I’m sure by now everyone has heard that the Navy’s newest LCS, the
, suffered a breakdown just 20 days after being
commissioned and had to be towed back to port.
The cause appears to be fine metal filings in the lube oil system for
the combining/splitter gear assemblies. Repairs
will, reportedly, require several weeks or more. Milwaukee
What has not been reported is that the recent breakdown of the LCS Milwaukee due to metal filings in the lube oil system may have had its origins in an earlier incident during construction and the current breakdown may have been avoidable. Here’s a description of the May 2015 construction incident as provided by Defense News website (1).
“The Milwaukee had been aiming for a delivery date in August, but that's been delayed at least a month by a shipyard accident that took place in late May in the midst of builder's sea trials — a series of underway periods where the shipyard checks out the ship before the Navy runs acceptance trials. …
The accident took place late one evening as the ship was pierside in Marinette, trying to get ready to head back out in the morning.
‘We were basically looking at cleaning up a lube oil system,’ North [Joe North, Lockheed's vice president of Littoral Ships and Systems] explained. ‘We had an inadvertent start of the turbine that went to the gear that spun the starboard shaft in the machinery plant between the splitter gear and the forward gear.’ The shaft should have been decoupled so the turbine wouldn't turn it. ‘So with no lube oil there, that is not the way you want to run it. It was a very, very short time frame, less than a minute.’
But it was long enough to damage the splitter gear, shaft bearings and other parts.
‘We were actually pretty fortunate there wasn't a whole lot of damage in there,’ North said. ‘There were a lot of parts that might have been scored or something or marked. We had them remachined, brought back in, put the gear back together.’
Repairs have been completed, he said, and crews were putting all the pieces back together to resume sea trials.
While the investigation is still being completed, North acknowledged the accident was the shipyard's fault.
‘It was a procedural error, human error,’ he said.
The Navy is right in the middle of overseeing the repair work.
‘We are pleased on the Navy side with the work we are seeing and the progress that is being made,’ Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for the LCS, said July 17 at the shipyard. ‘I actually went down into the space and things are being put back together again. The shipyard is doing the welding and the testing required to put the ship back to where it was prior to the casualty.’ “
So, we have a construction incident in which the splitter gear and other equipment was damaged by being run without lube oil. The operation of the gears (metal on metal) undoubtedly produced metal filings in the splitter/combining gear assemblies. It seems quite likely that the current breakdown due to metal filings in the splitter/combining gear assemblies originated from the earlier construction incident. It appears that the earlier construction incident produced metal filings that were not cleaned out from the splitter/combining gear system and those filings eventually accumulated in the splitter/combining gear lube oil system, clogging the filters, and shutting the system down.
|LCS Splitter/Combining Gear System|
If true, this raises a lot of questions. Why wasn’t the earlier incident properly repaired? Any engineer would have known there would be metal filings present in the system after the incident. Why weren’t they cleaned out?
Knowing that there had been an earlier incident, why didn’t the Navy insist on much closer inspection of the lube oil systems? The filings were there the whole time and would have been readily evident on closer inspection.
Rear Adm. Antonio went into the engine space. Perhaps he should have sent an engineer into the space instead of conducting a public relations exercise that accomplished nothing. What was he going to see? Nothing.
The Freedom class has a history of engineering/propulsion system breakdowns including lube oil system issues. Why wasn’t particular attention paid to the
’s system in light of the general class history of
problems and the specific construction incident? Milwaukee
Let me be quite clear about this report. This is my speculation and the link between the construction incident and the recent breakdown is not confirmed. It is based only on a logical assessment of the public information. However, if the two incidents are not related, the co-incidence is astounding.
Further, if the two incidents are related the manufacturer should be responsible for the entire cost of this breakdown.
Finally, if related, this yet again demonstrates the Navy’s utter lack of in-house engineering competency and oversight of ship construction.
(1)Defense News, “LCS Hits Its Stride in Marinette”, Christopher P. Cavas,
July 26, 2015,