YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), crossed the international date line while transiting the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 10, marking her departure from the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).
The 7th Fleet AOR covers more than 48 million square miles and spans from west of the international date line to the western coast of India.
Operating primarily in Southeast Asia as part of a maiden overseas deployment, Freedom joined about 100 ships and submarines deployed throughout this vast maritime region and assigned to 7th Fleet on any given day.
Since arriving in the AOR March 20, Freedom worked with many regional navies and other 7th Fleet units during a series of port visits, exercises, and exchanges. These engagements directly supported the Asia-Pacific rebalance and further reinforced cooperation and interoperability among the Navy's partners and allies.
"We put Freedom to the test over the past several months and learned a great deal about how to operate littoral combat ships forward alongside our regional partners and allies in a challenging operational environment," said Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.
In the weeks prior to departing 7th Fleet, Freedom conducted separate passing exercises (PASSEX) with the Bangladesh navy ship BNS Somudro Joy (F 28) and the Brunei navy ships KDB Darulaman (PV 08) and KDB Ijhtihad (PV 17), supported humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts in the Philippines, and conducted port calls in Brunei and Guam.
As many senior Navy officials noted recently, the maritime crossroads and vital waterways that connect Southeast Asia to the global economy are exactly where the Navy needs to be present, now and well into the future. Rotational deployments of littoral combat ships will help the Navy sustain presence, expand access to vital waterways and interact with littoral regions in unprecedented ways.
"Freedom's deployment is just the beginning of littoral combat ship rotations to 7th Fleet," said Thomas. "Increased numbers of these ships will become a regular fixture in this region as a tangible demonstration of our commitment to the rebalance. Their forward presence over the long term supports our Navy's enduring commitment to security, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific."
USS Freedom's first rotational deployment to Southeast Asia began March 1, when the ship departed San Diego and commenced a Pacific Ocean transit that included port visits in Hawaii, Guam and Manila. Freedom used Singapore as a logistics and maintenance hub between April 18 and Nov. 16, during which she participated in the International Maritime Defence Exhibition, three phases of the bilateral naval exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training with Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the multinational exercise Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training. During port visits, Freedom hosted thousands visitors from throughout Southeast Asia.
Freedom remained homeported in San Diego throughout this rotational deployment to Southeast Asia. Crew 101, which has operated the ship since a planned swap with Crew 102 in August, will take the ship home to San Diego by the end of the year.
Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures, or anti-submarine warfare.
For more news from Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c7f/.