LCS USS Detroit Towed Home After Back-to-Back Engineering Casualties

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USS Detroit (U.S. Navy file image)

Published Nov 6, 2020 6:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

According to U.S. 4th Fleet, Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit has suffered two engineering casualties in a row, adding to the long string of mechanical breakdowns affecting the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships.

After sustaining damage to her complex propulsion system's combining gear during a recent exercise, USS Detroit opted to limp back to her home port at Naval Station Mayport for repairs. During the transit homewards, she lost electrical power as well. An Edison Chouest offshore tug towed her into Port Canaveral, Florida on Friday to wait out expected foul weather.

“USS Detroit (LCS-7) experienced an engineering casualty. After a thorough technical evaluation, it was determined that repairs would need to be made in port,” a 4th Fleet spokeswoman told several defense media outlets in a statement. "During the ship’s return transit to her homeport of Mayport, Fla., the ship lost electrical power . . . Due to deteriorating weather in the area, the ship was towed to Port Canaveral, Fla., the closest port, out of an abundance of caution and for the safety and comfort of the crew.”

The breakdown adds to a long list of casualties aboard the Freedom-class vessels. In 2013, the first-in-class USS Freedom sustained three mechanical breakdowns on a transit to Singapore, then several more during her deployment. According to the Government Accountability Office, modifications were later made to her combining gears in order to "improve maintainability." The same modifications were made for other vessels in the class. 

In 2015, the USS Milwaukee sustained a combining gear failure due to clutch slippage while under way in the Atlantic, one month after she was delivered.

In a 2016 casualty aboard the LCS USS Fort Worth, the engineering crew started up the engines during a dockside test without turning on the lube oil feed for the combining gears, wiping the bearings on both the port and starboard units. The vessel's master was relieved of command. 

Later that year, a pump seal failed aboard USS Freedom, leaking seawater into her number two main diesel engine. Despite the problem, her crew carried on to participate in the biannual Rim of the Pacific exercise, and the engine was not fully inspected by shoreside engineers for three more weeks. Due to corrosion damage, the engine was declared a total loss, and her commanding officer was relieved of command. 

That year, the program was restructured and the first two vessels in the Freedom-class series, Freedom and Fort Worth, were sidelined for use as training ships (along with the first two Independence-class LCS vessels). The U.S. Navy plans to decommission them in 2021. 

Both Littoral Combat Ship classes are being phased out in future production in favor of a more traditional frigate, the FFG(X), which is based on a proven French/Italian hull design.