Navy Chief Petty Officer Eleuterio Roman, left, and Lt. Steve Hartley, monitor screens on board the USS Freedom as it nears Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Monday, March 11, 2013. The USS Freedom, which is stopping in Hawaii on its way to a deployment to Singapore, has advantages its bigger siblings lack. It is small enough to move among the many islands and shallow waters lining the extensive coastlines of Southeast Asia. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
It’s the size a football field - traveling up to 50 miles an hour in waters as shallow as 13 feet.
The U.S.S. Freedom is the first of the navy's new "littoral combat ships"- which will bring speed, maneuverability and power to the pacific fleet's near shore capabilities.
Its powerful "jet" propulsion system is unique to the navy.
Lieutenant Commander Charles Harris, an operations officer on new vessel, explains how it works. “It just sucks in all that water, pushes it back out and we're actually propelled by the water that we suck in and push out the end of the ship.”
Ensign Charlie Hasenbank, an auxiliary officer touts the Freedom’s capabilities, saying, “…at 40 plus knots, our jet system can drain and Olympic size pool in 3 seconds.”
And these are the only navy warships driven by throttle.
The ship's 57 mm gun is impressive. The commanding officer, Commander Timothy Wilke says that “it shoots 220 rounds a minute, when you compare it to other 5 inch guns that shoot around 20 rounds a minute.”
551C’s are planned for the Navy to address 21st century threats like piracy and terrorism.
Ramsay Wharton, of Joint Base Pearl Harbor explains that “one of the key features of these littoral combat ships is its ability to rapidly deploy personnel. Inside the U.S.S. Freedom right now, these are 11 meter, they call them R.H.I.B. boats, but they carry a 12 person boarding team. Get them out the door, and conduct anti-piracy and maritime interdiction missions.”
At around 650 million dollars a piece, Freedom and 3 others like her, will rotate deployments from San Diego to Singapore --part of the administration's new Asia Pacific strategy. Its unique capability allows it to switch out equipment and manpower to meet its war fighting needs.
Wilke adds that “40 percent of this ship's volume is reconfigurable so if you need us to do a surface threat, which is what we're currently manned up for. If there's a mine concern, we would pull into port and swap out our mission packages to handle any mine threat.”