The USS San Antonio represents the lead ship in her 9-strong San Antonio-class of 21st Century amphibious transport dock ships (or Dock Landing Ship). Her primary role is in the delivery of marine forces via sea or land and does so through the use of hovercraft, conventional landing craft and helicopter systems. Despite being ordered in the mid-1990's, the vessel was not launched until 2003 and even as late as 2007, several critical problems were reported in need of resolution forcing the USS San Antonio to be in drydock until the errors were rectified.
Design-wise, the USS San Antonio and her class sport a sleek and stealthy exterior. The profile is dominated by two large towering elements atop her elongated superstructure. The bridge is carried forward in the island and the hull features a shortened forecastle area and a large stern surface to accept helicopter landings and take-offs. The sides of the vessel are designed as such where the contour of the hull rolls directly into the superstructure sides making her appear to take on a most streamlined look, no doubt assisting in her reported stealth-like characteristics on the high seas. A large service crane can be seen fitted to the port side of the superstructure, aft of the bridge and forward tower, and is fully retractable into the design when not in use. In short, much care was placed into the exterior design of the vessel, so much so that even surface components are hidden or streamlined when necessary to maintain such a design appearance.
Power is derived from four diesel engines of Colt-Pielstick make and delivered at about 40,000 shaft horsepower to twin shafts. A top speed in optimal conditions of 22 knots can be reached. Her crew accommodations amount to over 360 personnel making up the crew and an additional 700 combat-ready marine elements. Though she carries armament, the USS San Antonio does so in a mostly defensive or supportive role indicative of her dock ship classification. This is centered around two 30mm Bushmaster II series cannons and twin Rolling Air Frame Missile (RAM) missile launchers for close-in anti-aircraft work.
In her amphibious assault role, the USS San Antonio can field a variety of sea/land-going systems. This includes up to fourteen Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles (EFV), two LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushioned) hovercraft systems or one LCU (Landing Craft Utility) in place of the two LCACs. These landing craft are supplemented by the vessels ability to field several makes of rotary aircraft as well and include CH-46 Sea Knight twin-rotor and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport type helicopters serviced by the aft flight deck. Two aircraft can be held in the hangar decks (depending on type) below and take-off and landings can be handled simultaneously. A large well deck provides service support for the landing craft.
The USS San Antonio was first ordered in 1996 and laid down in 2000 by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. She was launched in 2003 and officially commissioned in 2006. The vessel makes her home port at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, USA. The ship fights under the banner of "Never Retreat, Never Surrender". The USS San Antonio was named after the US city in the state of Texas, the site of the battle of the Alamo.