Navy's newest ship, USS Milwaukee, breaks down at sea

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 Slicing its way through the choppy waters of Lake Michigan, the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) passed its final test on Sept. 18, 2015 and is now reporting for duty to the South China Sea.     Lockheed Martin
Slicing its way through the choppy waters of Lake Michigan, the USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) passed its final test on Sept. 18, 2015 and is now reporting for duty to the South China Sea. Lockheed Martin

Navy's newest ship, USS Milwaukee, breaks down at sea

by: Jesse Garza | .
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | .
published: December 14, 2015

The littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee, the Navy's newest ship that was commissioned in Milwaukee in November, broke down at sea Friday and had to be towed more than 40 nautical miles to a base in Little Creek, Va., the Navy Times reported.

The ship, constructed at the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, suffered an engineering problem while in route from Halifax, Canada, to Mayport, Fla., and ultimately its home port of San Diego, according to a post on the Navy Times website.

The cause of the problem on the ship — which was towed to the Joint Expeditionary Base at Little Creek, Va. — is being evaluated by the ship's crew and technical consultants, according to the Times.

Initial indications are that fine metal debris that collected in the lube oil filter caused the system to shut down, but the cause is not known, the Times reported.

"Reporting of a complete loss of propulsion on USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) is deeply alarming, particularly given this ship was commissioned just 20 days ago," Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has voiced serious reservations about the LCS program in the past, said in a statement to the Times.

"U.S. Navy ships are built with redundant systems to enable continued operation in the event of an engineering casualty, which makes this incident very concerning."

At the time of its commissioning critics said the $437 million ship still hadn't met expectations.

They said the Milwaukee and several other new 380-foot ships haven't lived up to promises in some key areas, such as the ability to quickly swap out combat modules for missions that include searching for underwater mines and engaging in battle with other ships.

They pointed to interchangeable modules on the vessels that are supposed to make the ships more versatile, with each version tailored for a specific purpose such as minesweeping or hunting submarines.

The original goal was to be able to change the modules in 72 hours.

But in practice, the "plug and play" concept isn't working, said Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Marinette Marine employs about 2,000 people building the ships designed for a variety of missions including combat in shallow, coastal waters.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., through Marinette, has delivered three of the ships to the Navy: USS Freedom, USS Fort Worth and the USS Milwaukee.

Six more of the warships are in various stages of construction in Marinette, while a different version is being built in Mobile, Ala. Altogether, the U.S. Navy wants 52 of the vessels, and foreign navies have shown interest in purchasing them as well.

The Navy has said it was satisfied with the LCS program.

USS Fort Worth was delivered to the Navy in 2012 and has since traveled thousands of nautical miles including a recent trip in the South China Sea where it was tailed by Chinese military vessels.

USS Freedom, commissioned in Milwaukee in 2008, has done patrols in the South China Sea and, despite experiencing several breakdowns, the deployment was deemed a success, according to the Navy.

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