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The Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship was forced to break off from an international exercise and return to base in Singapore because of diesel generators that were overheating according to technicians who analyzed the problem.
The propulsion problem is receiving a lot of public scrutiny since this is the USS Freedom's maiden voyage as one of two types of LCS class and represents the Navy's priority modernization effort for years to come.
Freedom arrived in Singapore in April and was participating in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Singapore 2013 exercises when it temporarily lost propulsion on July 20 and was forced to return to base for repairs.
An initial assessment of the loss of power was that the NR2 and NR3 Ship Service Diesel Generators "overheated and shut down," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Caroline Hutcheson said in a July 24 statement.
"Since arriving in Singapore July 21, the crew and maintenance technicians replaced turbochargers in NR2 and NR3 ship service diesel generators. Fuel oil delivery system components that also contributed to overheating and shutdown were replaced as well," Hutcheson said.
The USS Freedom has since "resumed participation" in the training exercise Wednesday "after accomplishing repairs to the ships electrical plant, Hutcheson said.
"Freedom will join USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 14), a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft and several Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) ships in the most complex scenario of the exercise, featuring combined training in surface warfare, air defense and anti-submarine warfare," she said.
Navy officials downplayed the incident at a July 23 meeting with reporters to discuss a pending Government Accountability Office report that raises questions about the Navy's handling of the LCS program.
"As the case across the fleet, when a ship suffers a material casualty the crew recovers and moves on," said Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of Surface Warfare. "The crew made a prudent decision to return to port and address the issue."
The GAO report attacks the Navy's LCS effort, criticizing the service's premier modernization effort as being an over-budget, behind-schedule program and a platform that hasn't proven it can do the missions it was designed to perform, according to a draft copy of a report.
The LCS class consists of two variants. The first of the mono-hulled USS Freedom variants was delivered in September 2008, and the first aluminum trimaran-hulled USS Independence variant was delivered in December 2009. Each of the ships is designed to be fitted with special mission modules for surface warfare, mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare depending on the threats at hand.
The House Armed Service Committee has scheduled a July 25 hearing to discuss the GAO report with Navy leaders.
Rowden was reluctant to discuss the Freedom's loss of power, but he did say that the need for system modifications are not uncommon when new classes of ships are put to sea for the first time.
"Any time a ship loses power; any time there is a question about the reliability of electrical power generation system we take a good hard look at it," Rowden said. "We certainly are going to take a critical look at the diesel generators that are installed on LCS right now and if modifications are required, then certainly we are going to have to make those modifications."