USS San Antonio Woes Continue

With what looks like a loss of one littoral combat ship through congressional budget stinginess, the Navy needs to look for new ways to bolster up its fleet.

It is not going to find salvation in the USS San Antonio (LPD-17).

It seems the Norfolk, Va.-based USS San Antonio will not deploy next year as scheduled. The problem: too many maintenance issues. Such challenges have plagued the amphibious transport dock ship since it was commissioned four years ago—two years behind schedule.

The San Antonio, which is the head of its class of ship, clocked in at 70 percent more than contracted, an astounding $1.4 billion. In 2007, it could not complete its sea trials after one of two steering systems failed.

The ship deployed in 2008, but was delayed due to a much-publicized stern gate problem, an issue that could affect the movement of landing craft on and off the ship – which is an important part of the vessel’s mission. During the cruise it made an unplanned maintenance stop in Bahrain to repair its leaking lube oil pipe system. Later, metal in its oil caused engine failure. While it sounds like the ship is haunted, an internal investigation by the Navy showed both the builder Northrop-Grumman (Avondale Shipyards, La.) and the Navy were at fault. The latest repairs will run an estimated $39 million.

Mesa Verde (LPD-19), the third ship in the San Antonio class, will take its sister’s place on the deployment. The problems seem confined to the first in the series.

Well, I am relieved it’s just the San Antonio that’s going under for the third time. Whew. Does the Navy take its surface fleet seriously? It should be one of the greatest assets within the Department of Defense, but we remain below 300 ships and can barely control costs. The Navy is looking to buy a gazillion littoral combat ships to push it into the magic 300 end zone. We need a robust Navy, not a bunch of high-tech toys with 40-person crews. (Yeah, LCS is not a toy. Got it.)

It would be nice if someone in the Navy (and Congress) took the Navy’s plight seriously.


Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

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