US Navy combat ship plows into Canadian freighter

A US Navy Freedom-class combat ship so new it hasn’t even been commissioned yet has smashed into a berthed Canadian freighter in Montreal, another black mark on the reputation of the troubled combat vessels.

The American littoral combat ship, slated to be commissioned as the USS Billings, hit the Quebecois dry bulk vessel on Monday in a collision that damaged both ships but did not cause any casualties among the crew. The crash occurred as the Billings was being tugged out to sea, after the tugs cast off their lines. The American ship’s starboard bridge wing was damaged, according to a spokesperson for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, though damage to both ships is still being assessed. The American ship has been retained in Montreal for further inspection even though it was reportedly “capable” of sailing on to its home base, Naval Station Mayport in Florida.

The Navy is conducting an investigation to understand what happened and why. We will incorporate lessons learned to ensure we conduct safe and effective operations,” Navy spokesperson Lt.Cmdr. Courtney Hillson told FreightWaves.

The crash is only the latest misfortune to befall the Navy’s Freedom class of littoral combat ships, whose track record of massive cost overruns and design flaws rivals the troubled F-35 fighter jet. The National Interest suggested they might be “the worst US Navy warship ever,” and as of December not a single one of the 11 that have been built was in operational use, despite 16 years spent developing what was supposed to be a “relatively inexpensive surface combatant,” complete with multiple “mission modules” allowing the basic frame to be transformed into a minesweeper, submarine-hunter, or fighter boat.

Issues with radar and limited self-defense capabilities have led the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office to conclude that neither the Freedom class nor its cousin the Independence class are “survivable in high-intensity combat,” and the Pentagon cut its order of the vessels by 20 in 2014.