USS Freedom to Enter 3rd Fleet

By Lt. Ed Early, USS Freedom Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) — USS Freedom (LCS 1) will reach its latest significant milestone when she enters the 3rd Fleet Area of Responsibility April 4.

“We are excited to have USS Freedom join the 3rd Fleet team,” said Commander, 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Richard Hunt. “The Littoral Combat Ship class provides a transformational capability to theater naval commanders which will enhance support for the war on terrorism, theater security cooperation (TSC) with partner nations, and emerging operational requirements.”

After entering 3rd Fleet, Freedom will conduct TSC engagements with partner nations, conduct routine training at sea, officially arrive in San Diego in late April, and then participate in the International Fleet Review in Canada commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Navy and the 22nd Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, both being conducted this Summer.

Prior to arriving, Freedom conducted counter-illicit trafficking (CIT) operations in the Caribbean Sea and off the coasts of Central and South America under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.

In less than three weeks of CIT operations in the Caribbean, Freedom made three drug seizures, recovering more than three tons of cocaine and capturing one vessel and five suspected drug smugglers.

“During its deployment, Freedom has demonstrated that its class will become a key component of the 21st century Navy,” said Hunt. “We look forward to employing Freedom to help us meet the challenges of operating in the littorals. The LCS-class brings unique capabilities, exponentially expanding the ability of 3rd Fleet and the Navy to execute the maritime strategy.”

Embarked aboard Freedom are Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Detachment 2, based in Norfolk; the first tailored LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package, based in San Diego; and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment.

The first ship in the revolutionary littoral combat ship class, Freedom is a fast, agile, maneuverable, and networked surface modular ship designed to complement the Navy’s larger multi-mission surface combatants in select mission areas, including combating submarines, mines, and fast-attack craft threats in the littorals.

Freedom began its maiden deployment Feb. 16, more than two years ahead of schedule, and will complete the deployment when it arrives in its homeport of San Diego in late April.

For more information about USS Freedom, and its mission, visit

For more news from Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, visit

Beginning of a new class of ship

The USS Freedom and USS Independence are the result of an idea dating back more than a decade, when Navy leadership decided the fleet should contain a number of smaller, faster vessels that could carry a fight to near-shore waters.

When the service went out to procure what would become known as littoral combat ships, it wasn’t clear precisely what need the new ships would meet or how exactly they would be used.

This allowed a high degree of flexibility for the two teams selected to produce prototypes, but as plans changed during construction, it also resulted in the cost of the ships almost tripling throughout the process.

Now the Navy is considering which of the two vessels should become the basis for the rest of the class: the futuristic-looking USS Independence, which is radically different from everything else in the fleet; or the more traditional USS Freedom, which some see as not pushing the envelope far enough for future sea battles.

“What the Navy got are two very interesting designs,” said analyst Martin Murphy, who’s written about the program for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “I’m disappointed they’re going down to one design so quickly.”

In many ways, the two versions are similar. Both have shallow drafts, both can top 46 mph…

To operate these littoral combat ships, the crews have to be ‘hybrid sailors’.

The Times-Union – By Timothy J. Gibbons

ABOARD THE USS INDEPENDENCE – The first time Chief Petty Officer Gary Thomas took his place on the bridge of the Navy’s newest ship, he remembers, he felt a little nauseous.

It wasn’t nerves or anything like that. The chief engineman was just more used to being below decks, where most vessels don’t sway as much.

“As an engineer I had never stood watch on the bridge before,” he said. “It’s a lot different from being down below the waterline.”

On this ship, multipurpose monitors allow engineers to oversee the entire operation from a seat on the bridge rather than having to stand watch in each engine space.

That’s not the only difference for the 40 “hybrid sailors” serving as crew of the Independence, the second variant in the Navy’s new littoral combat ship class.

Compared to the crews on most ships in the fleet, those aboard the Independence go through more training, do a broader array of jobs and rely more on technology.

However, the most different thing about the Independence – or at least the most noticeable one – might simply be the ship itself. While the crew of the Independence is similar to that of the other littoral combat ship variant, the vessel is anything but.

The 419-foot-long ship comes with a flight deck bigger than two basketball courts, the largest ever on a surface combatant. The bridge seems akin to something from “Star Trek,” with vast arrays of glass overlooking a central control post where the officer of the deck can operate the ship with a multifunction joystick.

