Home » News & Analysis » USS Freedom Crew CO Relieved Of Duty After Investigation Into Engine Damage


USS Freedom Crew CO Relieved Of Duty After Investigation Into Engine Damage

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits the Pacific Ocean after departing Naval Base San Diego July 9, to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise. The engineering casualty that led to the engine damage happened this day, during transit from San Diego to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific exercise. US Navy photo.

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits the Pacific Ocean on July 11 after departing Naval Base San Diego July 9, to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise. The engineering casualty that led to engine damage occurred on this date, while the ship was in transit to prepare for the international exercise. US Navy photo.

The commanding officer of Littoral Combat Ship USS Freedom (LCS-1) was relieved of his duties this week following an investigation into an incident that damaged the ship’s diesel engine in July, the Navy announced today.

Cmdr. Michael Wohnhaas, who commanded LCS Crew 106, was relieved “due to loss of confidence in his ability to effectively lead and carry out his assigned duties” on Oct. 13 by Commander of Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) Vice Adm. Tom Rowden.

The decision was made following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the July 11 incident where Freedom’s number 2 main propulsion diesel engine was damaged.

The engine was damaged when “a leak from the attached seawater pump mechanical seal… resulted in seawater entering the engine lube oil system,” SURFPAC told USNI News in August. The ship returned to its San Diego homeport two days later for unrelated maintenance work and followed contamination procedures, and then returned to sea to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise while using its gas turbines for power instead of the main propulsion diesel engine. Only on Aug. 3 did a a Southwest Regional Maintenance Center diesel engine inspector discover “significant damage to the engine caused by rust and seawater,” SURFPAC spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Haggard told USNI News in August.

“Based on initial assessments from the inspection, Freedom’s number two MPDE will need to be removed and rebuilt or replaced. The cost and timeline for the repair of the engine are unknown at this time,” she said then.

The Navy still has not made a final decision on how to repair Freedom following the engineering casualty, according to the Navy’s announcement today.

Wohnhaas has been temporarily re-assigned to Rowden’s staff, and deputy commodore of LCS Squadron One Capt. Matthew McGonigle will temporarily serve as Crew 106 commanding officer.

  • Uncle Mike

    Hey I’ll bet those O-5 SWOs just are dying for an LCS CO billet! Real career enhancers! Has anyone made it through a full tour yet without a major engineering casualty and investigation?

    • Bowser

      There are, or were, four LCS’s at sea. All have broken down due to problems with propulsion. Secondly, their modular systems do not work and the ships cannot be fitted with them at sea but must return to a main base. Since we no longer have minesweepers and the LCS has a minesweeping module…picture the inanity when you find a minefield.

  • Ed L

    Fubar. Looks like blaming the Captain instead of the design is the way to go

    • sferrin

      That’s what happens when he doesn’t keep his ship maintained.

      • Ed L

        The captain was a scapegoat for poor engineering design and build of a system that probably should’ve never be going to sea. In recent documents squadron commanders have been held to blame for the engineering problems. But in my opinion the real problem is the lack of continuity in crewmanning. Switching crews out is just plain stupid.

        • William E. Shaw

          This switching crews is a product of Blue/Gold submarine crew methodology. It doesn’t work on surface ships. The current CNO is a bubblehead no combat ‘Corporate Navy’ type ‘n it’s not hard to see where this fuzzythink comes from. Ships crews ‘identify’ with their ship, squadron… their Divison and rates. This guy has sought to destroy that cohesion… for whatever reason. It’s no secret that construction of these vessels was shoddy to begin with.

      • tpharwell

        This ship has a thousand monitoring sensors, and probably a live data link like a Boeing Dreamliner to LM. As soon as the leak was found, it probably popped up on a screen in Sandy Eggo. Maybe sooner, but no one was watching. They are not supposed to require maintenance while at sea, remember ? Only emergency repairs and cleaning.

        So perhaps, just perhaps, Cap says to his EWO, call maintenance and ask them what should I do ? (First mistake.) And he does. And they say: “Oh, just plug it, and we’ll have a look at it when you get back”. Per the book. (Second mistake.)

