- The Navy’s new littoral combat ship, USS Little Rock, was commissioned on December 16 and planned to head for open ocean the next day, with stops along the way.
- Its departure was delayed, and it has been stuck in Montreal since arriving there.
- The Little Rock is the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to enter service and the most recent ship to enter service for the Navy.
The US Navy’s latest littoral combat ship, USS Little Rock, was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on December 16 and scheduled to depart the following day for its home port at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida.
Unfortunately for the Navy’s newest commissioned warship, the weather has not been cooperative.
The ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Todd Peters, decided to delay the departure from Buffalo for three days because weather conditions on Lake Erie. It left on December 20, traveling through the Welland Canal to reach Lake Ontario and then through the St. Lawrence Seaway for a regularly scheduled stop in Montreal.
Photos posed on the ship’s Facebook page on December 27 showed it had made it to Montreal. The ship was scheduled to leave the next day for Halifax, Nova Scotia and then reach open ocean by December 30.
However, because of ice and a lack of tug boats to guide it out, the Little Rock remains in Montreal, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, public affairs officer for the US Naval Surface Force Atlantic, told Business Insider on Thursday.
While in Montreal, the ship’s crew has done routine repair work, including on a cable associated with the ship’s steerable waterjet, which is part of the propulsion system. That system has caused problems for other littoral combat ships.
Those repairs were completed on January 4, Hillson said, and in the days since the crew has been doing routine work to “ensure readiness” for any future taskings.
The Little Rock is the most recent ship to enter service for the US Navy, commissioned two days after the USS Portland, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock. The Little Rock is the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the fleet. There are also five Independence-class littoral combat ships in service.
The vessel is 389 feet long and has a draft of 13.5 feet, according to a Navy fact sheet. It has a top speed of over 45 knots and displaces about 3,400 tons with a full load.
It has a modular design that allows it to carry out anti-surface, anti-mine, and anti-submarine operations, and the ship’s approximately 70 sailors are trained to perform a number of tasks. It is outfitted with a helicopter pad, a ramp for small boats, and can carry and deploy small assault forces.
Its flight deck is the largest of any US Navy surface combatant, and its armaments include an MK 31 Rolling Airframe Missile System, an MK 110 57 mm gun, crew-served and small-caliber guns, and other weapons systems that can be tailored to specific missions.
The ship is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018, Peters, the ship’s commanding officer, told The Buffalo News.
The ship’s crew completed a previous round of assessments scheduled for 121 days in only 63 days. Once the next round of testing and training is finished, the ship will start conducting missions, according to The Buffalo News.
While the Little Rock’s current problems are caused by nature, it has been waylaid by manmade issues in the past.
In September 2016, the Navy halted all littoral combat ship operations after the fourth accident in the span of a year. The halt also prompted the Navy to have leaders at the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School review the littoral combat ship training program and recommend changes if they saw fit.
Congressional leaders have criticized the littoral-combat-ship program. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has blasted the growing cost of the ships as a “classic example” of defense acquisition gone awry. McCain and others also expressed frustration when the White House intervened in May to include an extra littoral combat ship in the Navy’s 2018 budget request.