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US navy’s most expensive destroyer breaks down in Panama Canal

The most expensive destroyer ever built for the US navy has suffered an engineering problem in the Panama Canal and had to be towed to port.

US Third Fleet spokesman commander Ryan Perry said a vice-admiral directed the USS Zumwalt to remain at ex-Naval Station Rodman in Panama to address the issues, which arose on Monday.

The ship was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine and was on its way to San Diego.

“The schedule for the ship will remain flexible to enable testing and evaluation in order to ensure the ship’s safe transit to her new home port in San Diego,” Perry said in a statement.

USNI News, a publication of the US Naval Institute, reported on its website that the ship was in the canal when it lost propulsion.

Crew also saw water getting into bearings that connect electrical motors to driveshafts, the website reported.

USNI News reported that the Zumwalt suffered minor cosmetic damage. The ship had been scheduled to arrive in San Diego by the end of the year to start the activation of its weapon system, the website reported.

The 610ft warship has an angular shape to minimise its radar signature and is regarded as the most technologically sophisticated destroyers ever built for the navy. One of its signature features is a new gun system that fires rocket-powered shells up to 63 nautical miles.

The Zumwalt cost more than $4.4bn and was commissioned in October in Maryland. It also suffered a leak in its propulsion system before it was commissioned. The leak required the ship to remain at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia longer than expected for repairs.

The ship is part of the first new class of warship built at Bath Iron Works in more than 25 years.

The second Zumwalt-class destroyer, which also cost more than $4.4bn, was christened in a June ceremony during which US Rep Bruce Poliquin called it an “extraordinary machine of peace and security”. The third ship is expected to cost a bit less than $3.7bn.

A spokeswoman for Bath Iron Works said the shipyard was not planning to comment on the breakdown and referred questions to the navy.

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