Welding Flaw Led To Crack in LCS-1 Hull

Welding Flaw Led To Crack in LCS-1 Hull

A manufacturing issue, not a design flaw, led to a six-inch crack along a weld seam on the hull of Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom, during heavy weather trials in February, Navy officials said today.

“We’re still reviewing the design for weld improvements, as far as the analysis of [what led to the crack] we’ve completed the analysis and are in the process of working through the release of that information,” said Capt. Jeff Riedel, the Navy’s LCS program manager during a briefing at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air Space conference held just outside of Washington DC. “Both Lockheed and the Navy are going through their final review that should be available in the next couple of weeks.”

He went on to say that ship’s design wasn’t at fault, but instead, a weak weld-job led to the cracks.

“The design is adequate, how I build it is a different story,” said Riedel. “If I was able to weld it as it was designed to be welded, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The real issue was, getting access to that area to be able to do the weld.”

He added that beginning with LCS-3, welders are able to more easily reach the spot on the ship where the crack occurred, allowing them to lay an extra thick weld.

Other cracks were discovered in known stress points in the ship’s superstructure that computer modeling predicted might be the location of cracks during rough seas, according to Riedel. These cracks have led to design tweaks in subsequent ships of the class.

“We modeled the superstructure and we found that we had areas that were high stress areas, so we would expect, potentially, a crack to occur in that high-stress area,” said Riedel. “So we instrumented the superstructure and we used that instrumentation to validate the model and in fact, we’re now using that to better the design…for LCS-3 and following we’ve gone back and changed the design so we can reduce those stress areas.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said later in the day that all lead ships of a class have “issues” and noted that the crack hasn’t delayed sea trials for the ship.

“Things happen on every lead ship, what you do is learn how to avoid it on the following ships, which we have done,” said Mabus during a press briefing at the conference.

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I wonder if the “Fletchers” had issues like this back in the early 40’s.

Or Spruance Class. This is treading on new ground though, and this is why they have shake downs and sea trials.
What worries me is are these much less well armed ships going to reduce the number of blue water ships in the navy?

Little ****** Ship

Why would c r a pp y be blocked ?

Little cra pp y Ship

“The design is adequate, how I build it is a different story,” said Riedel. “If I was able to weld it as it was designed to be welded, it wouldn’t have been an issue. The real issue was, getting access to that area to be able to do the weld.”

He added that beginning with LCS-3, welders are able to more easily reach the spot on the ship where the crack occurred, allowing them to lay an extra thick weld.”

So, if I read this correctly, it wasn’t a design problem — but the design had to be changed so the weld could be make correctly. Huh???

I think your analysis is a good one. Thank you.

Let me translate. There is no excess stress on the hull in this spot to cause cracking, the ships design is adaquete (meaning that it meets all the standards). However, the area in question is difficult to weld (not unusual with a ship to have difficult areas to weld) so they made a faulty weld. The design was changed to allow easier access. It should be noted that since there are two identical welds (one on either side of the ship) and only one failed, it didn’t have to be changed but it makes it easier to be changed. This is normal for any ship. The real issue is the long term durability of the ships, not the fact that the first of the class had one issue with a faulty weld or difficult access. The ship has enough other issues to complain about, this one is no longer an issue.

Yes, both ships had numerous issues like this one.

And NAVY Admirals want these LCS warships to have a long life of 30 years ???

No way. Recall how our SSN boats were completely cut in half when they entered a 15 month long drydocking every so often, so that they could last for over 20 years ? Is the Navy ready to do complete, extended OVHL’s on all 55 LCS corvettes to make them last 20, 25, 30 years ? The lower deck engineering spaces have so much inaccessible equipments that cannot be reached for inspection, much less repaired or replaced.

As LCS-1 has clearly shown with her frequent and prolonged “maintenance” (repair) availabilities, this class is going to need extended drydocking regular OVHL’s probably every decade or maybe even more often.

So much for all the $$$ savings these 40 man crews were going to achieve. It would be cheaper in the long run, to build, crew, operate an order of magnitude more capable frigate-type warship, than an LCS demonstration marketing tool, which is under armed, under manned, under fueled, and under thought out from the get-go.

