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LCS Freedom CO fired after engine damages

The head of the surface Navy on Thursday fired the commanding officer of a littoral combat ship that damaged one of its main propulsion diesel engines in July.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden cashiered the CO of Crew 106 of LCS Freedom, Cmdr. Michael Wohnhaas, "due to loss of confidence in his ability to effectively lead and carry out his assigned duties," Naval Surface Force Pacific said in a Friday release announcing the removal.

"The loss of confidence followed an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding damage to the ship's number 2 main propulsion diesel engine (#2 MPDE) that occurred in the operation areas off the coast of southern California on July 11," the SURFPAC release said. "No final decision has been made yet on the options for follow-on repairs to Freedom related to the July 11 engineering casualty."

Navy Times' sister publication Defense News reported in August that the Freedom's diesel engine was damaged by a crewmember's error and would need to be completely rebuilt or replaced entirely.

The Freedom's engine casualty was followed six weeks later by the engineering breakdown on LCS Coronado, which forced the ship to return to port for repairs at the start of its maiden deployment. Two weeks later, the Montgomery was forced to lock its port propellers and return to port to get fixed only three days after its commissioning.

The beleaguered LCS class has suffered five engineering mishaps in the last year, intensifying the scrutiny for the new ship class. Amid these incidents, Rowden ordered a safety standown for all LCS engineering in August and has ordered all engineers on the ships, officers and enlisted, to re-train and re-certify. 

Wohnhaas is the second LCS CO fired this year in the wake of engineering problems. In March, the CO of the Fort Worth was ousted amid a probe into the damages to the ship's propulsion gears on deployment.

Wohnhaas has been temporarily reassigned SURFPAC. Capt. Matthew McGonigle, the deputy commodore of LCS Squadron 1, will act as the temporary CO. 

Wohnhaas is a 1996 Naval Academy graduate who had been slated to command the future LCS Detroit, according to his official bio. Wohnhaas did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

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