ST says US ship in SG for drills but Bloomberg says it's combat ready

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By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

The USS Coronado, an American Littoral Combat Ship, arrived in Singapore yesterday (16 Oct). Its arrival marks the first time an Independence-Class littoral combat ship has been deployed to SE Asia.

ST merely reported (‘US combat ship here for regional drills‘) that USS Coronado “will exercise and conduct operations with partners in the region”. It set sail from Hawaii before arriving in Singapore to begin its deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.

However, the same piece of news was reported differently by Bloomberg (‘U.S. Says Littoral Combat Ship Now in Singapore Is Combat Ready‘).

Quoting a senior US Navy officer, Bloomberg reported, “The latest U.S. Littoral Combat Ship (USS Coronado) to arrive in Southeast Asia is combat ready.”

Bloomberg also quoted US Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, the Commander of Task Force 73 and Singapore area coordinator, saying that the USS Coronado is “ready to go do its job”. He added that operation, maintenance, design and training issues of the Littoral Combat Ship have all been addressed.

The Littoral Combat Ship is designed to operate in shallow coastal waters that surround islands and reefs. It was encountering mechanical and various design problems previously.

“Every ship has maintenance issues. Any time you take a new class of ship and you have a new model for taking care of the ship and training the crew, there are going to be things that you learn,” Rear Admiral Gabrielson said. “It’s crossed many miles of Pacific Ocean to get here (Singapore) all by itself.”

The Independece-Class is the latest version of the US Littoral Combat Ship with many combat capabilities:
2PM Lee welcomes US to “re-balance to Asia”

In Aug when PM Lee visited President Obama at the White House, he welcomes US policy to “re-balance to Asia”.

The “re-balance to Asia” is a key part of the Obama administration’s bid to balance China’s greater military and economic clout. It is an amalgamation of integrated soft and hard deterrent powers (multilateral diplomacy, economic integration, and military presence) to reassure allies and partners, and to demonstrate resolve and commitment to impose the largest strategic cost to Beijing. In particular, it is a counterbalance to check Beijing’s assertion in the South China Seas.

In this regard, the Littoral Combat Ships serve as spearhead for the US military re-balance to the region.

Last May, another Littoral Combat Ship, USS Fort Worth, started patrolling the islands in South China Seas for the first time (‘U.S. Navy Ship Met Chinese Vessel on South China Sea Patrol‘). It was then met by a Chinese military frigate near the disputed Spratly islands. The US was attempting to challenge China in the freedom of navigation in those disputed waters in South China Seas.

Last month, China again warned the US to stay out of the South China Sea dispute (‘Beijing warns US to stay out of South China Sea dispute‘). Speaking after talks with rival countries at a regional summit in Laos, premier Li Keqiang said China wanted to work with other countries to “dispel interference” in the contested maritime zone. But President Obama responded by warning that Beijing must abide by an international tribunal ruling that China’s sweeping claims in South China Seas have no legal basis.

Meanwhile, the US is targeting to have four Littoral Combat Ships in SE Asia in the coming years, Rear Admiral Gabrielson said. The ships, each costing close to half a billion, is not meant to send a specific message to China, he added. “It’s not a message to anyone other than what is going on in this part of the world matters to the whole world.”

And PM Lee has offered Singapore’s Changi Naval Base as a maintenance hub for these ships. By the end of this year, 2 Littoral Combat Ships will be operating out of Changi permanently and by 2018, the US Navy hopes to deploy all 4 Littoral Combat Ships from Changi, so as to upgrade the capability of US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

Instead of watching 2 elephants fighting on the side, it appears that the ant has decided to cling onto the foot of one. Let’s hope the other doesn’t accidentally step on it.