Marinette's USS "Freedom" | Wisconsin thru my eyes
Marinette Marine, the Freedom combat ship and the lighterage cargo system

August 1, 2007, updated August 8, 2012

August 8, 2012


This is not about the Freedom (LCS 1), but it is about her next in line, the Navy's newest littoral combat ship, the future USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). She departed from the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, August 6, 2012 beginning her journey to her commissioning site in Galveston, Texas, before heading to her eventual homeport of San Diego, California. Fort Worth is the third littoral combat ship delivered to the Navy, and the second LCS of the steel, semi-planing, mono-hull Freedom variant. She is scheduled to be commissioned September 22, 2012. She recently passed her sea trials on Lake Michigan.

December 30, 2010

It’s official. On December 29, 2010, the Navy awarded a contract to Lockheed for 10 more “Freedom-class” LCS ships, more than $4 billion through 2015. Another 10 were awarded to Lockheed’s competitor, Austal (originally designed by General Dynamics).

June 27, 2010


The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise designed to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multi-national interoperability. Photo credit: MCS2 Jon Dasbach, USN

December 9, 2009:


Sailors stand watch on the bridge of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) during a sea and anchor detail as the ship transits from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va. to Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Freedom is conducting training operations off the East Coast of the United States. Photo credit: MCS2 Rafael Martie, USN. Freedom has successfully conducted independent ship deployment training and certification at sea, November 13-21, 2009. She operated with the USS Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group. Ike would indeed be proud, yet again. This was a significant milestone is brings Freedom one step closer to her first operational deployment to the US Southern Command in early 2010. Lt. Ed Early, USN, wrote this:

"After avoiding heavy weather off the East Coast,
Freedom departed Mayport, Fla., Nov. 13 with the Blue Crew and Cmdr. Kristy Doyle, the Blue Crew commanding officer. During the three days that followed, CSFTL (Commander, Strike Force Training) assessors put the crew through an intensive series of underway scenarios designed to evaluate their ability to execute maritime security missions both as an independent unit and as part of a larger force. CSFTL presented Freedom with realistic missions in rapid succession to stress planning and decision-making. From self-defense against air and surface threats, to maritime interception operations, electronic warfare, common tactical picture management and datalink operations, the team performed well and met every challenge. Freedom returned to Naval Station Mayport for a 'hot swap' between the Blue Crew and the Gold Crew. The Gold Crew Commanding Officer Cmdr. Randy Garner and his crew then headed back out to sea, this time for five days of integrated training. Despite not having been on the ship for several months, the Gold Crew quickly settled in and successfully completed its training regimen."

November 17, 2009:


USS Freedom (LCS 1) conducts flight deck certification with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter sea Combat Squadron 22. Photo credit: MC2 Nathan Laird, USN.


The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) conducts flight deck certification with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22. Photo credit: MCS2 Nathan Laird, USN

September 9, 2009: The September 2009 edition of All Hands once again highlights what it is like to be aboard the USS Freedom.


Meet Culinary Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Kevon Henry. He is with the USS Freedom at sea. If you look very carefully at the bottom right corner of the photo, you'll see the lower portion of a 240mm gun. MC2 Jhi Scott wrote, "...Kevon Henry comes onboard at 5 am to prep the galley for breakfast for the crew. Once that's done, he reports topside to prepare for sea and anchor detail where he line handles and mans the 240mm guns. He then secures from sea and anchor to prep the galley for lunch. Then, there's a casualty drill, so Henry secures the galley and reports to his repair locker. It's just a normal day underway in the life of Sailors aboard the USS Freedom (LCS-1).

July 3, 2009: The July 2009 edition of All Hands has a super article about the USS Freedom. There's good information there about the crew and its duties --- Freedom's crew consists of 40 Sailors made-up of eight officers, 15 chief petty officers, 15 first class petty officers and two second classes. We also get a few looks at ship operations.


CMC (SW/AW) Anthony Decker stands the JOOD Watch (Junior Officer of the Deck) on Freedom, helping to navigate the ship.


