The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will move forward with the existing design of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship in fiscal 2025, a top leader said, after the Defense Department last year raised the specter of scaling down the ship’s design or not buying any more at all.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for combat development and integration, told Defense News today the redesign effort was “gone.”

He said the first LPD Flight II ship, whose design is already scaled down for affordability compared to the first 13 San Antonio LPDs, is still in construction and a few years from delivering to the fleet.

“And we’re already talking about changing it? Does that make sense to anybody? No. So we’re not doing that, that’s gone,” Heckl said after an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition breakfast event on Capitol Hill.

Defense News first reported of the Defense Department-led effort to create a scaled-down design to reduce the cost in March 2023.

The FY25 defense budget request will be released on Monday, and Heckl and other leaders said they could not discuss in advance of the formal announcement what ships would be included in the spending proposal. But Heckl said last month at the WEST conference in San Diego he and others would be pleased with the budget when it comes to amphibious ships.

Industry leaders, lawmakers and Marines spoke at the breakfast event, pushing for full funding for the next ship in the class, LPD-33, in the FY25 budget. They also are seeking predictable funding to buy LPDs every other year and the larger amphibious assault ships every four years as well as multi-ship buys — something Congress has granted the Navy in past defense authorization bills but the Navy has not executed.

This comes as the Marine Corps more broadly worries about its ability to move Marines into and around a theater.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Christopher Mahoney said in a speech it would be a “modest proposition” to ask for LPDs on two-year intervals and LHAs on four-year intervals. Moreover, he said the Marines need additional money to build the Landing Ship Medium to move smaller groups from island to island in the Pacific. He said the LSM program, meant to start production in FY22 and delayed to FY25, is “late to need.”

“We’re embarking on deep experimentation, so the minute those ships hit the water, we’re ready to use them,” he said.

Heckl said after the event the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been on deployment since July, straining personnel and delaying needed maintenance on the ships. He added that the Boxer ARG and 15th MEU is split right now, with LPD Somerset already deployed to the Pacific and amphibious assault ship Boxer and dock landing ship Harpers Ferry still awaiting further maintenance before they deploy later this spring.

“One ship is not a MEU,” he said of the Somerset’s ongoing work. “It’s a single-ship deployer, and we’ll do with it what we can, but it’s not a MEU.”

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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