Just 13 years after entering service, the US Navy’s first littoral combat ship completed its final deployment, returning to its San Diego homeport on April 12.
USS Freedom (LCS-1) was deployed to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
During their deployment, the crew of Freedom and a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat squadron 23 completed joint operations with a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment in support of counter-illicit trafficking, improving Navy-Coast Guard naval warfighting readiness and interoperability. Additionally, Freedom sailed with naval assets from both El Salvador and Guatemala, strengthening naval partnerships and improving regional readiness.
While providing counter-narcotics support, Freedom disrupted more than 2,000 kilograms of cocaine and 3,895 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated street value of more than 111 million dollars. Most recently, the Coast Guard-Navy team aboard Freedom conducted a seizure of more than 1,500 kilograms of cocaine off the coast of Mexico, April 7.
“The crew of Freedom delivered tremendous operational success and highlighted the adaptability and versatility of littoral combat ships during a successful deployment to US 4th Fleet,” said Capt. Jack Fay, commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One. “As the Navy’s first LCS, USS Freedom paved the way for the class and introduced a unique set of capabilities to the waterfront.”
Freedom will now be retired as part of a US Navy plan to mothball the first four ships in the class, Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth and Coronado in early 2021. The youngest of the LCS that will be mothballed entered service in 2012, just 9 years ago.
The ships are to be put in OCIR (Out of Commission, In Reserve), the status of a decommissioned ship being held in reserve for potential future mobilization.
The navy first announced its plans on the decommissioning of the LCS in its fiscal year 2021 budget request.
“Those four test ships were instrumental to wringing out the crewing, the maintenance and all the other things we needed to learn from them,” Navy Rear Admiral Randy Crites, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget, told reporters during a press briefing in February this year. “But they’re not configured like the other LCS in the fleet, and they need significant upgrades. Everything from combat systems, to structural, you name it.”