We have all these welding issues at what is now HII across all classes of ships they build and now the mid tier yard in Wisconson. You’ll never hear about an issue like this in Bath (BIW), but they struggle to get work. They have 1 ship in the water while HII has 4 classes of ships going. Marinette just got awarded a 5 ship contract, and BIW has nothing. Am I missing something, or is Maine’s congressional team weak? They are down to 4500 workers from a high of 12000. They need to get more work up there, either new construction or DDG/CG moderizations. I just can’t understand how the yard with the lowest cost and best quality doesn’t get contracts

They should had spoken to some submarine engineers who have more experiance in building watertight modular sections — would had learned not to end the sections next to equipment that prevent access to weld joints and section couplings. These things are a POS, couldnt believe what I was looking at for the cost when I went aboard one of these things, total maintenance nightmare (and as stated above — an M2 loaded with MK111 and M20 rounds could put one of these things out of commision with ease/ a 106 recoiless would scuttle it) and I expect soon that they and the remainder of the boats will be transfered over to some other country as has been done in the past.

–but, the oh-so-smart ADMIRALS think that speed is EVERYTHING, our enemies will cower and duck
when they see this FAST little boat coming.
–Heck, the LCS doesn’t even need WEAPONS, our enemies will be so impressed by out high tech AUTOMATION that they will simply surrender.
–I simply can’t wait for the Chinese to steal (and copy) and start building a fleet of LCS boats because after all we build the most BADASS naval WARSHIP out there and the Chinese would be stupid not to copy it. Wait a second, maybe the Chinese aren’t the STUPID ones after all.

What is the hull material? Steel or aluminium?

this one is steel hull with aluminum super structure — the other model (austul) is all aluminum. steel is a lot easier to weld so that only adds to the inept assembly issue.

I haven’t kept track of LCS but wasn’t the USN moving away from aluminum superstructures? I can’t say I like the idea of the hull being aluminum.

Not to burst your bubble, but surface ships have been built in modules for as long as submarines if not longer and in much greater numbers. Note that this was a prototype without any certainty that it would ever be procured in numbers. Add the vast number of changes made after construction started and you end up with production issues on the first one, and probably on the second as well. As you get into production you sort these type of things out. Its called learning curve. Notice the Virginia class has come down in price as they proceed (although it is still like 5-10x the price of an LCS) and they still make production changes on every one, and that is with the massive oversight of nuclear power and subsafe requirements.

I’m pretty much aware of surface modules, my point was that no matter how far you are behind you dont take short cuts when it comes to hull integrity like they did here installing gear that limits access to joints.

The ONLY mission it could possibly carry out is counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, but even for that it’s not optimized. Besides, our strategy is flawed. We’re only allowed to “chase off” pirates rather than eliminate the problem. By the 1820s, the Caribbean was completely infested with pirates. In response, the United States Navy deployed a newly formed unit called the West Indies Squadron whose mission was to hunt down, sink and destroy all pirates operating in the Caribbean. The U.S. Navy worked in cooperation with the British Royal Navy in this effort, and by 1830 piracy was nothing but a memory. With the thousands of islands and reefs in this large area, how did we manage to do that, and without any technological advantage?

Bring back battle ships

BIW bet on the wrong class of ships being built — they bet heavily on DDX, which is going to only produce 3 ships. They are, from what I understand, working to change their situation.

William C. “I haven’t kept track of LCS but wasn’t the USN moving away from aluminum superstructures? I can’t say I like the idea of the hull being aluminum.” You’re right. We WERE. That’s before our leadership apparently forgot the lessons learned from the USS STARK tragedy. Once it gets hot enough, there’s almost no stopping a fire in an aluminum superstructure. We moved away from it because it was a death trap. But everything’s about budget, and those lessons are being ignored for the sake of budgetary expediency. But that’s sort of a moot point anyway, because like I said, with a mere crew of 40, this baby’s going to the bottom if it gets hit anyways because there’s insufficient personnel to conduct any meaningful damage control. Remember, if you’re hit by something big enough to sink you, it’s a fact you’re going to lose crew.

The STARK was barely saved, and it had a full male crew on board… not the new navy which incorporates 20 percent women, quite a few of whom are limited in their utility in severe conditions. Furthermore — before somebody calls me a sexist — even the male personnel in today’s navy aren’t up to the standards they used to be held at. There are many small, surprisingly physically weak people in all our services today. I saw that serving in Iraq for a year. It’s scary. But putting that aside, that scarce crew of 40 is going to loose some people if hit by anything like a missle, bomb, mine, torpedo, etc., and the remaining crew’s likely only option will be to abandon ship. Sorry, but I don’t buy the purported “automated” damage control. PLEASE! The first thing to go in a hit is your automation! All the lessons of the STARK and SAMUEL B. ROBERT (torn in half by a mine) have been disregarded in favor of a “cheap” navy of the future. One which shows the flag for political purposes, but had better get the hell out of the way if a real shooting war comes along.

