USS Boxer, Amphibious Assault Ship Carrying Hundreds of Marines, Forced to Return to Port for Repairs Two Weeks After Deploying

2024-04-17 10:09:49

We have been documenting the U.S. Navy’s troubles with one of its premier amphibious assault ships, USS Boxer (LHD-4). This Wasp-Class ship, per the Navy’s description, is “[t]he largest of all amphibious warfare ships [and] resembles a small aircraft carrier.” It is capable of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) fighter jet operations, meaning that because Boxer does not have launch catapults, it can’t launch classic aircraft carrier fighter jets like the F/A-18, but it can launch the venerable Harrier jump jet and the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It also carries helicopters and can launch LCACs (Landing Craft, Air Cushioned), which are high-speed, water-borne vehicles used to transport Marines to shore.

The Boxer’s mission, per the Navy, is as follows:

Modern U.S. Navy Amphibious Assault Ships project power and maintain presence by serving as the cornerstone of the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) / Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). A key element of the Seapower 21 pillars of Sea Strike and Sea Basing, these ships transport and land elements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) or Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) with a combination of aircraft and landing craft.

The Wasp-class LHDs provide the Marine Corps with a means of ship-to-shore movement by helicopter in addition to movement by landing craft. LHDs have been participants in major humanitarian-assistance, occupation and combat operations in which the United States has been involved.

Unfortunately, Boxer has had a miserable time getting underway in the last few years, as we reported in August of last year:

USS Boxer Unable to Get Underway after Two-Year $200 Million Overhaul, Symptom of Military Readiness Problems:

Check this out from recent reporting: After 2-Year Overhaul, Navy Confirms USS Boxer Can’t Get Underway:

The USS Boxer, one of the Navy’s amphibious warships, is struggling to get to sea despite recently coming out of a maintenance period that cost the Navy $200 million and was supposed to ready the ship for the service’s newest fighter jet.

The Boxer was supposed to go to sea on July 21 but couldn’t “because of ongoing maintenance issues,” Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for the Naval Surface Force, told in a statement.

The Navy did not offer details on what issues specifically kept the ship in port, citing “operational security,” but Abrahamson was clear that “the Boxer’s preparation for sea trials identified additional maintenance requirements before the ship could get underway.”

The problems for the Boxer come at a time when they should be least expected — about a year after the ship left a maintenance period that began in the summer of 2020 and cost $200 million, according to a statement from BAE systems, the contractor for the work.

Boxer’s maintenance issues continued into this year, forcing the Navy to extend the Bataan ARG near Gaza, as we reported: DOD Extends Deployment of Marines Near Gaza:

Unfortunately, there is another reason for [USS Bataan’s] deployment extension, one having nothing to do with Gaza or attacks on U.S. assets: previously reported that the Pentagon was considering this extension for the Marines and sailors aboard the Bataan group. Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, who heads the Marine Corps’ modernization efforts, told late last month that the unit was then “looking at yet another extension” because of the unprepared state of the Navy’s amphibious ship fleet.

Heckl said that Marine expeditionary forces have been prevented from deploying on time because the amphibious ships they ride on are not ready to set sail due to a number of factors, including maintenance issues.

For example, the USS Boxer, an amphibious warship that will be the heart of the next Marine deployment, has been struggling with maintenance issues for months. The ship spent more than a year at the pier, despite having just completed a two-year overhaul. Then, when it finally did get underway, it belched black smoke outside San Diego harbor.

Two weeks ago, Navy officials told that the ship, which was scheduled to deploy in November, still needs “additional advanced training” before it is fully ready to deploy.

But Bataan, having been deployed for eight months, was finally allowed to return home to Norfolk, Virginia, and arrived there on March 16, 2024, leaving a gap in Marine Corps presence near Gaza.

That means that if Bataan’s Marines were planning to assist the Israelis in rescuing Americans still held hostage in Gaza, that plan is shot.

And things just went from bad to worse, as U.S. Naval Institute News reports: USS Boxer Back in San Diego for Repairs, Pacific Deployment Stalled:

USS Boxer (LHD-4) is back in San Diego, Calif., after suffering an engineering casualty, forcing the big deck amphibious warship to return for repairs, USNI News has learned.

Boxer and elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit left on April 1 for a Pacific deployment that had been on hold due in part to maintenance issues on the big deck. Following the departure, Boxer operated off the coast of California recertifying Marines with MV-22B Ospreys after a grounding that was lifted last month.

“USS Boxer is returning to San Diego to undergo additional maintenance in support of its deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. Boxer departed San Diego on April 1 for an Indo-Pacific deployment and was conducting integration exercises with the MV-22 Osprey in the 3rd Fleet Area of Operations,” reads a statement from U.S. 3rd Fleet to USNI News.
“USS Boxer will resume its deployment in the near future.”

Navy officials did not detail the casualty when asked but USNI News understands the casualty is related to the ship’s rudder. A defense official told USNI News the repairs could take two to three weeks based on the early damage estimates.

Marines and aircraft from the 15th MEU were offloaded from Boxer prior to its returntwo defense officials told USNI News on Thursday.

The big deck is the flagship of the three-ship Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which includes USS Somerset (LPD-25) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49).

The Navy, for its part, is admitting that Boxer’s monumental maintenance issues are a problem, with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Lisa Franchetti ordering a “deep dive” to uncover the root cause of Boxer’s maintenance problems, as reports: Top Navy Leader Has Ordered ‘Deep Dive’ on Amphibious Ship Readiness After Delays with USS Boxer:

“I think there’s some good lessons learned with Boxer,” Adm. Lisa Franchetti told a small group of reporters Monday at the Navy’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference just outside Washington, D.C.

“Overall, we’re going to learn a lot through this deep dive, where we can really understand what are the challenges with amphib readiness,” Franchetti added.

A defense official told in March that the Boxer was originally supposed to deploy late last year; however, a series of delays and mechanical issues that were driven, at least in part, by poor leadership aboard the ship kept it in port for months.

Franchetti said that she ordered the inquiry, led by three-star admirals in the Navy’s operations and plans and policy offices, in February and expects they will come to her with initial recommendations on how to proceed “in the May timeframe, and that will start to outline the shape of the the deep dive going forward.”

The Boxer’s issues were documented as far back as July when the ship, fresh out of a shipyard overhaul, hadn’t set sail in more than a year.

Franchetti said that overhaul, notably retrofitting the nearly 30-year-old ship’s flight deck to support the new F-35B Lightning II strike fighter, could have been part of the issue.

And in one of the greatest understatements in Navy history, Franchetti continues:

“That’s taking time when they go in for their upgrades, and that’s taking a little bit longer than expected,” she said.


And it gets worse yet because USS Wasp (LHD-1), the lead ship of the class, is next in line to deploy after Boxer but is having its own maintenance problems!

“We’re seeing some potential delays on Wasp. … We’re trying to look ahead to make sure that we can, I want to say … nip this in the bud,” she said.

Ship watchers spotted the USS Wasp — the same class of ship as the Boxer — depart Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, in early March only to return shortly afterward, apparently with tugs alongside it. Those social media posts also cited intercepted radio traffic saying the ship suffered an engineering breakdown with its driveshaft.

Lt. Cmdr. Dave Carter, a spokesman for Surface Force Atlantic, told that “during the underway, the ship discovered an engineering irregularity” and “returned to port to effect repairs.”

Navy watchers were not impressed:



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USS Boxer, Amphibious Assault Ship Carrying Hundreds of Marines, Forced to Return to Port for Repairs Two Weeks After Deploying


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