by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, December 14, 2015
The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported in an article “USS MILWAUKEE breaks down at sea” on Monday, December 14, 2015, that the U.S. Navy’s newest ship suffered a main engine causality on her maiden voyage and had to be towed 40 nautical miles to port.
The ship USS MILUAUKEE is a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) designed to replace frigates, destroyers and cruisers with a smaller, more flexible and less expensive vessel in near shore combat.
Originally projected to cost around US $90 million each in 2001, the MILWAUKEE was delivered to the U.S. Navy last month for US $437 million. Not only have costs escalated, but the LCS’s delivered so far have experienced a number of problems.
There are two LCS classes currently being constructed. The Freedom Class LCS is a mono-hull ship built at the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, under contract to Lockheed Martin Corporation.
The Independence Class LCS is a aluminum hull trimaran designed and built by Austal USA Inc. in Mobile, Alabama. Austal is an Australian owned company, which built the two Hawaiian Superferry vessels in their Mobile yard.
This incident with the MILWAUKEE is more evidence of the problems with the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding program that has severely affected their ability to maintain a sufficient fleet to ensure force projection.
The littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee, the Navy's newest ship that was commissioned in Milwaukee in November, broke down at sea Friday and had to be towed more than 40 nautical miles to a base in Little Creek, Va., the Navy Times reported.
The ship, constructed at the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, suffered an engineering problem while in route from Halifax, Canada, to Mayport, Fla., and ultimately its home port of San Diego, according to a post on the Navy Times website.
The cause of the problem on the ship — which was towed to the Joint Expeditionary Base at Little Creek, Va. — is being evaluated by the ship's crew and technical consultants, according to the Times.
Initial indications are that fine metal debris that collected in the lube oil filter caused the system to shut down, but the cause is not known, the Times reported.
"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," Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has voiced serious reservations about the LCS program in the past, said in a statement to the Times.
"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."
At the time of its commissioning critics said the $437 million ship still hadn't met expectations.
They said the Milwaukee and several other new 380-foot ships haven't lived up to promises in some key areas, such as the ability to quickly swap out combat modules for missions that include searching for underwater mines and engaging in battle with other ships.
Marinette Marine employs about 2,000 people building the ships designed for a variety of missions including combat in shallow, coastal waters.
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., through Marinette, has delivered three of the ships to the Navy: USS Freedom, USS Fort Worth and the USS Milwaukee.
Six more of the warships are in various stages of construction in Marinette, while a different version is being built in Mobile, Ala. Altogether, the U.S. Navy wants 52 of the vessels, and foreign navies have shown interest in purchasing them as well.
Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) – Wikipedia entry -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littoral_combat_ship
Independence Class LCS – Wikipedia entry -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence-class_littoral_combat_ship