USS Montgomery Suffers Another Hull Crack
The littoral combat ship USS Montgomery sustained a second crack to her hull on Saturday when she struck a lock wall in the Panama Canal.
The Navy said in a statement that the incident occurred during a southbound transit of the Gatun and Pedro Miguel locks while a Canal pilot had the conn. The Montgomery struck the "center lock wall" and suffered a crack a foot and a half long between her port quarter and transom plates; the statement said that the crack is eight to 10 feet above the waterline, and it does not pose a water intrusion or stability risk.
The Montgomery has continued on her voyage to San Diego as scheduled.
The newly built Montgomery has already suffered three other hull and equipment casualties since her commissioning in September. On her maiden voyage after the ceremony, her crew detected a seawater leak in the hydraulic cooling system, and later the same day, she suffered an unspecified casualty to one of her gas turbines, according to the Navy. Following these casualties she rerouted to Naval Station Mayport in Florida for repairs.
On October 4, the advance of Hurricane Matthew meant that Montgomery had to leave Mayport's harbor. As she was being escorted from her berth, a tug struck her with force, putting a foot-long crack along a weld in her hull about three feet above the waterline. According to a report from the Navy Times, she also suffered five bent stringers behind the cracked plate.
The accidents under peacetime operating conditions raise new questions about the durability and survivability of the Navy's two classes of Littoral Combat Ships, both of which have suffered repeated casualties. The Navy has already relieved two LCS commanders of their duties over damage on board, stood down all vessels for retraining of engineering crews, and restructured its deployment plan to keep the first two ships of each class near their home ports for "testing." In addition, every one in four of the later hulls will be kept in reserve for training purposes.
Senator John McCain and the Senate Armed Services committee have called for a replacement design to be fielded as soon as possible.