‘Off-the-shelf’ designs can have problems too

For all of those critics of a Canadian shipbuilding effort who argued we should by off -the-shelf vessels like the San Antonio-class instead of building the JSS here, the article “Troubled Ship San Antonio won’t deploy next year” from the 15 October issue of the Virginian-Pilot provides some sobering data.  This is an excerpt:

 "One of the Navy's most trouble-plagued ships, the San Antonio, won't deploy next year as planned, a four-star admiral announced Thursday.  Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., head of the Norfolk-based Fleet Forces Command, said the Mesa Verde, another amphibious transport dock ship, will deploy next summer in place of the San Antonio.  The first ship of its class, the San Antonio has been beset with problems since its commissioning more than four years ago. It cost more than $1.4 billion, 70 percent more than originally budgeted, and came in two years late.  In 2007, the ship failed to complete its scheduled sea trials after one of its two steering systems failed.  Its first deployment, in August 2008, was temporarily delayed when its stern gate had problems that would have affected the loading and deployment of landing craft. Two months into the cruise, the San Antonio was forced to make an unplanned maintenance stop in Bahrain to deal with leaks in its lube oil piping system. The next flaw affected its four diesel engines: Crew members discovered bits of metal embedded in the bearings that contaminated the oil and caused the engines to fail."

This is not to suggest we might do any better in Canada.  What it does suggest is that foreign "off-the-shelf" buys are by no measure an automatically cheaper or better option.