USS San Antonio (LPD-17)
|Name:||USS San Antonio|
|Namesake:||The city of San Antonio, Texas|
|Awarded:||17 December 1996|
|Builder:||Northrop Grumman Ship Systems|
|Laid down:||9 December 2000|
|Launched:||12 July 2003|
|Sponsored by:||Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison|
|Commissioned:||14 January 2006|
|Homeport:||Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia|
|Motto:||"Never Retreat, Never Surrender"|
|Status:||in active service, as of 2016[update]|
|Class & type:||San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock|
|Displacement:||25,000 tons full|
|Draft:||7 m (23 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Four Colt-Pielstick diesel engines, two shafts, 40,000 hp (30 MW)|
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h)|
|Boats & landing
|Capacity:||699 (66 officers, 633 enlisted); surge to 800 total.|
|Complement:||363 (28 officers, 335 enlisted)|
|Aircraft carried:||Four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters OR two MV-22 tilt rotor aircraft may be launched or recovered simultaneously.|
USS San Antonio (LPD-17), the lead ship of her class of amphibious transport dock or landing platform dock, is the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the city of San Antonio, Texas. The ship is designed to deliver up to 800 Marines ashore by landing craft and helicopters.
Construction and commissioning
The construction contract was awarded on 17 December 1996 to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems of New Orleans, Louisiana and the keel was laid down on 9 December 2000. The ship was launched on 12 July 2003 and christened on 19 July by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She was originally scheduled to be commissioned 17 July 2002, but was delayed by poor performance at the Avondale shipyard, which resulted in her being towed from New Orleans to the Northrop Grumman shipyard at Pascagoula, Mississippi, in December 2004 for completion. The ship was unable to move under her own power at that time, despite having been christened more than a year earlier.
The crew took delivery and moved aboard three days before Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005. Work was delayed further when the ship became a base for regional relief efforts, including accommodations for some shipyard workers, the National Guard, Navy diving and salvage personnel and government officials. The ship's final cost was $840 million over budget.
The ship arrived in her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia on 18 December 2005. The ship was finally commissioned 14 January 2006, at NS Ingleside, Texas under the command of Captain Jonathan M. Padfield. Guest speakers included former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Senator Hutchison, the ship's sponsor, gave the crew the customary first command, "Man our ship, and bring her to life!"
San Antonio is the first U.S. Navy vessel to incorporate new crew comfort features, including bunks with increased headroom, in-rack fans, and pull-out laptop computer shelves. She is also the largest U.S. Navy vessel to incorporate stealth features, with close attention paid to exterior shaping.
- Major antennas are mounted on platforms inside two Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensor systems rather than on traditional mast yardarms.
- Deck edges are bounded by shaped bulwarks rather than lifeline stanchions. These bulwarks are hollow and double as storage lockers, eliminating locker clutter on decks.
- Exterior equipment is recessed or flush-mounted where possible, giving the ship a clean exterior appearance. Any equipment that cannot be flush-mounted (such as ladders) incorporate shaping features of their own.
- The boat-handling crane at the center of the ship folds into a clean shape when not in use.
- The anchor and anchor pocket are shaped to minimize radar backscatter.
Ship's Coat of Arms
The colors of the shield and star are adapted from the Texas state flag. The star also commemorates the "Lone Star" and first ship to bear the name San Antonio. Red is the color for valor and sacrifice, blue is for loyalty and white, purity of purpose. The Alamo honors the heroes who offered their lives to ensure the freedom of Texas. The bluebonnets refer to the beauty and majesty of Texas and the olive branch highlights the ship's peacekeeping mission. The trident and cannon represent the old and new weaponry. The cannonballs and nineteenth century cannon were similar weapons used by the brave men that defended the Alamo. The trident, symbol of sea prowess, also represents the "mobility triad" that USS San Antonio is built for. The crossed Navy and Marine Corps swords represent cooperation and teamwork of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps.
USS San Antonio served as a flagship for Combined Task Force 151, the multi-national anti-piracy naval force off Somalia. The ship acted as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) for the following force elements:
- 14-member U.S. Navy visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team.
- 8-member U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 405.
- Scout Sniper Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) cross-decked from USS Iwo Jima.
- 3rd platoon of the 26 MEU 'Golf' Infantry Company, a military police detachment, and intelligence personnel.
- Fleet Surgical Team 8 with level-two surgical capability to deal with trauma, surgical, critical care and medical evacuation needs.
- Approximately 75 Marines with six AH-1W Super Cobra and two UH-1N Huey helicopters from the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (HMM-264) of the 26th MEU cross-decked from USS Iwo Jima.
- Three HH-60H helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 3 (HS-3) cross-decked from USS Theodore Roosevelt.
During the ship's time off Africa, the crew boarded 20 foreign vessels. The crew discovered hidden explosives on one of the vessels. The ship returned to Norfolk on 27 March 2009.
Problems and incidents
Nearly three years after commissioning, problems persist with this first-in-class vessel. On 27 January 2006, a contract worth over $6 million was awarded to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, for the Post-Shakedown Availability of USS San Antonio. Work was expected to be completed by April 2007. On 22 June 2007, Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter sent a letter to Northrop Grumman outlining problems with the ship, from leaks to steerage issues, stating, "Twenty-three months after commissioning of LPD 17, the Navy still does not have a mission-capable ship."
On 27 August 2008, San Antonio was unable to deploy as scheduled with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), due to a mechanical failure in the stern gate of her well deck, which would prevent proper loading and deployment of landing craft. The problem was fixed and San Antonio deployed two days late, on 29 August 2008.
Two months into her maiden deployment, San Antonio had been forced to undergo an unplanned maintenance stop in Bahrain due to leaks in its lube oil piping system. During inspections in summer 2009 it was found that over 1,000 feet (300 m) of piping had to be replaced.
In late November the ship's four diesel engines were out of commission and needed to be re-inspected after metal shavings were found in the engine's main reduction gears from when the shipyard workers at the shipbuilder, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems had improperly welded the piping.
During a February 2009 transit of the Suez Canal, with both engines at full power, one engine suddenly went into reverse, sending the vessel careening out of control and narrowly missing hitting other ships and running aground.
In response to these problems the Navy finally got approval to hire sufficient Supervisor of Shipbuilding officers in 2009.
In October 2010, the Department of Defense released a report outlining numerous engineering flaws in San Antonio. A top aide in the Department of Defense was quoted as saying that Northrop Grumman's ships are "not effective, suitable and not survivable in combat". The report also blamed Raytheon Co., a subcontractor providing fiber optics, electrical and anti-missile systems for San Antonio, for "persistent engineering deficiencies."
During an anti-piracy mission in February 2009, one of the ship's crew, Petty Officer 1st Class Theophilus K. Ansong, 34, of Bristol, Virginia, was killed in a small boat accident in the Gulf of Aden. The ship's captain, Commander Eric C. Cash, was reprimanded over the incident at an admiral's mast by Admiral J.C. Harvey Jr., the commander of Fleet Forces Command. Another officer, Lieutenant Commander Sean Kearns, the ship's executive officer refused a mast over the same incident and was court-martialed in October and November 2010. During the trial, his defense team presented evidence of the ship's numerous deficiencies and lack of written procedures as contributing to the accident. Kearns was acquitted of the charges on 5 November 2010. Kearns stated that the ship's officers had been pressured by the Navy to declare the ship ready to deploy even though they knew that it still had significant, unresolved problems.
In April 2011- after nearly two years of constant repair work at various shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia- the Navy started an investigation  into the constant mechanical and engineering issues with San Antonio. The Executive Director of the Regional Maintenance Activity (RMC), Thomas J. Murphy, managing the work was relieved and transferred, as were the senior Waterfront Operations personnel. The Navy said that two contractors, Earl Industries, the prime contractor, and Fairbanks Morse, the engine manufacturer, were unwilling or unable to provide complete documentation into what was fixed on the ship and how. As a result, the Navy suspended Norfolk Ship Support Activity's oversight authority. On 6 May 2011, the Navy canceled its maintenance contract with Earl Industries, citing, "improper work performed and concern regarding Earl Industries' quality assurance program and the company's ability to control the quality and documentation of work it performs."
On 26 May 2011, after 10 days of sea trials, the ship's Captain, Commander Thomas Kait, declared the ship's power plants fit for duty. The ship completed the trials on 15 June 2011 and was scheduled for a short training deployment from July to August 2011. In July 2011 San Antonio's diesel engine's intercoolers were found to be mechanically deficient after the ship failed to gain full power causing the ship to return to be repaired. The repairs also found deficiencies in work performed by Earl Industries. The repairs were completed on 3 August 2011.
As of August 2011, the Navy now says that all problems with the ship's engines have been corrected including "foreign material exclusion plugs left in the drain piping system, use of incorrect material and improper installation and sealing of gaskets".
In March 2012, the ship was awarded the Navy's Battle Effectiveness award. In winning the award, San Antonio beat out four other amphibious ships, and will have a big "E" painted on her superstructure.
August 2013 deployment
In late August 2013 Washington confirmed that San Antonio had entered into the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They stressed it was a long-planned action and not related to the arrival of destroyers which had been stationed there due to the conflict in Syria, but officials thought it prudent to keep the ship near the destroyers given the situation. In early October 2013, Al Qaeda operative Abu Anas al-Libi was seized in Libya and then transferred to San Antonio to await transport to the United States for a trial and questioning.
This article contains information from the Naval Vessel Registry and various other U.S. Navy Web sites.
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- Weiser, Benjamin; Schmitt, Eric (6 October 2013). "U.S. Said to Hold Qaeda Suspect on Navy Ship". The New York Times.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to USS San Antonio (LPD-17).|
- USS San Antonio official website
- navsource.org: USS San Antonio
- National Defense Magazine article
- USN Commissioning press release
- Navy Times article on Post-commissioning Defects