LCS Main Engine casualty


There are some deep rooted systemic and bureaucratic prolems that are difficult to pinpoint though the problems are so obvious.


Would be great to see the actual investigation report, vs. just the article.

In any case, let’s focus on the most bizarre part of the whole thing. Ignore that it was the pump’s telltale that they plugged, ignore that it was even on a pump. What baffles me is that they walked up to any piece of equipment, saw water coming out of a machined hole, and decided that putting a damage control plug in it was the solution. Did they think a rogue saboteur was going around at night with a drill and punching holes?


One Chief eng I used to sail with used to come out on deck to help us deckies trouble shoot some piece of equipment he’d always say the same thing: “what changed?”

The navy is full of kiss ass careerist officers - not new
The contractors are greedy and corrupt - not new
Is it because officers are generalist and not specialist - again, not new, and so on.

What has changed? From what I’ve read, operation pace has increased, sounds like training has been degraded. Possibly the increase in the rate of technology change.


For cripe’s sake. the mechanical seal blew and their response was to plug the telltale?

I can’t. I can’t even.


That’s how I try to trouble shoot things too. I’m going to try to remember that concise way of phrasing it.

Yeah. Welcome to the club.


No reasonably trained or experienced person could either.

One of the questions that need to be asked is if the hole plugger even knew that hole was surrounded by a pump and what that pump did for a living and what might make water squirt out of it. All the evidence so far indicates he or she had absolutely no clue. Mind boggling, simply mind boggling … that level of ignorance and incompetence borders on sabotage.

I’d really like to read the entire report. How long after the hole plugging did they discover the lube oil level rising? Did anyone go to look at the plugged hole to see what it was attached to? Which fire system was losing pressure?

This shameful debacle begs so many questions as to the competence of every man and Jacky in the Navy to operate ships and take responsibility for even the simplest systems. It is a credit to the designers of those systems that they operate in spite of the level of (in)competence this incident has highlighted.

Why (he asked rhetorically) did the Navy release a report that appears more to distort reality than explain the sequence of events? This smells of more political ass covering to hide the abysmal level of training and operational readiness at the most basic level. The captain of that particular USS Boondoggle should have been accompanied by around a thousand others from Admiral down to fireman apprentice on his way to the Navy scrapyard.


The answer is in your first sentence. This story speaks of a failure for sure but not a mystery - though it should be in a perfect world. I don’t know if this failure is representative of a common problem in USN engine rooms or not so not sure I’m on board with the incompetence ramping to sabotage thing but…

The connection of the fire main to the engine cooling system is probably only in the imagination of the guy who “fixed” it. A less than competent person might go down a path such as:

  1. Fire main pressure dropping.
  2. Look for open valves or leaks.
  3. Send out search parties, find water “gushing” [1] out the tell tale.
  4. “Fix” the leak.

Sometimes when you tell someone to find something they will find it one way or the other. A certain kind of in-duh-vidual could have just as easily found the domestic reefer SW cooling overboard and try to bung that.

Of course this story is a ludicrous perversion of marine engineering reasoning and a complete failure of experience. It is not unheard of for even a civilian crew to possibly have such a “genius” as would bung a tell tale hole even as said hole was trying to “tell” you something. BUT one would hope this is an action that would get ones hand slapped early and hard by someone who does know better. [As an aside - in the merchant version of this - typically this sort of silliness manifests as a series of gutters and troughs directing the flow to a bilge well or save-all tank. It takes a bold oiler, Q-man or even inexperienced engineer to hammer a bung in a hole on a machine without guidance from above - leadership being available and competent enough to not allow it more than likely]

For it to proceed from a foolish act to engine damage is of course a tragedy and - though I don’t know the technical USN definition - a failure of leadership.

The story the USN seems to be telling elsewhere about the LCS is how well trained the crews are on these vessels. Using VR to walk through the systems and learn them, operate them and fix them with their “avatars”. They speak of two crews alternating so they can really have experienced people always onboard and ready to go/maintain. Certainly the quality of that training and manning has to be re-examined and changed in light of what we know so far.

