In a huge embarrassment for the U.S. Navy, their newest commissioned vessel, the littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee, experienced engine problems at sea and had to be towed back to port.
The Milwaukee was commissioned just last month and was on its way from Halifax, Canada, to Mayport, Florida, where it was planning to stop before continuing on to its port in San Diego.
The cause of the ship’s failure remains under investigation, but officials say it appears that metal debris collected in the lube oil filer, causing the system to shut down. The problems began soon after the ship left Halifax and officials dropped anchor while engineers worked on the system.
A salvage ship eventually met up with the Milwaukee and towed it to the Virginia base.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Navy Times that the problems with the Milwaukee are “deeply alarming,” particularly because it was commissioned just last month.
“I expect the Navy to conduct a thorough investigation into the root causes of this failure, hold individuals accountable as appropriate, and keep the Senate Armed Services Committee informed,” he said in a statement.
The USS Milwaukee was built in Marinette, Wisconsin and was commissioned in Milwaukee. Littoral combat ships can operate much closer to shore, and go at faster speeds, than other vessels.
The Milwaukee is the third LCS to be commissioned by the Navy. They are extraordinarily fast and maneuverable ships, with a top speed of 45 knots. Here she is in action:
While the breakdown is embarrassing, it’s not entirely unexpected. The more complex a system, the more that can go wrong with it. Senator McCain is correct to demand better from the Navy, and it is likely they will discover the problem and fix it.
It almost certainly means more maintenance time will need to be scheduled for the LCS as the Navy looks to shake out the bugs and make the ships reliable assets to the fleet.