This illustration shows the paint scheme for the Navy's littoral combat ship Freedom. (Navy)
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ABOARD THE LITTORAL COMBAT SHIP FREEDOM When Freedom heads to Singapore in March, it will deploy with "dazzle."
Freedom will emerge from dry dock in late February sporting a new, four-color camouflage scheme conceived and designed by the ship's blue crew something not seen on a larger U.S. combatant ship in many years.
"I want my ship to look like a warship," declared Cmdr. Patrick Thien, blue crew's commanding officer. "If we're going to paint it, we might as well go all the way."
Originally, only the steel hull was painted, and the aluminum superstructure was left untouched, primarily to eliminate the need to maintain the coatings.
And Freedom's counterpart in the LCS program, the all-aluminum Independence, is not painted at all above the waterline.
While camouflaged ships were the norm in the world wars, the advent of radar made use of "dazzle" patterns less common; today, only a few ships sport camouflage patterns. Small patrol units were camouflaged during the Vietnam War and for operations in the Persian Gulf, and the gray schemes applied to most naval warships worldwide are considered a form of camouflage.
But Freedom will become the first larger U.S. surface combatant in recent memory to be painted up in a multicolor camouflage pattern haze white, haze gray, ocean gray and flat black.
Thien pointed out several features of the camo pattern and noted how the white patterns conveyed a false bow wave on the port side, while hinting at a false bow on the starboard pattern. The black areas are strategically laid over diesel engine exhausts in the ship's side, where they might hide smudge spots.
Camouflage can't hide a ship from radar or infrared or other sensors, Cmdr. Dave Heinken, executive officer of the blue crew, admitted.
"It could confuse their visual identification," Heinken said. "Any time you can confuse an enemy's targeting, ... create doubt about a ship's true heading or identity, you could gain an advantage."
And, he added, "operating against the shore, it could blend in, unlike a blue-water ship."