The sea frame itself – a trimaran based on a commercial ferry design – is unique in the Navy. So is the all-aluminum construction, a detail constantly brought to mind by the shiny foil coating the inside of the vessel to raise the melting point of the metal.

The Navy will choose between this ship and the USS Freedom, the littoral combat ship variant that recently set off from Mayport Naval Station on a mini-deployment, as it decides which vessel should eventually make up one-sixth of the fleet….]

First JSF Marine squadron stands up at Eglin

AETC – By Samuel King Jr.

4/5/2010 – EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Military history was made when the first-ever Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II training squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, stood up here April 2.

The occasion also marked the first time a Marine Corps squadron was embedded in an Air Force wing.

“And they couldn’t have picked a better place to start,” said Lt. Col. James Wellon, VMFAT-501 commander, referring to the 33rd Fighter Wing and Eglin AFB.

The “Warlords” squadron was redesignated from the VMFAT-451, a 13-year retired squadron that was reactivated April 1 for the ceremony.

“This is truly a historic event,” said Maj. Gen. James F. Flock, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commander, who also addressed the crowd of military, civilians and community leaders. “It has taken a lot of hard work to move toward joint-basing. It’s been a genuine grass roots effort here at Eglin to make joint-basing a possibility.”

The general said this is the next chapter in the future of Marine aviation toward the “direction of an all-STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) force.” The ceremony took place with the three current Marine aircraft, the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler displayed in the distance.

The Marine F-35 variant will be equipped with the STOVL capability. Just two weeks prior to the stand up, the first vertical landing of the F-35B STOVL took place March 18.

The general said the JSF mission rested on the shoulders of the 37 “hard-charging” Marines currently assigned to the new squadron who are tasked with training the future pilots and maintainers.

“You Marines are the plank-holders to the future,” the general said. “You were hand-selected for this duty with the highest potential and performance. I’m confident you’ll do well in your mission.”

During his comments, Colonel Wellon reflected on the work and trials that led to this “game-changing” moment.

“Many great Marine officers got us here today,” said the first-time squadron commander. “They have set the Warlords on a path for success.”

According to Marine officials, the VMFAT-501 are scheduled to receive their first F-35B in Winter 2010. The Marines hope to have eight initial cadre and two operational test pilots trained within a year after its arrival.

New treaty could trim nuclear role of bombers

Air Force Times – By William Matthews – Staff writer

The new START treaty that would cut the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons could also prompt the United States to trim the bomber leg of its nuclear force.

Limits that reduce the number of deployed “launchers” to 700 could encourage U.S. nuclear policy makers to rely more on land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles and less on B-2 and B-52 bombers, said Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association.

“The bomber leg of the triad is not what you think about when you think about survivability and quick response,” he said.

At present, the United States has 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles based on land and 336 based on submarines. It also has 44 nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and 16 nuclear-capable B-2 bombers.

That gives the United States a total of 846 launchers. The treaty permits 800 launchers, but says only 700 may be “deployed.”

If the number of deployed launchers must be reduced to 700, the U.S. military is likely to want most of them to be its most responsive and survivable, Collina said. That suggests keeping the maximum number of land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles.

“The treaty is forcing us to decide where to put our warheads,” he said. And bombers are likely to be the losers. “We could be moving to 20 or fewer bombers.”

But 20 bombers is a deceptively small number.

Under the new treaty, each bomber counts as one weapon even though U.S. bombers can carry more than one warhead. B-2 bombers can carry 16 nuclear weapons and B-52 bombers can carry 20.

So a fleet of 16 B-2s could carry 256 nuclear weapons and four B-52s could carry 80 more. An all-B-52 fleet could carry 400.

Bombers have already been relegated to a limited role in the United States’ day-to-day nuclear posture, said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists.

“Warheads on missiles are the day-to-day deterrence,” he said. “Bombers are really just a backup.”

Land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles can hit targets on the other side of the globe in little more than half an hour. Bombers have to be loaded with bombs or cruise missiles and then fly for hours to reach their targets.

More about the fate of the bomber leg of the nuclear triad is may be revealed in the Nuclear Posture Review that President Barack Obama is expected to release before he departs for Prague to sign the START treaty April 8.