Its odd the way ship builders weld with 7018 welding rod they downhill the bead with the other hand full of rod that they try to knock the slag off while it tries to choke the bead out, when you go over these welds with the same rod only go uphill, you will see lots of trapped slag; the process is defective. They need to xray all the welds starting with the same plate showing the original crack. While I was on board ship it was not odd to run into these defects; other countries use different procedures to make the beads. Like the fittings bought from other countries most always there were cold lap when they were welded; it is cheaper to go American and do it right the first time.

I think we can all agree that the LCS is a huge waste of money.

Area’s that are stress points are fish plated to reinforce the area putting the stress on a much larger section minimizing stress. All it takes is for the welder to forget to preheat the metal removing any mosture from the weld area; if they don’t you can dye check the earlier weld and see cracking immediatly taking affect, once you get a crack in a weld it will migrate clear through the weld and spread. Procedures are not silly requirements, they have always proven to eliminate errors; its either beer Friday or their eyes aren’t open yet and their heads hurts issues, error due to procedural breakdowns. Quality Assurance needs to be looked at.

Slicing vessels amidships certainly gives new meaning to SLEP. Extension being the operative word.


The more their paid, the worse their quality control. What a surprise.

It is all about politics, not doing good work! In the defense industry, no one can compete with LM’s connections! They own ALL of the right politicians!

Aluminum is difficult to master, the aviation community has years of experience in using aluminum structures to find they have to be completely replaced every 10 years. How will this ship last for 30 years is beyond me?

When serving on the USS Lawrence DDG4, we experienced cracks around the port holes on the main deck, the ship had expansion joints but due to the aliuminum superstructure this is the area that always cracked. Many times repaired. As has been stated, cost saving is the driving force. Let some of the bean counters go to sea on these ships and experience the harsh weather, maybe they would look at things a little differently.

Politics is the only thing that has kept BIW alive. If they had to rely on open competition they would have folded 10 years ago.


Sure are a great deal of folks looking to condeme the LCS without looking at the mission. First, it was not the FFG’s that pushd for steel superstructures but CG-26 after her fire. Aluminum is used to lighten the topside weight to improve stability. LCS is meant to be the “Street Fighter”. It gives up protection for speed and agility. It’s meant to be a better PHM, with mission flexibility. New weapons will make it leathal, small crews will make it more cost effective and with mass production we can have more of them then we could DDG-51s for a fixed and reducing budget. It’s not a battleship, but you may want to ask yourself what it would cost to build a battleship with current technology and the current budget. My guess is that it would cost as much as a CVN.

Northrup Grumman’s new composite DDG 1000 superstructure is fabricated with fire retardant resin. But in between each layer of carbon fiber is a flammable adhesive. The term “fire retardant” means that the resin will cease to burn when the source of combustion is removed. The adhesive not only negates the “retardant” aspect of fire retardant, it also blocks the resin from properly saturating the carbon fiber fabric making it a structural problem as well. When I pointed this out, I was fired. So it’s obvious the Navy isn’t concerned about the survivability of their new ships. It’s all about money. And may I point out that the previous Navy Secretary David Winter (or is it Ron Winter?) left Northrup Grumman to take that job.

Built to Union Standards

Union welders are incapable of those batleship welds, those were done by real men!

It’s called the lowest bidder.

Richard Bunn.… “LCS is meant to be the “Street Fighter”. It gives up protection for speed and agility. It’s meant to be a better PHM, with mission flexibility.” What mission? It’s virtually incapable of fullfilling any current mission the navy has. It is extremely expensive for what it bring to the table. It’s purported ‘amphibious’ capability is 38 Troops and a half dozen HUMVEEs or four (4) Stryker IFVs or LAVs. That is a platoon. A lightly armed platoon. It can’t carry tanks. It can’t carry motorized artillery, it can’t carry anything but a light platoon. In a surface fight, it’s utterly useless against anyone with any kind of navy. The only anti-surface capability on it are two helicopters carrying extremely light anti-ship missiles, which would do very little damage to anything other than another corvette or smaller. The gun is 57mm, way too small to provide any support against shore targets and effective only against the smallest of surface vessels.

