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Navy: USS San Antonio’s Problems May Be In the Past

by John Reed on February 28, 2011

Look at the this! The long troubled USS San Antonio may be at the cusp of something unprecedented in its history; working properly!

According to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper the ship has turned a corner and for the first time ever, maintenance crews are finding no major flaws with the vessel:

Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., who heads U.S. Fleet Forces, the command responsible for maintaining the Navy’s readiness, acknowledged in a recent interview that the Navy has made serious mistakes.

“Everybody flunked,” he said. “We were slow to put it all together and take the coherent set of actions that needed to be taken to get the ship squared away, so there’s been this long period of discovery.”

But Harvey also said the San Antonio has turned an important corner: For the first time, the Navy is no longer uncovering new, serious flaws, and the list of repairs is getting shorter.

Work is expected to wrap up by April, at which time the crew has been told to expect rigorous sea tests.

“We’ve reached bottom,” Harvey said. “We now know with a high degree of confidence what truly was the extent of the issues.

“I think we’ve got San Antonio figured out.”

Here’s hoping the admiral doesn’t eat those words. Remember, as the lead ship in her class, the San Antonio has had major problems throughout her five year service career.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason February 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Alright, no offence to anyone, but why are we pouring money into this class of ships? As most of us know, the DoD is focusing on the USN and USAF, and NOT the Army! Do you honestly think we are going to have a ground invasion against China/Russia?! Jesus, even Gates himself said he warns against an Iraq/Afgan attack. The SoD said that! I say take the funds from this class and invest in a replacement for the DDG-51, hell, maybe even a couple of DDG-1000's.

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Jason February 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

* Sorry, I mean an ground invasion from Marines. Still, do you expect them to outnumber the Chinese Army?

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blight February 28, 2011 at 12:34 pm

If it's cheaper per-hull to run a San Antonio instead of legacy platforms, or each hull can absorb the mission of more than one legacy hull, cutting hulls will save the surface force some money. However, this is rarely the case, except if legacy hulls are very high maintainence and new hulls are sufficiently low long term costs to offset high initial costs.

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Belesari February 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

While i think the SanA. class are pretty much a massive f**king waste of money. Infact the whole idea behind them is dead…

We cant attack from over 50mi out with the AMtracks they sink and are SLOW….
Not to mention "optimal manning" aka "someone let accountants try and run military ops" MASSIVE FAILURE-dead too.

The DDG 1000 is another massive waste and a stupid idea. a 700 ft long ship. That WILL have problems in even moderate seas thanks to its hull design. Is supposed to operate within sight of shore-remember 700 ft long-and we are only building 1 maybe 2 of the class.

Then there is the 3rd abortion LCS. Another failure.

A entire Decade of failures by Navy ship building and our nations leaders in this reguard.

Yes im bitter and angry…

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

We still needed a new LPD class, and l highly doubt we would have been launching any massive amphib invasions anyway. As a command ship in a real anti-piracy effort with the marine component that is sorely missing presently they could perform very well.

The DDG isn't needed l would agree.

The LCS will probably be fine but the fact its costs shot up all the while its modules are unproven wasn't good. I think when used for what it is supposed to be it will be fine, provided costs can be brought down, otherwise some OTS option would have been better.

Given the Virginia class was on time and under budget, the Ohio conversions were a master stroke, and the Ford class seems on schedule with the magnetic launch system apparently working fine, I'd hardly call the decade a failure.

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leesea March 1, 2011 at 1:47 am

yes the USN needs LPDs but certainly NOT this exquisite design built by a shipyard with questionable quality workmanship and costing over $1 billion per ship at the end of their production run. I say cancell LPD26&27. Buy a different more flexible, better armed design (foreign if so be it?) and put the US version out for bid. That way IF NAVSEA screws up, the yard can't be blamed for poor design.
See also Tim Colton's data: http://www.coltoncompany.com/

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STemplar March 1, 2011 at 2:30 am

I'm no fan per se of the design, however, there is nothing else comparable or in the pipe so it's the design that is going to be built. I tend to not have any irons in the fire over the endless specs debates people have here because at the end of the day they don't matter. It's commitment to support and logistics that separates the US military from everyone else by an overwhelming gap. Whatever we buy, l just want it to function properly.

anon March 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

we should need a genius like belesari in the DOD. sarcasm off

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Hale February 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I agree that the US probably doesn't have the stomach to a ground invasion of China or Russia. Perhaps North Korea?

