USS Montgomery hits lock in Panama Canal
Accident is third for ship in two months
One of the US Navy’s newest littoral combat ships can’t catch a break.
In its latest mishap, the USS Montgomery, an Independence-class LCS that’s been in service less than two months, sustained an 18-inch-long crack to its hull while passing through the Panama Canal en route to its homeport in San Diego.
The Montgomery (LCS-8) was traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the canal’s series of “locks” when it hit a cement structure known as the “center lock wall” while under the control of a local Panama Canal pilot, according to a statement to CNN from the Navy.
“The crack is located 8-10 feet above the waterline and poses no water intrusion or stability risk,” the Navy said, adding that the ship has since exited the Panama Canal to continue its trip to San Diego as scheduled.
USNI News first reported the damage, which didn’t require immediate repair.
The incident is the latest in a run of bad luck for the $360 million state-of-the-art warship since it was commissioned in September.
In fact, the Montgomery experienced a separate mishap just weeks ago that also resulted in a crack to its hull. It sprang a leak after it was hit by a tug boat pulling it out of the path of Hurricane Matthew.
An investigation into possible causes of that October 4 incident is under way, according to a statement that was made to CNN last month by Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Haggard, a spokeswoman for the Naval Surface Forces Pacific.
Earlier, just days after its commissioning, the Montgomery also experienced a seawater leak into the vessel’s hydraulic cooling system, and then lost one of its gas turbine engines later that day.
The Montgomery’s Panama mishap is just the latest in a string of incidents that have dogged the LCS program.
In September, the service announced a major overhaul of the LCS program that will include designating the first four of the ships as testing vessels and limiting their overseas deployments to emergencies.
That announcement came less than two weeks after the Navy had revealed breakdowns in two of the ships, the USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Coronado (LCS 4). Those followed mechanical failures in the USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), all since December.
The new deployment plan for the LCS fleet isn’t a response to the breakdown issues, Navy spokesman Lt. Kara Yingling told CNN.
“The review was a comprehensive look at maintenance, training, and manning across the class – not limited to one ship or one incident. As with any new ship class, the Navy constantly looks for ways to improve employment and deployment of its ships,” she said.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Brad Lendon and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.