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The Little LST’s That Couldn’t

December 2, 2009

An aerial three-quarter portside view of the US Navy (USN) Newport Class Tank Landing Ship USS RACINE (LST 1191) underway.

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.

U.S. Tank landing ships (LST) are used to transport and land tanks, amphibious vehicles and other rolling stock in amphibious assault operations.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin Simpson permalink
    January 17, 2013 8:08 pm

    I served on the Racine LST-1191. I was an engineman in main 3. i still have the Alco racing team patch. In my 26 years of service, this ship is the best. I never saw her extend the ramp. I will have to say she was fast!

  2. KR Jones permalink
    April 25, 2012 11:55 am

    I need to clarify something, The Newport Class LST USS Fairfax County (LST-1193) did indeed beach and retract itself in 1990 during Display Determination ’90. I was there as a member of R-Division and we assisted by balasting down forward prior to landing, and then used a slight rocking motion through balast transfers to retract.

    I should also remind readers that LST’s , or ships similar are the only real way to ensure the loads get to where they need to in an amphibious operation. LCAC’s are okay in small ops, but nothing when compaired to let’s say Leyte or Lingayen Gulf of World War II.

  3. leesea permalink
    December 3, 2009 6:15 pm

    The concept is to put INLS in one of several forms alongside the JHSV for cargo to be discharged down its ramp. That was done by the Swift off Africa. There an RRDF was setup. But presumably a causeway barge ferry could come alongside as well. I guess what they are thinking is the JHSV comes from farther out and dumps its cargo onto the INLS pontoons?

    Containers on chasis I presume?

    Ahh the nut of the situation, how to load the JHSV at sea. The MLP is being “re-thunk”. Someone listened and decided to make it simpler. I of course keep saying just by a clear deck Flo/Flo land the JHSVs on it and then the cargo can come over either while alongside or maybe preloaded? In ethier case it would have to come up the ramp.

    Plan A, I am sure, is to setup an RRDF at sea as have been done before. Dock the JHSV alongside it and drive the cargo off amphibs or sealift ships.

    Needless to say the Navy has closed the INLS contract and wanna bet will discover they need more pontoons?

  4. December 3, 2009 6:06 pm

    “It is also quicker to lose your entire landing force to all manner of shore-based nastiness when your handful of LSTs have to immobilize themselves on a few, well-known beaches with conditions suitable for landing.”

    I am just shooting the breeze. I am well aware of the capabilities of the LCAC. And there surprising limitations.

    And I was implying that the US could do this because of the levels of force protection that carriers could afford the beaches.

    When I talk about the speed of unloading it is fact. I wasn’t inferring that it was tactically sensible. Mainly for the reasons you point out.

    The LST is a second or third wave vessel.

  5. B.Smitty permalink
    December 3, 2009 2:29 pm

    So JHSV to an INLS or ELCAS is a better way to go for lighter throughput? Are JHSVs really set up to move containers? How do you get cargo aboard the JHSV at sea? MLP was canned right?

  6. leesea permalink
    December 3, 2009 2:06 pm

    Ken and I know we did not beach the Newport LSTs often (usually going to causeway marriage) nor fully loaded (due to a NAVSEA design flaw).

    I guess I should have also said that I distinquish between lighters for throughput and landing crafts for assault.

    Both ACCESS and T-craft have too many complicated and expensive systems to serve as good lighters (not landing craft) IMHO. The ACCESS has too many moving parts and does not deliver much to the waters edge, not to mention how and where that cargo gets onboard the ship.

    While the T-craft can certainly go up onshore ala LCAC to what benefit? The need is NOT to move tons of cargo far inland to the FEOB, its to get many more tons of cargo to a distribution point in short order FFT the LZs etc where the troops are fighting. I have just read a Marine general admit to that (finally).

    BTW ACCESS was an engineering design study by NPS students and T-craft is a tech demonstrator by ONR. I predict neither will be adopted.

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    December 3, 2009 1:07 pm


    It is also quicker to lose your entire landing force to all manner of shore-based nastiness when your handful of LSTs have to immobilize themselves on a few, well-known beaches with conditions suitable for landing.