Is a complex VR representation of a machinery space capable of substitution for spending days/months/years on the deck plates, makers schools, reading TM’s for hours and hours? For older guys/gals teaching younger guys/gals?

Was the cost of the VR trainer worth the damage of this one incident or potentially fielding a class wide crew of equally incompetent engineers?

Many years ago I created the Kings Point Gasket Award for Engineering Excellence, these guys are definitely nominated this year.

Will there be a further report made public? Is the person interviewing the crew and performing the investigation themselves competent? Or does the investigator also have some skin in the game? I am always wary of the lessons we learn from things like this. As if now paying some VR company to go shoot film or create wire frame views to be rendered by animators (at a huge payment to some support contractor) to NOW show the tell tale hole in the underside of the pump mount/housing to be explored by the trainee IS BETTER than a few minutes staring at a pump cross section and figuring it out for yourself or having someone more experienced explain it to you.

[1] it’s hard to imagine the flow of water from a tell tale hole on a pump of that size even with a major seal failure passing through an orifice the size of a typical tell tale can be described as “gushing”. Use of this word suggests a cover my tracks approach to reporting to me. Plus don’t they look at things like that and a hundred others on rounds? Our most inexperienced oilers check things like that every round. Before they become “gushers”. Or don’t they make rounds?


I think it’s pretty clear that whatever the Navy report (which the San Diego Times obtained by means of a FOIA request) said was heavily filtered through the reporter’s unfamiliarity with the subject. I haven’t found a link to the actual report on line, nor other stories about it that might shed more light.


Great response, thank you for taking time to make that post.

My comment about sabotage was intended as a cynical observation that if this event represents the product of the Navy’s latest and most expensive training scheme our enemies need not bother with saboteurs, the crews are quite capable of doing the dirty work themselves.

The sequence of events leading to the hole plugging had to have been among the most pitifully ignorant displays of incompetence imaginable. The plugger sees water “gushing” (not sure whose term that is but it does reflect the overall level of diagnostic capabilities behind this event) decided that what he observed was not correct but could be fixed. Unless he habitually carried them in his pocket he then left the area to locate a plug of some sort and a tool to secure the plug in the offending hole. What happened after that? Did the plugger simply return to wherever highly trained pluggers wait between leak repairs or did he (or she) inform some higher authority of the repairs performed? Did anyone followup on the initial fault condition that sent the plugger on his mission?

There is so much unwritten about this debacle and what is not written or discussed is so much greater than the idiotic act of the plugger who obviously lacked even the lowest degree of skill. It is not unreasonable to think that a passing messcook would have taken more appropriate actions than the product of the Navy’s highly touted (by itself) training system. The messcook would probably have thought “I don’t know what this is but it doesn’t look right, I’d better go tell someone.” Hopefully that someone would not be the highly trained hole plugger.

Catherder nailed it.


I couldn’t either but have emailed the author suggesting he read this thread and asked for a copy of the report he obtained via his FOIA request.


Back in the 90’s I ran into a First that I sailed with that had just started a job as a Port Engineer (or whatever the Navy calls it).

Some of the stories he told me would curl your hair! Now granted he was coming from the Commercial world of sailing but he showed me some of the “repair requests” that he received and to anyone that has ever sailed most of these things could have and should have been done by Ships Force. How some of these vessels made from one port to another was amazing! He actually got in trouble for telling some of the ships to just fix it themselves. He was told on more than one occasion, that it was not their job to fix anything. One time he had a CO turn him in for attempting to stop a vessel from being able to complete her mission due to him not fixing / approving every little thing on their repair list. I do know that (this one time) it did not end well for the CO.

From reading about all that has been happening lately, it sure sounds like nothing has changed much, well maybe it’s got worse!


Reading about these LCS breakdowns further questions the abilities of those on board.

Whilst there are scores of Austal and Incat ferries with essentially the same machinery running intensively 365 days a year.


