U.S. plans 10-month warship deployment to Singapore By Jim Wolf Posted 2012/05/09 at 6:07 pm EDT WASHINGTON, May 9, 2012 (Reuters) The first of a new class of U.S. coastal warships will be sent toSingapore next spring for a roughly 10-month deployment, the Navysaid on Wednesday, spotlighting a move that may stir China's fearsof U.S. involvement in South China Sea disputes. Deployment of the shallow-draft ship "Freedom" will help refinecrew rotations, logistics and maintenance processes to maximize theclass's value to U.S. |
combat commanders, Rear Admiral ThomasRowden, the Navy's director of surface warfare, told reporters. "We'll be deploying the ship for about 10 months in the spring ofnext year" to Singapore, he said in a teleconference. "In themeantime, we're prepping her for success in the execution of thatdeployment." Singapore is strategically located along the Strait of Malacca, thechief link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans through whichflows about 40 percent of world trade. The government has discussed hosting up to four such U.S. "LittoralCombat Ships," or LCS, on a rotational basis at its navalfacilities.
Both countries have said the deployment stops short ofa basing agreement. It signals Washington's "commitment to the region and enhances itsability to train and engage with regional partners," U.S. DefenseSecretary Leon Panetta and his Singapore counterpart, Ng Eng Hem,said in a joint statement last month after meeting at the Pentagon. President Barack Obama last year ordered stepped-up emphasis on theAsia-Pacific region in a "rebalancing" of U.S. national securityplanning after a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Included in the so-called pivot to the Pacific would be the LCSstationing in Singapore, a rotational U.S. Marine Corps presence innorthern Australia and new areas for military cooperation with thePhilippines. China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam,Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan across the South China Sea, eachsearching for gas and oil while building their navies and in somecases, their military alliances. China's military warned the United States last month thatU.S.-Philippine military exercises had raised the risk of armedclashes over contested waters amid a standoff between Philippineand Chinese vessels in a different part of the South China Sea.
NEW BREED Littoral combat ships are an entirely new breed of warship. Capableof speeds greater than 40 knots, they are designed for modular,"plug-and-fight" missions for mine-clearing, anti-submarine andanti-surface warfare. Manned by as few as 40 core crew members, the Freedom will requirea relatively small footprint in Singapore for maintenance, RearAdmiral Jim Murdoch, the program executive officer, said in theteleconference. "A much smaller" U.S. group than 40 would be permanently deployedto the city-state, including U.S.
naval and contractor personnel,he said. In addition, teams would have to come in and out when theship is docked in Singapore for routine scheduled maintenance. Talks on details of arrangements between the Pearl Harbor,Hawaii-headquartered U.S. Pacific Fleet and the Singaporeanauthorities were continuing, Murdoch said. There are two different LCS designs.
One, including the Freedom,was developed by an industry team led by Lockheed Martin Corp. Theother is built by a team led by General Dynamics Corp. The Navywants to buy as many as 55 such ships. Twelve have been funded sofar, six of each type.
The Freedom has been dogged by hull cracks and engine problems, butthe admirals voiced confidence that kinks would be ironed out intime for the Singapore deployment. (Editing by Philip Barbara).
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