Sunday, July 15, 2007

The LPD 17 Program: Is it Drama or Comedy?

The San Antonio class LPD is officially an embarrassment for the Navy, unless the Navy enjoys being associated with same kind of nonsense only found on sitcoms and soap operas. The most recent events of the San Antonio class saga has the Navy blaming the shipbuilder, the shipbuilder blaming Congress, and Congress blaming the Navy. Gentleman, here's a tip, using the media to point fingers at each other about the problem doesn't help the situation.

If it wasn't so expensive, and I'm not only talking money here, this whole program would be funny.

To make things even more interesting in a program that can't seem to get any ships to sea that are, uhm, seaworthy, India is now looking to acquire another LPD from the US Navy. After taking control of the USS Trenton (LPD 14) earlier this year, or should I say the INS Jalashva, India now has its eyes on the USS Nashville (LPD 13).

New Delhi, July 14 : The Indian Navy has sought a second troop carrier from the US to build on its newly acquired capabilities but Washington would have to clear the sale of the ship before a deal was negotiated, a senior US military officer said Saturday.

"The Indian Navy has expressed interest in the USS Nashville. Congress has not yet approved the ship for transfer (sale). That is likely to happen next year and we can then begin negotiations," Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, director of the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, told reporters here.

This could mean a number of things. Since the time frame appears to be next year, the USS Nashville (LPD 13) just because a good candidate to be a rotation replacement for the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) currently deployed to the Middle East. This would allow the US Navy to get one more good deployment out of her just like the Navy did with the USS Trenton (LPD 14) last year.

The US Navy would love to sell the aging Austin class LPDs to India, it is a win - win situation, assuming the Navy has a replacement. However, the first two replacements for the Austin class are slow in coming, are still not finished, and have no solution in sight. Maybe the 3rd replacement, the USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), can fill the gap, although it should be noted the original commissioning date of July 19th, 2007 has recently been pushed back to ... indefinitely.

Maybe committing to selling the USS Nashville (LPD 13) isn't such a smart idea, because it is getting harder to see when it might be replaced.

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