“Until repairs are accomplished, the crew cannot steer the port waterjet remotely from the bridge,” said the ship’s skipper, Lt. Cmdr. Clayton Doss.
This was not the first time the ship has had problems during its first deployment overseas. While participating in an exercise with other Asian ships in May, Freedom was forced back to port because of sediment found in its lube oil system. In July, Freedom experienced generator and coolant system problems. The Navy also discovered vulnerabilities in its computer network. Last month, a seawater service pipe ruptured sending water three-feet deep into the ship’s bilge. The Navy said at the time “it is not yet clear whether the problem is due to a manufacturing defect, an installation problem, or some other issue.”
Touted by the Navy as a fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments — the type of environment such as The Philippines — where this type of ship could help in search and rescue, communications relay or body recovery. Steaming at 20 knots, the ship could have left Singapore today and be searching among the thousands of islands that make up the Philippine Archipelago by this weekend.
I know Freedom’s current mission is to work with Southeast Asian countries in joint exercises, and there are other U.S. ships also participating in those exercises. The Philippine mission would have been the perfect opportunity for Freedom to be pulled from the exercises and join in rescue operations. This would have allowed the ship to strut its stuff in the right waters and environment that it was designed to operate in. But after five years, the LCS is still not “fast” nor “agile.” It is still not ready to be a go-to ship. It is as I wrote last year, rusting dockside.
Freedom is due to limp back to its homeport of San Diego sometime at the end of the year, presuming it does not have more problems somewhere in the middle of the Pacific.