Three-year-old LCS Wichita suffers propulsion plant casualty

Coastal battleship Wichita experienced a problem in its propulsion system last month while the ship was returning home from a mission. But Navy officials say they don’t believe the mishap was due to the same equipment combination problem that has hampered other Freedom-class LCSs in recent years.

No one was injured in the Oct. 19 mishap and Naval Surface Force Atlantic officials declined to give further details, citing an ongoing investigation into the cause.

But the casualty was so significant that the Naval Safety Command has labeled it a “Class A accident,” which is associated with over $2.5 million in damages.

The Wichita entered service in January 2019, less than three years ago.

The warship was able to return to its homeport in Mayport, Fla., under its own power two days later after being caught by the 4 and SURFLANT spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fisher.

The Navy suffered two Class A mishaps in fiscal year 2023, which began October 1.

Six days after Wichita’s mishap, a SEAL delivery vehicle – essentially a SEAL mini-submarine – collided with an object during training.

Fischer said that while the cause of Wichita’s malfunction remains unclear, the command “is confident it wasn’t a problem with the combination equipment.”

The Navy and industrial partners must replace faulty combination equipment in LCS’s Freedom class to fix a propulsion issue that caused several ships to break down and halted delivery of future ships while the Big Navy tries to rid itself of its littoral fighter bucks to release.

Wichita has yet to go through the combined equipment repair process, officials said.

It’s one of nine Freedom-class LCS that Big Navy plans to decommission as part of its proposed fiscal year 2023 budget, a move the service hopes would free up dollars for other spending.

Congress as a whole has yet to hammer out a final version of the defense bill, and it remains to be seen whether the Navy will be allowed to retire so many young, expensive ships. Earlier this year, however, the House version of the 2023 Appropriations of Defense Act reduced the number of shutdowns from nine to four.

The combination gearbox is basically a complex gearbox that connects the power of two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s drive shafts.

The class-wide combined gear issue has resulted in limited top speeds for the Freedom LCS, which have not received modifications, but ships are still able to operate, according to the Navy.

Geoff is Senior Navy Reporter for the Military Times. He has reported extensively on Iraq and Afghanistan and was most recently a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any tips at [email protected]

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