Following the recent casualty on the littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Freedom, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, ordered an engineering stand down as of September 5, for every LCS crew to review procedures and standards for their engineering departments.
Four of the six LCSs currently in service have had some sort of propulsion failure. The USS Freedom is said to have suffered catastrophic engine damage and will need a complete rebuild or replacement of one of two main propulsion diesel engines. The USS Fort Worth’s tried to operate its propulsion system without an adequate amount of oil and is now facing a repair bill of an estimated $23 million. The month old USS Milwaukee broke down in the Atlantic Ocean on December 10th with damaged clutch gears. And more recently, The USS Coronado was reported to have suffered an “engineering casualty” as it limped back into port.
A March 2016 GAO report says the Navy is paying shipbuilders to fix defects at a profit. Although the report was not centered on the LCSs, it did reference the Fort Worth (LCS-3) and the Coronado (LCS-4) in its study. “For LCS 3 and LCS 4, the Navy spent $46 million and $77 million, respectively, under these post-delivery agreements to correct defects, complete ship construction, and assist with tests and trials, among other tasks.”
“Navy contracting officials stated that the Navy accepts the costs of fixing deficiencies to lower the overall purchase price of its ships. However, this contracting approach results in the shipbuilder profiting from fixing deficiencies on a ship that it was initially responsible for delivering to the government in a satisfactory condition.” said the GAO.
The Navy is spending upwards of $400 Million per hull for a ship that cannot protect itself and still has not proven its lethality and survivability, 6 years after delivery. The Navy currently does not plan on completing survivability assessments until 2018-after more than 24 ships are either in the fleet or under construction.