San Antonio, which was commissioned in January 2005, ended up
with a final price tag of about $1.76
billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Somerset (LPD 25) is expected to
cost $1.3 billion in fiscal 2007 dollars, not including advance procurement, according to the Congressional
The alignments of diesel engines
were a particularly tough challenge
for the Navy and industry.
“Alignments were a lot more
critical than they were on previous
ships,” Lounsberry said. “But, over
the course of the last few years, we
found all those issues and resolved
them. Of course, some had to be
resolved out in the fleet.”
HII went through some of those
repairs with San Diego (LPD 22),
which was delivered to the fleet in December. The Navy
“asked us to go through an additional set of diesel trials,
a diesel baseline assessment trial, to make sure we worked
all the bugs out,” Lounsberry said.
He noted that Navy officials said afterward they were
“very impressed with the engine,” which he said was a
sign those issues are “behind us.”
Arlington (LPD 24) is under construction at HII’s
shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., and Avondale Shipyard
workers in Louisiana are building Anchorage (LPD 23)
and Somerset. Lounsberry hopes those ships will show
the company has truly solved past problems.
“We’re very confident that all of those early engine
issues are behind us now,” he said.
Although it was the engines that caused many of the
problems, a lot of smaller headaches cropped up over
the years. In 2008, Navy crews encountered an issue
with the hydraulics on the stern gate of San Antonio,
which delayed its departure from Norfolk, Va., by a
couple of days.
Other issues were even smaller, but still needed fixing.
For example, the ship had overly sophisticated eyewash
systems that the program ultimately did away with to
save on cost, Lounsberry said. One random problem
crews discovered during sea trials was that while the ship
moved, the shower curtains in the bathrooms would
slide back and forth in front of the sensors on the toilets,
causing them to flush all day long.
And although it has been more than six years since
Hurricane Katrina ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast and shipbuilding operations there, Mother Nature deserves some
of the blame for LPD 17’s performance, Lounsberry said.
Sailors drive rigid hull inflatable boats past the amphibious transport dock ship
USS New Orleans during small boat operations Feb. 7 in the Arabian Gulf. New
Orleans and embarked Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit
are deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S.
Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.
“Katrina was a big blow for us down here,” he said. “It
essentially wiped the shipyard out. Not only did it destroy
most of our shops, but it drove most of our work force out
of the area completely for several years. We had LPD 22
and 23 just about to start construction around that time.
We had to strike some deals with other construction outfits to outsource some of our work. That caused delays.”
Subcontractors at an Orange, Texas, facility took a
major hit as well. Less than a month after Katrina,
Hurricane Rita struck the Texas coast and completely
submerged the facility.
“We had to rebuild a lot of those units, which set us
back,” Lounsberry said.
Today, however, HII has the work force back up to
speed, he added.
Asked to name some lessons learned from the program, Lounsberry said it comes back to the design.
“The design has to be sufficiently mature before you
start production,” he said. “If you try to start produc-
tion with an immature design, you’re going to drive
cost up or drive issues on deck plates.”
No matter what happened in the past, the Navy and
industry must get past finger-pointing if a program is
to be righted, he said.
“The Navy engineering community, the maintenance community, the shipbuilder and the vendor really spent a lot of time, rolled up their sleeves [and] got
in the same room to really identify the root cause of the
problem,” he said.
Officials at Naval Sea Systems Command were
unable to respond to a request for comment for this
report by press time, Feb. 14. ;