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Technical glitch keeps state-of-the-art USS Freedom in port

U.S. Navy sailors look at the USS Freedom as it arrives at Singapore's Changi Naval Base on April 18.
U.S. Navy sailors look at the USS Freedom as it arrives at Singapore's Changi Naval Base on April 18.Jay C. Pugh / U.S. Navy via Reuters, file

SINGAPORE -- The USS Freedom, the first of a new class of U.S. warship, developed technical problems in Singapore hours before it was to take part in a naval exercise in Brunei on the final part of its first major overseas deployment, a senior officer said on Monday.

The glitch is the latest problem to hit the ship, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., after it faced electrical problems while preparing for a naval exercise with Singapore in July.

Lieutenant Commander Clay Doss said the problems which arose on Sunday were minor compared to those it faced in July. He declined to comment on how much longer the ship would have to prolong its stay in Singapore as a result.

The warship is the U.S. Navy's first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a class of shallow-draft vessels built to patrol coastal waters while tackling threats including mines and other systems used to deny access to big warships.

In July it faced generator problems and issues with its coolant system. Navy tests also found vulnerabilities in its computer network.

Top Navy officials have staunchly defended the LCS and warned lawmakers that halted funding for the ships or their equipment could drive up costs.

The Navy plans to buy 52 of the new LCS warships at a cost of more than $30 billion for a range of missions, including surface warfare, mine hunting and ant-submarine missions.

Doss said the latest problems arose as the ship was conducting steering checks at Changi Naval Base while it prepared to sail to Brunei on the way to its home port in San Diego.

"Although maintenance issues can sometimes cause unpredictable schedule impacts, technicians currently do not expect this problem to significantly affect Freedom's deployment schedule," Doss said in an email.

He said a feedback cable in the port steerable waterjet stopped sending signals to a control console on the bridge that indicates the waterjet's position. The ship is scheduled to stay in Southeast Asia for coming weeks before ending its 10-month deployment in the region.