FC1 (SW/AW) Clifford Smith, the Senior Sailor of the Year aboard Freedom, stands watch in the MCC (Mission Control Center) as defensive systems operator in charge of all radar and weapons systems. Freedom has the ability to combat anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and mine warfare.

I commend the All Hands article to you so I won't show any more of its photos. I do want to say that one thing you quickly learn is that each crew member has to be able to perform a variety of different functions. And they're able to do it. No slacking here.

October 27, 2009: The USS Freedom will deploy in early 2010 to the Southern Command, two years ahead of schedule. Oddly, I think, the Navy is saying that Freedom is needed to support the warfighting commander. It is hard to envision Freedom in a fight in Latin and South America. My guess is the Navy wants to integrate her into the 4th Fleet and task her to participate with friendly nations in that region in combined exercises where she would go through battle scenarios. In any event, the Navy's confidence in Freedom is high, high enough to deploy her to a combatant commander some two years ahead of schedule. Good job Marinette Marine!

May 7, 2009: The USS Freedom showed her wares to the Washington DC community by paying a call at the docks of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington.


Freedom docked at Robinson terminal. I am still waiting for a schedule on her voyage to her home port in San Diego. I am expecting her to do that some time in early 2010 perhaps leaving Virginia for the voyage some time around October 2009. It is my understanding she is now operating out of Norfolk and Naval Amphibious Base, both in Virginia. Weapons systems of this kind take a long time from idea to operations, but I gotta tell ya, I can't wait to see her go into combat --- she's gonna kick some butt, I feel it in my gut.

December 15, 2008: The USS Freedom has made her way from Marinette, Wisconsin, where she was built, through the Great Lakes, out the St. Lawrence Seaway, and down the Atlantic Ocean to her temporary home at Norfolk, Virginia. She will now undergo post-delivery tests and sea trials at Norfolk, and then move on to her home port at San Diego. Photo credit: MCS Joshua Adam Nuzzo.


November 20, 2008: The littoral combat ship USS Freedom sails under the Jacques Cartier Bridge as the ship heads to the Old Port of Montreal, November 20, 2008. She is on her way from Marinette, Wisconsin to Norfolk, Virginia. This is a nice photo aboard the ship. Photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth R. Hendrix, USN


November 10, 2008 update: The USS Freedom (LCS-1) was commissioned at Veterans Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 8, 2008. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter presided. Birgit Smith, the wife of Army Sgt. First Class Paul Smith, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was the ship's sponsor. The ship's two commanding officers, Cmdr. Donald Gabrielson, Blue Crew and Cmdr. Michael Doran, Gold Crew, took command, set the first watch and raised the ensign. The first ensign flown over the ship had previously been flown over Baghdad. Freedom was constructed at Marinette Marine Corporation, Marinette, Wisconsin, and was the first naval vessel to be built and commissioned on the Great Lakes since World War II. Photo credits: MCS2 Katherine Boeder, USN.



November 8, 2008 update:
The USS Freedom (LCS-1) berths in Milwaukee harbor preparing for her commissioning, November 8, 2008. She is the first of two littoral combat ships being produced for the Navy. Photo credit: John Sheppard, USN. 110408.


September 21, 2008 update: The USN has formally accepted the USS Freedom (LCS-1) from the contractor, Lockheed Martin/Marinette Marine/Gibbs and Cox in Marinette, Wisconsin on September 18, 2008.


USS Freedom (LCS-1) returns to its home port in Marinette, Wisconsin, after completing acceptance trials in Lake Michigan. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jhi L. Scott, USN, August 20, 2008.

The next step is for the crew to move aboard and prepare the ship to leave for Milwaukee, where she will be commissioned. Following commissioning, she will head out of the Great Lakes to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. The crew will then take her out for sea trials in the ocean. Until now, she has gone through sea trials only in Lake Michigan. The ocean will make demands on some systems that they have not yet experienced. It is our understanding
Freedom will home port in San Diego.

August 6, 2008 Update: The Freedom began sea trials offshore Marinette, Wisconsin on July 28, 2008.