I'd like to see the money put to better use, particularly pouring more money into the navy's rail-gun and the Free Electron Laser research. And either retrofit those weapons onto older platforms or invest in a new platform, such as a replacement for he Zumwalt.

In my opinion we need to be at the forefront in terms of tech since there's no way we can match them in terms of numbers.

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

A rail gun doesn't do much for us honestly. It's interesting tech but really is a couple hundred miles of range that essential? Since the talk and name of the game is anti access and such, if we aren't talking 1000 nmi of range the difference between rail gun ranges and naval extended range munitions now is not a big difference. R&D is fine for the present, but a really the hyper velocity prompt strike missile from existing VLS tubes is far more useful.

The lasers will make a good defensive weapon and seem to be working fine in R&D so not sure they really need more money at this point.

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Ben February 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

A gun is a gun whether powered by chemical engery or by electricity.

The big benefit of a railgun is combat survivability and scalability. There is no powder magazine to explode or catch fire, and you can use the saved space and weight to install a larger weapon, or for stores.

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STemplar March 1, 2011 at 2:31 am

That all assumes there is a mission for 200 nmi naval artillery, which is what l doubt.

STemplar February 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hopefully it works and is done with its 'growing pains'. While l agree we aren't going to launch any kind of amphib invasion of a contested coastline, we do need the ability to have forward staged maritime assault forces. You don't need to look farther than current headlines for why we need that capacity. If the USMC command should be screaming to get out of Stan and into the anti-piracy fight, as well as, to be positioned to address the sorts of things going on in Libya and the Arab world at the moment. Those are missions tailor made for the USMC.

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SJE February 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

This baby came in 0.8bil over budget, and has been plagued with problems since day one. At some stage, Northrup should be forced to eat some of the cost

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blight February 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

This is why contracts ought to be fixed-price. Or at least a system to disincentivize undercutting costs. As it is, we penalize if projects come in excessively underbudget since it suggests the contractor asked for more up front to get cash up front. Conversely, this incentivises waste. Cost-plus was meant to dynamically reimburse for unexpected costs, but this has lead to all sorts of shenanigans. If a contract was cost-plus, why not stick /more/ doodads to it?

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Phil Faxio September 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm

They did not eat a damn thing. Northrop Grumman stock has gone from 30 dollars per share to 100 dollars per share in the last 5 years. They profited from making a shit product and then got more Federal money to fix the problems. The NG tail is wagging the whole damn DOD dog !!!

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Alex February 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You get what you pay for Gulf coast ship yards build junk . There is a reason why ship building costs in that area are so low . When you use unskilled and low paid workers don't be surprised when nothing works.

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brian February 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Sounds more like design flaws than cheap labour. If the design was bad then it doesn't matter who built it. Even then its not cheap labour if you were working on a federal project, since you have to pay sky high wages no matter what.

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Engines not fitting into place or being bolted down properly is a manufacturing and installation issue. Oversight and lack of QC is the problem. If someone was on top of the program while parts are coming together issues like that don't happen.

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brian February 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Well if you are builder who receives a piece of equipment of size A, and have built a compartment that fits size B, your pretty much up the creek without a paddle, no matter what you do, and its not necessarily either of your companies fault. There could have been a change of spec or any number of issues. Not saying the builder is at fault, but to pin everything on the guy who to deal with every screwy thing that any number of component manufactures do, is a bit harsh. without justification. They are not hiring illegals who just swam across from cuba.

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I said oversight and lack of QC was the problem, didn't really pin the problem on anyone else. The problems the San Antonio has/had were a result of things not being installed correctly, by your own logic it isn't the design firm turning the wrench is it? As l said the problem is/was lack of oversight and QC, that's pretty obvious because if there had been those two components then a ship with a screwy improperly installed engine wouldn't have been turned over.

Alex February 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I've been there to take delivery of new vessel and its been a disaster every time. Not saying there aren't design problems but the equality of workmanship is often very poor . I've seen brand new vessels sent to a different yards to fix all the things that where done wrong because the builder couldn't be trusted to make the fixes.

