USS Freedom (LCS 1) is seen at its first port call in Hawaii on March 11 as it made its way to Southeast Asia to conduct maritime security operations and highlighting U.S. strategic intent in the region. A propulsion problem threatens to keep the ship pierside in Singapore for as long as a week on its maiden voyage. (Lockheed Martin)
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The Navy’s first littoral combat ship suffered its first substantial setback of its maiden overseas deployment Sunday, a propulsion casualty that threatens to keep the ship pierside in Singapore for as long as a week.
The crew of the Freedom discovered seawater seeping into the lube oil system that protects the ship’s propulsion gears. This closed lube oil system is designed to cool the oil after it runs through hot gears by rushing it past seawater. Tubes seal off the lube oil from the seawater.
“Freedom's crew reported a problem with faulty lube oil coolers, which use seawater to cool lube oil in the ship's propulsion systems,” said Lt. Anthony Falvo, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, in an email Tuesday, noting that Freedom will stay pierside until the repairs are complete.
It is the latest issue for the Freedom’s revolutionary propulsion system, which uses water jets that eject as much as 12 million gallons of seawater every minute to propel the hull. In 2010, one of the ship’s four water jets was replaced. Two years later, one of its shaft seals failed, causing minor flooding.
Unlike those earlier problems — which required a dry dock — this one will likely be easy to fix, said Falvo, who noted these lube oil cooling systems are the same types used across the fleet.
“If it’s not something they can repair, they can just replace the tube,” Falvo said in an interview.
Logistics Group Western Pacific, which handles parts support in Singapore, has lube oil cooler replacement parts on hand.
Engineers are still in the process of finding the leak and assessing what caused it.
The first reports of Freedom’s lube oil casualty, coming two months into its closely-watched 10-month deployment, were much more dire.
“Over the weekend, USS Freedom started taking in seawater, port side,” wrote Raymond Pritchett, who runs the influential maritime blog Information Dissemination, in a tweet Monday. Navy officials quickly clarified that this was a lube oil problem and that the ship was not flooding or in danger.
Falvo said the seawater seepage “does not impact her schedule,” which includes participating in the mid-May International Maritime Defence Exhibition.
“I don’t want to put a timeline on it,” Falvo said when asked when the problem would be fixed. “But it’s something that they’re working very quickly on.”