The Navy’s state-of-the-art littoral combat ships continued their run of bad luck this week when the USS Montgomery collided with a tugboat on its way out of the harbor in Mayport, Florida, ahead of the advancing Hurricane Matthew. The Montgomery had been forced into port by a pair of mechanical failures just a few weeks ago.
The collision left a crack in the hull of the ship, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and costs nearly $80 million a year to operate. According to Navy Times, the crew was able to plug the hole --- about three feet above the waterline along a welded seam -- and won’t immediately need to return to port the fix the problem.
An official statement from the Navy said, “USS Montgomery (LCS 8) sustained a crack to its hull while getting underway from Naval Station Mayport under orders to sortie Oct. 4. This crack resulted in minor seawater intrusion, but was contained by the crew. An investigation into possible causes is underway, and the ship will receive more permanent repairs upon her return to port.”
The same ship was forced into harbor in mid-September when, on the same day, the crew discovered a leak that was allowing seawater into the hydraulic cooling system and a problem with one of its two gas turbine engines.
The collision is the latest problem in a program that, while costing the U.S. tens of billions of dollars, has produced ships that are neither as powerful nor as resilient as they were originally designed to be. The littoral combat ship was meant to fight in shallow waters close to shore, making it suitable for the type of combat that the Pentagon believed the Navy is most likely to face in the future.
However, over the past several years, as more of the ships have come on line, internal Navy assessments of the vessels have determined that they are too fragile to go up against large opponents armed with anti-ship missiles, and can only be counted on to perform well against smaller craft built more for speed than for combat.
The ships have also had multiple performance problems, with several facing major mechanical failures, sometimes shortly after being commissioned.
The Montgomery was commissioned on Sept. 10, 2016.