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leesea March 1, 2011 at 1:50 am

this design of LPD is already being questioned. The Marines are having to downsize because the current mix of amphib can not lift the total load the Marines want.
And the Marines are NOT going to be doing many full divisons assaults much in the future IMHO

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Alberto February 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

We could do with one of your San Antonio class ships to assist in the Christchurch disaster…

War is not the only role of the military…

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

A valid point. These vessels have very large med bays. They can produce thousands of gallons of drinking water. Have CICs that can coordinate massive ops. Aviation support. Very capable handy things to have around in disaster relief ops.

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PrometheusGoneWild February 28, 2011 at 7:55 pm

While I am happy they have worked out all the bugs, and do think there are valid reasons to have this type of platform; why is almost every program we have in progress turning into a complete train wreck.
At some point it seems contractors realized there was a lot more money in screwing everything up and letting the Congressman smooth everything out.
We simply cannot afford this type of building program and still make the numbers necessary to have a viable fleet.
Either they are going to have to get it right and stop playing games or we as a nation will have to give up our role as world cop.
Which sound great. Until we have to come in and straighten things out after WW3 starts.
Call me crazy, but it has already happened twice…… Without external pressure most societies fall into the "we are strong so we will take it" pattern.
I am sure if this were to come about the UN will issue a stern warning …..It will come in two ply for better wiping.

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STemplar February 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Programs that work well and are on budget don't generate headlines, and even if they do they don't stay on the front page. The Virgina class is a prime example, arguably the most complex technologically advanced vehicles ever made and that program is on time and under budget. Read something last week about supposedly a way to shave 1 billion off each SSBX has been found and they hope for another billion per boat.

Lots of politics involved in the media as well. Over my life l can distinctly remember hearing on the evening news what junk the Bradley, Abrams, and Humvees were. They seemed to all have worked out fine.

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George Gauthier March 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

This whole class of ships should be sunk offshore to create artificial reefs that would provide habitat for fishes. That is the only likely use we will ever get from these misbegotten platforms.
The Navy should be ashamed of boondoggles like these LPDs and the equally bad LCS.

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JSCS March 2, 2011 at 8:08 am

Just curious….doing wartime pressures how where the Iowa class BB's built and delivered so quickly? They're certainly complex builds, as were the multitude of cruisers, DD's, DE's, and all the other craft put to sea at that time. Surely we're more capable designers and engineers now than doing that time, aren't we?

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Lori December 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Because back then, everyone was proud and believed in our military. Now its just a paycheck to them. The worker's labor union prevented them from being fired when they were caught doing something they weren't supposed to be doing during the builiding of the San. NG just transferred them to a different ship to work on.

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Bill March 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

From Bill–Former LI-2 1966-1967 on board USS Ozark-MCS-2__this ship had many problems also! We were a metal-minesweeper, What's wrong with this picture? Iron men on wooden ships mine force motto! We only stayed in commission for two years, was a waste of money!

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Christopher Pernell Thames December 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I had the distinct privilege to be a Plankowner of the USS San Antonio LPD-17 Class Amphib. It was tough duty! The hardest that I have ever been through commissioning a ship!

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brian March 1, 2011 at 10:55 am

First of all, no one has a clue whose fault is what. This is a first of its line ship, and there will always be issues with a project this complex. The quality control came in and said "change this and that, fix that". They fixed it, its good now. Hopefully the component suppliers and the builder have all their kinks out.

Not to beat you with this I can say as an engineer, I am often given grandiose tasks that will allegedly be supplied with top of line exactly performing components and support personnel. I then proceed to get the cheapest crap they can find and I make due. I can just imagine the construction manager just sitting there with a delivery deadline trying to piece together all the breaks from the every changing specs to put together something no one has ever seen before, and still floats.

Just saying, until you have ever built something that requires the goodwill of a lot of different people, you don't get engineering. I just haven't seen anything YET that justifies laying the whole debacle on the shipbuilder.

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STemplar March 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

And l never did, you may be an engineer but your reading comprehension is lacking. I said it is a lack of oversight and QC, I'm not sure what other conclusion can be drawn from an improperly installed ill fitting engine. If someone isn't checking these things then they should be, maybe a bathroom door isn't plumb but whether or not an engine is mounted properly someone should have their eye on. Maybe it was built poorly, maybe it was mounted poorly, I don't know, but someone should be insuring things get built properly.

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