Just a month after the Government Accountability Office released a damning report that found the Navy’s new class of littoral combat ships is “both less survivable in its expected threat environments and less lethal than initially planned,” another of the $362 million vessels has been taken out of commission.
In December, the USS Milwaukee, one of the Navy’s three commissioned Freedom Class LCSs, broke down off the coast of Virginia and had to be towed back to port. Now, the USS Fort Worth, also a Freedom class LCS vessel, is confined to port in Singapore because of engine problems.
The good news for the Fort Worth is that it didn’t need a tow to get home. The damage to the engine apparently occurred while maintenance was being performed in port.
“Based on initial indications, the casualty occurred due to an apparent failure to follow procedures during an operational test of the port and starboard main propulsion diesel engines,” the Navy said in a press release Thursday. “An investigation is underway to examine the incident in depth and determine any necessary corrective action.”
The combining gears are the same part of the propulsion system that failed in the case of the Milwaukee, though apparently for different reasons. According to the Navy, “combining gears allow Fort Worth to configure different types and combinations of engines for propulsion at sea.”
Unlike the Milwaukee, which broke down before it even reached its first post, the Fort Worth has been in service in the Pacific for more than a year, where it has reportedly performed well and had its 16-month scheduled deployment extended.
Nevertheless, with the Fort Worth in port for an indeterminate amount of time, and the Milwaukee still out of commission, that means two out of the three Freedom class ships are now inoperable. The USS Freedom, namesake of the class, remains functional.
The Freedom class is one of two types of LCS being built for the Navy. The other is the Independence class.
The GAO report issued in December was critical of both, not because of their apparently sensitive propulsion systems but because they are not living up to expectations. But the Navy is spending more money on them anyway.
“The Navy has requested $1.4 billion for three LCS in the fiscal year 2016 President's budget, even though it is clear that the current ships fall short of identified survivability and lethality needs,” the report said.
Further, it found, “the Department of Defense's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has stated that there is insufficient data to provide statistical confidence that LCS can meet its lethality requirements in future testing or operations, and further testing is needed to demonstrate both variants can meet requirements in varied threat environments. The Navy also has not yet demonstrated that LCS will achieve its survivability requirements, and does not plan to complete survivability assessments until 2018—after more than 24 ships are either in the fleet or under construction.”
In December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter directed the Navy to scale back future orders of the ships.