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Army Leads in Amphibious Techniques

November 29, 2009

The Army gets it concerning the future of amphibious lift. The proven Stryker teams plus the Joint High Speed Vessel. This is an older video from Incat that explains the potential.

29 Comments leave one →
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  3. leesea permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:06 am

    BW since I am time constrained on this let me suggest several projects which go to the issue of how to offload ships in the stream.

    First and foremost the NAVFACs INLS which in turn is made up into RRDF (Ro/Ro Discharge Facilities) which the ACBs buid. See Galrahn’s articles on how this was down at sea last year off Africa with HSV2 Swift. See also the many sites which address LOTS ops specifically causeway ferries and elevated pier system.

    The Navy ONR at least is spending bundles on trans-oceanic lighters which is questionable but anyway look up the T-Craft and SeaTrain projects

    They have just started testing heave compensating cranes. Recent photos on BTW those have been oil industry standard items for about a decade!

    That shows crane on SS Flickertail State one of the Navy funded (MARAD to buy/convert several) T-ACS crane ships. Photos on MSC website and multiple posting on

    Next the you can look at a couple of systems (which are of questionable value to me but are being pursued by various parts of the Navy) such as the Test Article Vehicle Transfer System (TAVTS) and the MLP program which I certainly hope has been finally redirected away from exquisite Marine lift rqmts?


    The above is not a complete list but what comes to mind. I have done semi-submersibles also but that in itself is the subject for a whole ‘nuther thread.

    Lastly PM me and I will send you the ppt I gave at CNA in July.

  4. B. Walthrop permalink
    December 1, 2009 4:10 am


    On several occasions you have alluded to different offload options that are at present not being pursued robustly by the USN. I have some idea about what you’re suggesting, but if you could provide a link to some examples I’d be greatly appreciative. You seem to have a non-trivial “sense” for the logistics of what is being discussed.


  5. Jed permalink
    November 30, 2009 9:53 pm

    Mike said: “Sadly, the Marines aren’t allowed to use this unique capability, and haven’t been since 1950”

    Really ? I am not being sarcastic I am asking, is that really so ?

    Where there no U.S. assets in the Royal Marine led amphibious assault of the Al Faw peninsula in Op Iraqi Freedom ?

    I thought there was, but I could be wrong, I was not personally involved.

  6. leesea permalink
    November 30, 2009 7:52 pm

    Eric understand that what the Marines are saying is “their rqmts” includes BOTH combat and administrative lifts. They seem unable to accept that sealift ships have for centuries performed the later role.

    Mike the JHSVs are meant to discharge at austere ports – once again a term of art not a beach meaning alongside a pier without facilities. The dirty little secret is that the HSV WestPac Express has been discharging to several beaches prepared by the Marines since it entered service more than SEVEN years ago. But beaching is NOT a Joint rqmt its a “service-unique” one so guess what not in JHSV specs.

    The JHSV is supposed to handle INLS alongside but with only a ramp they will be limited to Ro/Ro ops.

    P.S. don’t expect the Incats to do that they can’t!

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    November 30, 2009 7:23 pm

    Mike said, “The HSVs ships can get close enough to any beach to offload cargo, even if they can’t beach themselves”

    Close enough to offload how? INLS? What’s going to carry that? How long will that take to assemble?

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 30, 2009 7:20 pm

    Joe, i don’t want to get rid of amphibious capability, and I believe I said that on numerous occasions. marine warfare had been with us since the dawn of time, so how can we say our way is the only way? I just think different times called for different tactics, and we are at that point today. The costs of large amphibs are making them prohibitive. Their survivability is in question. I just offer alternatives.

    And B. Walthrop, I’d still say it is better to have a secondary beach capability for those extremely rare occasions, while building low cost platforms for the Third World policing we have done exclusively since the World Wars.

    Someone mentioned helicopter carriers and here is a case, vertical envelopment, where seizing the beach is not required. I’m also uncertain how we could beach the HSVs, but I’m certain it could be possible. Could they carry their own landing craft? Extendable ramps?

    I don’t know but what I do know here is a ability for getting troop transport back near to shore where the Big Ships are retreating from, really their only purpose for existence.

