The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio gets underway off Norfolk, Va., Jan. 30 in support of Bold Alligator
2012, the largest Navy and Marine Corps amphibious exercise in the past 10 years.
them before they were really ready to be accepted. They
hadn’t wrung out the problems they had.
“It’s hard to tell how much progress they’ve made,”
he added. “Clearly, they’re aware of the problem.”
Despite a long string of schedule delays, cost in-
creases and design problems in the San Antonio class,
HII believes it has finally righted the ship.
Doug Lounsberry, HII’s vice president and LPD 17
program manager, argues many of the problems that
came about in the class had to do with the revolutionary design of the ship.
“The concept of the ship came up during the Reagan
era, when we were going to have a 600-ship Navy,”
Lounsberry told Seapower. “This was going to be the
amphib of the 21st century. [The Pentagon] was flush
with [research and development] money and that type
of thing, so they were going to try to put the latest technology they could into this class of ship.
“They had five different classes of ships that were
doing various portions of the amphibious mission —
individually capable of doing certain parts, but not the
entire mission,” he said. “So, the thinking was [to build]
that one multimission amphibious platform that could
do it all, add a degree of survivability to it [and] give it
more of an offensive and defensive capability.”
The goal was to have 12 of these “multicapable” am-
phibs in a 38-amphib fleet, Lounsberry said, but the mul-
timission ability resulted in a lot of design complexity.
Avondale Alliance — before it became part of Litton
Industries, Northrop Grumman and then HII — won
the original design and construction proposal in 1996
for the first in the San Antonio class, with options for
four more ships.
“They kicked off the design, and this was a brand
new platform, [so] they went through the typical design
spirals,” Lounsberry said.
One of the first signs of trouble was the Navy’s decision to use a propulsion plant different from the one the
Avondale team had selected because it wanted the same
engine used in previous LPDs. However, that meant
modifying the ship to get the speed it wanted.
“Those engines were running at the hairy edge, and
that was leading to some failures,” Lounsberry said. “From
what they knew at the time, it was the right decision.”
However, that proved to be a “very complex and dif-
ficult problem to come through,” he added.
As Avondale built San Antonio, “they were getting
bombarded with changes,” which led to more problems, he said. Also, New Orleans (LPD 18) started
halfway through the construction of LPD 17, so it had
many of the same issues as well. That caused the real
cost of the ship to grow as the design was completed
and construction progressed.
But, thanks to a “hot production line” now, Lounsberry
said there has been a 2 million man-hour reduction in the
cost of building the ship between LPD 17 and LPD 25.