The first commissioning of a U.S. Navy vessel in Minnesota — initially expected to take place in 2020, but pushed back until May of this year — has been postponed indefinitely due to a design flaw in the ship's transmission.
The USS Minneapolis-St. Paul was christened and launched into the Menominee River on June 15, 2019, at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine Yard, but problems with the vessel have surfaced during trials.
A news release from the Minnesota Navy League explained why the commissioning of the ship remains on hold: "A recent Freedom-class design defect associated with bearings in the combining gear's high-speed clutch has industry and the Navy team pursuing a design fix for ships under construction, as well as several of the ships that entered the fleet."
Other Freedom Class vessels reportedly have experienced combining gear failures in the field, including the USS Milwaukee in 2015, the USS Detroit and the USS Little Rock in 2020.
In a statement to the U.S. Naval Institute News in January, the Naval Sea Systems Command said: "A joint Navy and Lockheed Martin team with RENK AG, the original equipment manufacturer, conducted a root cause analysis and determined a class design defect exists with the high-speed clutch bearings. A design fix has been developed and is in production, to be followed by factory and sea-based testing."
It's not yet clear how long that fix might take though. Until it is made, however, the Navy has indicated it will not take delivery of either the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul or its sister ship also in waiting, the USS Cooperstown.
Lockheed Martin provided the U.S. Naval Institute News with a statement confirming its commitment to resolve the problem.
"In partnership with the U.S Navy, Lockheed Martin is aggressively pursuing a resolution to the gear issue the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship is currently experiencing," it said.
In all, 10 Freedom Class ships have been commissioned by the Navy to date. The first two vessels to join the fleet, the USS Freedom and the USS Fort Worth, are slated for early decommissioning next year.
The budget for the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, a 389-foot-littoral combat ship, was estimated to be about $360 million. It was designed with waterjet technology to travel at speeds of up to 50 mph and is expected to become the first anti-submarine warfare littoral combat ship in the U.S. naval fleet. The vessel is designed for nimble shallow-water and near-shore combat.
The Navy League described anti-submarine warfare as a "branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines."
Despite the delay, Brian Skon, chairman of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, issued a statement, saying: "We remain optimistic this historic event will take place in Duluth. We will continue our fundraising and planning for a memorable public event that will honor the ship that bears the name of two great Minnesota cities."
The Navy League has set a $300,000 fundraising goal for the event.