        Problem is, he should have known better. Than to do what he was told. Because it was his ship. And thus his problem. And he should not have listened to no one. He should have known better.

        • sferrin

          “As soon as the leak was found, it probably popped up on a screen in Sandy Eggo. Maybe sooner, but no one was watching.”
          And who’s shoulders does that fall on? That’s right, the captain.

    • publius_maximus_III

      Au contraire, I believe this one was a SNAFU.

    • Ctrot

      The US Navy has a history of creating scapegoats (example, Capt Charles Butler McVay III, USS Indianapolis).

  • bigchief

    Engineering casualty, did someone shoot the Engineering Officer? Seriously, there has been more issues with these vessels, I want to think it may be due to substandard Chicom parts. How long will these ships last in an extended engagement with the Russians or Chinese?

  • aloxxley

    Does anybody have confidence in VADM Rowden? He is responsible for the proper training of ships under his command.

  • Marjus Plaku

    In the long run I really do think these ships will have these problems ironed out and be “fine”. But that does not mean they can overcome their lack of firepower and design survivability. I have no doubt sensors and weapons systems will get more and more compact and powerful and modular/integrated so that LCS will benefit from that but yeah, it could HAVE been a MUCH more potent actual DAY ONE survivable/warship standard designed class that would have offered more for the same freaking price they are going to end up costing anyway with all of these fixes, design upgrades and enhancements/changes etc…

    • publius_maximus_III

      “In the long run, we’ll all be dead…” or so they say.

      Just the kind of Navy we want, full of skippers watching their backs in case a seal blows, operating their vessels like a cruise ship instead of a Man-O-War that needs to take quick evasive actions when going in Harm’s Way.

      Scotty (from Engine Room): “Ah doan thing she can teyk mouch more, Cap’n.”
      Kirk (from the Bridge): “OK, Scotty. Shut down the main engines and put it on pulse until we can get that radiator leak fixed. The Romulans and Klingons will just have to wait.”

      • tpharwell

        John Maynard Keynes.

        • publius_maximus_III

          Ah-so, thank you for that.

  • Western

    I can only surmise that the ship’s engineering team are not qualified to fully tear down and inspect/repair/replace the main diesel engine, and any serious work is relegated to the shipyard. That may be an acceptable peacetime strategy, but a warship should be self-dependent as possible, including propulsion. Is this condition not limited to the LCS?

    • No submarine qualified auxiliaryman would have allowed seawater to remain in his diesel. Then again since the Navy is about to dispense with ratings, qualifications hardly matter.

  • John Wohlwend

    So, someone screwed up and the Captain must’ve had a meltdown on the bridge, threatened to keelhaul people or otherwise lost his freaking mind in front of the entire bridge crew and anyone else within earshot. Who knows, perhaps some young seaman put it over the 1MC for laughs…. Career ending.

  • B.J. Blazkowicz

    This isn’t a command problem, it’s an institutional one. As flag officers care more about their next job instead of their fellow sailors, the lower ranks are expendable as far they are concerned.

  • bridgebuilder78

    Why not fire Mabus instead? He’s the m0r0n who gave the go ahead to build these clunkers.

  • John Locke

    LCS ….. Little Career Stopper

  • OLtzS

    There used to be a pms in the USN!
    Did the CO cancel the use of it and just happily cruised along?

    • William E. Shaw

      The 3-M PMS system was/is a joke too. The entire Navy should have adopted an OPNAV 4790 (NAMP) maint system instead of that nonsense.

  • E. Wolkerstorfer

    The Navy is NO MORE… The Captain did nothing wrong.

    The Navy instead needs to focus on the worthless Joint Strike Fighter F-35A/B/C. However, in this world of being Politically Correct no one can blame Lockheed Martin for the design of this particular ship or JSF. We in the Navy are at the mercy of Prime Integrator s not the Warfighters.

