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.