The US Navy has announced that it will not buy additional San Antonio-class amphibious warships in its $842 billion FY2024 budget. This decision is significant as the San Antonio class (LPD-17 Flight II) is one of the largest and arguably most capable warships in the US Navy’s arsenal. It is seen as a critical element for force projection and power projection in the years to come. 

Why Has Production Been Halted?

The Navy has decided to pause production of LPD-17 Flight II warships due to a strategic pause for evaluating amphibious warships as part of its overall review of current shipbuilding capabilities and future requirements. This evaluation was prompted by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s suggestion that the Marine Corps should examine ways of becoming more expeditionary, with smaller vessels that can be deployed faster than larger ships like aircraft carriers or LPD-17’s Flight II warships. 

“Depending on the length of a strategic pause, it risks the complete shutdown of a line. If a shipbuilding line shuts down, the risk to meeting future requirements greatly increases,” Maj. Josh Benson told USNI News. “Shipyards will be forced to cut workforce personnel. These losses will include skilled labor with years of experience that have been carried forward from keel to keel.”

As part of this evaluation, the Navy is developing a Capabilities-Based Assessment (CBA) to assess potential future ship capabilities based on operational requirements rather than specific vessel types or quantities requested by individual commands or services within DoD.

“I am also confident that once we complete this year’s Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirements Study, we will also see a continuing need to build more LPD-like ships well into the future to support our Marine Corps and support Force Design 2030,” Del Toro said at the WEST 2023 conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.

Impact on National Security & Readiness

The decision to halt production of LPD-17 aircraft carriers means that there will be delays in getting these vessels into service, which could potentially jeopardize the entire production line if it cannot be sustained over time due to a lack of orders from potential customers such as foreign navies or military forces who may require them for their operations in future years. 

“This will provide the analytic underpinning of our review of the LPD Flight II, and what the next amphibious warfare ship should be. In the meantime, LPD Flight II is in production and programming additional ships will enable the Navy to retire legacy LSD platforms on a one-for-one basis,” Benson told USNI News. “Without a programmed replacement for LSD’s being decommissioned, substantial risk falls on the Combatant Commander as the requirement for 31 ships will not be met. This is unacceptable.”