Awkward: The Navy’s New $362 Million Ship Suffered An ‘Engineering Casualty’ And Had To Be Towed

The USS Milwaukee, a member of the Navy’s littoral combat ship fleet, is truly a badass piece of modern engineering. With a price tag of $362 million and a crew 54, the Milwaukee mean and lean, built to move in shallow water and respond to modern threat scenarios. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took a tour of the chip when it was commissioned, offering this:

Designed for versatility and speed, littoral combat ships are a relatively new addition to the U.S. Navy built to operate close to shore and to quickly switch from one combat mode to another by swapping out different equipment such as anti-mine or anti-submarine gear.

It was just commissioned on November 21 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, officially joining the Navy’s fleet. However, on it’s long trip down the East Coast to it’s eventual home in San Diego, the expensive war machine suffered an embarrassing “engineering casualty” causing its propulsion systems to stop working. It needed a long tow back to a shipyard in Virginia. Here’s what went wrong according to the Navy Times:

Initial indications are that fine metal debris collected in the lube oil filter caused the system to shut down, according to a Navy statement provided to Navy Times. The cause of the metal debris in the lube oil system is not known and assessments are ongoing.


Engineers cleaned out the metal filings from the lube oil filter and locked the port shaft as a precaution. In the early hours of Friday morning, the ship was conducting steering tests and lost lube oil pressure in the starboard combining gear due to the presence of the same metal filings in that filter.

The metal filings in the lube oil have not been a class-wide issue, according to the Navy.

The ship then dropped anchor while the engineers worked on the system. By mid-morning, the salvage ship Grapple rendezvoused with Milwaukee and connected a towing hawser line for the trip back to Little Creek.

The Navy got a tongue lashing from Senator John McCain, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. In a statement he sent to the Navy Times, he sounds pissed:

“Reporting of a complete loss of propulsion on USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) is deeply alarming, particularly given this ship was commissioned just 20 days ago,” McCain said. “U.S. Navy ships are built with redundant systems to enable continued operation in the event of an engineering casualty, which makes this incident very concerning.

“I expect the Navy to conduct a thorough investigation into the root causes of this failure, hold individuals accountable as appropriate, and keep the Senate Armed Services Committee informed.”

I guess “these things happen” isn’t really a viable excuse when you’re a brand new $300+ million war ship that suddenly can’t maneuver in the water. When your job is an engineer on a vessel like that, it’s not like you can come to work hungover, open a spreadsheet in Excel, and look like you’re “working” when the only thing on your mind is if it’s 5PM yet.

[H/T: Business Insider]

Brandon Wenerd avatar
BroBible's publisher and a founding partner, circa 2009. Brandon is based in Los Angeles, where he oversees BroBible's partnership team and other business development activities. He still loves to write and create content, including subjects related to internet culture, food, live music, Phish, the Grateful Dead, Philly sports, and adventures of all kinds. Email: