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Newest LCS suffers fire at sea; damage ‘minor’

Apr. 14, 2013 - 09:21AM   |  
The Coronado, seen at its christening in January 2012, is the fourth LCS for the U.S. Navy.
The Coronado, seen at its christening in January 2012, is the fourth LCS for the U.S. Navy. (Austal USA)
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WASHINGTON — Fire broke out aboard the littoral combat ship Coronado late Friday morning while the vessel was on its second day of sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico, a U.S. Navy official confirmed Saturday.

No one was injured in the accident, and early indications are that the damage was minor, the official said.

The incident happened as the ship was conducting a full-power demonstration and running at high speed. Insulation on the starboard diesel exhaust first smoldered, then ignited but, according to the official, the flames were “extinguished immediately.”

Shortly after, the lagging on the port diesel exhaust repeated the sequence and again, the flames were immediately put out.

Running on its gas turbines, the Coronado returned to the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala., late Friday night to begin the incident assessment by representatives from the Navy, Austal USA, diesel builder MTU and others.

Initial expectations were that the incident would not trigger a major delay in the ship’s sea trials or completion.

The Coronado (LCS 4) is the second ship of the Independence (LCS 2) class under construction for the Navy. The ship was christened in January 2012 and is scheduled for delivery this spring. It has been under construction in Mobile since 2009.

A spokesperson for prime contractor General Dynamics could not immediately be reached for comment. GD is the prime for the first two ships in the class, while Austal USA has taken over as prime for the remaining ships of the LCS 2 class. Austal USA spokesman Craig Hooper declined to comment on the incident, deferring to the Navy and GD.

Both the Freedom and Independence LCS variants are powered by a combined diesel and gas turbine power plant. Two MTU 20V 8000 M90 diesels power the Independence-class ships, along with two General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines.

Intended to be manned by very small crews compared with other naval warships, the LCSs are designed with a high degree of automated damage control systems, including extensive fire fighting fittings.

It could not be immediately confirmed if any design changes in the lagging or engine insulation had been made between the Independence and Coronado, or if any changes were planned for future ships.

The number of people aboard the Coronado at the time of the incident could not be immediately confirmed. Prior to acceptance by the Navy, ships on sea trials are operated by civilian crews — usually shipyard employees or contractors — and a large number of other people are on board, including representatives from the Navy and a host of technical contractors.

After the Coronado, Austal USA has contracts or contract options to build another 10 ships for the Navy.

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