More than 3,000 guests attended the commissioning ceremony for USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19). Mesa Verde is the third amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio class and will support the Marine Corps mobility triad, which consists of the landing craft air cushion, advanced amphibious assault vehicles and the MV-22A Osprey tilt rotor aircraft. The ship also provides improved war fighting capabilities including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capacity in vehicle and cargo-carrying capability and advanced ship-survivability features. The ship is named after Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, a significant archaeological and anthropological site that in 1906 Congress established as the first cultural park in the National Park Systems. U.S. Navy photo by Heather Vann
The Mesa Verde’s two predecessors, San Antonio and New Orleans, both suffered from major construction issues and neither is yet really ready for action. Thankfully, those problems seem to have been avoided with the Mesa Verde. In September, Defense News reported: Third Time Could Be the Charm for LPD Program
The San Antonio-class LPD 17 program has been in trouble since late 1998, when the initial construction contract was awarded to Avondale Industries in New Orleans. Avondale beat out Litton Ingalls primarily because it planned to use a new computer program to design the ships — the first time a Navy ship was designed in its entirety using computer tools. But the program didn’t work, the Navy kept making design changes, costs escalated and major delays ensued.
Litton Ingalls bought Avondale in 1999 thinking it could fix the program — which it couldn’t — and in late 2000 the shipyards were acquired by Northrop Grumman.
On the customer side, a succession of Navy program managers and acquisition executives struggled — unsuccessfully in most cases — to hold down the design churn and manage costs, which have more than doubled from the $750 million per ship the Navy forecast in the late 1990s. The Navy now estimates the acquisition cost for the ninth ship, LPD 25, will be $1.8 billion.
All those problems and more affected the first two ships of the class. The USS San Antonio (LPD 17) was delivered in mid-2005 in an incomplete state. The Navy accepted the ship knowing it had numerous construction defects, many of which would need to be fixed for extra cost after the shipyard’s obligation period ended. The USS New Orleans (LPD 18) was delivered last December, also with incomplete spaces, and neither ship has yet [deployed].
Mesa Verde was built at Ingalls. The first two were built at Avondale, and the next two will be, as well.