A U.S. Navy task force has asked for upgrades to its fleet of littoral combat ships (LCS) after it identified 32 reliability issues.
Established in April, the Navy is betting that “Task Force LCS” will streamline improvements to the ships by combining key elements under one umbrella.
"We've been working a lot of issues on LCS," Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, the commander of Naval Surface Forces, said in a telephone conference on Monday. "One of the biggest factors we've seen [is] the downtime that was created [by] unreliable parts or parts on critical systems that were failing."
Littoral combat ships are heavily armed and suited for shallow-water conditions. They are designed to be fast and agile, and are built in two variants – Freedom class and Independent class.
The Freedom class is notorious for transmission failures caused by ineffective engineering of combining gears, which connect engines. Three ships in the class - the USS Milwaukee, the USS Fort Worth and the initial USS Freedom - have experienced breakdowns leaving them unusable. In January, the Navy stopped accepting new Freedom class ships until a fix is found, UPI reported.
Testing of a new improved combining gear is underway.
USS Montgomery and USS Coronado ships of the Independence class have also broken down at sea.
Kitchener cited 32 "key reliability issues" across the 23 ships of both platforms, largely concentrated on failures in water-jet propulsion systems and power plants, including engines, engine mounts and fuel lines.
A Government Accountability Office watchdog told the Union-Tribune in May that many of the engineering problems in the class can be traced back to need to make the ships fast and the technology needed to do so. In order to reach top speed the ships’ four engines — two diesel and two gas turbines — must work in unison to propel them through the water via water jets.
It determined that the Freedom class requires more rigid engine mounts, better fuel lines and an improved combing gear.
Ships of the Independence class need water cylinder replacement, diesel engine replacement and improved water jackets on engines.