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LCS Montgomery Suffers Two Engine Casualties Days after Commissioning

The Future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) conducted acceptance trials at sea on May 6, 2016, demonstrating the performance of its propulsion plant, ship handling, and auxiliary systems. Photo by Austal USA
The Future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) conducted acceptance trials at sea on May 6, 2016, demonstrating the performance of its propulsion plant, ship handling, and auxiliary systems. Photo by Austal USA

Just three days after a glittering commissioning ceremony in Mobile, Alabama, the Navy's newest littoral combat ship suffered two unrelated engine casualties, totaling enough damage that the ship was forced to abandon its transit to its San Diego homeport and head to Florida for repairs.

The USS Montgomery is the third littoral combat ship in three weeks to suffer significant engine problems, and the fifth within a 12-month span.

The Independence-class ship's casualties, first reported by USNI News, come on the heels of sweeping changes to the LCS program and a series of reviews, most aimed at correcting the problems behind the rash of ship breakdowns.

The Montgomery will stop for fuel at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before sailing to Naval Station Mayport, Florida, to conduct warranty repairs, officials with Naval Surface Force, Pacific, said in a statement.

The ship sustained damage Sept. 13, first with a seawater leak in its hydraulic cooling system, then later that day with a casualty to one of its gas turbine engines. It's not clear what the extent of the damage is or what caused the problems.

"The built-in redundancy of the ship's propulsion plant allows these ships to operate with multiple engine configurations," Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Haggard, a spokeswoman for Naval Surface Force, Pacific, said in a statement. "However, with the two casualties resulting in the loss of both port shafts, it was determined that the best course of action would be to send the ship to Mayport to conduct both repairs."

The Montgomery will arrive in Mayport next week. When repairs are complete, the ship will continue on to San Diego, though officials did not give a timeline for its arrival at its homeport.

The ship was commissioned Sept. 10 amid cannon fire with a crowd of more than 3,000 in attendance, according to media reports.

Its engine casualties come just two weeks after the Aug. 30 breakdown of another Independence-class LCS, the Coronado, during a transit to the Western Pacific on its first deployment.

On Aug. 31, Naval Surface Force Commander Vice Adm. Tom Rowden announced the command had completed an engineering stand-down of all LCS squadrons to review procedures and standards, with mandatory re-training for all engineer crews over the next month, and an additional review by the Navy's Surface Warfare Officer's School set to be completed by the end of October.

Days later, officials announced an overhaul to the LCS force employment strategy that involves taking the first four littoral combat ships out of the deployment rotation for use as test ships, changing the crewing model, and adjusting how the remaining ships deploy to maximize their capability.

"Implementing the approved recommendations from this review and continuing to examine other areas for improvement will better position the LCS program for success -- both now and in the future," Rowden said in a statement announcing the changes.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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