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Troubled USS Boxer Returns Home 10 Days into Deployment Due to Maintenance Issue

In World
April 12, 2024

The maintenance-embattled USS Boxer is heading back to San Diego just 10 days after deploying due to an engineering issue, as first reported by USNI News and confirmed to Military.com by Navy officials.

Sailing as the big deck, or lead ship, of its amphibious ready group, the Boxer had already been delayed by months when it deployed April 1. Its return further comes on the heels of an announcement by the Navy’s top leader earlier this week that the service is investigating the ship’s prolonged maintenance issues.

“USS Boxer is returning to San Diego to undergo additional maintenance in support of its deployment in the Indo-Pacific region,” Lt. Cmdr. Jesus Uranga, a spokesperson for the Navy’s 3rd Fleet in the Pacific, told Military.com in an email.

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The Boxer had departed for its “Indo-Pacific deployment and was conducting integration exercises with the MV-22 Osprey in the 3rd Fleet area of operations,” when it was forced to return, Uranga said.

While further details were not provided regarding the nature of the malfunction, Uranga said the ship would return to its deployment “in the near future.”

Marines and aircraft with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were onboard the Boxer and have already been offloaded, officials told USNI News, although the ship had not yet made it back to port as of Thursday evening. 

On April 8, the Navy’s top leader, Adm. Lisa Franchetti, said that she had ordered a “deep dive” into numerous maintenance and readiness issues faced by the ship.

“I think there’s some good lessons learned with Boxer,” Franchetti told reporters at the Navy’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference earlier this week.

Meanwhile, last month, the Boxer was given seven Navy-wide awards for “sustained superior performance,” including the Battle Effectiveness Award and the Maritime Warfare Excellence Award, according to the service.

Franchetti’s inquiry will be led by three-star admirals in the Navy’s operations and plans and policy offices, she said, adding she anticipates they will come to her with initial recommendations on how to proceed “in the May timeframe, and that will start to outline the shape of the the deep dive going forward.”

While the investigation’s timing may seem coincidental, the four-star admiral said Monday that the branch was trying to be proactive and keep delays to just the Boxer.

“We’re seeing some potential delays on [the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp],” Franchetti said. “We’re trying to look ahead to make sure that we can, I want to say, nip this in the bud.”

The Wasp, which is the same class of ship as the Boxer, departed Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, in early March only to return shortly afterward. A spokesperson for Surface Force Atlantic told Military.com following the incident that “during the underway, the ship discovered an engineering irregularity” and “returned to port to effect repairs.”

The ship got underway again at the end of March without issue.

A defense official told Military.com in March that the Boxer had originally been slated to deploy late last year, but it was held up thanks to a series of delays and mechanical issues that were driven, at least partly, by poor leadership aboard the ship.

Two previous command investigations conducted on at least three different engineering breakdowns showed “a lack of procedural compliance, substandard supervisory oversight, and general complacency by the crew,” according to the ship’s strike group commander.

Those breakdowns, information on which was released to Military.com as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed that the ship had experienced damage to two “forced draft blowers” on Nov. 8, 2022. A separate investigation into that incident, also provided to Military.com via FOIA request, faulted “poor quality craftsmanship, lack of industry repair skill set/capabilities” and a “lack of supervisory oversight” from the Navy offices overseeing the work.

Then on May 14, the ship had a “boiler safety” breakdown. That investigation “once again revealed a lack of procedural compliance and overall complacency of all personnel involved,” documents from the strike group commander revealed.

The two other ships that the Boxer commands, the USS Somerset and USS Harpers Ferry, both have successfully deployed. The Somerset and its contingent of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are currently in the waters off India, according to a Marine Corps press release from April 4.

The Somerset deployed in January, and the Harpers Ferry in mid-March.

— Konstantin Toropin contributed to this story.

Related: Top Navy Leader Has Ordered ‘Deep Dive’ on Amphibious Ship Readiness After Delays with USS Boxer

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