The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD-4) has had numerous engineering issues since 2019 when it last successfully deployed. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Riley/Released)

WASHINGTON — Although the Navy says it will be able to fix the amphibious assault ship Boxer’s (LHD-4) rudder issues pierside, the service is now planning for the problem-ridden ship to be docked for at least 18 months starting next spring.

The service announced its intentions on the government’s contracting website,, in a May 17 solicitation seeking out contractors capable of conducting a maintenance availability on Boxer beginning in April 2025 and scheduled to end in October 2026.

“This [maintenance period] is expected to require a highly capable contractor with substantial human resources capable of completing, coordinating and integrating multiple areas of ship maintenance, repair, and modernization,” according to the solicitation.

“Given that this availability will be greater than 10 months in duration, the Navy would compete the acquisition on a coast–wide basis (west), without limiting the place of performance to the ship’s homeport,” the document continued.

The new notice that Boxer will be sidelined for maintenance follows years of engineering problems plaguing the ship going back to 2019, the last time it successfully deployed. Despite multiple maintenance periods since then, the ship has suffered a variety of issues when it has gone to sea, such as engine component failures, reported by San Diego news outlet KPBS, and more recently, a bearing problem on the ship’s rudder.

The bearing issue was discovered in April when Boxer left San Diego on what was supposed to be a deployment to the Indo Pacific alongside the amphibious transport dock Somerset (LPD-25), landing ship dock Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), and parts of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti has said she expects the fix to take between six and eight weeks.

A Navy spokesman in May told KPBS the Boxer could still deploy this summer once the rudder problems have been resolved.

Navy officials have said they believe divers can fix the rudder problem, rather than the more costly and time-consuming option of putting the ship into dry dock. But, as the new solicitation reveals, Boxer’s days from returning to dock are numbered either way.

Jamie Koehler, a Navy spokeswoman, told Breaking Defense on Wednesday the maintenance period is unrelated to the problems with the rudder.

“The FY25 USS Boxer (LHD-4) selected restricted availability (SRA) is scheduled to be approximately 18 months, beginning in April 2025 and completing in October 2026,” said Koehler, a spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, the service’s primary agency for ship construction and maintenance. “This planned SRA period is not directly connected to the ongoing rudder repairs. Major depot maintenance availabilities like this SRA are programmed years in advance.”

Reasons for the maintenance period aside, the longer a Navy vessel goes without successful deployments the more attention it begins to garner from lawmakers. The Los Angeles-class submarine Boise (SSN-764), which has been effectively sidelined since 2017, has been a favorite target of lawmakers aggravated by ongoing Navy ship maintenance issues.

That submarine is now undergoing an engineering overhaul at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding, and the Navy expects the work to be finished by September 2029, the service announced in February.