LPD-17 USS San Antonio delivered

Assault ship never had smooth sailing

When an article on the lead ship of a new class includes the following, you know there’s trouble:

San Antonio isn’t yet ready to fight and likely never will be quite the vessel the Navy dreamed of a decade ago. The ship is contaminated with corrosion and badly wired, and some of its stealth characteristics were traded to cut costs.

The San Antonio was deemed so unsafe that Navy inspectors even warned that its crew shouldn’t take it to sea.

Inspectors who produced a July 8 report found safety deficiencies throughout the ship.

Construction and craftsmanship standards, they said, were “poor.” Workers left a “snarled, over-packed, poorly assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant.” Watertight integrity was compromised throughout the ship by multiple cable lines.

The inspectors predicted the San Antonio “will be plagued by electrical/electronic cable plant installation deficiencies throughout its entire service life” if corrective work isn’t done.

Though those actions are on the drawing board, they warned that the ship shouldn’t take on its crew until “significant” damage control and firefighting systems are put into operation.

Design changes driven by shrinking defense budgets have robbed the ship of some of the stealth characteristics that would make it appear to be the size of a big fishing boat — one of the marquee features of the San Antonio.

My guess is that most problems will be ironed out and that following ships will be far better (as is usually the case) but this is just another example of military procurement failing us.


  1. Random stupid thought. You have a ship, that is unsafe, poorly made, incapable of its mission without significant work…. If it was a car, under the lemon laws you could return it for your money back… Somehow I take it that the navy does not have a lemon law.

  2. Somehow I take it that the navy does not have a lemon law.’ Correct, though you can bet that this mess will be mired in protracted prime contractor/Govt litigation for quite some time. A ‘Stealh’ LPD?! Pleeaze! Whoever was doing the initial cost-benefit analysis on this had to be nuts, or overcome by procurement-fad-de-jour group-think mentality However. I’m mystified where watertight integrity and thru-compartment cabeling fits into this equation.

  3. in theory, through-compartment-cableing allows sailors to reroute power throughout the ship without opening any sealed portals. Screw up the powerjack connections and the watertight integrity is lost..might as well leave the portals open.

  4. I work at ingalls in the pipe dept. I’m not a management type, just a ‘fitter. We build the best warships in the world, here in South Mississippi, and we are extremely weary of being tarred with the Avondale brush. They created this mess, we are doing our best to fix it.

  5. I’ve seen serious workmanship issues at both Avondale and Ingalls. Scott, the rubber will meet the road soon when LPD-19 is readied for sea trials. This will be Ingalls first LPD and I doubt it will be much better than 17. NGSS just doesn’t seem to have the talent necessary to build complex navy ships.

  6. i worked 7 yrs at avondale 3 yrs on lpd just for the record, AVONDALE won the lpd contract because the USN didnt want ingall building the lpd. the ONLY reason ingalls is building them now is that northrup bought both yards! they needed to send work to MS because they lost the cruise ship contract.

  7. MJH: I worked on both LPD-17 and LPD-19; I know for certain LPD-19 is a vastly superior ship to LPD-17. The ships, by contract, must be delivered in sequence; if the New Orleans yard ever delivers their namesake boat, the Mesa Verde will soon follow. You will then see, ‘Where the rubber meets the road.’ Joe: It was not the Navy that didn’t want Ingalls to build the new LPD’s it was the Clinton appointed Secretary of the Navy, New Orleans native John H. Dalton, who rejected Ingalls’ lower bid, and gave the contract to his own hometown. He got away with it because South Mississippi votes republican, while in louisiana, every-ones long-dead ancesters continue to vote several times in each election, for whatever democrat gets trotted out.