All this said, it can’t even put that lillyputian sized amphibious force anywhere without pulling into a prepared dock. So, whatever little good it MIGHT have been is out the window there. We can’t even put a small recon unit into the enemy’s rear, or anywhere in enemy territory for that matter. It’s cost ineffective as an amphibious vessel. The point is, there is no current mission I’m aware of that this ship fullfills. Apparently the U.S. Navy of the future’s mission is to go places fast and show the flag. It won’t be able to fight anyone of any stature.

Oh, and by the way, to support the latter position, I’ve been informed by a navy lieutenant working in my office that the Navy has been eliminating our ASuW capability by withdrawing the HARPOON ASMs. They’re past shelf life and are not being replaced. We gutted our ASW capabilities during the Clinton years. Now we’re gutting our ASuW capabilities too. Without HARPOON or a replacement, which he claims is not currently being pursued, our surface ships will have their little guns only. That means, the biggest, baddest weapon most of our ships will have is a 75mm gun. Nothing. Our destroyers and cruisers are pretty much AAW platforms only now. Once again, we’re forming a Navy which will be pretty much incapable of fighting at sea. This is in keeping with this very disturbing trend I see of us intervening more and more into other countries’ affairs which are of no consequence to us. They’re more suitable for a force acting as TEAM AMERICA — WORLD POLICE, than protecting our national interests.

Even worse. Actually with so many of the men at war (WW2), I bet we could find out that the last U.S. battleships had a lot of women welders.

The criticism with aluminum hulls and superstructures (a big issue with the FFG-7 class frigate) was that they melted or burned rather easily, compared to steel. But history pointed out they are a bit tougher than we estimated. Then again, that was based on the brave efforts of the crew to save their ship. Both Stark and SB Roberts wouldn’t have survived if hit multiple times, which is what happens on a real battlefield.

If you haven’t already, you need to send your assessment to every member of the House and Senate Seapower subcommittees. And demand they ask the Srcetary of the Navy at one of their public hearings whether this kind of stupidity was really designed in.

Finally, the US Navy has become the US Coast Guard!

That’s where these ships will end up. Chasing fast boats in the Carribean, painted white with orange and blue trim…

If you have ever been around the manuafacturing process, it is possible to change the order of assembly in order to facilitate different things over time. In the aircraft business or in the ship business or even just building a building, the order of assembly is critical. While it may have been thought that the weld could be adequately done the way it was assembled before, that had to be changed. In welds of this magnitude, getting the correct penetration of the weld into the metal and through the metal is crucial. The weld is stronger than the outlying metal if done properly. Plus, I am sure they are doing an X-Ray of this weld now so that there would be no possibility of a problem. If it still breaks there, then there is a design problem.

@bernard miller. We do not use stick to weld lcs nor weld down.

Sorry, but your history is off.

Paying tribute only lasted a short while, and the US was only doing so because the Navy had been decommissioned following the Revolution. Eventually the US recommissioned the Navy and then went to war with the Barbary States: Morocco, Tripoli (modern Libya’s capital), Tunis, and Algiers. This was known as the First Barbary War (1801–1805). The war went in favor of the US, however the war concluded with Jefferson paying the ransom for the American prisoners: the US government became side-tracked by events leading up to the War of 1812 with the British Empire.

Because the US was preoccupied with the precursor to the War of 1812, the Barbary States resumed piracy around 1807. During this time the European powers were also preoccupied with the Napoleonic Wars, so there was no one challenging the Barbary States. When the War of 1812 concluded, the US once again took the fight to North Africa in 1815. An American squadron captured the Algerian flagship, after which negotiations began. The negotiations ended favorably for the US: a prisoner exchange, monetary compensation to the US for seized shipping, an end to US tribute payments, and full US shipping rights.

Around this time the Napoleonic Wars was winding down, allowing the European powers to focus against the piracy threat. The following year, 1816, the English and Dutch bombarded Algiers and negotiated for peace. Throughout the rest of the century the Barbary States succumbed as colonies to the European powers, completely eliminating the Barbary piracy by around 1830 when France seized Algiers.

Thanks for that history lesson Trophy. In a nut-shell mine still wasn’t that far off. From your statement we gained military advantage over the pirates at least two times and still WUSSED out by making or taking payments instead of simply kicking ass. Instead we paid 15 year of tribute starting near the end of the 1700s. They just wouldn’t listen to Jefferson’s admonitions that this weakness would end up costing us more down the river(so to speak). Also if I remember correctly the hostages they had, at one point, were greatly out classed by the fact that we had a key city in our back pocket, but congress WUSSED out and paid the ransom regardless of the circumstances.

