The U.S. Navy’s San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock ships operate perfectly well in safe seas, but questions still exist about the fleet’s worth during more risky operations, according to the Pentagon’s Director of Operational, Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
It’s a longstanding DOT&E criticism that has particularly rankled the Navy, which points out that the ship is not meant to operate alone in contested waters, and has already completed missions successfully at sea.
Navy officials said they could not comment now on the most recent DOT&E report, released earlier this month.
“LPD-17 is capable of conducting amphibious operations in a benign environment,” the DOT&E says, “but is not operationally effective, suitable, or survivable in a hostile environment.
“The design of San Antonio-class ships have numerous survivability improvements compared to the LPD class ships they will replace,” the report notes. “However, problems encountered with critical systems during testing, as well as difficulties in recovering mission capability, have offset some of the survivability design improvements and have highlighted the impact of serious reliability shortcomings.”
The ship still meets its amphibious lift requirements for landing force vehicles, cargo, personnel, fuel, hangar space, well-deck capacity, and flight-deck landing areas, the DOT&E says. But the LPD-17 has not yet demonstrated adequate reliability and availability of critical ship systems, including the control system; its interior voice communications system; engineering control system; support equipment such as cargo ammunition magazine elevators and vehicular ramps; main propulsion diesel engines; the electrical distribution system; the steering system; combat systems such as its SPQ-9B horizon search radar and the Mk 46 Gun Weapons System (GWS); and the magnetic signature control system.
Various LPD-17 self-defense systems also have failed to demonstrate adequate capability. “The ship has not yet demonstrated an adequate command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence capability,” the report says. Recent testing, “revealed several combat systems deficiencies and underscored several previously known deficiencies.”
The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey identified similar deficiencies in the same areas during both acceptance and final contract trials across all four of the first ships of the class, DOT&E notes.
“Serious fabrication and production deficiencies” were found prior to the full ship shock trial in LPD-19 and during LPD-17’s deployment, according to the report.