The U.S. Navy has deployed a littoral combat ship to the Indo-Pacific region for the first time since late 2016. The Independence-class LCS USS Montgomery made a port call in Davao City in the Philippines on June 29, as part of the warship’s first deployment, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
The last LCS to deploy to the Indo-Pacific region was the Independence-class USS Coronado, which arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore in October 2016 for a rotational deployment. This was preceded by the rotational deployment of the LCS Freedom-class variants USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth to the region in 2015 and 2016.
The warships experienced a number of challenges during their rotational deployments, as my colleague Steve Stashwick pointed out back in 2017:
Three LCSs have deployed to Singapore since 2013, each experiencing major challenges. As the first LCS to deploy, the USS Freedom, had many “first in class” problems and maintenance issues, and the crew was found to be overworked and under-supported. The USS Fort Worth sustained a major casualty to its propulsion system that kept it out of action in Singapore for nearly six months before sufficient repairs were completed to allow it to return to the United States.
The USS Coronado suffered its own propulsion casualty while still en route to Singapore, forcing it to return to Hawaii for a month of repairs. Once in Singapore, major changes to the LCS crew concept and training pipeline to address some of the earlier high-profile problems meant that the follow-on crew was severely delayed, and crew that took the ship from the United States to Singapore ended up having to spend nine months on boardinstead of four or five.
Not a single LCS deployed in 2018.
At the beginning of this year, senior U.S. Navy officials stated that at least three ships will deploy in 2019. “Two ships are going on the West Coast; one ship is going on the East Coast, followed shortly [by a second] in the beginning of ’20,” the commander of U.S. Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Richard Brown, was quoted as saying by USNI News on January 14. “And that marks the deployment of LCS; there will always be LCS forward-deployed now, just like we designed the program.”
The LCSs USS Montgomery and USS Gabrielle Giffords would deploy from San Diego to the Indo-Pacific region while USS Detroit would deploy from Florida to South and Central America to conduct counter-drug missions. Notably, the USS Montgomery suffered an engineering casualty en route from Mobile, Alabama to her homeport in San Diego California in September 2016.