Home » Budget Industry » Navy Designates Upcoming LX(R) Amphibs as San Antonio-Class LPD Flight II


Navy Designates Upcoming LX(R) Amphibs as San Antonio-Class LPD Flight II

The amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) transits past amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) as the ships depart Okinawa. Green Bay is part of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which is operating in the Indo-Pacific region. US Navy photo.

The Navy’s dock landing ship replacement program officially has a name: San Antonio-class LPD Flight II.

In a nod to the high degree of commonality between the Navy’s original LPD design and the variant filling the LX(R) requirement, which replaces the Whidbey Island-class LSD, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts this week signed a memo announcing the LPD Flight II designation.

“The term LX(R) is going to start to go away,” LPD and LX(R) program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf said today at a program briefing at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 symposium.
“As of yesterday, Secretary Geurts signed a memo that said the LX(R), the requirement for an LX(R), an LSD replacement ship, will be met by LPD Flight II. The first LPD Flight II will be LPD-30,” a hull that lawmakers chose to fund in their Fiscal Year 2018 budget ahead of the Navy’s original plans.

Ultimately, this will create a class of 26 San Antonio hulls – 13 Flight I and 13 Flight II.

Additionally, the Navy is already discussing the possibility of buying the Flight II ships, starting with LPD-31, in a block buy contract. Due to early problems with the San Antonio program – including starting construction before the design was completed, manufacturing quality issues, damage to the shipyard from Hurricane Katrina and instability in the design and the program quantity – the Flight I ships were bought one at a time.

The Navy had planned to stop at LPD-27, but then lawmakers added an LPD-28. And then, once it was determined that the LX(R) design would be based on the LPD design, an LPD-29 was added to help bridge the gap in production between the end of the San Antonio program and the beginning of LX(R). With production ahead of schedule at the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Mississippi, lawmakers were considering adding LPD-30 as another bridge ship, but the Navy has instead decided that that hull will be the first of the Flight II ships.

Huntington Ingalls Industries image.

Going forward, Metcalf said “the ideal build rate, according to the shipyard, is one-year centers. Right now the Navy’s program of record does not budget those ships on one-year centers. We have a gap in ‘19 and a gap in ‘21. We are looking to try to answer questions about whether it’s value-added to maybe fill in one or both of those gaps. or if we could execute some kind of block purchase of the follow ships” that would otherwise provide some stability at the shipyard and with Ingalls’ supply base.

He noted that the 2021 ship would be harder to add in – the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine will formally start construction in 2021, creating a sizeable bill in the Navy’s shipbuilding account that year, but Metcalf said fielding the ships as quickly as possible is a great priority for the Marine Corps and that conversations would still need to take place about how to achieve the best procurement profile.

Metcalf told USNI News after his presentation that, though there are some differences between the Flight I ships, LPDs 28 and 29 as “transition ships” and the Flight II design, the commonality and subsequent savings in training and logistics were a main selling point for the LPD Flight II concept.

“In my recent trip to San Diego, we could look up and down the waterfront and see five LPDs. Those guys help each other – if somebody has a problem, they’ve got resources down the pipe,” he said.
“So having 26 ships divided around the world allows commonality of parts, commonality of training, sailors that can cross-deck and earn their qualifications. It gives us great flexibility and it saves us from creating a whole other pipeline of accession and training. So it’s been one of the selling points of going to Flight II.”

Asked how much the design changes between Flight I and II would affect the ability to cross-deck sailors, Metcalf said “it’s not going to change the way most of the watches are stood. A couple different capabilities – an EASR (Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar) tech isn’t going to be the same as a 48 (AN/SPS-48G radar) tech, but at the ship operation level, up on the bridge, down in the plant – the engine room is all the same.”

  • Ed L

    Outstanding

  • Curtis Conway

    Sounds like a good idea to me. Might want to think about where the Mk41 VLS will go.

    • Alan Gideon

      Flt I has an unused VLS magazine immediately forward of the pilot house, where this picture shows a 30mm mount.

    • PolicyWonk

      The space is there. The will to do something with it, however, is another matter.

    • Secundius

      Reactivation of the “BMD/Arsenal Ship” cancelled by the 2011 Sequestration?/!

