The Little LST’s That Couldn’t
Within the comments in a recent post some questioned whether the Joint High Speed Vessel, which cannot beach, would be adequate in the amphibious assault mission, or would it just be for transport. I felt it could do the beach assault mission in a pinch, which would be better than keeping very expensive specialized vessels in constant commission, using them mostly for peacetime sailing, even though their immense cost ($1.8 billion for the USS New York and her sisters) means they are wasted in Third World operations. Strategypage offers us an example from recent history on another high speed ship which couldn’t land, but found away around this impediment, the Newport class LST’s:
The Newport class ships displace 8,500 tons, have a crew of 224 and can carry 400 troops. There is also 1,767 square meters (19,000 square feet) of space for over 30 vehicles. These LSTs do not run up on the beach, but use a 110 foot (34m) ramp in the bow to move troops and vehicles onto shore, and a stern dock for loading and launching amphibious vehicles and landing craft.
Also we learn 2 which were in reserve since 1993 are going to the Peruvian Navy for $100 million each, or less than 1/10 the cost of an LPD-17. Such vessels would have been perfect for cruising in the Third World than the giant, over-priced “Ferrari’s” we send there, to fight pirates in speedboats or smugglers in skiffs! Sigh.
Back to the Newport’s. These were a unique design, not your typical Landing Ship, Tank from the World War, in that they were very speedy for the type. To maintain a constant 20 knots which the Navy insisted should be a minimum in the late Cold War amphibious fleet, a bow ramp was out of the question. The designers ingeniously subverted this by constructing what looked like a giant crane, but was actually an extendable ramp that reached over the bow, allowing vehicles and cargo to be safely offloaded. From the FAS website we learn:
The Newport-class Tank Landing Ships are larger and faster than earlier LSTs, and represent a complete departure from the previous concept of Amphibious Tank Landing Ships. The traditional bow doors, which have characterized LST’s construction since the first vessels of this type were built during World War II, were replaced by a 40-ton bow ramp supported by two distinctive derrick arms. The hull form necessary for the attainment of the 20-knot speeds of contemporary amphibious squadrons would not permit bow doors. The conventional flat bottom hull was redesigned to include a destroyer-type bow enabling the ships to attain speeds in excess of 20 knots. This feature enables her to operate with modern high-speed amphibious forces. A stern gate also makes possible off-loading amphibious vehicles directly into the water.
I’m not sure how a similar idea might work for an HSV, but it seems feasible. Still I think the beach assault should be a secondary issue, not unthinkable, but certainly not obsessing over the requirement which only comes about from every generation or so.