Earlier this month, the US Navy received the USS Detroit, its seventh littoral combat ship (LCS). The small, multipurpose vessels are designed to perform operations close to shore. But as the Navy accepts a new Freedom-class LCS into its fleet, the lead ship, USS Freedom, has experienced significant technical difficulties.
"Based on initial assessments from the inspection, Freedom’s #2 [main propulsion diesel engine] will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced," Pentagon officials said, according to Military.com.
The problem, reported over the weekend, was found in July, when engineers at the ship’s homeport at Naval Base San Diego examined a leak in the Freedom’s seawater pump mechanical seal. Despite the problem, the vessel took part in RIMPAC military exercises last month, causing what is reported to be permanent engine damage.
Even more embarrassing for Pentagon officials is that this is not an isolated occurrence. The USS Freedom is the third Freedom-class LCS to break down since December.
In January, the USS Fort Worth was forced to dock due to engine trouble, following patrols in the South China Sea. The ship, the second Freedom-class LCS, spent eight months in Singapore undergoing repairs, before returning to California.
The incident led to the forced resignation of Navy Cmdr. Michael Atwell.
In December 2015, the USS Milwaukee experienced engine malfunctions en route to Nova Scotia, and had to be towed back to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia. Officials blamed the incident on a mechanical error that prevented the ship’s gas turbine from switching to its diesel engine.
With the USS Freedom’s recent breakdown, the commander of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, has launched an investigation.
"The recently completed LCS Review of manning, design, and training looked at a number of sailor performance and ownership factors, to include crew rotation, size and proficiency," Rowden said, according to Military.com.
"From this work, I believe we will be able to make immediate changes to help reduce chance for future operator error. I am fully committed to ensuring that our ships and the Sailors who man them have the proper tools and training they need to safely and effectively operate these ships."
"Given the engineering casualties on USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth," he added, according to Defense News, "I believe improvements in engineering oversight and training are necessary."