Long Troubled Marine Corps Ship To Undergo Repairs After Being Forced To Turn Back From Pacific Deployment

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Connor Burns)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Navy will repair the rudder on a Marine Corps vessel that turned back from deployment last month in the waters while the ship is docked in San Diego harbor, U.S. Naval Institute News reported on Tuesday.

The USS Boxer amphibious assault vessel departed on April 1 to join patrols in the Indo-Pacific after months of delays tied to several engineering breakdowns and an investigation into faulty leadership. Issues with the starboard rudder and bearing — a component that transmits power to support engine rotation — forced it to turn around days after getting underway and will undergo repairs for at least two months, USNI News first reported, citing Naval Surface Force.

“USS Boxer will execute repairs to its starboard rudder at Naval Station San Diego. The waterborne repairs will be conducted at the pier and will likely not require a dry dock. Boxer may resume its deployment as soon as this summer,” Cdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesperson for Naval Surface Force, told the DCNF in a statement. (RELATED: Navy Orders ‘Deep Dive’ Into Readiness After Massive Ship Deployment Delay)

Divers will repair the ship’s rudder underwater while it is anchored near the pier in lieu of a dry dock, according to USNI News. Both San Diego dry docks large enough to accommodate the warship, which resembles a small aircraft carrier, are occupied.

The Navy is taking “appropriate measures” to ensure dry dock space is available if needed, Abrahamson said.

“The issue is the ship’s starboard rudder and roller bearing system. A series of inspections and assessments determined a waterborne repair is the most efficient way to execute maintenance and repairs,” Naval Surface Force said, according to USNI News.

Amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the Gulf, in this undated handout picture released by U.S. Navy on August 3, 2019.

Amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the Gulf, in this undated handout picture released by U.S. Navy on August 3, 2019. Alexander C. Kubitza/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

The big-deck amphibious warship got underway along with elements of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the eastern Pacific on April 1, according to USNI News. It was conducting recertification exercises with the MV-22 Osprey after a months-long grounding of the aircraft lifted when the rudder apparently broke down.

It was reportedly slated to deploy in late 2023 but did not become seaworthy until August amid command investigations, which discovered mismanagement and complacency among the ship’s engineering department and senior enlisted leaders.

“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,” the U.S. 3rd Fleet told USNI News earlier in April. “USS Boxer will resume its deployment in the near future.”

The repairs could take up to two months to complete. The Navy is conducting an investigation to determine whether “materials, parts or a faulty installation” are responsible for the engineering casualty, the Navy told USNI News in the statement.

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