WASHINGTON — Littoral combat ship Little Rock lost power while operating at sea and had to return to port on Jan. 22, according to a Navy spokesman.

The four-year-old LCS was conducting sea trials following a 19-month maintenance period in the dry dock at BAE Systems Shipyard in Jacksonville, Fla. The ship departed Naval Station Mayport on Jan. 21 for the contractor’s trials, LCS Squadron 2 spokesman Lt. Anthony Junco told Defense News.

During the operations at sea, the ship temporarily lost power.

“While conducting operations, engineering malfunctions were identified that resulted in a temporary loss of power, and the decision was made for the ship to return to Naval Station Mayport on Jan. 22, under its own power,” Junco said in a statement.

“The Navy is conducting a technical investigation on the root cause of the engineering malfunctions. While there is not currently any indication the casualty is related to the combining gear class issue, the investigation will examine all aspects of what occurred,” he continued.

Little Rock was among the LCS ships that suffered a combining gear failure that ultimately led to operational restrictions on the whole class while Naval Sea Systems Command and the Lockheed Martin-led industrial team developed a new combining gear design.

In February 2020, Little Rock departed Mayport for its maiden deployment, but had to return about six weeks later due to the combining gear failure. LCS Detroit suffered a similar failure in late October 2020 and also had to return home.

By December 2020, the Navy had acknowledged a widespread issue, and in January 2021 it stopped accepting new Freedom-variant LCSs from Lockheed Martin and the Marinette Marine Shipyard in Wisconsin.

Nearly a year later, the service announced it and combining gear maker RENK had developed and tested a combining gear fix, and that the Navy was ready to accept LCS Minneapolis-St. Paul and put the issue behind it.

The future of Little Rock remains unclear. The Navy asked to decommission both it and five-year-old LCS Detroit in its fiscal 2022 budget in part because of the cost the service would incur in replacing the combining gear system and repairing damage incurred during that propulsion failure.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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