The US Navy has determined that the propulsion problems that have been plaguing the Freedom variant of littoral combat ships is a fleet-wide issue and will not accept further ship deliveries until the problem is fixed.
A navy investigation into the material defect with the complicated combining gear used on the ships has determined that a class design defect exists with the high-speed clutch bearings.
According to a statement from navy spokesperson Captain Danny Hernandez, a design fix has been developed and is in production, to be followed by factory and sea-based testing. The navy is still determining the plan to install this fix on ships in the fleet.
The fix will be installed and tested on new construction ships prior to the navy taking deliveries of those ships, it was further said.
Freedom-class ships have been battling with combining gear casualties since at least 2015, when the USS Milwaukee broke down and had to be towed into a navy base. Several other ships experienced the same issues over the years.
“Measures have been implemented to mitigate risk to the in-service Freedom variant ships while the navy moves swiftly to correct the deficiency and minimize operational impacts,” Hernandez added.
“Now that the root cause of the defect has been determined, our priority is to build and test the fix as soon as possible and to get that fix installed on in-service ships with the least operational disruption possible to the fleet, and to ensure new construction Freedom-variant hulls are corrected prior to delivery,” Rear Admiral Casey Moton, the Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants, said.
The planned redesign of the defective bearings that are being built by RENK AG will be rigorously tested both on land at the manufacturing facility and at sea on a new construction ship before it is accepted and installed in-service, Moton added.
It is worth noting that the LCS program has been battling questions about the ships’ survivability, while the mission modules that turn each ship into a mine sweeper, submarine hunter or an anti-surface combatant all suffered years of delays. The navy also announced in 2020 that it plans to decommission the first four ships in the class early this year.