Please bear in mind that I do recognize the intelligence of the capitalist way of doing things. The way we did it was cheaper and probably more effective for the stop gap we needed, until the Europeans were able to continue more draconian tactics. Even though it cost us, what 20% of our GDP during that period? I still say this put an indelible fascia of weakness over our relations with the Middle East and the Mediterranean area.

I was referring to the US side of the equation, not what the Europeans were doing. Thank you for that very interesting summary of the history of that particular place, time, and type of piracy. I had a long lost relative that sailed as navigator with Drake, and that was a whole other piracy subject I don’t want to get into here.

You’re welcome, and sorry for the lengthy posts! But there’s so much more that went on in this time period.

During this time period the US was hardly a united set of states, and faced numerous financial crises following the Revolution. The remnants of the Continental Navy was auctioned off following the war, and the US relied on militia rather than a more expensive, professional, standing army. In short, the US could not afford a protracted, high-intensity conflict on a far-off continent. When the US entered the First Barbary War and the War of 1812, there was hardly a military to go to war with. So they had to build a military each time, a policy that changed after the War of 1812.

I personally think that the US took the right course of action considering that the nation was broke and had too small of a military that was mostly poorly-equipped. Also, we had a mission to stop piracy against the US, and accomplished just that, no further. The Europeans on the other hand went even further by taking over and gave the Islamic world yet another reason to hate them today. There was no perception of American weakness in the region simply because that episode become overshadowed by the Europeans.

The aftermath of the Barbary Wars actually improved America’s international standing, not weakened it. Before that, nobody took the US as a serious military threat. So when the US actually took the fight to the Barbary Coast in the First Barbary War, it came as a huge surprise to everyone. The Second Barbary War served as a reminder that the US could still project forces, to those that doubted they could do it again.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Perhaps in this Easter season, I should see the intelligence of not always using the most violent way out of a predicament. I tend to go for the junk yard dog reactionary thought.

In fact, a very detailed report on every intentional degredation was reported to every known government agency that could do something about this. Even Mike Petters, CEO of Huntington Ingalls was notified. But you have to understand the reason I was fired. It is because NG gets 185 million per month from the federal government to kill future sailors. No one gives a damn about the safety or survivability of a military vehicle so long as their being paid to ignore it. I have 35 years of field experience. We are the guys who discover the engineering defects. Do you want to work for a government contractor? Then keep your mouth shut. I’m just happy to be alive. This posting was part of my protection scheme. It’s probably the reason I cannot find a job–even a Mc Job.

There is a whistle blower law; I wonder if you could prove a violation thereof?

alright, some background, i am now a cwi for a major mining equipment manufacturer and was a welder on the LCS1 during it’s construction. First of all there was no stick welding done on the freedom as general practice, most welding was done with a 101tc .045 or .052 flux cored wire very similar to 71m lincoln wire. All hull weld was inspected visually and x rays were taken of the welds in high various locations. Now the fact that there is weld problems is not a surprise at all, the construction of the ship was a total mess, we were often working off preliminary prints, installing piping and mounts for internal systems only to cut them out the following day. Some compartments within the ship looked like some sort of quilt as the navy was unable to provide us with any sort of definitive plans. There was a whole array of piping and electrical added per the navy’s request that was not originally planned, I’m assuming alot of that is where the extra weight coming from. Anyway, the hull is mostly made up of hsla 80 steel, in some areas being only 3/8″ thick, making quality welding quite critical. As someone already pointed out prehearting to remove moisture and reduce the creation of brittle steel in the HAZ of the weld is really important and honestly do not feel was monitored close enough. The other issue that was a huge problem was access to the welds. Some of the hull welds were so obstructed that it was simply not humanly possible to reach them, some welds in the bow of the ship were welded from the outside only using ceramic tape held there on a long stick because the design did not permit enough room. Not to mention this thing is one overpowered little sucker which will not help the whole weld fatigue issue. Anyway, just remember this is a prototype, no one expected this thing to not break down, and a six inch crack in a weld is really not something that has to be made into a big deal. I’ve worked in repair and refurb. of cargo vessels and have seen cracks measuring multiple feet, and this is on a proven design.

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