The US Navy's (USN's) planned deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) to Singapore may see the vessel tasked with tackling rising maritime piracy in the region, the commanding officer of sister ship USS Independence (LCS 2) told IHS Jane's during the Rim of the Pacific ('RIMPAC') international naval exercise.
Commander Joe Gagliano was responding to questions on the roles that Fort Worth might take on during its maiden deployment to the Southeast Asian region. "The modular nature of LCS 3 allows it to be configured for anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missions such as maritime piracy. It is fast enough for sea interdictions and can embark a helicopter to assist in counter-piracy missions", said Cdr Gagliano. However, he stopped short of confirming if this is indeed the USN's plan for Fort Worth 's deployment.
"Regardless of the mission that it will be configured for, the planned LCS deployment will be a critical element of stability in the Asia-Pacific region," he emphasised.
The ASuW mission package includes two Mk 46 30 mm guns, 12.7 mm and 7.62 mm machine guns, and two rigid hull inflatable boats. Fort Worth will also be embarking the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical take-off unmanned aerial vehicle in its deployment to Singapore. Besides ASuW, the Freedom-class LCS vessels can embark two other mission packages - anti-submarine warfare, and mine countermeasures.
The straits of Malacca and Singapore are seeing an increase in the number of piracy-related incidents in 2014, having witnessed a downward trend in 2012 and 2013. The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) has also warned that pirates in the region are shifting focus to larger vessels such as bulk carrier and tankers.
Cdr Gagliano told IHS Jane's that Fort Worth is scheduled to be deployed to Singapore by the end of 2014. IHS Jane's understands that the 3,300-tonne warship will forward operate out of the Republic of Singapore Navy's Changi Naval Base throughout its 16-month deployment period.
While Fort Worth would be a suitable platform to assist in tackling maritime piracy in the region, it seems unlikely that it would do so as its primary mission. The US has in the past offered military assistance in the effort to tackle piracy in the region. However the three littoral states - Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore - have asserted their sole right to maintain security in these waters against the backdrop of concerns over territorial sovereignty.
In terms of working with other regional navies, Fort Worth - like predecessor USS Freedom , which was deployed to the region in 2013 - will most likely carry out personnel exchanges and military exercises. Freedom also undertook a range of missions across the region, including in the South China Sea.