  9. Joe K. permalink
    November 30, 2009 6:51 pm

    Mike said: “Guys, 1939 called and want their ideas back. When has the USN made an opposed landing that justifies $2-$3 billion amphibious ships? And these vessels are carrying ever fewer of our Marines where they need to be. Against the type of enemies we have fought since the World Wars, an old LST is more than adequate if you are seizing a beach. Just an ideal situation isn’t so much a prospect in a real shooting war with missiles.”

    Okay, hold on just a single friggin minute. I believe that first sentence should be “Guys, the 1850s called and want their ideas back” because if you look back that was when the amphibious landing was pioneered by General Winifred Scott during our war with Mexico. And by that argument the fact that the amphibious landing techniques of the US military have been used for a hundred years proves it works.

    On the issue of the older LST versus current LHDs, LPDs, and LSDs, seeing as how we can launch tanks that can swim to the shore, delivering firepower and infantry, and hovercraft to carry support vehicles and other tanks, I find that preferable over sending in entire ships filled with troops and materiel into harm’s way without a spearheading infantry force to secure the beach ahead of them. And running it like that would set us back decades having to build the infantry-only landing craft and basically send us back to 1939 in technology.

    And just how do you figure we are at the point of shooting wars with only missiles? Did a few hundred years go by without me knowing because I thought wars were fought with boots, tanks, planes, copters, and ships (with a few drones) and not only missiles.

  10. November 30, 2009 5:25 pm

    I’m in the middle. We will always need some kind of USMC amphib capability. However looking at a lot of low-threat trash war efforts and nation building Team America: WORLD POLICE nonsense we get asked to do, the ship that is the subject of this post is going to score even more points than it already has.

    …… If you have a problem…if no one else can help…and if you can find them…maybe you can hire…The A- Team….

  11. B. Walthrop permalink
    November 30, 2009 2:13 pm

    There seems to be quite a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the concept (formally?) known as Seabasing. As leesea projects, I too anticipate that the JHSV will be more of a ship to shore connector in a follow on replenishment/reinforcement role after the assault force has landed from their “exquisite” ships.

    It is not very hard to come up with very valid forcible entry scenarios that would require the assault force to be delivered from the amphibious ships (including both their air and surface assets). The amphibious raid to evacuate the Liberian embassy is a relatively recent example. One of the reasons the ships you deem as exquisite are expensive is the aviation capability that they bring to amphibious operations. You are probably right in pointing out that it is unlikely that we will see island hopping that we saw in the Pacific, but then again long range cruise missiles and helicopters didn’t really exist back then.

    In a high end major combat operation utilizing amphibious forces there would likely be losses, but for those high end scenarios that risk would probably be worth taking. Just having an over the beach assault capability can be a major combat operation altering experience for those that would oppose us. If I recall correctly by means of a feint the large amphibious force assembled in the run up to Operation Desert Storm tied up a pretty large force of Iraqis facilitating the flanking maneuver executed by the non-amphibious ground force. It is also interesting to note, that this amphibious force was the only real sea based land capability that would have been used to turn back the Iraqi assault had the Iraqis not stopped at the Kuwaiti border and continued their advance into Saudi Arabia. The narrative in this link provides both arguments supporting and arguments against an over the beach amphibious assault capability if read critically.
    It also provides some insight into lessons learned that eventually led to the Seabasing concept. If the budget is any indication, these lessons may have now been lost on the current crop of requirements writers, but that is an argument for a different day.

    On balance I’d say that your overall argument against maintaining an exquisite amphibious assault capability and relying on administrative lift as an adequate substitute are way off the mark, and if followed, would put at risk an number of important areas of the world we should want to maintain the capability of rolling up from the sea if required. Consider that a likely front company for the PLA now essentially owns large tracts of property at either end of the Panama Canal.


  12. B.Smitty permalink
    November 30, 2009 11:34 am

    Mike said, “Better to have a port dependent vessel that could tackle a beach in a pinch, while being more numerous and less a target because of its size.

