USS FREEDOM, At Sea (NNS) -- The Navy's first littoral combat ship (LCS) recorded another milestone April 7, as USS Freedom (LCS 1) performed integrated at-sea operations with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group (CSG).
Freedom, Vinson, USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) conducted a series of training evolutions for the better part of the day, including communications drills, refueling and replenishment at sea, a surface gunnery exercise and a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise.
The evolutions provided confirmation of the ability of LCS to integrate into strike group operations.
"The opportunity for Freedom to work with a carrier strike group for the first time is icing on the cake of our first operational deployment," said Cmdr. Randy Garner, Freedom's commanding officer. "We are demonstrating how Freedom and future littoral combat ships are capable of working as part of a CSG when needed."
Freedom wasn't the only ship to benefit from the operations, said Capt. Bruce Lindsey, Carl Vinson's commanding officer.
"Operating with other ships is part of how we build our proficiency and expertise as Sailors," said Lindsey. "The opportunity to work with the Freedom is both new and unique. The training evolutions conducted by CSG 1 (Carl Vinson CSG) ships and Freedom provided a tremendous opportunity to lay the foundation for future strike group operations and integrated deployments."
The ships began the day with a series of communications and tactical picture exercises. From there, an SH-60 Sea Hawk from Carl Vinson brought Rear Adm. Ted Branch, commander of the Carl Vinson CSG, and Capt. Donald Hornbeck, Carl Vinson CSG's deputy sea combat commander and Destroyer Squadron 1, for a visit.
"Freedom provides unique and tailored combat capabilities with the ability to meet littoral tasking not previously seen in our Navy," said Branch. "The range of surface operation capabilities is impressive and a welcome addition to the fleet."
Later, Freedom refueled from Carl Vinson - the first time an LCS has refueled from an aircraft carrier.
Following a surface gunnery exercise involving Freedom and Bunker Hill, the day's events concluded with a reaction team of Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from Freedom conducting a VBSS exercise using Bunker Hill as the boarded vessel.
Despite having conducted a number of real world boardings during operations in 4th Fleet, the exercise with Bunker Hill was good practice, according to Lt. Cmdr. Mel Pucan, officer-in-charge of Freedom's tailored LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package (SWMP).
"We're always looking for opportunities to improve our efficiency in maritime interception operations," said Pucan.
LCS is a fast, agile and maneuverable ship designed to complement the Navy's larger multimission surface combatants in select mission areas, including combating submarines, mines and fast-attack craft threats in the littorals.
More than two years ahead of schedule, Freedom began its maiden deployment Feb. 16 and is embarked with a SWMP, an air detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 from Norfolk and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment. Freedom is scheduled to complete its deployment and arrive in its homeport of San Diego in late April 2010.
For more news from USS Freedom (LCS 1), visit www.navy.mil/local/lcs1/.