Lack of Free San Diego Dry Docks Complicates USS Boxer Repair

April 19, 2024 6:27 PM
USS Boxer (LHD-4) coming into San Diego on April 11, 2024. San Diego Webcam Photo

The two dry docks large enough to accommodate a big deck amphibious warship in San Diego, Calif., are currently occupied, complicating the repairs of USS Boxer (LHD-4), USNI News has learned.

Boxer came back into port last week with one of its rudders damaged after leaving earlier this month on deployment. As of Friday, the Navy was assessing how to repair the rudder to allow the 45,000-ton capital ship to return to sea, a service official told USNI News. The service would prefer to fix the rudder underwater with the understanding that the replacement repair could take up to two to three weeks, USNI News previously reported.

Complications could arise if the big deck needs to go into dry dock. The dry dock large enough to accommodate Boxer at BAE Systems’ San Diego repair yard is occupied by an availability for Littoral Combat Ship USS Oakland (LCS-24). The nearby General Dynamics NASSCO dry dock is occupied by guided-missile destroyer USS Chung Hoon (DDG-93), which is undergoing an availability to install the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3. Moving either of the warships would extend both availabilities, USNI News understands.

The Navy is considering using a dry dock in Portland, Ore., at a shipyard owned by Vigor Industrial, but the service would have to remove ten feet of the Boxer’s mast so the big deck could travel under a bridge on the Willamette River to reach the yard, two sources familiar with Navy deliberations told USNI News.

As of now, Boxer is at the pier at Naval Base San Diego.

Boxer returned to San Diego on April 11 after leaving on a delayed Amphibious Ready Group deployment with the embarked 15th Marine Expeditionary Group.

Boxer is the flagship of the three-ship Boxer ARG, which also includes USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49). The deployment is the first for the Marine’s new Amphibious Combat Vehicles.

The deployment of the Boxer ARG and the 15th MEU has been split due to the big deck’s maintenance woes. Somerset left San Diego in January on its own with elements of the 15th MEU aboard. Harpers Ferry departed San Diego on March 19.

Having Boxer sidelined has forced the Navy and Marine Corps to retool several planned engagements in the Western Pacific, including Cobra Gold off Thailand earlier this year and the bilateral Balikatan exercise with the Philippines. Boxer was supposed to be a key asset in the drills with Manila that are billed as the largest in 30 years. This year’s exercises follow increasingly aggressive moves from China against Armed Forces of the Philippines’ resupply mission to the AFP’s base on Second Thomas Shoal, USNI News previously reported.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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