      • Curtis Conway

        Having Mk41 on every Surface Combatant brings a lot to the table. Since it will be on the FFG(X) the loadout mix will be determined by mission goals, and the AOR environment (meaning the threat). Insurance packages can always be included like a couple of SM-6 for a NIFC-CA shot. One never knows when that bird will be required, but when it is, at least you can shoot and run and/or donate your contribution to the cause. The FFG(X) will be the Shephard David with his sling and bag of stones, with a shephard’s Staff. Can’t hold off an army, but can blunt the strike of the Scout/Skirmishers and run to the battlegroup, or to safety. SO . . . in affect all ships are an arsenal ship to some extent. That is the beauty of Mk41 VLS, and it should backfit to the Amphibs ASAP.

        • Secundius

          As I recall the BMD/Arsenal Ship had Spacing for ~288 VLS. And a Forward Gun Mount of more that 5-inches…

  • DaSaint

    Finally some rational decision-making regarding shipbuilding.
    There’s opportunities for further variants as well, though entry date into service may be a problem for future variants.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      I believe the intention for these ships is to make them NIFC-CA capable, but not ship an “Aegis Lite” like the FFG(X) is planned to, It does mean that an escorting DDG could use the date from the LPD’s EASR to target an air or surface threat without having any indigenous radar contact. In theory the radar, missile and CinC could all be on separate platforms, ie the LPD radar gets a target, the escorting CG/DDG provides the launch authorization, which is then fired from another escorting DDG/FFG.

      • @USS_Fallujah

        Woops, wrong thread, apologies that was for @ZivBnd:disqus

      • Ziv Bnd

        Interesting. This emphasis on networking the battlefield could lead to huge improvements in the effectiveness of our Navy. Or if the enemy is able to block it, we could be in a world of hurt. I like the fact that the Pentagon is emphasizing exercises in a non-GPS environment. I would imagine they will do something like that with regards to the LX(R) and any weaponry they carry.

  • Ziv Bnd

    Will the LX(R) have the ability to target ships or aircraft with the EnterpriseAirSurveillanceRadar and hit them? Does EASR have the ability to target a ship or aircraft and lock the appropriate Standard missiles onto them? Or is it just a search radar?

    • USNVO

      The EASR is a 3D air search search radar to replace the SPY-4 Volume Search Radar on the USS FORD. The SPY-4 is overkill on the FORD and once it was removed from the DDG-1000, way to expensive. The SPY-3 is the X-band target designation radar on the FORD. So yes, just an air search radar.

      • Ziv Bnd

        So even if the LX(R) did get an 8 cell VLS, or two, it would need to have a Burke or eventually, a FFG(X), nearby to target the threat and lock the LX(R)’s Standard missiles on to it? Given the Navy emphasis on Distributed Lethality, it may be worth it even if the LX(R) can’t fight a threat all by itself.

        • USNVO

          No, if they had a VLS system, they would probably install some type of illumination system if they were carrying ESSM, most likely a NATO Seasparrow MK95 illuminator (they look like Mickey Mouse Ears) queued by the EASR. In a self-defense situation you would need to self-illuminate because of multi-pathing and reflective angles. If you were just hauling SM-2/SM-6 around, you could have external illumination but it is questionable what sized launcher would be used and, if you had a strike length launcher, why you wouldn’t have a missile to support the ARG like Tomahawk or a VL JASSM.

    • Secundius

      Considering the “San Antonio” class Hull Design was also for that of the “BMD/Arsenal Ships” that were cancelled just after the 2011 Sequestration Implemented. Which probably be could be Reactivated using the LR(X) design instead…

    • Curtis Conway

      The EASR radar is basically an AN/SPY-6 with a 9-RMA antenna rotating. If it can track it, it’s a Fire Control track. The EASR was designed to be a direct replacement for the -48. Did that answer your question?

  • TomD

    This ship has roller doors on the hangars.

    My town will not buy fire trucks with equipment bays that have roller doors because they are prone to jamming.

    Should this have been a consideration?

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      If we can’t figure out roller doors, we are not going to win any wars anyway. Just my humble opinion.

