Glitch-ridden US advanced warship pier-side ahead of Singapore drills

Glitch-ridden US advanced warship pier-side ahead of Singapore drills
USS Freedom, the first-in-class littoral combat ship (LCS) of the US Navy, developed technical problems hours before it was to take part in a naval exercise in Brunei. The glitch is the latest in a long series plaguing the LCS program.

The warship needed additional repair of the portside steerable waterjet, which experienced feedback problems, the Navy said on Monday. The minor glitch comes just weeks after problems in the starboard steerable water-jet hydraulic system, which had been contaminated with seawater and required extra maintenance.

The latest problems which arose on Sunday were minor compared to those the ship faced in July, Lieutenant Commander Clay Doss told Reuters. At the time the Freedom was forced back to port after a diesel generator malfunction caused one generator shot-down and temporarily left the warship without propulsion.

USS Freedom has been staying in Singapore since April. The visit is part of its 10-month deployment in the region and includes participation in the International Maritime Defense Exhibition, several naval exercises and hosting thousands of visitors interested in the US technology, which is expected to outline America’s approach to naval warfare in the 21st century.

The ship is one of two the US Navy contracted under its controversial LCS program launched in 2002. Ships of the new class are meant for coastal region operations ranging from anti-submarine warfare to minesweeping to amphibious missions. They are to replace the ageing Perry-class frigates, Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships and Osprey-class coastal mine hunters.

USS Independence.(AFP Photo / Nicholas Kontodiakos)

The Pentagon initially wanted to choose between Lockheed Martin’s Freedom monohull design and its General Dynamics competitor, the trimaran design of the USS Independence, but eventually decided in 2010 to commission ships of both types. The Navy expects to deploy a total of 52 ships of the LCS class costing more than $30 billion.

The program however was plagued with cost overruns and structural deficiencies, including hull cracks, corrosion and system failures. The concept of the class was criticized for insufficient firepower and survivability. A Navy working group was established in August to evaluate the LCS program by chief of naval operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert.

Still the Navy maintains that technical problems of the Freedom are routine and consistent with new systems on first-in-class ships. The ship’s latest problems are not expected to affect its schedule, Doss said.

"Although maintenance issues can sometimes cause unpredictable schedule impacts, technicians currently do not expect this problem to significantly affect Freedom's deployment schedule," he said in an email.