The Littoral Combat Ship Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) delivered to the Navy after almost a year of waiting for a fix to the gearing mechanism that connects the ship’s gas turbines and diesel engines, Navy officials said today.
Minneapolis-Saint Paul had completed its acceptance trials in 2020, but the Navy did not take delivery of the ship while the service was assessing the larger class-wide defect in the RENK AG-built combining gear that came to light after two combining gear casualties aboard USS Detroit (LCS-7) and USS Little Rock (LCS-9). Without the gears that combine the power of the ships’ Rolls Royce MT-30 turbines and diesel engines, the Freedom-class ships can’t achieve their top speed in excess of 45 knots.
The fix to the combining gear, announced on Wednesday by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, now lifts the Navy’s restriction – implemented in January – on accepting new deliveries of the Freedom-class LCS from shipbuilder Lockheed Martin.
“I feel confident that we have applied that technical rigor to address this problem. And I look forward to delivering LCS 21… as well as the rest of the Freedom variants of the LCS class,” Jay Stefany, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told reporters on Thursday.
Cooperstown (LCS-23), the next ship in line for the fix, is finalizing the repair to its combining gear and is expected to deliver to the Navy by January, Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants Rear Adm. Casey Moton told reporters at the same roundtable.
After Minneapolis-Saint Paul was taken from the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin to Escanaba. Mich., to prove out the repair techniques that will be applied to the rest of the class.
“On LCS-21, it took us a little under six months, it’s an extensive process,” Moton said.
“We think LCS-23 will probably only take four to five months.”
The Navy now has a path to repair the remaining ships to be delivered – Cooperstown (LCS-23), Marinette (LCS-25), Nantucket (LCS-27) and Beloit (LCS-29).
Cleveland (LCS-31), the final Freedom-class ship, “already has the gear fix because of where that ship was in the production schedule. Her gears were actually delivered with the fix already installed,” Moton said.
While the fix is set for the ships under construction, questions remains as to how much of the cost will be shouldered by the Navy or Lockheed Martin.
Moton declined to say how much the repair would cost ,citing ongoing contract negotiations that would determine the cost responsibility.
The Navy is still also working through how it will address the fixes for the eight in-service ships with the RENK AG combining gear. The decommissioned Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) were designed with a different gearing mechanism built by U.S. company Philadelphia Gear.
“Specific plans for incorporating the fix for in-service ships are under Navy assessment,” Moton said.
Until then, the remaining Freedom-class LCS are under a Naval Sea Systems Command advisory restricting operations of the LCS to either turbines or diesels – not both.
As for the ships in the yard, the service will keep them in the Great Lakes over the winter to wait out the freezing of the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean and transiting to their homeport in Mayport, Fla.
“Our plan for Minneapolis-Saint Paul is to keep the ship there over the winter. And then she will sail away in the spring and head to her commissioning which is going to be in Duluth in the spring,” Moton said.