The Freedom, seen last year, is back in a San Diego dry dock to fix a leaky propeller shaft seal. (Josiah Poppler / U.S. Navy)
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Barely a month after leaving dockyard hands, the Freedom, first of the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), is back in dry dock in San Diego, this time to fix a broken shaft seal that caused minor flooding on board the ship a month ago.
"The Freedom is undergoing a six-week drydocking availability to repair the damaged inboard port shaft mechanical seal," Lt. Jan Shultis, a spokesman for the Naval Surface Forces command in San Diego, said March 1.
While in dry dock, engineers from the Naval Sea Systems Command and Lockheed Martin, prime contractor for the LCS 1-class ships, will pull the propeller shaft and examine the shaft and its seals to determine why and how the newly-installed seal broke.
Repairs for the Freedom are covered under an Initial Support Plan contract with Lockheed-Martin, Shultis said. The company is responsible for the conduct of the repairs, she added, but may, at their discretion, sub-contract out specific portions of a job or jobs to other service providers.
The flooding took place on the evening of Feb. 1 while the ship was under way off Southern California on post-overhaul sea trials. All four of the ship's shafts had been removed for examination during that overhaul, then reinstalled with new seals. The trials were to test the work, which began last fall.
"Minor flooding" took place in the ship's shaft alley and bilges before an inflatable boot seal was deployed to contain the flooding, Shultis said. The ship returned to San Diego under her own power.
LCS ships use waterjets rather than conventional propeller shafts to reach very high speeds. The 3,300-ton Freedom is fitted with four Kamewa 153 SII waterjets that drive the ship at speeds that have topped 47 knots.
The Freedom entered a graving dock at the 32nd Street Naval Base in San Diego early on morning of Feb. 26, Shultis said.
The evaluation of the seal break and the repairs will put a crimp in the Freedom's schedule for the rest of the year. The ship already had been planned to begin the second portion of her post-shakedown availability in mid-July to finally fix issues leftover from construction and post-commissioning evaluation — a dockyard period expected to last at least nine weeks.
The Freedom will also need to test a new mission module put together for a demonstration cruise to Singapore, planned to begin late this year. The Pentagon announced last year a plan to forward-base some LCS ships in Singapore, and Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, visited the island nation last month to discuss arrangements for the visit.
The ship's Blue and Gold crews will also need to get back up to speed on handling their vessel at sea.
"This is definitely something that will impact the testing and evaluation schedules," Shultis said. "But those schedules are never static."
The ship's schedule for the rest of this year will be fine-tuned after the repairs are finished and the ship gets back in the water, she added.
The second LCS, the Independence, continues to test components of the mine module from Panama City, Fla., and is on track to leave in a few weeks to shift to San Diego.