This is why the Navy's new $362 million ship broke down

USS Milwaukee littoral combat shipUS NavyThe littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Milwaukee (LCS 5) slides into Lake Michigan during a christening ceremony at the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard on December 18, 2013.

On Friday, the Navy’s brand new $362 million ship broke down and had to be towed back to port after only three weeks in service.

The USS Milwaukee, which was commissioned on November 21, is an advanced littoral combat ship (LCS). According to the Navy Times, citing a report from the Navy, the Milwaukee was transiting past Halifax, Canada when it “suffered an engineering casualty.”

The exact cause of the casualty is still under investigation. However, preliminary evidence points to ” fine metal debris collected in the lube oil filter,” the Navy Times reports. This debris is thought to have travelled throughout the engine system and ultimately caused it to fail.

The cause of the metal debris at this time is unknown. But the debris is thought to have been responsible for the ship’s ultimate and complete lack of propulsion.

In response to the engineering casualty, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement decrying the Milwaukee’s astounding problems.

“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,” McCain said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “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.”

The LCS was intended to be the Navy’s futuristic super-ship. It was envisioned as the first US combat vessel with the ability to remove underwater mines and take on swarm attacks of small craft in coastal waters and fight rival battleships in the open seas — all while being difficult to detect on radar, compared to traditional destroyers.

The LCS attempts to achieve such a diverse mission set by allowing the ship to be modular. That is, the vessel has a set of interchangeable modules, or parts, that can be swapped in and out to tailor a particular LCS to a particular mission.

Originally, changing modules was meant to take place in the space of 72 hours. However, the concept has hard difficulties being put into practice, the Journal Sentinel reports, citing the Heritage Foundation think tank.

And overall, the LCS program has come in way over-budget and without many advantages over existing craft. By 2014 the Navy ended up slashing their order from 52 to 32 ships.

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