    How can a JHSV tackle a beach in a pinch? It is not beachable (more than once), and has no organic lighterage.

  13. November 30, 2009 11:00 am

    “This is probably thanks to the lessons of the Falklands War though the concept predates even this. ”

    You are right that storming beaches is out. But without Fearless and Intrepid we couldn’t have made the San Carlos landing. Getting troops off the non-specialist shipping was tricky (I think there was 1 casualty if memory servers;) I don’t think many of the troops (especially the Para’s and even some Marines) didn’t appreciate how tricky the operation was actually.

    In many ways at that time the RN/RM were (supposedly) going backwards in a technical sense as part of the Suez landings were conducted by helicopter. While the San Carlos landing was all landing craft. I said “supposedly” because I am not convinced by helicopter warfare in terms of general war.

    Oh! The San Carlos landings weren’t OTH; supreme example of manoeuvre warfare yes.

    These aluminium catamarans look very fragile. Could they be beached? Would narrow hulls bed into the beach?

  14. leesea permalink
    November 30, 2009 10:48 am

    Mike let me tell you want the JHSV SDM from NAVSEA told me: The JHSV is a JOINT project meaning their were compromises by all services involved (USMC, USA & USN) as to its rqmts. That was the ONLY way to keep the project on sked and on cost. They are to be commended for that effort which apparently is coming along fine. (other posters should note my infrquent kudos for NAVSEA).

    JHSV is NOT meant a shore-to-shore asset (except in the Army’s wishful thinking). IMHO it will end up being used as a ship-to-shore asset. Once again those are terms of art.

    Your synopsis if amphibious warfare leave a lot out. Those are good points, but not the essence of what the Marines want there exquiste ships for – forcible entry by use of large scale amphibious ops.

    Falklands not a good historical reference

    I am advocating for a navalized version of JHSV which has more capabilities than the Joint program allowed. More on that later.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 30, 2009 10:06 am

    Let me further clarify what I just wrote. Here is the Navy’s problem. The current amphibious technique is based on the “Over the Horizon” strategy of keeping the large amphibs well offshore, from 50-200 miles, out of reach of enemy aircraft and missiles. This is probably thanks to the lessons of the Falklands War though the concept predates even this. Get the picture of very visible giant warships, anchored near shore, with the assault force taking upwards of an hour or several hours to reach the beach. See the problem?

    ASBMs, silent conventional submarines, suicide boats makes even this situation less than survivable against a peer threat. It would work well enough against Third World enemies not shooting back, but again does this justify the construction of multiple billion dollar warships in a age of sparse funding? There has to be a better way and just as commercial industry provided us with early amphibious tractors and the DUKW, they are offering us a way out with these large HSVs used for heavy passenger and vehicle lift the world over.

    Then there are the rare beach landings under fire against a defended beachhead, except, as I said in a Third World environment where the enemy isn’t shooting back. It isn’t unthinkable that we won’t ever assault a defended beach, as we see with the Falklands. Get rid of your amphibious capability and sure enough the need for it would arise. But I insist we could make do. Better to have a port dependent vessel that could tackle a beach in a pinch, while being more numerous and less a target because of its size. What we have now are niche warships, fewer in number, harder to build, less able to do the functions we set out for it.

    The main selling point of the JHSV is it can transport at high speed from port to port, without a vulnerable and costly “middle man” warships we can’t afford to lose in battle. I think these can be trans-oceanic vessels, but they don’t need to be recalling the island hopping campaigns of the Pacific War, which often used advanced staging areas. 1000-2000 miles from a friendly port wouldn’t be hard on the Marines. They can go in, offload, and speed away for more before the enemy knows what hit them and where they cannot be found, at least for very long.

    They cost $200 million each. I actually think we could have built them cheaper, but still that is 10 ships for the price of a San Antonio, or 10 Stryker companies according to Mr X. I don’t think the SA can carry 10 Stryker companies, but it is much prettier in a naval show!

    We can think of squadrons instead of expeditionary strike groups. These would be more survivable since more numbers mean fewer targets. They would be less crew intensive. They are littoral ready and off the shelf. We need these, our troops needs these, the Marines deserve these to let them show what they can really do from the sea!

