Beginning its maiden deployment, USS Little Rock (LCS 9) departed its Mayport, Florida, homeport Feb. 6 for the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, where the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship will operate. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet employ forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, fortify the ability of U.S. forces to work with partner nations, and build enduring partnerships, with the goal of enhancing regional security and promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean and the Central and South American regions.
Little Rock is expected to conduct operations in support of the multinational Campaign MARTILLO targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along Central America. The ship’s operations will involve practical exercises and exchanges with partner nations in support of Campaign MARTILLO, launched in January 2012. Little Rock will also support 4th Fleet interoperability and reinforce the U.S position as the regional partner of choice. This deployment will be the third to this region and third to include a Freedom-variant LCS in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South’s Campaign MARTILLO. The first deployment was made by USS Freedom (LCS 1) in 2010, followed by USS Detroit (LCS 7) in October 2019.
Little Rock will also demonstrate its operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. While in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions, the ship will rotate deployments of two crews, Blue and Gold, who will rotate aboard every four to five months, maintaining consistency and allowing a continuous presence in the region. Little Rock will initially be manned by its Gold Crew of more than 90 Sailors, including surface warfare mission-package personnel; a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment; and an aviation detachment, who will operate an embarked MH-60 helicopter and MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles.
An LCS is a fast, agile and networked surface combatant, optimized for littoral zones. The primary missions for the LCS include countering threats from diesel submarines, littoral mines and attacks by small surface craft, to assure maritime access for joint forces. The strength of the LCS lies in its innovative modular design, which increases operational flexibility. USS Little Rock was commissioned Dec. 16, 2017, and is the second ship named for the Arkansas capital city.