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Littoral Combat Ship USS Milwaukee Repairs Estimated to Extend Into February

USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) during acceptance trails. Lockheed Martin Photo

USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) during acceptance trails. Lockheed Martin Photo

Repairs to Littoral Combat Ship USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) are estimated to extend into early February, according to a draft schedule of repairs seen by USNI News on Wednesday.

The Navy’s third Lockheed Martin Freedom-class (LCS-1) ship has been sidelined since it was towed into port at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story,Va. on Dec. 11 following a propulsion casualty centered on the ship’s combining gear, the complex gearing system that merges the output from the ship’s Rolls Royce MT-30 gas turbines and Colt-Pielstick diesel engines to the ship’s water jets.

Milwaukee was commissioned in late November and was bound for Mayport, Fla. before transiting to its new homeport at Naval Station San Diego when the ship suffered the casualty in the ship’s combining gear.

The ship’s lube oil system was contaminated with gold and black metal shavings — first noticed on Dec. 7 by the crew following a flameout of the gas turbines the same day.

Around the time of the flameout the high speed clutches inside the combining gears slipped for two and a half seconds and debris from the clutch damage could have contaminated the lube oil system, according to a working theory on the damage shared with USNI News.

The ship’s company took preventative measures following the flameout.

“Engineers cleaned out the metal filings from the lube oil filter and locked the port shaft as a precaution,” according to the Navy Times’ Scoop Deck blog.

“In the early hours of [Dec. 8], the ship was conducting steering tests and lost lube oil pressure in the starboard combining gear due to the presence of the same metal filings in that filter.”

Once in Norfolk, engineers with Renk — the Lockheed Martin subcontractor that built the combining gear — discovered the gold-colored debris was the same type of bronze used in manufacturing the high-speed clutches.

The engineers discovery adds credence to the working theory that the clutch slip led to the propulsion casualty.

Now the Navy, Lockheed Martin and other Freedom contractors are faced with damage that is taking longer to fix than initially anticipated. The estimated completion date is Feb. 8.

U.S. Surface Forces Pacific (SURFPAC) would not confirm any of the details of the damage assessments or tentative repair schedule to USNI News saying the incident was still under investigation. A SURFPAC spokeswoman did tell USNI News early indications from the investigation were the problems with Milwaukee were not a class-wide issue.