The Navy Times has reported that cracks have been a problem in the plating of Littoral Combat Ships built in Mobile by Austal USA.
The extent of the problem isn’t fully clear, according to the Navy Times report. At least one Independence-class ship, the USS Omaha, LCS 12, had been placed under limits that have affected its movements. A 2020 Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) advisory said the class has “under-designed structural defects” at a specific hull location and recommends that all Independence-class LCSs keep their speeds below 15 knots in moderate or rough seas.
Considering that speed was to be the calling card of the class, such a speed limit would appear to be a major handicap. But the NAVSEA advisory said the issue doesn’t make it impossible for ships “to get underway and execute missions.” A NAVSEA spokesman told the Navy Times that “”all Independence variant ships have been inspected and are able to meet their operational requirements.”
The cracks have only been found above the waterline. Corrective measures — both for ships under construction and for those affected by the problem — include replacing the cracked plating with thicker plates. Pending such repairs, sailors mark cracks, seal them, and check for growth anytime affected ships enter rough seas.
Austal has not commented on the report.
The other variant, the Freedom class built by Lockheed Martin, has had problems with its drivetrain and hasn’t gotten equipment to carry out its planned anti-submarine mission. Earlier this year the Navy said it wanted to decommission all nine of the vessels in service, a highly unusual move for ships only a few years old.
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