Remaking the Gator Navy
Surely modern amphibious warfare in the US Navy is in drastic need of a major overhaul as specialized landing ships increase in size, cost, and complications, while decreasing in numbers. One idea might be to discard the larger specialized vessels altogether, depending instead on smaller landing craft. In other words “do away with the Middleman”! The idea would be to deploy “Strykers at Sea”, or a nautical version of an infantry fighting vehicle for marine troops. Such craft should maintain their small size for cost, but also be capable of traversing the ocean or a large body of water if necessary. Now, the Stiletto is such a vessel which may be ideal for this role. Though not much of a long-distance traveler (reportedly it is a very rough ride), it is small enough for transport by a commercial or naval sealift ship to a warzone, where they could join Marines and their equipment.
For each of these “naval IFVs” at least a squad of Marines should be loaded, and ideally an amphibious LAV which could be driven off near to shore, floating under its own power. Inflatable boats could also ferry the troops in absence of a port facility. Defensive rockets and light machine guns could be carried to protect the Marines on their journey to shore.
Earlier we advocated the use of new High Speed Vessels such as the Australian-built ferries leased for military service, as fast troop transports. We are not alone in this proposal as Global Security reveals:
HMAS Jervis Bay is utilized to transport troops and their vehicles as part of Australia’s amphibious lift capability. HMAS Jervis Bay is one of a series of high speed ships built by Hobart shipbuilder International Catamarans Australia (INCAT) and is the first vessel of her type to be operated by any navy worldwide. In her role as a fast sea-lift ship, Jervis Bay can transport up to 500 fully equipped troops, together with their vehicles and equipment, to ranges of up to 1000 nautical miles at speeds of more than 40 knots. The boat’s maximum range is approximately 1,500 nautical miles, at speeds of more than 40 knots, and the four diesel engines –7,080 kilowatts each — can drive the catamaran up to speeds of 45 knots. In contrast, the fastest US Navy amphibious ship can reach only 24 knots.
While the threat of cruise missiles, stealthy subs, and missiles attack craft are pushing the larger amphibious ships further from the shore, the HSV would be able to traverse such waters with less fear. Thanks to its high speed, like Stiletto, she would skim quickly into a landing area, discharge her troops and cargo, then speed back into safer waters.
So combining this idea into a workable expeditionary group, you could have something like the “Influence Squadrons” mentioned by Eagle1 at the USNI blog (Galrahn also posts on this, originally from a Proceedings article by Commander Henry J. Hendrix):
The next step on the Navy’s path to a new future should be the creation of “Influence Squadrons” composed of an amphibious mother ship (an LPD-17 or a cheaper commercial ship with similar capabilities), a destroyer to provide air, surface, and subsurface defensive capabilities, a Littoral Combat Ship to extend a squadron’s reach into the green-water environment and provide some mine warfare capabilities, a Joint High Speed Vessel to increase lift, a Coastal Patrol ship to operate close in, and an M80 Stiletto to provide speed and versatility.
A good idea, only with the Stiletto and JHSV you would have little need for a bulky, vulnerable, and very costly LPD. You might lose some capability, but please remind me again how many large-scale beach landing the Marines have participated in during wartime lately? But the Brown Water navy has been quite busy. Exchange the Big Ship for a converted commerical mothership, or even an older amphib for extending the range of the smaller craft.
Also, you should replace the large and costly LCS for a smaller corvette of equal firepower. One of my readers mentions Visby and we concur. The DDG is unnecessary in a littoral environment littered with asymmetric and missile threats. With only seconds to react to a supersonic projectile, the point defenses of the small ships are all the more crucial. Besides, the Big Ship itself would needs be escorted by the smaller ships, becoming a drag on its firepower rather than an asset.