USS Freedom Shines During CARAT Malaysia
The 19th annual international maritime Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise involving the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and Malaysian armed forces drew to a close during a ceremony on Kuantan Naval Base over the weekend.
CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises where the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste operate together to better understand and appreciate each other’s capabilities and characteristics.
As USS Freedom (LCS 1) is on its first overseas deployment to Southeast Asia, the Malaysian leg of CARAT marked the ship’s first time participating in this series of bilateral naval exercises, and the vessel’s performance at sea drew praise from both participating navies.
CARAT Malaysia consisted of 10 days of shore-based and at-sea training events designed to address shared maritime security concerns, develop relationships, and enhance interoperability among participating forces. Participation in the CARAT exercise series is among the key milestones during Freedom’s maiden rotational deployment to Southeast Asia.
With a small crew of just 91 Sailors on board, the Freedom crew routinely supports multiple daily evolutions. The exercise was another opportunity for these Sailors to show their dedication and drive.
The time at sea gave Freedom, which is designed to swap out various mission modules depending on the operational environment requirements, an opportunity to test its surface warfare mission package while also playing a significant role in an anti-submarine warfare exercise with its embarked MH-60R helicopter.
Freedom and the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) spent three days conducting combined maneuvers; submarine familiarization events; visit, board, search and seizure evolutions; small craft attack drills, and other events with the Royal Malaysian Navy vessels KD Jebat and KD Kelantan.
“The ship itself [Freedom] is fantastic,” said Capt. Abdul Halim Bin Hj Shaari, KD Jebat’s commanding officer. “My boarding team went aboard and they learned a lot. The opportunity to command that type of ship would be great.”
Freedom remained at sea a fourth day to support the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and its embarked Marines during an amphibious beach landing exercise.
Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ship (LCS) platforms are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for three separate purposes: surfaces warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare. Homeported in San Diego, Freedom is currently on its maiden deployment and is manned by her “Gold” crew. Midway through the deployment, a crew-swap will be conducted with her “Blue” crew.