US Navy’s Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Detroit, has broken down during its deployment in South America when its propulsion system broke down.
According to the Defense News report, the reason behind the breakdown was due to some kind of failure in the combining gear which connects power from two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s propulsion shafts, which propels the ship through the water with water jets.
“USS Detroit (LCS 7) experienced an engineering casualty during routine operations, and a technical evaluation determined that in-port repairs would be required,” the statement to the Defense News by US 4th Fleet Commander Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson read. “USS Detroit has been a vital and productive asset and will be redeployed as soon as possible.”
The Freedom-class LCS is infested with several combining gear issues. In 2015, the USS Milwaukee broke down due to fine metal debris collected in the lube oil filter caused the system to shut down.
Reportedly, the ship was conducting steering tests and lost lube oil pressure in the starboard combining gear due to the presence of the metal filings in that filter.
Senator John McCain, the then chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed deep concern over the saying that a complete loss of propulsion on USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) is deeply alarming, particularly given this ship was commissioned just 20 days ago.
“US Navy ships are built with redundant systems to enable continued operation in the event of an engineering casualty, which makes this incident very concerning,’ he had said.
A year after this, USS Fort Worth sustained a similar breakdown in the combining gear. The ship was at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base when the incident happened.
“There are things in the near term that I have to deliver, that I’m putting heat on now, and one of them is LCS,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said earlier in an interview with Defense News. “One part is sustainability and reliability. We know enough about that platform and the problems that we have that plague us with regard to reliability and sustainability, and I need them resolved,” he added.
“That requires a campaign plan to get after it and have it reviewed by me frequently enough so that I can be sighted on it. Those platforms have been around since 2008 — we need to get on with it. We’ve done five deployments since I’ve been on the job, we’re going to ramp that up two-and-a-half times over the next couple of years, but we have got to get after it,” he continued. “LCS for me is something, on my watch, I’ve got to get right.”
The LCS was launched with three missions namely, anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine countermeasure missions. The Freedom Class LCS can reach a speed of more than 40 knots and boasts 1.5 times the size of the flight deck as compared to traditional surface combatants.
It has a hanger space of two MH-60 helicopters or one MH-60 helicopter and one Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (MQ-8 Firescout). It comes equipped with Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM), SeaRAM (17 and follow) and a Mark 110 gun that fires 220 rounds per minute, which enhances its lethality.
According to Joseph Trevithick of The Drive, even if the Navy could overcome the maintenance-related issues with the LCSs, there remain serious questions about the operational utility of these ships.
“After years of delays and other setbacks in fielding the modules, the service now plans to operate the LCSs in single-mission roles with one of this trio of mission modules effectively permanently installed,” he stated.