The Littoral Combat Ship ( ) USS Freedom’s first overseas deployment to Southeast Asia has been marred by two more power outages, the U.S. Navy says.
The most recent two this week — including one March 21 — brings the outage total to three, all during the ship’s transit from Pearl Harbor to Guam en route to Singapore, says U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Darryn James.
The outage problems appear to be similar to those the ship suffered during a deployment in the Atlantic when the vessel was first pressed into Navy service, a source intimately familiar with Freedom operations says.
The first Pacific outage, as the Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN) reported, occurred March 16 (AWIN First, March 20). That outage lasted between 10 and 12 min., says Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, director of Navy staff and head of the special LCS Council of service admirals convened to make the Freedom’s deployment and the overall LCS program a success.
The power loss may have been due to water getting into the exhaust system of one of the ship’s diesel engine generators, or SSDGs, possibly creating a pressure difference, Hunt told AWIN March 20 during an exclusive interview about the program.
The same day as the interview, James says, the Freedom experienced a second power outage, also apparently related to an SSDG problem, which lasted about 11 min.
The third outage, James says, occurred March 21 and lasted only about 2 min. While the cause of that power loss may also be related to an SSDG problem, he says, that is not certain.
“I wouldn’t necessarily link all three incidents,” James says. “The circumstances of each interruption will have to be examined by Navsea [Naval Sea Systems Command] and the LCS Program Office. We are confident the team will determine the root causes and, if needed, appropriate fixes.”
It is important to note, he says, that the crew acted quickly, professionally and proficiently to deal with the outages and the ship is continuing with its voyage as planned.
“These appear to be growing pains that many of the Navy’s first-of-class ships experience,” James says. “The ship is still on track and we’re still excited about Freedom working with allies and partners in Southeast Asia in the months ahead.”
Freedom documents and other Navy sources show continuing reliability issues with diesel engine operations dating back about three years, leading some sources familiar with ship operations to wonder if the Navy should consider replacing the engines with another model.
Indeed, the Freedom and its successor ship — the LCS-3 Fort Worth have had to swap diesel engines more than once in recent years because those engines “burned out” and were overhauled, according to sources familiar with the program.
Hunt says the diesel engine history appears to warrant a review, but he adds there is not enough data to say whether a new model is needed. The problems may be rooted in something other than the engines, he says.