DULUTH – The planned commissioning of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul in Duluth this year is on hold after a design defect was discovered, the Navy said.

The steel-hulled, high-speed combat ship was christened at a Wisconsin shipyard in 2019 and wrapped up acceptance trials in August. The commissioning ceremony was expected to take place this spring before a problem with the propulsion system was discovered.

"A recent Freedom-class design defect associated with bearings in the combining gear's high-speed clutch has industry and the Navy team pursuing a design fix for ships under construction as well as several of the ships that entered the fleet," the U.S. Navy said in a statement. "Once a delivery plan is established, the Navy will work with the cities of Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul to identify a commissioning date that works for all stakeholders."

Shipbuilder Lockheed Martin told USNI News it is "aggressively pursuing a resolution to the gear issue the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship is currently experiencing."

The USS Minneapolis-St. Paul is the 21st littoral (nearshore) combat ship in the Navy's fleet. It will have a crew of about 140 sailors and be based out of Mayport, Fla., after its commissioning in Lake Superior. The Navy did not provide a timeline for when it is expected to be commissioned or go into service following the gear fix.

"While we are disappointed that the first-ever commissioning of a Navy vessel in Minnesota will be delayed, we remain optimistic that this historic event will take place in Duluth," Brian Skon, chairman of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul Commissioning Committee, said in a statement. "We will continue our fundraising and planning for a memorable public event that will honor the ship that bears the name of two great Minnesota cities."

A delay in the commissioning could have the unplanned benefit of allowing more people to attend the ceremony in person if the pandemic is under control. The Navy League of Minnesota, a nonprofit advocacy group in support of the country's sea services, is handling requests for free tickets to the event.

"Due to large gathering restrictions and ongoing health and safety concerns related to the pandemic, attendance at the Minneapolis-St. Paul commissioning is expected to be extremely limited," the group said. "The event will be livestreamed to allow friends and supporters to join in remotely."

The ship, among the fastest combat ships in the Navy with a top speed of 40 knots, will be the second naval vessel named after both Twin Cities, following the submarine USS Minneapolis-St. Paul that served from 1984 to 2008.

There have been two vessels named USS Minneapolis and two named USS St. Paul.

Two ships have also borne the name USS Duluth. Efforts are underway to have another vessel named for the Lake Superior port city.

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496