- Written by Clynt Ridgell
Guam - A brand new class of ship the USS Freedom is one of just two littoral class combat ships of the U.S. Navy and it pulled into Guam's waters this morning to dock at the Apra harbor.
Commander Timothy Wilke says it's deployment has nothing to do with recent threats from North Korea, however it is on it's way to Southeast Asia where it will conduct training with some nations there.
With a state of the art littoral class combat ship pulling into Guam's port this morning the question on everyone's mind was did it's deployment have anything to do with recent threats out of North Korea? "The deployment for this ship has been set for a long time we've worked hard as a crew to get ourselves trained up for this deployment as well as to maintain the ship getting ready for deployment so this deployment's been scheduled for a long time,” replied Commander Wilke.
The ship is headed to Southeast Asia but will it be called upon to participate in the ongoing joint exercises in South Korea? "That's more a question that would be decided upon by my fleet commander and above but, that's something that would be answered by them,” responded Commander Wilke.
Whatever the USS Freedom is called upon to do Commander Wilke says they're ready, especially with the unique capabilities of this vessel. "There are several facets of this ship that are unique. First off we operate close into land currently in a spot that the United States Navy really hasn't been able to operate well in that would be in shallow waters that is close to land. The ship has 13 feet of water underneath it so I can fit in very close to land where cruisers and destroyers that we have are not able to get to,” explained Commander Wilke.
The ship can also go over 40 knots which means it can travel over 46 miles per hour. "It's also very maneuverable. I can spin this ship around, walk it side to side, we do not have rudders or propellers instead we have water jets kind of like a jet ski. Steerable water jets that help us to propel through the water but also spin the ship if I need to spin the ship,” described Commander Wilke adding, "And the final aspect that's very unique is that it's very flexible in that 40 percent of the internal volume of the ship is reconfigurable. So, depending on what the mission might be, depending what the fleet commander might need in that area we would pull into port and change out a mission package if the mission package is built we would put that mission package onto the ship and go back out. It's basically like a transformer."
A transformer that is capable of anti-mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and even humanitarian relief. "The ship internally or actually part of the hull has a 57 millimeter cannon up forward that stays with the ship no matter what mission package is on. If you look over my right shoulder is a RAM missile launcher, rolling airframe missile launcher, that provides a point defense or defense against any type of missile that might be shot at the ship. If we are to step a little bit further back aft and look over my shoulder again you'd see two 30 millimeter bushmaster cannons. Those are part of the surface mission package. So when I have a surface mission package embarked on board those 30 millimeter cannons come with them,” explained Commander Wilke.
All of the ships weapons can be operated from a fully computerized control room. The ship is outfitted with camera's to monitor the exterior and interior areas of the ship. Even the ships engines are operated from the bridge. Up here they can not only see out onto the ocean but GPS allows them to see exactly where they are at in the world in real time and the ship even has an autopilot feature that allows them to set a course and let the computer do the driving. With a core crew of just 53 sailors the USS Freedom relies on technology. The ship also has an air crew of 19 personnel that operate an MH-60 Romeo Helicopter capable of shooting hellfire missiles and even torpedoes. The USS Freedom even carries with it two smaller boats that it can launch from two doors in it's rear or aft. These boats carry special interdiction teams trained to board vessels. With all of these capabilities this relatively small ship is still a force to be reckoned with especially in shallow waters. The USS Freedom will remain on Guam until sometime next week. It was commissioned in 2008 and it is home-ported in San Diego.