The Freedom is shown here conducting a speed run as part of her sea trials offshore Marinette, Wisconsin on August 4, 2008. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Dick Lund, a photographer who has long had a great interest on the Great Lakes, has terrific photography on the
Freedom as she left the production facility and headed out for her trials on July 28, 2008. Dick has agreed to allow us to post a few. We commend his web site to your attention where you can view all his work.


The Coast Guard employed two armed boats to patrol the area in support of the sea trials. This photo was taken on July 28, 2008.


The USS Freedom leaves its dock on the Menominee River at Marinette, Wisconsin, July 28, 2008.


After being turned around, she is towed out to Lake Michigan, July 28, 2008.


USS Freedom approaches Menekaunee draw bridge in Marinette, Wisconsin as she heads out for sea trials. Photo credit: MC3 Jhi L. Scott


A nice broadside view of Freedom as she heads out, July 28, 2008.


Freedom heads out on her own steam for the first time, July 28, 2008. She conducted some maneuvers close to shore for about 5.5 hours before returning to her dock on the Menominee River.


She backs into the inner harbor on her own for the first time, July 30, 2008, with tugs and Coast Guard standing by.


USS Freedom cranks up her speed on Day 7 of her sea trials, August 3, 2008. This last photo is credited to Pat De Ridder, who was kind enough to allow Dick Lund to use it on his web site. It is indeed a great shot. Throttle 'er up Skipper!


Original story

In mid-June 2007, while traveling through upper Michigan, we decided to drive through Menominee, Michigan and cross over into Marinette, Wisconsin in the state's northeast to stay overnight.


While crossing into Marinette on US 41, the road going toward the red star that marks Marinette, Wisconsin's town center, we passed over the Menominee River. While on the bridge, we looked off to the right, downstream the river a bit. We spotted a big grey ship berthed about where the yellow arrow on the left is pointing that sure looked like a Navy ship.

The yellow arrow to the lower right points to the location of the Menominee-Marinette Red Lighthouse, a famous landmark.


We drove around a bit on the Marinette side to get a better look at the ship we saw. We did not get a better look at the ship, but we found out what she was all about.


This was the construction site for the USN Littoral Combat Ship. You can see the companies involved: Lockheed Martin, Gibbs & Cox, Marinette Marine, and Bollinger Shipyards. And this was the site of the Marinette Marine Corp., MMC.

Let's zoom in on the Mapquest aerial of the area highlighted by the yellow arrow.


This is an aerial shot from Mapquest of the MMC complex. You can see that there is a line up of ships berthed here. We tried to get on to the grounds of the plant to get a better look at the new ship, but as one should expect, security is strict. So no luck. We went back over to Menominee, Michigan to try for a view from there.

Here's what we saw.


There she is. Meet US Navy (USN) Littoral Combat Ship, LCS-1, the USS Freedom, berthed at MMC on the Marinette River.

Your editor is an Air Force guy, but the lines on this ship most certainly sent a message that this is a new kind of ship, one that is working to employ stealth lines.


This is the F-117 Stealth Fighter. You can see a similarity in the stealth lines of the F-117 and the Freedom. The angled surfaces tell you both the 117 and the Freedom have a stealthy character.

We later learned that the
Freedom is a US Navy (USN) LCS under construction at MMC as part of a contract with Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is the prime contractor. Gibbs & Cox and Bollinger Shipyards are the other principal team members sharing roles with MMC. Gibbs & Cox is a design firm with enormous experience designing ships for nearly 20 navies. Gibbs & Cox brags that it has helped design 60 percent of the USN surface combatant fleet. Bollinger, like MMC, builds ships and is located principally in Texas and Louisiana.

Marinette Marine Corp. was founded in 1942 to meet our WWII and beyond naval construction demands. Its first contract was to build five wooden barges. Its record of achievement includes building US Coast Guard (USCG) icebreakers and buoy tenders, USN mine countermeasures vessels and ocean tugs, as well as ferries, dredges and tugs.

It is presently part of the Manitowoc Marine Group, which is also located in Wisconsin. The company has produced over 1,300 vessels, commercial and military. Recently it joined with the Lockheed Martin team to produce one of two LCSs. Ultimately, it is our understanding the Navy wants about 55.


Artist's rendering of Lockheed Martin Littoral Combat Ship design concept. Presented by the USN.

