The U.S. Navy's first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) experienced a casualty to one of its main propulsion diesel engines (MPDE) on July 11 reportedly caused by a leak from the attached seawater pump mechanical seal that resulted in seawater entering the engine lube oil system, according to the Navy.
The ship’s crew addressed the leak, enabling Freedom to return to homeport July 13 on her own power for 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 gas turbine engines rather than its MPDEs.
Upon 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 cost and timeline for the repair of the engine are unknown at this time, the Navy said.
An investigation by Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) is underway 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 Navy said CNSP investigation will review if the damage to the #2 MPDE was caused by mechanical failure, crew error or both, and will determine corrective actions based on those results.