Decades removed from the “razzle dazzle” camoflauge paint jobs used on warships, the U.S. Navy has decided to bring camo back, announcing a decision to use a similar scheme on littoral combat ship Freedom.
USS Freedom (LCS 1), the Navy's first littoral combat ship (LCS), recently entered drydock in San Diego, where it will spend a month undergoing maintenance and receiving its camoflauge paint job before being deployed to Singapore.
Four-Color Camo Scheme
LCS 1 is a fast, agile, networked surface combatant designed to operate in the near-shore environment, while capable of open-ocean tasking, and win against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines and swarming small craft, according to the Navy.
The paint scheme is similar to those used on Navy ships during World War II to confuse enemy observers. The camoflauge paint scheme was designed by the ship's crew and was approved by a panel of vice admirals.
Most warships are painted a haze gray, but the Freedom will be a combination of flat black, haze gray, haze white and ocean gray.
Originally, only the steel hull was painted, primarily to eliminate the need to maintain the coatings, according to Defense News.
"I want my ship to look like a warship," said Cmdr. Patrick Thien, commanding officer of one USS Freedom's two crews. “If we’re going to paint it, we might as well go all the way.”
The camo pattern has several features that could be ideal for a warship: white patterns convey a false bow wave on the port side and possibly a false bow on the starboard pattern, black areas are strategically placed over diesel engine exhausts in the ship's side, and, when operating against the shore, the ship will blend in better.
However, camoflauge paint can't hide a ship from radar or infrared or other sensors, according to Cmdr. Dave Heinken, executive officer of the one of the ship's crews.
"It could confuse their visual identification," said Heinken said. "Any time you can confuse an enemy's targeting problem, create doubt about a ship's true heading or identity, you could gain an advantage."
U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin
LCS 1 will be the first large U.S. combatant ship to receive camo coatings since the world wars.
Razzle Dazzle Painting
"Razzle Dazzle" was a military camoflauge paint scheme used extensively during World War I and somewhat in World War II, according to The Public Domain Review.
The painting technique was used to make it difficult to estimate the ship's type, size, speed and direction of travel, but not necessarily to try to conceal it.
LCS 1 was designed and built by Lockheed Martin. A second type of ship being built for the class, USS Independence (LCS 2), was designed and built by Austal Ltd., a subsidiary of Australian defense contractor Austal and General Dynamics Corp.
LCS 1 was delivered to the Navy in September 2008. In February 2011, it was discovered that the ship had developed a six-inch crack in a weld seam between two steel plates in the hull, located three and a half feet below the waterline, which allowed water to enter a void space.
In January 2010, LCS 2 was commissioned. The aluminum-hulled ship was showing "aggresive" corrosion in its propulsion areas by June 2011.
The problems had members of Congress alleging a "lack of transparency" by the Navy and demanding a review of the LCS shipbuilding program.
In August 2012, the chief of naval operations (CNO) established a board known as the LCS Council made up of four Navy vice admirals to oversee fleet testing of LCS. The council's focus was to develop a class-wide plan of action to address "areas identified as needing improvement."
In an announcement about the LCS Council, the Navy said that issues are expected to arise in any first-of-class shipbuilding program.
The council is expected to report on the action plan by Jan. 31, 2013.