March 20, 2013
Credit: U.S. Navy
The first-of-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-1), the USS Freedom, briefly lost and then regained power March 16 while en route to its first Asian deployment to Singapore, confirms Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, the director of Navy staff and the head of the special LCS Council of service admirals.
The power loss may have been due to water getting into the exhaust system of one of the ship’s diesel engine generators, possibly creating a pressure difference, Hunt says. “It is my understanding that within 10-12 minutes it was back,” he says. Hunt leads the council assembled by the Navy to make the Freedom’s deployment — and the overall LCS program — a success.
Addressing historical power outages on the Freedom, Navy officials previously have said that such incidents are not that uncommon with naval vessels. However, Hunt says, with time and experience, such incidents should happen less often. “It will become more reliable,” he says.
However, he adds, “Diesels are really reliable — they shouldn’t go up and down.”
Freedom documents and other Navy sources point to continuing reliability problems with the ship’s diesel engines dating back about three years, leading some sources intimately familiar with the ship’s operations to wonder if the Navy should consider replacing the engines with another model.
Indeed, a starboard diesel engine “burned out” earlier this decade, Navy sources say, and had to be replaced with an engine meant for the LCS-3 Forth Worth. The initial diesel engine from Freedom was overhauled, the sources say, and then put into LCS-3, another Freedom-class LCS.
But very shortly before Freedom deployed for Singapore March 1, the ship’s diesel engine in the same starboard location — the same engine, in fact, that had been initially meant for LCS-3 — “burned out” again and was swapped with the engine that originally had been installed in the Freedom and then overhauled and put into the Fort Worth.
Hunt says the diesel engine history appears to warrant a review, but he adds there is not enough data to say whether a new engine model is needed. The problems may be rooted in something other than the engines, he says. For example, there could be issues with alignment or fittings between the engines and the ship.
“Generally we work our way through everything,” Hunt says. “You need to get it located in the plant configuration within a particular hull and then figure out what the different environmental impacts are on it.”