I have the opportunity to board USS Fort Worth, US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship as they finish a crew swap. The first crew brought the vessel from San Diego to Singapore in November and has been active in the search operation for Air Asia QZ8501. (Note, this post is extremely abridged, more will be in a publication in the near future)
This is the USN’s second LCS deployment to Singapore, after USS Freedom’s inaugural ten-month tour in May 2013, which is part of United States’ rebalance in the Asia-Pacific. This deployment will be the longest USN ship deployment since USS Midway’s record breaking 327 days in 1973.
Commissioned in 22 September 2012, Fort Worth is an improved version of sister ship Freedom with a lengthened hull for stability and increased fuel capacity. This is USS Fort Worth’s first deployment and is the first LCS to be deployed with a composite air wing of both unmanned and manned units, in this case a Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk and a Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV). USS Fort Worth is painted out in a new futuristic $1.41 million five colour pixelated camouflage, from dark grey by the waterline to cloudy grey as it reaches the top.
Below, the event is hosted by Rear Admiral Charlie Williams, Commander 7th Fleet Task Force 73, and Fort Wort Co, Commander Matthew Kawas.
Learning from USS Freedom’s, Fort Worth has an additional 10 more crew and feature the 3-2-1 manning concept, where three set of crew will support two LCS and maintain one deployed ship. Doing so allows longer deployment for the vessel and at the same still giving adequate rest time for the different set of crew. In all, four set of crew will see through Fort Worth’s 16-month deployment.
In the deployment, Fort Worth will solely be utilizing the Surface Warfare Mission (SuW) package, consisting of a BAe Systems Mk 110 57mm main gun, two Mk46 30mm Bushmaster II cannons on its modular mounts as well as a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launcher and two 11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB). The other two mission packages, Mine Counter Measure and Anti Submarine warfare packages, has yet to attain IOC.