Gear damage sidelines another LCS

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The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Naval Institute:

(WASHINGTON) — The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) has been sidelined for an indefinite period in Singapore following a casualty in the ship’s propulsion system, a Navy official told USNI News on Thursday.

During a Jan. 12 in-port period, the Freedom-class ship suffered damage to its combining gear — the complex gearing that links the output of the ship's Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbine engines with its Colt-Pielstick diesel engines and then to the ship’s shafts that drive the waterjets.

“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,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman with U.S. Pacific Fleet, told USNI News. “An investigation is underway to examine the incident in depth and determine any necessary corrective action. A team of technical specialists is currently on board Fort Worth to evaluate the gears and required repairs. There is no estimated date of completion at this time.”

A report from the news wire Bloomberg cited a Navy memo saying the cause was likely the lack of lube oil in the combining gears.

“During startup of the main propulsion diesel engines, lube oil was not supplied to the ship’s combining gears,” according to the memo. Running the dry gears “resulted in high temperature alarms on the port and starboard combining gears.”

How quickly the Navy and prime contractor Lockheed Martin can get Fort Worth back to sea will be a key test in the service’s forward-deployed logistics model that will eventually support four LCS at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.

The sidelining of Fort Worth comes a month after another Freedom-class ship, USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), suffered a combining gear casualty during an Atlantic transit and had to be towed 40 nautical miles to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

According to Knight, it’s “unlikely that these casualties are related.”

The combining gear is among the most complex parts of the ship’s machinery and was custom-built to meet the high-speed requirements of the Freedom class set out by the Navy.

Delays in manufacturing the gears for the first-in-class USS Freedom (LCS-1) was a major roadblock delivering the ship, Lockheed Martin officials told the House Armed Services Committee in 2007.

The initial gear sets for Freedom and Fort Worth were manufactured by Swiss gear maker MAAG Gear AG and General Electric. Gears for follow-on ships — beginning with Milwaukee — are made by German firm RENK AG.

Last week, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Littoral Ships & Systems, Joe North, indicated a software issue could have played a role in sidelining Milwaukee.

The ship is on schedule to finish repairs in Little Creek by early February and head to Mayport, Fla., for shock trials.

By Professional Mariner Staff