Overheating generators became a high-profile headache for the Navy when the problem forced the USS Freedom to break off from an international exercise July 20 and return to base in Singapore for repairs. This is Freedom's maiden voyage as one of two types of LCS class and represents the Navy's priority modernization effort for years to come.
LCS technicians repaired the problem and the Freedom returned to the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Singapore 2013 exercises July 24. Navy leaders downplayed the incident, describing it as a fairly common for a new class of ship on first deployment.
“I would be more concerned if we had [mechanical] casualties that were surprising us; that we didn’t have the right logistics support in place and we had big delays and we have not seen that,” Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, Navy Staff director, told members of the House Armed Services Thursday.
Hunt testified alongside Sean Stackley, assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, at the July 25 hearing to discuss a Government Accountability Office report that criticized the service for rushing procurement of LCS before conducting the operational test phase of the program.
Freedom is one of two LCS class variants. Lockheed Martin delivered the first mono-hulled Freedom variant in September 2008. General Dynamics makes the aluminum trimaran-hulled USS Independence variant, which was delivered in December 2009.
The Ship Service Diesel Generators aboard Freedom have been operating for 450 hours between failures instead at the program’s 800-hour requirement, Stackley said.
The problem requires design fixes to the governor and cooler mechanisms as well changes to the size of the piping the delivers coolant to the generator, Stackley said, adding that Lockheed Martin has fixes for all three issues, but they will “not all be incorporated into LCS 1 today, but they are all being incorporated into the follow ships of that variant.”
“The good news is the ship is designed with four diesel generators; it requires two plus one in standby,” Stackley said. “So there is redundancy in the system to overcome some of the shortfall in the operational availability.”