I did the same yesterday morning, heard back that he’ll be emailing me a copy today, will post on here when it comes through.


Thanks, really looking forward to that read.


Just got the report, haven’t gotten a chance to look at it yet

Here’s the link:


Started reading and this immediately jumped out at me:


They also took multiple samples that indicated continued seawater contamination, both during their very inadequate flush attempt, after it was completed, and while they were on RIMPAC exercises afterward. Throughout all of this, the damage control plug on the telltale drain was never removed, and was still present as of the completion of the investigation, 2 months later.

On the evening of July 11th, the day of the initial casualty, the ship’s engineering officer looked at the schematics for the pump, and realized they had plugged the telltale, not the casing drain (their initial assumption), but did not realize that plugging the telltale would lead to sump contamination.

Then the next day, the sump slowly filled with water, and nobody noticed until oil was found spilling out of the top of the dipstick. When this happened, they DID NOT associate it with the leaking hole they had plugged one day prior, but assumed that it was due to a leak in the combination cooler. When told by the Port Engineer and Diesel Engine Inspector that the sump was filling due to the DC plug, they elected not to remove it, and instead emptied the sump 3 times over the course of 1 day to keep it from overflowing.

After arriving in port on July 13th, they still took 2 more days to even secure seawater to the pump. It’s hard to pick the worst decisions and oversights in this casualty, because there’s so many of them. If you paid someone to come up with a hit-piece on Navy engineering and maintenance programs, it would probably come out more flattering than this report.



Item 21. The NR2 MPDE attached seawater pump is a non-positive displacement, centrifugal pump rated at 1540GPM/42PSI.

Item 23. Emergency back-up seawater cooling is provided by firemain reduced from 150 psi to 45 psi.

Item 64. PA6B diesels utilize only one cooler, a combination cooler with a plate heat exchanger, to cool both lube oil and jacket water with seawater.

Item 78. … the NR2 MPDE prelube pump … is rated at 44GPM/90PSI

Item 4. On 12 July 16, upon discovering oil emanating from the NR2 MPDE sump dipstick tube and spilling onto the MMR deck, the ship’s force initially failed to make the connection between the earlier attached seawater pump casualty and the overflowing MPDE sump. Instead, ship’s force mistakenly attributed the seawater contamination to a leak in the combination cooler.

Last time I checked the math, 90 psi is greater than 45 psi.

So no one in the Navy knows that a pressurized fluid will flow from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. In naval bridge team terms, that means that if the cooler had a leak it would have put oil into the water, not water into the oil. And since the engineers were incapable of analysis or even simple observation, it was beyond their comprehension that if the problem had been with the combination cooler a deckie would undoubtedly have noticed an oil slick forming around the ship and probably said something.

That report is far more damning than anything I could ever write on my worst day of heaping well earned ridicule on the morons at every level for their phenomenal stupidity and abuse of the word engineer. And to perform the same stunt TWICE! There are no words to convey how stupid, ignorant, and dangerous the crews of those ships really are. Since none of the 15 engine crew ( I can’t bring myself to call them engineers or credit them with the qualities and skills of wipers or oilers) had the brains or the balls to scream bloody murder at this exhibition of institutional stupidity they all should be transferred to an Army trash collection platoon in Bumfukistan for the remainder of their “service.”


So no one in the Navy knows that a pressurized fluid will flow from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure.

I wouldn’t say no one in the Navy, but yeah.

I told y’all, there’s no training at an initial level anymore. You can say “It’s the most basic diesel shit there is!” and my answer is always going to be “Yeah but that doesn’t mean they’re trained for it.” The Navy has a massive problem with actually training people to be competent in one or a few areas. The problems with the SWO “generalist” stuff isn’t just a SWO problem, it just hits them the most.

When I toured Freedom back in ~2011, I asked one of their guys how much maintenance they had to do. He told me they’re not allowed to do anything more intrusive than operational checks, and if they need to do anything else civilians had to come do it. How does anyone learn anything about anything if they’re never allowed to DO anything?