As the U.S. Navy looks for ways to navigate a better course for the development and procurement of its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) fleet, some defense analysts and industry officials are holding up the San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock ship program as an example to follow.
After weathering criticisms over cost, deadlines and quality, the LPD-17s are now on a production run that has been earning kudos inside and outside the service.
The latest success is the LPD-24 Arlington. Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the Arlington in late August completed its builder’s sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ingalls has delivered six ships in the class and has five more under construction. During the second quarter of this year, the company launched the LPD-25 Somerset and completed acceptance trials for the LPD-23 Anchorage, notes HII CEO Michael Petters. The company also recently received a $1.5 billion construction contract for LPD-27, the 11th ship in the San Antonio class. Each ship, Petters says, helps the company prepare better for the building of the next one.
Speaking to Wall Street defense analysts earlier this year about the company’s 2011 financial results, he said: “The delivery of LPD-22 before the end of the year was a major, major accomplishment. It gave us some perspective on what we need to do to get 23, 24 and 25 delivered.”
The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (&E) agrees the LPD-17 program is in better shape after some early production problems. “The Navy has made progress in improving reliability and availability of critical ship systems affecting communications and propulsion,” DOT&E says in a recent report.
The improvements for the LPD-17 line have come during difficult times for HII. Company facilities endured the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and the company had to plan for a proposed shutdown of its yard in Avondale, La., where some of the vessels are built. Indeed, earlier this year Petters told Wall Street analysts that the LPD-22 deal was one of the company’s underperforming ship contracts.