Courtesy of Surface SITREP. Republished with the permission of the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).
(Singapore) — USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) is forward deployed to Singapore where she is operating in support of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. She is the second littoral combat ship to deploy here, with USS Freedom completing a 10 month deployment here in 2013. During the 16-month deployment the Navy will exchange crews on the ship, which is Crew 103 on the day of our visit. The U.S. Navy eventually plans to have four LCS forward deployed to Singapore and operating in the Asia Pacific region.
“Right now we’re configured for the surface warfare mission,” said Cmdr. Michael Desmond, executive officer of LCS Crew 103 on USS Fort Worth. “We have a team of about 19 people who have the ability to conduct a maritime security operations through the use of the two 11-meter RHIBs (rigid hull inflatable boats) that carry approximately 20 to 22 personnel depending on gear load, and can conduct visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations. Those 11-meter RHIBS were involved in the recovery efforts following the Air Asia disaster, which happened before our crew came aboard. The surface mission package also brings two 30 millimeter cannons which are located on top of the hangar for port and starboard launch. The 30mm guns with the mission package and our 57 millimeter gun work very well. It is a very reliable system. The third element of the mission package is the aviation detachment with the MH-60 Romeo helicopter and the Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle. The other two mission packages that could be configured and embarked on LCS – for mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare – are being tested right now back in the States. Our crew, Crew 103, conducted the final evaluation and operational testing of the surface warfare mission package about a year ago, so we’re very familiar with this mission.”
Desmond said Fort Worth also carries an organic boat, a 6-meter RHIB, which is used for man overboard situations or other general purposes.
Below the flight deck is the “waterborne mission zone,” with large stern doors that open to enable launch and recovery of the 11-meter RHIB. There’s also a side door on the starboard side. These doors enable LCS to operate its offboard surface and underwater systems. The mission modules are kept in the “reconfigurable space,” which is separated from the waterborne mission zone by watertight doors that are normally kept in the closed position. Equipment can be moved using the overhead launch handling and recovery system (LHRS) crane.
“The core crew was always advertised as 40 people,” Desmond said. “But after trial and error, the LCS program decided we needed to have some plus ups in some areas that might have been lacking to help out with that fatigue issue. We had a 3-section watch for quite a while, but we’ve recently gone to a 4-section watch.”
“To launch one of the RHIBs, the stern doors will open, and once we’ve achieved all the deployment parameters in terms of ship speed, steerable water jet configuration, going into the wind, and contact picture, we will open the stern doors, hydraulically lower the ramp, release the securing mechanism, and the boat will slide down the ramp with gravity into the water,” Desmond said.
Freedom has a steel ramp, permitting the boat to be kept in a ready-to-launch status on the ramp. On Fort Worth, the ramp is made of lighter aluminum, so the boat can’t be stored on the ramp. The advantage to the aluminum is that it doesn’t corrode in sea water the way steel does.According to Desmond, everyone on board is first aid qualified, but the crew has an independent duty corpsman – a chief petty officer. “She basically runs all medical operations for the ship.”
“We have two repair lockers onboard. We don’t actually go straight to general quarters. If we’re in condition 2, and something happens, let’s say flooding or fire on the ship, we don’t call away general quarters, because we don’t want to disrupt the situational awareness that that watch team has built up,” Desmond said. “With a condition 2 damage control option, we’ll have a casualty control officer stationed in DC central and can man up the repair lockers with what the crew refers to as ‘general quarters lite.’”
To deal with a fire, such as a fuel oil fire in a main engineering space, a water-mist system activates and smother the fire with cool water mist. There is also AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam).