WASHINGTON – The Royal Battleship is heading to European waters for the first time, with the Freedom LCS Sioux City variant leaving its port of Florida to operate in the area of ​​responsibility of the 6th US Navy.

Deployment is being prepared for years after the Navy intended to bring the LCS into the 6th Fleet in 2020, but was hampered by a technical flaw in the entire class.

The area of ​​responsibility of the fleet includes waters in Europe and Africa, but the Navy did not specify where the ship could operate.

“The deployment of Sioux City allows us to integrate the unique operational capabilities of LCS into our already diverse fleet,” said 6th Fleet Vice Administrator Gene Black in a press release from the Navy. “The mobility of Littoral Combat Ships allows them to work both near the coast and in open ocean environments, increasing our ability to provide security and stability throughout European theater.

The San Diego-based LCS has made more operational progress, with the first deployment in the western Pacific taking place in 2013 and the independent LCS having a routine presence there since 2019. However, on the East Coast , ships with the Freedom variant are struggling with technical problems.

In 2020, a ship was planned for the first deployment in the 6th and 5th fleets in the Middle East. However, at the end of 2020, the Navy found a defect in the entire class and ordered a shutdown.

In November, the Navy adopted a new design of combined equipment after nearly a year of engineering work to address a shortcoming that limited ships to operate at maximum speed.

The commander of LCS Squadron 2, Captain David Miller, told Defense News during a visit in Mayport, Florida in December that Freedom’s options continued to operate throughout 2021 locally and in the area of ​​responsibility of the 4th Central Fleet. and South America, but the navy doesn’t want to take the risk of sending ships across the Atlantic until the combined equipment problem is fixed.

Sioux City, the ship heading to the 6th Fleet, is stationed in the 4th Fleet from March to July 2021 and again from September to December.

The deploying LCS in Mayport has two crews, a blue and a gold crew, alternating between ship work and home training. The crews change every few months, which allows the ship to stay deployed longer without exhausting the staff on board.

Sioux City is in a division of ships within LCSRON 2, which specializes in overhead warfare. The Navy has announced that it will bring with it two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters from the 22nd Sea Knights of Helicopter, although the ship can also be deployed with one manned helo and one MQ-8 Fire Scout drone. .

The Navy, in its budget request for fiscal 2023, called for the decommissioning of all current Freedom LCS buildings – a total of nine – once the service determined their potential operational value in a complex theater, not worth the money the service spends on crew, operation and maintenance. Several MPs opposed the idea. Congress later this year will write the annual national defense policy and cost estimates that will determine the future of these LCSs.

Megan Eckstein is a Navy War reporter for Defense News. It covers military news from 2009 with a focus on US Navy and Marine operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when recording stories from a ship. Megan is a graduate of the University of Maryland.


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