The littoral combat ship Montgomery — already the victim of a pair of engineering failures on Sept. 13 and a hard knock from a tug on Oct. 4 — has suffered yet another mishap.
On Oct. 29, while transiting the Panama Canal en route to its new homeport in San Diego, the ship struck the wall of a lock and sustained an 18” crack in the hull, according to Cmdr. Ryan Perry with the U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet.
When the incident occurred, the ship was transiting Southbound through the Gatun and Pedro Miguel locks and was under the control of a local Panama Canal Pilot, Perry said.
“The ship impacted the center lock wall and sustained an 18-inch-long crack between her port quarter and transom plates,” Perry said. “The crack is located 8-10 feet above the waterline and poses no water intrusion or stability risk.”
Montgomery continued to San Diego, but her journey to homeport has already been marred by several delays related to earlier incidents.
The Austal USA-built ship was delivered to the Navy on June 24, and commissioned in Mobile, Ala., on Sept. 10. Just three days later, while en route to San Diego for the first time, the ship’s crew detected a seawater leak in the hydraulic cooling system. Later the same day, the Montgomery suffered a casualty to one of her gas turbines, the exact nature of which the Navy did not disclose. Following these incidents, the ship was rerouted to Naval Station Mayport, in Jacksonville, Fla., for repairs.
When Hurricane Matthew threatened the Florida coast in early October, Montgomery was on the move again. On Oct. 4, as the ship left Mayport ahead of the storm, a tug punched a foot-long crack along a weld seam in the hull, about 3’ above the waterline.
Montgomery is not the only LCS to encounter major problems — the Coronado, Freedom, and Fort Worth also have experienced significant issues affecting ship systems. The incidents have raised questions about LCS durability, and a pair of top defense senators have threatened to withdraw their support for the building program. The Navy has committed to overhauling LCS operations in an effort to simplify and stabilize them.