A small Navy vessel encountered big COVID-19 problems that paused its mission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba while infected crew recover.
The U.S.S. Milwaukee (LCS 5) remains in port as some Sailors test positive for COVID-19, according to a U.S. Navy statement. “The crew is 100% immunized and all COVID-19 positive Sailors are isolated on board and away from other crew members,” according to the Navy. “A portion of those infected have exhibited mild symptoms.”
The vaccine continues to demonstrate effectiveness against serious illness, navy spokespeople emphasized in their statement.
The Milwaukee departed Mayport, Florida Dec. 14 en route to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of a Joint Interagency Task Force South mission that included intercepting drug traffickers in the Caribbean and East Pacific, according to the Navy.
The ship is a Freedom class Littoral combat ship — hence the LCS hull acronym, according to the Navy website, which added, “The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed to operate in near-shore environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. The LCS is capable of supporting forward presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence.”
Two variants of LCS — the Freedom variant and the Independence variant — were designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team wass led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls, e.g. LCS 5). It is a steel monohull design that was constructed by Lockheed Martin in the Marinette Marine Corporation’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. The hull was laid in 2013 and commissioned by the Navy in November 2015.
The littoral class Milwaukee literally made waves while she was still being tested by the Marinette shipyards, in 2014. A few months before the Navy assumed control of the ship, it rocked more than 40 boats because it was travelling so fast, the Milwaukee created waves greater than five feet tall during Labor Day weekend shakedown trials.
After it was commissioned, the Milwaukee was travelling to its designated home port of San Diego when it had to be rescued at sea when the propulsion system broke, on Dec. 11, 2015.
CNN reported afterwords that they received a detailed explanation from Navy officials about why their newest ship of the time went dead in the water.
“The Milwaukee ‘is designed to operate with gas turbine and diesel engines, which can operate in tandem or independently, Navy Lt. Rebecca Haggard said in an email to CNN at the time. “In the case of Milwaukee, when switching from one system to the other, a clutch failed to disengage as designed. Instead, the clutch remained spinning and some of the clutch gears were damaged.”
Haggard reportedly added that quick action by the crew prevented more serious problems and the damaged clutch was repaired in Virginia.
Even though the Littoral class ships have only been operational for a few years, many are being decommissioned. The Milwaukee escaped that fate because of current missions.
A senior defense official on May 27 said Milwaukee is currently testing the anti-submarine warfare mission package and will be the first to deploy with it – and since the ship is far enough along conducting that anti-submarine work, the Navy wanted to preserve the ship and its crew, according to Defense News report.