  16. November 30, 2009 9:30 am

    You just can’t help yourself huh? ;))

  17. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 30, 2009 9:22 am

    Joe K said: “A real amphibious landing ship requires no dock or pier in order to deploy it’s forces in a landing operation.”

    Guys, 1939 called and want their ideas back. When has the USN made an opposed landing that justifies $2-$3 billion amphibious ships? And these vessels are carrying ever fewer of our Marines where they need to be. Against the type of enemies we have fought since the World Wars, an old LST is more than adequate if you are seizing a beach. Just an ideal situation isn’t so much a prospect in a real shooting war with missiles.

    The HSVs ships can get close enough to any beach to offload cargo, even if they can’t beach themselves. But as a transporter, not bad!

  18. Joe K. permalink
    November 30, 2009 8:39 am

    “Unique capability”?


    *clears throat*

    That is no real amphibious landing ship. A real amphibious landing ship requires no dock or pier in order to deploy it’s forces in a landing operation. The JHSV on the other hand requires a dock or pier to deploy armor and other vehicles. I seriously doubt they would do something like that in the middle of a combat operation with no Marines securing the beachhead before them.

    And with this you can’t argue that the Army is going more towards amphibious landing “techniques”. You just proved it has a shiny new means of getting forces from Point A to Point B faster than a regular transport ship. If it were a true amphibious operation someone would be getting their feet wet, but nothing in the video indicates that they do.

    Sorry, the Marines will always be handling amphib operations.

  19. November 30, 2009 6:39 am

    14 Strykers isn’t that about a company’s worth?

    This is a transporter not an assaulter!!! But how many low draft still ships could be built and just as economically manned for the same price.

    The major issue for US Army shipping though is speed which these catamarans address. But 15kts to 18kts would be ample.

    This is what JHSV is doing now,

    “Sadly, the Marines aren’t allowed to use this unique capability, and haven’t been since 1950.”

    You need to qualify this. I am sure I have seen LCUs, LCACs, AAAVs, and helicopters taking Marines ashore.

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 30, 2009 5:20 am

    Dana said “we will call in the Marines who have REAL Amphibious Capabilities.”

    Sadly, the Marines aren’t allowed to use this unique capability, and haven’t been since 1950.

    Lee, too bad the Navy had to get involved in JHSV. Thats almost certain death for a new hull design and seafighting concept. They prefer slow lumbering giants which get ever fewer, and more vulnerable.

  21. leesea permalink
    November 30, 2009 12:58 am

    Mike the rqmts for the TSV were supposedly incorporated into the JHSV. The Army wanted a transport (that is why the Joint HSV is NOT meant for amphibious operations). The Navy JHSV will probably end up as a very good tactical sealift ship which may well be used in support of amphib ops. By that I mean to it will perform what is called administrative lifts, not combat lifts.

    This is all terminology you need to get used to using.

    I doubt you will see many more Incats in US inventory when the Swift goes off-charter?

    The problem with the Army is they want to have their transports but they don’t want to pay for their construction.

  22. JohnS permalink
    November 29, 2009 10:08 pm

    Yep – we don’t need any of these. Much better off with some 30 year old amphibs that rush around at 15 knots and take a crew of a few hundred to move the a combat group.

    Imagine how useless these sorts of things would be in the gulf or around the horn of africa.

  23. Dana permalink
    November 29, 2009 9:49 pm

    Darn! The enemy won’t let us use their ports. What are we going to do? I know, we will call in the Marines who have REAL Amphibious Capabilities.

    This is NOT amphibious lift, this is High Speed Transport. It Does Not lead, It Follows. Knowing the capabilities and limitations of your equipment is important.

  24. November 29, 2009 9:05 pm

    Great catch!


  1. Marines: From Procurement Tragedy to Triumph « New Wars
  2. Amphibious Lift’s Future Shape « New Wars
  3. Building a Bigger, Better Navy Pt 1 « New Wars
  4. Marines Charge Ahead on HSVs « New Wars
  5. Big things for the U.S. Army’s naval capability « ELP Defens(c)e Blog

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