While senior officials of the Obama administration herald the treaty as “a landmark agreement” that is “good for us, good for Russia, and good for global security and stability,” arms control experts tend to describe the treaty as “modest.”

The new START treaty “will still leave the United States and Russia with thousands of excess nuclear weapons that are liabilities in the effort to curb proliferation and combat terrorism,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“If anyone can explain to me why we and the Russians continue to need over a thousand nuclear bombs, each five to 25 times more powerful than the bomb that flattened Hiroshima, pointed at each other, please send me an e-mail,” said Ivan Oelrich, vice president of the strategic security program at the Federation of American Scientists.

“It’s a modest achievement in terms of limits” on nuclear weapons, “but significant in terms of extending a modern verification regime, and most important, getting the ball rolling again in these types of nitty-gritty talks between the United States and Russia. That’s where the value is,” Kristensen said.

The treaty permits “direct monitoring of warheads. In the past we have looked at delivery vehicles, now we will be able to look inside the missiles” and count the warheads, Collina said…

SubFor: Smoking on subs to end by Dec. 31

By Lance M. Bacon – Staff writer

As of Dec. 31, the smoking lamp is out on all submarines. Vice Adm. John Donnelly, commander of Submarine Forces, announced the ban Thursday.

“Our sailors are our most important asset to accomplishing our missions,” he said in an announcement. “Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine. The only way to eliminate risk to our non-smoking sailors is to stop smoking aboard our submarines.”

Health risks to non-smokers, specifically exposure to secondhand smoke, were the catalyst for change. The submarine force in 2009 chartered the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory to conduct a study on nine submarines, including at least one from each class. The results indicated that non-smoking sailors were exposed to measurable levels of environment tobacco smoke, also called second hand smoke, according to the announcement.

Grounded submarine photographed with sonar

Wired – By João Medeiros

This eerie wreck image is not computer generated. It’s the sonar image of Russian nuclear submarine B-159 (called K-159 before decommissioning), which has been lying 248m down in the Barents Sea, between Norway and Russia, since 2003. The Russian Federation hired Adus, a Scottish company that specialises in high-resolution sonar surveying, to evaluate if it would be possible to recover the wreck.

“The operation was complicated as the submarine was very deep, so we had to use the sonar equipment mounted on a remotely operated vehicle, (below)” says Martin Dean, the managing director of Adus and a forensic-wreck archaeologist. “We also had a problem with the surveying due to the density of north Atlantic cod attracted to the sound of the sonar and the light of the cameras. So at the beginning we had to turn off the equipment for 40 minutes and wait for the fish to go.”

B-159, a November-class sub launched in 1963, was being towed to a shipyard in Snezhnogorsk, 1,000km north of St Petersburg, for scrapping when bad weather caused it to sink, killing nine crew.

“According to the sonar evidence, we can say that it sank stern first, headed down vertically and stuck 12m into the seabed, like a dart,” says Dean. “The hull then snapped at the aft end and crashed to the seabed, leaving about 8m of the outer casing, including the propellers, still buried vertically in the seabed. Surprisingly, the submarine is still in good condition for a salvage.”


Gates: National Security Strategy Deadline ‘Unrealistic’

Defense Secretary explains why Obama administration’s report 9 months overdue

United States Naval Institute

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Wednesday that the Obama administration has failed to issue a national security strategy report because the deadline set by Congress “is a completely unrealistic requirement.”

“National security strategy is a big deal, and when an administration can’t even get most of its senior officials confirmed within 150 days, I want to know how the hell you’re going to figure out how you’re going to manage strategy in 150 days,” Gates said.

Speaking to the Brigade of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy, Gates joked that he was going to “get in so much trouble” as he pointed out flaws in the process.

The National Security Act requires that a new administration issue the report within 150 days of taking office. The document is intended to outline the administration’s plan for deterring threats to the worldwide interests of the United States. President Obama’s report is more the nine months overdue.

That’s not Republican or Democratic, that’s just a fact of life,” Gates added.

Gates stated that the report was forthcoming and noted that this is not the first time that an administration has not met the deadline.
“We are, I think, within a few weeks of having a national security strategy, but no administration since that legislation has passed… has issued a national security strategy with 150 days,” Gates said.
The previous administration did not issue a report until September 2002; 18 months after President George W. Bush took office. The extended delay in that instance was attributed to the need to make sweeping changes in security objectives following the events of 9/11.

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