    Air superiority doesn’t mean you’ve completely sanitized the area around beach from threats such as artillery, tanks, ATGMs, mortars, mobile AShMs, MLRS, HMGs, RPGs, mines, and so on.

    If you lose an LCAC, you don’t lose a large percentage of your landing force.

    LCACs can also access a lot more beaches, and have much lower mine susceptibility.

  8. December 3, 2009 12:53 pm

    “I admit, I’m not convinced the LST model of driving a big ship up on the beach makes sense anymore,”

    The figures don’t bare that out. It is much quicker to unload a beech shipped than use landing craft.

    If anything the US are better position to do this than anybody as they would have undoubtedly achieved air superiority before beginning the landing.

    Also don’t many cheap beachable LSTs fit Mike’s model better?

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    December 3, 2009 9:24 am

    leesea said, “Bsmitty, I looked a ACCESS – another high tech demonstrator with inadequate throughput.

    Lee, I’m curious. What makes Joint ACCESS have inadequate throughput?

    T-craft certainly would be a better option, IMHO, but it’s still an ONR project that may or may not ever bear fruit.

    From what I can tell, Joint ACCESS wouldn’t require any leaps in technology.

    I admit, I’m not convinced the LST model of driving a big ship up on the beach makes sense anymore, but I was wondering what about Joint ACCESS inhibits it’s throughput?

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 3, 2009 7:43 am

    Solomon, thanks for the links! Also thanks for inspiring next week’s posts!

  11. December 2, 2009 9:22 pm

    I think what you all are aiming at is something that’s already in the Navy’s pipeline. Its called the T-craft and two companies are vying to develop it.

  12. leesea permalink
    December 2, 2009 8:06 pm

    Mike, since the JHSV is a TRANSPORT its basic rqmts do NOT require it to beach but rather to go along a pier at an austere port OR to take INLS ssections alongside for cargo transfer.

    Ken, the JHSV is an Austal design without a wave piercing bow. As I posted elsewhere on New Wars, the HSV WestPac Express has in fact been beaching since its inception where the Marines have improved the beach by adding an additional ramp. Yes beach gradient is always the limiting factor but we’ll see what the JHSVs can do?

    Bsmitty, I looked a ACCESS – another high tech demonstrator with inadequate throughput.

    The JSHVs speed helps the throughput equation by being able to get more runs into the pier than say an LCU. Also since it has a rqmt to be an inter-theater sealifter, it allows the cargo to be manuevered to farther places (I believe both the USA & USMC wanted that?)

    I see the CNIM L-Cat to be replace the LCU(R) project which got put off in the SCN funding. Ahh but its NIH!

    P.S. The Aussie had a hellavu time converting their old-US LSTs. As Ken knows they were rode hard and put away wet! I surveyed the LaMoure County and she was very beat up in the early ’90s.

    Malaysia just had a catastrophic fire on its ex-US LST.

  13. B.Smitty permalink
    December 2, 2009 6:09 pm

    I should correct myself. Joint ACCESS was meant as a Sea Base ship-to-shore connector. Not exactly an LST.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 2, 2009 5:45 pm

    Smitty, thanks for the link. This concept was what I was envisioning in my head but couldn’t put it into words.

  15. B.Smitty permalink
    December 2, 2009 4:43 pm

    The TSSE Joint ACCESS project was a high-speed trimaran envisioned to beach itself in the classic LST role. It used a 35m, floating, INLS-like, sectional bow ramp stored behind doors instead of the Newport’s fixed ramp. It’s internal configuration was designed around offloading via bow and stern ramps, unlike JHSV.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 2, 2009 3:59 pm

    Ken said “their speed isn’t really all that useful for ship-to-shore operations in close”

    I agree, the same with LCS. Where I see the JHSV’s speed as essential is in the ocean transport role. Cargo and troop transports need to get in, get out in the missile age. The LCS is supposed to be there, lingering on patrol so its high speed is essentially useless, redundant.

    Neither can a high speed vessel outrun a missile or jet, but it can get away from the launchers and land bases as fast as possible.

    A cargo ship needs to stay out of harms way. But the opposite is true for LCS.