The LCS indeed is a new kind of USN warship. She is high speed (40 knots-plus; we have seen numbers up to 60 knots) and very maneuverable. She is said to be able to turn 360 degrees in less than eight boat lengths at sprint speed.

Arguably, her most important feature is that she is a modular ship. That means she can be reconfigured to carry a variety of combat packages targeted for specific missions. She will be able to interdict ships on the high seas, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and provide anti-terrorism force protection, including employment of special operations forces. She will support launching and recovering small boats for use by such special forces. She can carry two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The LCS carries the nomenclature "littoral" for a reason. Littoral means the ship will operate close to shorelines, which means she can operate where larger warships cannot. She can more easily support insertion and extraction of small numbers of specialized combat forces.


BAE Mk 110 57 mm gun. Presented by Defense Industry Daily.


Rolling Airframe Missile Weapon System. Presented by Raytheon Missile System Co., Tucson, Arizona


An Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) MK-50 Training Torpedo is launched from guided missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) while participating in exercises aimed at fighting the global war on terrorism. Photo credit: Photographer's Mate 1st Class Brien Aho, USN. Presented by wikipedia.

Her mission modules will feature the BAE Mk 110 57mm gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and Honeywell MK 50 Torpedo.


She will also carry an entirely new class of missiles, called the non-line-of-sight attack missiles, which are still in development and testing. The system will be platform independent. The graphic you see above is operated by ground forces, but the package can just as easily be put on a ship. It is basically a box with 16 sections, 15 for missiles, one for command and control electronics.

The system envisions having two kinds of missiles, both precision attack. The Loitering Attack Missile LAM is an expendable, hunter-killer that can loiter, search out a target over a large area, and attack a target using its automatic target recognition system. The Precision Attack Missile PAM is a direct attack missile. LAM will be used for fleeting targets, while PAM for fixed and stationary targets. Global Security has a good description of these.


Fairbanks Morse Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B STC diesel powerplant. Presented by Fairbanks Morse Engine.


Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbine. Presented by Rolls-Royce.


Kamewa waterjets employed by Rolls-Royce. Presented by Naval Technology.

LCS-1 is powered by two Fairbanks Morse Colt-Pielstick 16PA6B STC diesel powerplants and two Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbines driving four Rolls Royce waterjets. She will be interconnected to many other naval elements, satellites, airborne vehicles and command centers.

Freedom's keel was laid down on June 2, 2005 by MMC.

She was christened on September 23, 2006.


Mrs. Birgit Smith is the ship's sponsor. She christened Freedom on September 23, 2006 at Marinette with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle across the ship's bow. Mrs. Smith's initials have been etched on a plaque that will be permanently attached to the ship.

Mrs. Smith is the wife of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith who received the Medal of Honor (posthumous) on April 4, 2005 for gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. On April 4, 2003, his task force of about 100 men came under enemy attack by a company-sized force. He quickly organized a defense using two platoons, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. He personally engaged the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers, and moved under fire to take position on a .50 caliber machine gun, firing at enemy and holding his exposed position until mortally wounded. As the result of his actions, his force defeated the enemy, together they killed 50 enemy, and safely evacuated wounded US soldiers. He was assigned to Bravo Co., 11th Engineer Battalion, the 3rd Infantry Division, US Army, "Rock of Marne."

It is now the duty of LCS-1
Freedom, her builders and crews, to carry on.


Launching of USS Freedom (LCS-1) on 23 September 2006 on the Marinette River, Wisconsin. Presented by the USN.

On April 25, 2007, MMC experienced a fire on board
Freedom during welding work that damaged the Freedom and delayed construction by about two weeks.


Graphic of General Dynamics LCS design concept for LCS-2, USS Independence. Presented by PEO Ships.


LCS-2 frontal view. Presented by

LCS-2, the USS
Independence, is being built by General Dynamics's Bath Ironwoks in Mobile, Alabama. She has a completely different design. She uses an aluminum trimaran hull while the Freedom employs a steel semi-planing hull.

The plan has been that two of each design will be made, after which the Navy will decided how many of each to buy. We have seen a planning factor of 55 ships, but have also seen figures as high as 100.

