USS BLUE RIDGE AT SEA -- The Navy's first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) March 20, marking a key milestone in Freedom's eight-month deployment to Southeast Asia. Arriving within days of 7th Fleet's 70th anniversary March 15, Freedom follows in the wake of countless ships, aircraft and Sailors that deployed to the region over the past 70 years to maintain security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Like those ships, Freedom's deployment to Southeast Asia speaks to the Navy's ongoing commitment to this vital maritime region. "As the U.S. Navy supports the U.S. government rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, there is no better place to demonstrate LCS capabilities than in the 7th Fleet AOR," said Vice Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet. The 7th Fleet AOR covers more than 48 million square miles (124 million square kilometers) and spans from west of the international dateline to the western coast of India. Freedom joins about 100 ships and submarines deployed to this vast maritime region and assigned to 7th Fleet on any given day.
"Freedom's deployment to Southeast Asia is a tremendous opportunity to bring our newest capability forward to conduct maritime security operations, port visits, and exercises with our allies, partners and friends alongside other 7th Fleet units," said Swift.
Since departing San Diego March 1, Freedom transited the Pacific Ocean, visited Hawaii from March 11-14 and will arrive in Guam next for its first 7th Fleet port visit. Freedom is also expected to participate in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) in Singapore and in select phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series in Southeast Asia. Fast, agile, and mission-focused, LCS platforms are designed to employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare. Commanded by Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, Freedom will be initially manned by her "Gold" crew of 91 Sailors to include mission package personnel and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter. Freedom will remain homeported in San Diego throughout this rotational deployment to Southeast Asia. Midway through Freedom's deployment, a crew-swap will be conducted with her "Blue" crew, commanded by Cmdr. Patrick C. Thien.