A new support site at a Singapore Navy base is shaking up the way the service maintains its long-criticized littoral combat ships as the vessels start to resume overseas missions.
Sailors, Navy civilians and contractors are manning a new maintenance support center at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. Members of the crew not only work on the littoral combat ship Montgomery when it pulls into port there, but also as it operates in other parts of the region.
That has allowed the Montgomery, which is on its first deployment, to continue its forward-deployed presence while getting the maintenance it needs on the fly, Cmdr. Edward Rosso, commanding officer of the ship's blue crew, told reporters Wednesday.
"We're able to actually do expeditionary maintenance and conduct maintenance in various forms," he said.
Rosso gave an example of the support crew meeting up with the LCS in Sattahip, Thailand, to make repairs. While declining to say what was wrong with the ship, he said the team's response proves they can have "24-hour, seven-day-a-week, hands-on support" for deployed littoral combat ships.
"[Getting] the right maintenance at the right time in the right port enabled us to continue our presence out here," Rosso said, adding there are more expeditionary upkeep plans scheduled for the ship.
That allows the crew to continue operations away from its maintenance hub in Singapore.
Rosso said the maintenance efforts were prompted by lessons learned from LCS deployments. The LCS program was plagued with mechanical breakdowns on several of its ships from 2015 to 2016, prompting congressional hearings.
The CO acknowledged that's what has made Montgomery's first deployment so significant.
"This is not the first time LCS has been deployed to this region, but Montgomery represents the return of rotational deployments along with opportunity to continue building on LCS deployments that have come before us," Rosso said.
The Montgomery, which left San Diego in late May, was the first LCS to head overseas this year, following a program overhaul that kept them from heading out to sea for nearly two years. The ships now have blue and gold crews, similar to those on some submarines, to keep them operating at a fast pace.
Rosso said he's been able to see firsthand the benefits of having an LCS in the Asia-Pacific region. The ship has been able to pull into shallow ports bigger vessels wouldn't have been able to visit, he said, allowing the crew the chance to work with a range of regional navies.
The Montgomery started its deployment to the region with what Rosso called a historic visit to Davao City in the Philippines.
"It's a beautiful port that was perfectly suited to receive our shallow-hull littoral combat ship," he said. "This was the first visit by a U.S. warship to that location in recent memory."
He credits the Montgomery's crew with making its first deployment a success.
"My crew is the crew that commissioned Montgomery," Rosso said. "They know this ship. It's their ship, and they brought it to life. It was really special for them to bring it on this main deployment."