U.S. Navy Commander Orders Stand Down of LCS Engineering Crews Following Mishaps

131213-N-IU636-074 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 13, 2013) The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Freedom’s first operational deployment, a 9-month assignment forward-operating from Singapore, is the first ever deployment for a Littoral Combat Ship and the proof-of-concept deployment for the ship class. Freedom is scheduled to return to homeport at San Diego later this month. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro/Released)
The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in December 2013. Photo credit: U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy Commander for Naval Surface Forces has ordered an engineering stand down for every LCS crew to review procedures and standards following the recent engineering casualty on the littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Freedom.

“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand down for LCS Squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander of Naval Surface Forces. The stand downs have all been completed as of August 31, the Navy said in a statement late Monday.

“These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate, and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely,” said Rowden.

The stand down comes after the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) suffered a casualty to one of the main propulsion diesel engines in July. Based on initial assessments, the engine will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced.

Back in January, the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) was also sidelined in Singapore after suffering damage to the ship’s combining gears. The ship is currently returning to its homeport of San Diego under its own power where it is expected to undergo an extensive repair period.

The two incidents prompted Vice Adm. Rowden to comment that “improvements in engineering oversight and training are necessary” to “help reduce chance for future operator error.”

Both ships are of the Freedom class variant, which are built by Lockheed Martin at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. The third Freedom-class ship, USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), also suffered an engineering mishap last December when it suffered a loss of propulsion while underway in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia. The incident was blamed on metallic debris contamination in the port and starboard combining gear filter systems.

The Navy said this week that Vice Adm. Rowden has also directed the retraining of each LCS Sailor involved in engineering on board their ship.

“I have asked the Surface Warfare Office School (SWOS) commander to review the wholeness of our LCS engineering education and training to include the testing and retraining of all LCS engineers,” said Rowden.

“This training will occur over the next 30 days and will allow the SWOS leadership to review our training program and determine if other changes need to be made to the training pipeline” Rowden added.

The required engineering training will be conducted by the SWOS’ engineering team, who will develop both a level-of-knowledge test and specialized training that will be deployed in the next 30 days to the LCS engineering force, the Navy said. The commanding officer of SWOS is also conducting a comprehensive LCS engineering review, which will likely take 30-60 days. From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline, according to the Navy. 

While determining the process for retraining and certifying the engineering departments, USS Coronado (LCS 4), of the Independence variant, also experienced a casualty to one its flexible couplings assemblies on Aug. 29, the Navy revealed Monday.

“As Coronado returned to Pearl Harbor Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4, Rowden sent a small group of maintenance experts to meet the ship to take a holistic look at the engineering program on board,” the Navy said. “A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment.”

“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,” added Rowden.