The plan is for
Freedom to be commissioned in Milwaukee and to then sail for San Diego. Milwaukee beat out Chicago for the honor of commissioning the Navy's first LCS. It is expected to enter operational trials later this year. A LCS Class Squadron (CLASSRON) has been formed in San Diego to prepare for operating the ship. It is expected the Freedom will have blue and gold crews of about 40 personnel, with an aviation detachment aboard of about 20 with a module changing crew of 15.

We want to show you a few other photos of the Marinette operation. Quite by chance, we ran across something that was even more new to us than the LCS.


This is a pretty good panoramic view of the MMC facilities. Both those large buildings belong to MMC. You can see LCS-1 to the right in the water. We'd like to draw your attention to some "grey things" in front of LCS-1. You can barely make them out here, so let's zoom in.


Our initial inclination was to categorize these vessels as either Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) or Landing Craft Utility (LCU). But as we looked around in our research, they just didn't fit the LCM-LCU mold. We then discovered that MMC had been placed under contract to the Navy to build something called an "Improved Navy Lighterage System," INLS. Of course, "what's that?" The answer is fascinating.

Basically, a lighterage system is one that facilitates the transfer of cargo. It is worth noting that about 90 percent of our military cargo is transported by sealift assets. A challenge always faced is finding ports which can handle our sealift resources, many of which require deep water ports. New lighterage systems have been designed and are being built to enable transfer at more shallow depths, therefore offering more landing options. MMC has been involved in building INLS systems that operate like a floating dock.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command has provided some good photography of what these systems look like. It has also provided some nice graphics to explain the concept. As an introductory thought, think transfer, think modular, think shallow waters.


This is a graphic of what is known as a "warping tug." That is what was shown in the photo above that we originally thought was a LCM or LCU. A warping tug is the modular section of the system that tows, anchors and can conduct salvage. It can travel at speeds of 7-10 knots. Here is a schematic.



This single graphic provides a good sense for the overall concept. You can see a large sealift vessel to the right discharging its rolling stock, in this case tanks, to the INLS system's floating barges, all connected, depending on the amount of stock to transfer, and driven by the warping tug. The tug simply backs the barges away, and moves them directly to the shoreline where the stock can be transferred easily to the shore.

Five companies bid, and MMC won as "the best value to the government."

It turns out that while we were at Marinette, we photographed three pieces of the system in the water without knowing what we were seeing.


You can see the warping tug to the left, a barge in the middle, and an off-loading ramp to the right. Let's zoom in on all three pieces.


This is a nice side view of the warping tug. You can see the aft end of the barge off on the right.


This is the barge in the middle, warping tug to the left, offload-onload ramp to the right. The barge is simply a floating dock that can hold a lot of weight and take a bit of a beating.


This is a good view of the offload-onload section. The red arrow points to the ramp which can go up and down, in the down position resting on the shore or as close as they can get. Note how the section ramps downward, left to right.


We like this view of Warping Tug 05 because it shows the A-frame forward and the water line. We have seen one report that she can operate in water as shallow as 13 ft.

There is much more to learn about Marinette Marine. She is one of the largest shipyards on the Great Lakes. She employs about 800. The company was privately held until bought in 1999 by Manitowoc Corp., also of Wisconsin. Since WWII, the company has built recreational and fishing vessels, towboats, freight ships, passenger vessels, tank ships, patrol craft for foreign navies, berthing barges, oceanographic research vessels, tugs, industrial vessels, freighters, pilot boats, landing craft for the US Army and patrol craft for the US Navy, USN minesweepers, US Coast Guard seagoing and coastal buoy tenders and ice breakers, and barracks barges for the Navy.

Dick Lund is an amateur photographer who operates a wonderful site,
"Dick's Great Lake Ships and More." He has many galleries, several of which show all kinds of shots of ships made at Marinette Marine. Furthermore, he has great shots showing the kind of shipping traffic that goes in and out of Marinette. Marinette, Wisconsin, is no nickel-dime port and shipbuilding operation, we can assure you of that. We commend Dick Lund's site to you. You'll spend lots of time there, to be sure.