While the U.S. Navy touted the Littoral Combat Ship ( ) USS Freedom’s completion of special trials in May as a solid success, service officials still found issues on the ship that need to be addressed, according to ship documents recently obtained by Aviation Week.
The ship areas and components that created issues during the special trials, the documents show, include the following: heat, flame, smoke and flood alarms; hydraulic power unit systems, airborne mission zone lift hoist and platform; lifting capstan; gypsy winch; oily water separator and transfer pump; reverse osmosis system; watertight doors, degaussing system, gas-turbine intake plenum space; and blow-in doors.
The ship also appears to be minus one of its four engines, upon which repair and reassembly work was started this month, according to the documents.
The Navy would not provide any additional information about these problems and the nature of their seriousness. “There are clearly identified issues to work on in the Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) this July, many of which were known, some which were new, as is expected in a special trial,” the Navy said in an email.
A special trial, the Navy says, is “basically a modified version of the final contract trials (FCT) that a ship undergoes prior to the end of the builder’s guarantee period.
“A special trial is an under way and in-port evaluation of a ship and her crew … to certify to Congress and Navy Leadership that a ship is ready to begin the overseas deployment training cycle,” the Navy says.
But a source intimately familiar with Freedom’s design and operations says that while the trials do “inform the operational commander of major deficiencies,” the bigger issue is that the test and accompanying inspections “do not fulfill the FCT goal of holding contractors accountable” for issues discovered during the test the way the FCT would.
The source notes, “All Navy ships normally go through final contract trials to determine the ship is ready to be delivered to the fleet from the contractor, which Freedom will not go through. She is doing ‘special trials,’ which has less implication if it fails. You won’t find any Navy instruction or manual that discusses ‘special trials.’”
The Navy discounts any lingering concerns about the special trials or ship issues found during the tests.
“Freedom is solid, all of the issues are fixable,” the service says. “Deficiencies will be corrected and Freedom will stay on the path to deployment this spring.”
Areas that need work, the Navy says, “as identified by the special trail, were not a surprise.”
An exclusive Aviation Week investigation published last month, written following a guided tour of LCS-1 while in drydock, revealed maintenance and design issues far worse than either the Navy or LCS-1 prime contractorhad acknowledged up to that point (Aerospace DAILY, May 16).