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Three Times a Charm: US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Damaged (Again)

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Three Times a Charm: US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Damaged (Again)

The newly built warship sustained a total of three unrelated casualties since its commissioning in September.

Three Times a Charm: US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Damaged (Again)
Credit: US Navy

Last weekend, the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Montgomery does not seem to be able to catch a break. According to the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet, the newly commissioned warship suffered damage while transiting the Panama Canal en route to San Diego—the third hull or engineering casualty since the ship entered service in September 2016.

“On Oct. 29 USS Montgomery (LCS-8) sustained damage to her hull while transiting Southbound through the Gatun and Pedro Miguel locks of the Panama Canal,” the U.S. Navy said in a press release, published by USNI News. “Under control of the local Panama Canal Pilot, the ship impacted the center lock wall and sustained an 18-inch-long crack between her port quarter and transom plates.”

According to the U.S. Navy, the crack is located above the waterline and poses no water intrusion or stability risk. Furthermore, the crack has not impacted the USS Montgomery’s transit schedule, the U.S. Navy notes. “The ship has continued her transit as scheduled, has now exited the Panama Canal and is expected to arrive at her new homeport of San Diego next month.”

On September 13, the USS Montgomery suffered two unrelated engineering casualties–a seawater leak in the ship’s hydraulic cooling system and  a casualty to one of its gas turbine engines–after departing Mobile, Alabama (See: “Groundhog Day: 5th US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Out of Action in a Year”). The LCS was again put out of action after it cracked its hull as a result of a collision with a tug as it sortied from Mayport, Florida in October (See: “Crackup: US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Suffers Cracked Hull”).

The Independence-class LCS USS Coronado suffered an engineering casualty in the Western Pacific (See: “Dropping Like Flies: Third US Navy Littoral Combat Ship Out of Action”) in August. In the same month, I summarized the botched operational history of the U.S. Navy’s new class of warships:

The U.S. Navy revealed on August 28 that the lead ship of the Freedom-class LCS variant, the USS Freedom, is sidelined in San Diego after sustaining damage in one of its two main propulsion diesel engines on July 11—most likely due to a crew error.

The Freedom-class LCS USS Forth Worth is at the moment also out of action after suffering damage to its propulsion system caused by a human error in January. The ship is currently in transit from Singapore (where it languished for seven months) to San Diego for major repairs. As a result of the operating error at the beginning of the year, the captain of the USS Fort Worth was relieved of duty. The ship was the second LCS ever to be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region.

Furthermore, in December 2015, the Freedom-class USS Milwaukee sustained a combining gear casualty about 64 kilometers (40 miles) off the Virginia coast during an Atlantic transit.

The U.S. Navy has so far relieved two LCS commanders of duty over damages on board their ships. Following the USS Freedom’s casualty, the commander of all U.S. Navy surface forces, Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, ordered a stand down for all LCS for retraining the ships’ crews. The U.S. Navy also updated its deployment plan for the LCSs.

Last month, the USS Coronado arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore on October 16 as part of a rotational forward deployment to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations–the first time that an Independence-class LCS has been deployed to Southeast Asia. The latest Freedom-class LCS to be commissioned was the USS Detroit in late October. So far, the U.S. Navy has commissioned a total of seven LCS.