    Lockheed Martin and the Navy are ran by Wall Street as well as numerous Retired Admirals and Generals that continue to destroy our Navy… Indeed, the Leadership we currently have in these strategic positions have to keep Lockheed Martin in good standing otherwise they will not have a position when they retire. Talk about “Play for Pay”… Lockheed Martin needs to be broken up. Admirals and Generals should not be allowed to work for any Prime Integrator once retired. LMCO has only been developing JSF since 1997 with a IOC at all levels in 2024, only 10 years behind schedule at a Cost of $180-185 Million each times 1800… Do the Math. JSF cannot dogfight a F-16C/D without being shot down. The killer is there is no such thing as Stealth…. the S-300 and S-400/500 will destroy any and all stealth platforms. We are being led to Armageddon by Politically Correct leadership rather than the Truth and Warfighting Capability….

    • publius_maximus_III

      FBI Director Comey was at one time a VP and General Counsel for Lockheed Martin. I think he would assure us that they have only been careless, no intentional wrong doing. (Or so he said about Secretary Benghazi BleachBitch…)

      • E. Wolkerstorfer

        Totally agree with your thesis. Comey has obliterated any notion of Law in the Untied States. These non-military individuals are destroying our Military and Country. T/S, SCI, SAP information now considered Wide Open public information verses “Grave Damage” to the Untied States. LMCO strikes again….!!!!

    • John Locke

      Correct, when you write specs you can drive a truck through and let the vendor pick out the equipment be prepared to get a lemon every time.

    • sferrin

      Jesus. I think the straps on your tinfoil hat are strangling what few brain cells you have left.

      • E. Wolkerstorfer

        Always ecstatic to pop “Tin Foil Chaff and Flare” when appropriate. Obviously jammed your first generation small AESA brain. Defensive Countermeasures in this countries sorry state is always and option when dealing with the senior leadership of a third world country. Your comprehension of Warfare and the Warfighter must be extremely limited or perhaps you have seen a little on TV… Good Luck with your future EW analogies… Must be another retired or current Active duty Admiral with ties to Lockheed Martin’s design of both the ship and JSF….

  • tpharwell

    This ship will not need a commanding officer again, so it is just as well. He is on the admiral’s staff now.

  • John Locke

    LCS ……. the only ship in the Navy that has to sound the collision alarm when tugs come along side.

  • Leatherstocking

    As we all may recall, the CO of the Fort Worth was also relieved after an engine casualty. Looks like the Navy has created a new way to have a RIF senior officers. Perhaps one or both skippers bear responsibility but the power system is relatively new and I wonder about the design, the documentation and the training being given to the engine room crew. Like all casualties, there are usually more than one problem in the chain of events.

  • Dave Lacey

    There are unacceptable multiple catastrophic engineering failures in this class of vessels. We need more than command relief. Remember the infamous design failure of our torpedoes in 1942-43.
    Dave Lacey

  • E. Wolkerstorfer

    Richardson is the one that should be fired…. We must be Politically Correct. He can retire and move with the remainder of his peers to work for Lockheed Martin. Continue to develop trash for out Warfighters #JSF

  • fat eddie

    Forty years ago (actually more than 40) the Spruance’s were designed with the capability to swap out engine’s , couldn’t that have been passed on ?, maybe these ship’s should be the career path for Engineering officers and LDO’s

  • old guy

    May I recommend Optional Assist Retrieval System, (OARS) for all LCSs and DD1000?

  • old guy

    May I recommend the Optional Assistance Retrieval System (OARS), for all LCSs and DD1000?

  • Bowser

    It’s time to stop building these death traps and start procuring a class of proven vessels which cost less to operate and which have greater capabilities than the LCS from Germany, Holland or Scandinavia. Our current Naval procurement system simply cannot put a ship of this type in the water that will provide it’s crew with any acceptable modicum of safety in a hazardous situation with a determined foe.

  • Jaqen H’ghar

    I mean maybe just maaaaaaybe the problem is that these captains love to take these ships up to speed boat speeds and throw them around like they are in a Mastercraft. Could that be why he got canned? Just watch the documentary on these ships on NatGeo. Captain says, “Yeah these things are made to go 40 knots. We are only used to go 20 at most” Then the announcer talks about them taking the ship to speeds of up to 48-50 knots.

    Seriously? You think these ships can take that kind of beating over and over just so the crew can get their jollies off? I’m willing to bet that’s why these captains get axed and that’s why they keep having engine problems. Vibration is a killer for engines and taking a super light ship really fast over water causes a lot of vibration and shock.