  17. December 2, 2009 3:53 pm

    Mike, it’s not clear if the current crop can do so. With an aluminum wave-piercing bow, I’d be nervous about going all the way to an unimproved beach. The LSTs were designed specifically for the role.
    Given time, I’m sure that something could be worked out, but their speed isn’t really all that useful for ship-to-shore operations in close – they’ll just be getting up on step when they need to slow down to pick up or drop off a load. Longer haul, say 100 miles or more, they probably kick butt.

  18. December 2, 2009 3:48 pm

    Bryaxis, at 130 tons deadweight / 20 knots, the LCAT is just as comparable to the LCU-1600 as the LCAC. All three types have about the same cargo area (1700-1800 square feet), and have similar throughput capacity – 2200-2600 ton-knots. LCAC gets there faster with a lighter load, LCU plods along with three times as much, and LCAT falls in the middle. Given the right mix of items to haul, each would be very useful for ship-to-shore movement.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 2, 2009 3:38 pm

    Thanks Ken. Could the HSV’s get equally close to perform the same function?

  20. December 2, 2009 3:34 pm

    Your statement about LSTs not beaching is incorrect. The ship would be de-ballasted to get the draft around 9-10 feet forward, a stern anchor dropped to prevent broaching, and then the ship would beach before extending the ramp. This photo gives a good feel for how close they could get.

    Multiple design features, besides the ramp, enabled the capability to move vehicles ashore. For example:
    — The main propulsion diesels (and generators) were piped to allow the use of ballast water for cooling, so that less sand would be sucked into the systems.
    — The twin controllable-pitch screws rotated so that the bottom of the screw was moving outboard, to prevent the buildup of sand under the hull.
    — For cases where the beach gradient was too shallow for an effective offload, four 90-foot causeway sections could be carried. A special section, designed with a notch, mated with the bow of the LST and took the weight of the ramp. Good pics of that operation in DANFS.

    The Newports were great ships on which to learn deck seamanship – always an evolution going on. I served in USS Manitowoc (LST-1180) for a 30-month division officer tour. And yes, they roll like crazy.

  21. Bryaxis permalink
    December 2, 2009 3:19 pm

    During this time the French have built an innovative LST called L-CAT which, for 125 million €, gives 4 fast (30 knots empty/ 20 knots full), ro/ro, beachable ships able to get inside a Mistral LPD (and a larger L-CAT 2 could also get inside) and provide as much access to the world’s coast as a US LCAC but with a crew of only 4 and probably lower operation costs than the LCAC. (see also : the French did not go for a revolutionary high tech concept but for a ship that could almost have been built with WW2 technologies, with fail safes and redundancies to prevent that a mechanical failure prevents the job to be done (with, for example, hand-operations in case of failure of the hydrolic system for the fret plateform) : why have the US been unable to provide such a system for such a cost (which would be even lower in the US since their would be bigger production run, France only planning for only 8 such ships while the US would probably order at least 20 if it had come up with the idea).

    Same is true for the Mistral LPD by the way, sure it’s much smaller than a Wasp LHD and only has about half the capacities but it’s been more than enough for the French’s operations, including the evacuation of more than 1000 civilians from Lebanon in 2006, and also at about half the cost (the possible russian sale deal is said to be around 300 to 400 millions €, to compare with the more than 1.2 billion $ of a Wasp…

    Thus France, with a much lower budget and much shorter production runs, is able to produce ships which are as good as US ships and cost less to build and to run… Isn’t the issue with US shipbuilders and Pentagon oversight ?

  22. December 2, 2009 2:55 pm

    Don’t they roll? And no mention of the Australian conversions…….

    Assaulting up a beach isn’t going to happen these days. But the need to make a landing without a harbour is a distinct possibility. Is that what you mean?

    The need to move 500 miles a day is sensible. If you had to move 12,000 miles at 20kts takes 24 days; at 15kts takes 33days. But in a crisis arriving a week earlier earlier could make all the difference. I know that is abstract but I think it illustrates my point.

  23. west_rhino permalink
    December 2, 2009 2:40 pm

    And we haven’t a LCS module to make it a LSMFT? How about an APD?


  1. Amphibious Lift, Not Assault « New Wars

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