Patrick Durrant | Sydney
In the past week there has been further news of engineering breakdowns on the troubled US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), with the latest incident affecting one of the Austal USA built Independence-class ships, the USS Coronado,on its maiden deployment.
According to Navy Times,the 3rd Fleet ship was transiting to the Western Pacific from its base at Pearl Harbor when it suffered an engineering breakdown on August 29 and was forced to return to Hawaii under its own power. The USS Coronado had participated in the recent RIMPAC 2016 exercise and was due to join in the Australian hosted multinational military exercise KAKADU 16 in September as part of an independent deployment to the western Pacific’s US 7th Fleet.
"[The USS Coronado’s] problem is the fourth issue in the last year."
On the 28th August the USN had announced that the LCS USS Freedom had suffered significant damage to its main diesel engine after seawater had had entered the engine lube oil system on July 11. Further inspection following its participation in RIMPAC revealed that the engine would need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced.
That incident marks the third engineering casualty suffered by the Freedom class ships in just 12 months. Second of class USS Fort Worth only recently left Singapore for its home port in San Diego after repairs were completed following an operator induced error that resulted in damage to the ship’s combining gears during main engine start up eight months ago.
The third of class USS Milwaukee also suffered damage to its clutch gears in December last year during a transit from San Diego to Nova Scotia and had to be towed to Virginia for repairs.
USN Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson has announced that engineering sailors assigned to the LCS program will have to retrain and recertify to work on the class, a direct response to the USS Fort Worth incident involving crew error.
“Last night's problem is the fourth issue in the last year,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “These issues are all receiving our full and immediate attention, both individually and in the aggregate.”
The Freedom- and Independence-classes make up the two variants of the LCS fleet, which US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ordered be reduced from 52 to 40 in December 2015. Currently there are 26 LCS planned, including 13 Freedom-class and 13 Independence-class ships, with down select to one variant by FY 2019.
The Freedom class are built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine in Wisconsin while the Independence class are built by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama.