Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS-7) departed Mayport, Fla., last week on its maiden deployment and the first deployment from the East Coast since a LCS community reorganization.
Detroit, which departed on Oct. 31, will operate in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. The deployment will include operations in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South’s Campaign MARTILLO, a multinational effort that dates back to January 2012 and targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along Central America.
“I expect this deployment to offer a great opportunity to work together with regional partners throughout Southern Command Area of Responsibility,” Capt. Cory Applebee, the commander of Surface Warfare Division 21 in Mayport, said in a Navy news release.
In 2016 the Navy reorganized its LCS fleet. The first four ships, which were built slightly differently, would be used as test ships in San Diego. Beginning with the fifth hull, all Independence-variant LCSs would be homeported in San Diego and all Freedom-variant LCSs would be homeported in Mayport. Both hubs would form divisions that focus on surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare as their sole warfare area.
This summer, the Navy deployed USS Montgomery (LCS-8) and USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) to Singapore out of San Diego, in the first LCS deployments since that reorganization. Detroit’s deployment is the first from the East Coast since the reorganization.
The Navy had previously intended the East Coast LCSs to deploy to Bahrain. However, those plans have evolved over the past several years, partly due to the ship’s capabilities and partly due to the theaters’ ability to support the ships on deployment. For now, Mayport-based ships will deploy to SOUTHCOM and U.S. 4th Fleet, though that could eventually change to Bahrain and U.S. 5th Fleet, or even European waters in U.S. 6th Fleet.
Prior to the LCS reorganization, USS Freedom (LCS-1) deployed to SOUTHCOM in 2010 to conduct counter-illicit trafficking and partner-building activities. The ship’s shallow draft and high speed were viewed as assets in running down vessels conducting trafficking. Since that time, the LCSs have brought on additional capabilities that will aid in that mission. According to the Navy news release, Detroit deployed with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and two MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles.
Detroit is currently manned by its Gold Crew, which will swap out with the Blue Crew every four to five months, in a model meant to maximize the amount of time the hull itself can spend operating forward.
Campaign Martillo includes 20 partner nations working together to target illicit trafficking routes.
“We hope Detroit will build relationships with that region and show that LCS is a capable warfighting platform that is ready to safeguard access to international waterways and demonstrate operating capabilities,” Applebee said.