEGO - After years of stops, starts, design fixes and cost overruns in the littoral combat ship program, the Navy's newest warship, the USS Freedom, is set to go forward to the Asia-Pacific region on Friday.
"This will no doubt be an important deployment for us, and the health of this class of ship," said Cmdr. Tim Wilke regarding the upcoming first deployment for LCS 1, USS Freedom.
The littoral combat ship is seen by the Navy as the answer to multi-mission capable ships that are faster, can operate in shallow water and require a crew of less than 50 to operate.
The key is the ability to reconfigure what the ship can carry, from surface warfare inflatable boats to anti-mine and anti-submarine packages as well as special forces. Everything about the ship is different from other vessels.
"The flight deck is much larger than, say, on a destroyer so it's easier to get the wheels on deck," said Lt. Cmdr and MH-60R pilot Jeff Haff.
The crew is multidimensional as well.
"On a big ship, you don't have people coming into the galley asking if they can help… that's the thing I like the most," said culinary specialist Janet Drosdak.
San Diego has two LCS class ships: Freedom and Independence. The third, Fort Worth is on its way. Despite the controversy that followed the program to San Diego, Wilke said, "We've spent the last six months proving that this ship and crew are prepared for this deployment. We are spot on and ready to go."