The Navy's newest warship has been stuck in Canada for weeks due to ice -- and will stay there 'until wintery weather conditions improve'

(US Navy/Lockheed Martin)Crew members of the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock man the rails during the ship’s commissioning ceremony, in Buffalo, New York, December 16, 2017.
  • The USS Little Rock is the most recent warship to enter service with the US Navy.
  • It was scheduled to leave its commissioning ceremony and head to its home port in mid-December.
  • However, it has been stuck in Canada, waylaid by harsh winter weather, and it looks set to remain there for the foreseeable future.

The US Navy’s newest commissioned warship, the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock, was commissioned in Buffalo on December 16 and scheduled to sail for its home port at Mayport Naval Station in Florida the next day.

But that departure was delayed three days by weather conditions on Lake Erie. It left Buffalo on December 20, and by December 27 it had reached Montreal, where it was scheduled to stop before heading on to Halifax in Nova Scotia.

But an exceptionally frigid winter has kept the Little Rock in Canada much longer than expected.

Because of ice on the water around the port and a lack of tug boats to guide the warship out, the Little Rock remained in port through January 11, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, public affairs officer for the US Naval Surface Force Atlantic, told Business Insider at the time.

As of Friday afternoon, the Little Rock was still in Montreal, where it will remain “until wintery weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway,” Hillson said in a statement on Friday.

US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock St. Lawrence Seaway iceUSS Little Rock/FacebookUS Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock heading toward Montreal, December 27, 2017.

“Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify,” the statement said. “The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.”

While stuck in Montreal in late December and early January, the Little Rock’s crew did routine repair work. That was completed on January 4, Hillson told Business Insider earlier this month. Going forward, the ship’s crew “will continue to focus on training, readiness, and certifications,” Hillson said on Friday.

The protracted stay in Montreal will have “limited impact on the ship’s operational schedule,” the statement said, adding that remaining in port ensured the safety of the ship and its roughly 70 sailors.

US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little RockUS NavyThe littoral combat ship USS Little Rock is launched in Marinette, Wisconsin, after a christening ceremony, July 18, 2015.

The Little Rock is the most recent ship to enter service for the US Navy. It is the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the fleet.

There are also five Independence-class littoral combat ships in service. The next Independence-class LCS, USS Omaha, is scheduled for commissioning on February 3.

Littoral combat ships are designed to operate close to shore, particularly off the coast of enemy-held territory, and their modular design is meant to allow them to carry out surface missions, mainly against small, fast attack craft, as well as anti-mine and anti-submarine missions.

Progress in the LCS program has struggled with accidents, and it has been criticised for cost overruns. The Navy announced this month that LCS mission modules, which will allow the ship to carry out its three mission types, will enter service in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

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