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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Navy LPD-17 Amphibious Ship Procurement: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress


Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Navy’s FY2011-FY2015 shipbuilding plan called for procuring an 11th and final San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ship in FY2012. The Navy estimated the procurement cost of this ship at $2,040.6 million. The ship received $184.0 million in FY2010 advance procurement funding, and the Navy planned to request the remaining $1,856.6 million of the ship’s procurement cost in the FY2012 budget. Accordingly, the Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget did not request any procurement or advance procurement funding for the LPD-17 program.

Some observers have suggested using the LPD-17 design as the basis for the LSD(X), a new class of amphibious ships that the Navy plans to start procuring in FY2017 as replacements for the Navy’s 12 aging Whidbey Island/Harpers Ferry (LSD-41/49) class amphibious ships. Procuring a 12
th LPD-17 in FY2014 or FY2015 might be consistent with a strategy of using the LPD-17 design as the basis for the LSD(X) because it would keep the LPD-17 production line open until the start of LSD(X) procurement. Navy officials have mentioned the option of modifying the LPD-17 design as one possible approach for developing the LSD(X) design, but the Navy is also studying other possible approaches, including developing an all-new design. Navy plans do not call for procuring any LPD-17s beyond the 11th ship planned for FY2012.

Although the Navy’s planned 313-ship fleet, first presented to Congress in February 2006, calls for a 31-ship amphibious force that includes 10 LPD-17s, Navy and Marine Corps officials agree that a 33-ship amphibious force that includes 11 LPD-17s would be needed to minimally meet the Marine Corps’ goal of having an amphibious ship force with enough combined capacity to lift the assault echelons (AEs) of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs). A 33-ship force would include 15 amphibious ships for each MEB, plus three additional ships to account for 10% to 15% of the amphibious ship force being in overhaul at any given time.

Marine Corps and Navy officials agree that a 38-ship amphibious force would more fully meet the Marine Corps’ 2.0 MEB AE amphibious lift requirement. Such a force would include 17 amphibious ships for each MEB, plus four additional ships to account for 10% to 15% of the amphibious ship force being in overhaul at any given time. Although a 38-ship force would more fully meet the Marine Corps’ lift requirement, the Navy and Marine Corps have agreed to accept the operational risks associated with having a 33-ship force rather than a 38-ship force.

Issues for Congress include whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s proposed funding profile for procuring the 11
th LPD-17, and whether to provide the Navy with any direction concerning the design of the LSD(X) or procurement of LPD-17s beyond the 11th ship. Congress’s decisions on these issues will affect, among other things, Navy and Marine Corps funding requirements and capabilities, and the shipbuilding industrial base.


Date of Report: January 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 55
Order Number: RL34476
Price: $29.95

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