AUGUST 29, 2016 — Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) is investigating a July 11 incident in which the Navy's first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) experienced a casualty to one of its main propulsion diesel engines (MPDE).
Back in January, sister ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) experienced an engineering casualty to the ship's combining gears. At the time of that incidentt, U.S. Pacific Fleet said that, "based on initial indications, the casualty occurred due to an apparent failure to follow procedures during an operational test of the port and starboard main propulsion diesel engines. The Fort Worth's commanding officer, Cmdr. Michael L. Atwell was subsequently relieved due to "loss of confidence in his ability to command."
In the case of the USS Freedom incident, a leak from the attached seawater pump mechanical seal resulted in seawater entering the engine lube oil system.
The crew took action to address the leak, and Freedom returned to homeport July 13 on her own power to conduct repairs on a separate, unrelated issue.
While in port, the crew performed seawater contamination procedures. From July 19-28, the ship returned to sea to complete its portion of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise using its gas turbine engines rather than its MPDEs.
On returning to port, Southwest Regional Maintenance Center's Diesel Engine Inspector (SWRMC DEI) conducted a diesel engine inspection of USS Freedom's #2 MPDE on August 3 and found significant damage to the engine caused by rust and seawater.
Based on initial assessments from the inspection, Freedom's #2 MPDE will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced. The Navy says the cost and timeline for the repair of the engine are unknown at this time.
The investigation by Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) aims to determine the definitive cause of the casualty and examine all relevant elements of training and supervision.
"Given the engineering casualties on USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth, I believe improvements in engineering oversight and training are necessary," said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces. "The recently completed LCS Review of manning, design, and training looked at a number of sailor performance and ownership factors, to include crew rotation, size and proficiency. From this work, I believe we will be able to make immediate changes to help reduce chance for future operator error. I am fully committed to ensuring that our ships and the Sailors who man them have the proper tools and training they need to safely and effectively operate these ships."
The CNSP investigation will review if the significant damage to the #2 MPDE was caused by a mechanical failure or crew error or both. Based on those results, CNSP will determine any necessary corrective actions.