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After three years and $200M in upgrades, why can't the USS Boxer get to sea?

Since entering a San Diego dry dock in June 2020 the amphibious assault ship Boxer has spent just seven days at sea and hasn't left San Diego for 13 months, a Navy spokesperson told KPBS in a statement Wednesday.

The Navy won't say what issues plague the Boxer or how many times over the last year it's tried and failed to get to sea. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a Naval Surface Force spokesperson in San Diego, said the Boxer's crew has identified "additional maintenance requirements" before getting underway.

"We don’t discuss specific instances of maintenance casualties due to operational security," Abrahamson said. "However, I can note that the Boxer’s preparation for sea trials identified additional maintenance requirements before the ship could get underway."


The Boxer, an 844-foot ship that functions as a sort of miniature aircraft carrier, returned from its most recent deployment in November 2019.

In June 2020, the ship began a two-year, $200 million upgrade to equip it to operate with the latest Marine Corps fighter, the F-35B Lightning II. It spent the next 14 months in a San Diego dry dock. After leaving dry dock, the Boxer spent another nine months pier-side where maintenance and upgrade work continued.

By June 2022, the ship was ready for sea trials. It spent seven days at sea before returning to San Diego where it's been ever since.

Abrahamson said the crew has stayed sharp over the last 13 months by simulating being at sea while pier-side. He would not say when the Boxer again plans to attempt to leave San Diego but that more sea trials will begin in the "near future."

"The ship expects to begin sea trials in the near future as part of its work up cycle for deployment," Abrahamson said.


Boxer's sister ship, the Bonhomme Richard, was lost to fire in July 2020. Despite the loss of the Bonhomme Richard and the unavailability of the Boxer, Abrahamson said the Navy was been able to meet "every global force demand" for its amphibious forces in 2022.

The Boxer has a crew of about 1,000 sailors and carries more than 1,500 Marines when deployed.