A Littoral Combat Ship at Naval Base San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

The Navy is planning to ramp up deployments of San Diego-based littoral combat ships to Southeast Asia by the middle of next year, a Navy admiral said Tuesday.

The remark by Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson came as an LCS, the USS Coronado, crossed the International Date Line during its voyage home to San Diego following a 14-month maiden deployment to the region. The Navy swaps LCS crews every four months or so to keep them fresh.

He told U.S. Naval Institute News that two littoral combat ships would go to Southeast Asia next year. To this point, the Navy has stationed just one LCS at a time in the area, through which an estimated one-third of global trade passes.

“We’re ready to have more LCSs deployed in the region, but we have to balance that with the requirements for readiness and crew training,” Gabrielson said. “The U.S. Navy is committed to the agreement with Singapore to operate multiple LCSs in the region and we’re on a solid path to achieve that goal.”

The LCS is a fast, maneuverable type of ship built to operate in coastal waters. The vessels are based in San Diego and are mostly stationed in Singapore during their deployments.

Maintenance issues plagued the class in the first few years but the Coronado largely avoided major mechanical woes, providing the Navy with optimism regarding the LCS’ ability to operate overseas for long periods of time.

According to the USNI report, Gabrielson said the Navy wouldn’t send out two LCSs until the middle of next year.

The Coronado, which left San Diego on June 22 last year, was the first Independence-class LCS to deploy to Southeast Asia. The version has a trimaran hull, a larger flight deck and more fuel-carrying capability than the Freedom variant.

“I am extremely proud of the sailors and the work we did in the region,” said Cmdr. Douglas Meagher, the commanding officer. “Members of the crew and partner navies alike were able to grow from their experiences at sea together.”

The Coronado began its voyage home on Nov. 6. An arrival date in San Diego hasn’t been announced.

— City News Service

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