    • Ed L

      The Austin class LPD, The Sacramento class AOE, Perry FFG, Spruance DDG, almost all the Fleet support ships had roll down hanger doors. With a manual over ride ( chain pull) . Proven tech now on the Austin Class LPD’s we had hatched into the messdeck that would roll to the side. They sucked. Replacing gaskets suck repairing the rollers suck especially after a forklift backed into one of them

  • @USS_Fallujah

    NavSea should have done the same thing with the Burke Class instead of FFG (or LCS if we can go back in time), de-scope the DDG hull to an FFG configuration and call it an new flight, then proceed with the flight III concurrently, it would save tons of trouble (and money) in R&D, testing, etc. and (as it turns out) would have allowed them to bury the needle on capabilities for the same price point as most the current batch of FFG(X) bidders.

  • RunningBear

    “Bigger Well Deck”, is the requirement for the LSD, not “Lipstick”/ Flt. II on a LPD. IF the L(X)R does not included the extended well deck as required, then it will “Fail its requirement” to carry more surface connectors than a LPD; less Marines, more tanks. The LSD must carry “ALL” of the heavy equipment required by the MEU from the JLTV, M-777 to the M-1A. Adding the extended “wet deck” to the L(X)R could remove that requirement from the LHA and allow for a stronger aviation contingent for transporting/ supporting Marines from the fleet to the beach. Adding the VLS under the guise of “If it floats, it fights” concept would be a great benefit for protecting the ship/ fleet (NIFC-CA) and with SM-6 and the F-35B adding protection/ attack capabilities on the beach. This ship is the proverbial “the gear in the rear” carrier and any reduction in capacity is intolerable. Cross decking is “sweet” at the O-10+ level but 2x M-777/ M-1A is more important at the E-1/9 “boots on the ground” level. More LCACs, More LCACs, More LCACs,………….

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      I actually agree with you. I thought the idea was LX(R) was the new replacement for the LSDs, and the idea was it was going to be a cheaper version the LPD-17 class (which is very cool and pretty technologically-advanced for a “transport”-type of Amphibious ship) but it was going to basically be less advanced technology & therefore less expensive, but also bigger and carrying more. But if it’s just an exact copy of the LPD-17 but less technologically advanced, what’s the point? I don’t know, I had a lot of faith/hope for LX(R). Hopefully it’s not just what it seems right now.

    • Curtis Conway

      RunningBear’s got my vote. The M1A Abrams for the NEU are needed as well as the other equipment.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    “The Navy had planned to stop at LPD-27, but then lawmakers added an
    LPD-28. And then, once it was determined that the LX(R) design would be
    based on the LPD design, an LPD-29 was added to help bridge the gap in
    production between the end of the San Antonio program and the beginning
    of LX(R).”

    More proof that jobs and pork are more important than what the military deems they need. Yawn…

    • Secundius

      I suspect that one of the Many Projected Uses of the LX(R) is that of a Combat Ro-RoTransporter (i.e. Bob Hope class) with Limited Flight Deck Spacing and NO Helicopters…

  • Papasan Pauly

    San Antonio’s have more troop, vehicle and cargo space while Whidbey Island’s have a much greater well deck for more LCACs which are vital for the ship to shore movement. Every ship in the ARG has a specific purpose and while a second San Antonio hull in the ARG is a very good thing, it creates connector gaps in moving people, equipment and materials. America’s don’t have a well deck so putting two San Antonio hulls with her or Tripoli will seriously hinder ARG/MEU operations. Not sure what to think with this much loss in rapid power projection capabilities.

  • RunningBear

    LX(R) is supposed to have a well deck for “4” LCAC, as a requirement. “If” the Flt II LPD has the extended well deck for the 4 LCACs as has been discussed but not announced, then all might be better; but not less than 4 LCACs.

  • Rob C.

    Sounds like navy gave up on concept of a separate class of warship, just say “Yeah, its same ship stripped down with couple different things on it.”

    I’d rather seen them try at least give class a different name, LPD Flight II, sound boring. However as long get the job done.

    • Secundius

      I suspect it happen in the Early Sixties when DL (Destroyer Leaders) started Out Weighing WWII era Light Cruisers and Modern DD’s replaced DL’s…

  • Curtis Conway

    That EASR radar will look a whole lot better in the place of the SPS-48. Now we just need the Mk41 VLS and COMBATSS-21 CIC.