The USS Freerdom, the Navy’s first littoral combat ship, was decommissioned in San Diego, becoming the second LCS the sea service has jettisoned.
Commissioned in 2008, the Freedom was the first of four test and training vessels for the littoral combat ship program, the others being the Independence, Fort Worth and Coronado. It was second Navy ship to bear the Freedom name,
“As we bid farewell to Freedom, her crew consists of superb, highly trained, deeply committed sailors who are dedicated to mission accomplishment, defense of the nation, and defense of our families,” Freedom’s commanding officer Capt. Larry Repass said, according to a Navy news release. “In them, the spirit of Freedom lives on.”
A small ceremony was held at Naval Base San Diego Sept. 29 with ship plankowners and former crew members, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Those present at the ceremony included retired Rear Adm. Donald Gabrielson, who previously was the commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Southern Command/Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet and commanding officer of Freedom’s commissioning crew.
“I have never in my life seen or served alongside a more capable, dedicated, devoted, talented and inspiring group of people than the sailors I served alongside with LCS and what I have watched every day since,” Gabrielson said, according to the release. “As we acknowledge this bittersweet moment, I hope we’ll all remember that this ship was a vehicle to learn and innovate by doing and to make real progress in a short amount of time, and that doesn’t happen with other ship concepts.”
Navy leaders have previously said that because of the costs associated with operating these older littoral combat ships and their limitations, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
Then-Rear Adm. Randy Crites, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget at the time, told reporters in February 2020 that the first four versions of the littoral combat ship needed major, expensive upgrades, and it was better for them to be decommissioned.
“Those four test ships were instrumental to wringing out the crewing, the maintenance and all the other things we needed to learn from them,” Crites said. “But they’re not configured like the other LCSs in the fleet, and they need significant upgrades. Everything from combat [systems], to structural, you name it. They’re expensive to upgrade.”
The Navy decommissioned the Independence in July, and the service said decommissioning the ships “supports department-wide business process reform initiatives to free up time, resources, and manpower in support of increased lethality.”
The Freedom wrapped up its final deployment, to U.S. 3rd and 4th fleets, April 1. It supported Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission to battle illicit drug trafficking in both the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific. Nine officers and 41 enlisted sailors manned the vessel.
The Navy currently has 21 littoral combat ships in its fleet.