New Navy LCS Milwaukee Loses Propulsion

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By The Maritime Executive 12-14-2015 08:16:51

The Navy has reported that the newbuild littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee had to be towed into a naval port at Little Creek, Virginia after she suffered a “complete loss of propulsion” at sea.

The Milwaukee was on the way from shipyard to her new home port of San Diego when the trouble occurred. Engine trouble was evident earlier in her voyage down the eastern seaboard, and reports suggested that metal fines contaminating both engine oil and gearbox oil were responsible for the failure.

“Problems with the propulsion plant began almost as soon as Milwaukee got underway from Halifax. The ship’s computer system triggered an alarm and the ship called away an engineering casualty,” said the Navy Times.

"Reporting of a complete loss of propulsion on USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) is deeply alarming, particularly given this ship was commissioned just 20 days ago," said U.S. Senator John McCain, who has been a critic of the LCS program in the past.

"U.S. 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 added.

The senator also called for a full investigation into the causes of the incident.

The U.S. Navy said that there have been no previous instances of this problem, with other vessels of the LCS class performing well in thousands of nautical miles sailed on overseas deployments.

The $500 million Freedom-class LCS vessels have also come under criticism for the feasibility of their flexible weapons packages, called “combat modules,” which are supposed to be interchangeable within 72 hours. Analysts suggest that in reality the swap times have been much longer. And one module, its new mine-hunting remotely operated vehicle, key to the class' intended role as a minesweeper, has experienced technical delays and high failure rates in testing.

So far three of the Freedom-class ships have been delivered, with six more under construction and a total order of 52. Despite criticism, the Navy has expressed satisfaction with their performance.