US Navy combat ship deployment in SEA is crucial

The Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado underway in the South China Sea. The trimaran hull design gives it great speed and allows it to travel through shallow waters more easily than a conventionally designed combat ship. Photos: US Navy Top Gun is now 30 years old Since 2013, the United States Navy has been rotationally deploying a single Littoral Combat Ship to South-East Asia, operating out of Singapore and conducting a variety of activities, many of which are aimed at enhancing security and co-operation between nations in the region.

Littoral combat ships are designed to operate in both shallow and congested sea lanes, allowing them to operate in areas where ships requiring deep waters and space cannot go or are constrained by such, a situation common to the waters of South-East Asia given the archipelagic geography of the region.

The US Navy’s LCSs come in two different designs, the Freedom class with a conventional hull design and the Independence class with a trimaran hull design.

LCSs are designed to be configurable based on the ship’s mission, with the space to install or remove mission module packages which allows it to be configured for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare or mine counter-measures, thus providing flexibility compared to most ship designs which have single built-in configurations.

The current LCS deployed to the region is the Independence Class USS Coronado (LCS 4) with previous deployments being the Freedom Class ships USS Freedom (LCS 1) in 2013 and USS Fort Worth from 2014 to 2016.

The USS Coronado is configured with the Surface Warfare mission package, comprising two 11m rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB), two visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) boarding teams, two 30mm machine guns, two Northrop-Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles and an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter.

The Coronado ’s trimaran design allows it to have a larger flight deck allowing it to carry out both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and helicopter operations off the deck at the same time with the Seahawk helicopter and Fire Scout UAVs.

The US Navy plans to deploy multiple LCS operating out of Singapore in the coming years.

Overseeing the LCS deployments is the US Navy command headquarters called COMLOGWESTPAC/Task Force 73, which has a small staff in Singapore. COMLOGWESTPAC/Task Force 73 conducts advance planning, organises resources and directly supports the execution of maritime exercises between the US Navy and its partners in its area of responsibility, which covers South Asia and South-East Asia.

Recently, we had the opportunity to speak to Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, the commander of Task Force 73 on the LCS deployment to the region and its future. Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson (left), Commander, Task Force 73, greeting an officer from the Royal Thai Navy during the opening ceremony of the South-East Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) 2016 exercise at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore. Gabrielson in the past had served as the commanding officer of the LCS USS Freedom during its construction and commissioning and thus is well versed in the unique capabilities that the LCSs have over […]