USS Little Rock departs on maiden voyage to Central America

The Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Little Rock departs Mayport, Fla. for the ship's maiden deployment Thursday. The Little Rock deployment will be the third deployment of a littoral combat ship in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South's Campaign MARTILLO. Photo by Devin Bowser/U.S. Navy

Feb. 7 (UPI) — The USS Little Rock, also known as Littoral Combat Ship 9, departed Mayport, Fla., Thursday for the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility for its maiden voyage.

The Freedom-variant ship will operate in support of Campaign Martillo, launched in 2012, which targets illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along Central America, the Navy said.

This deployment will be the third to the region and the third to include a Freedom-variant LCS, with previous deployments taking place in 2010 and 2019.

“I expect this deployment to offer a great opportunity to work together with regional partners throughout Southern Command [AOR],” Cmdr. Brad Long, USS Little Rock Gold Crew’s commanding officer, said. “We hope to advance and strengthen these partnerships to enhance the security in that region.”

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Littoral combat ships are designed to operate close to shore for patrol, interdiction, mine-countermeasures, undersea warfare operations and other missions.

Freedom-class littoral combat ships, which are built by Lockheed Martin, have a top speed range of more than 40 miles per hour and carry a variety of light weapon systems, short-range missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes.

Little Rock will be manned by a crew of more than 90 sailors, including surface warfare personnel, a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and an aviation detachment, who will operate a MH-60 helicopter and a MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles.

The USS Little Rock was commissioned in December 2017 in Buffalo, N.Y., with plans to return to its home port shortly after, but was delayed by inclement weather.

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