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Commandant Ponders HSVs

January 16, 2010

A forklift offload supplies from the High Speed Vessel Two (HSV 2) Swift in Singapore.

Not surprised to see the US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway worried over the future of the large deck amphibious ships in the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), according to Aviation Week and Bettina H. Chavanne. Of the 5 battleships currently dominating US Navy spending, these are the most unnecessary in my opinion, at least in sizable numbers. Thankfully, the General is also pondering on a “Plan B”:

Additionally, Conway said he is looking at various ways to take advantage of the capabilities inherent in the Navy-Army Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). “Is the [JHSV] a ferry? A troop carrier?” he said. Might the LCS host a module that would transform it into a Marine troop carrier? “We think it can,” Conway said. “We have to do more exploration to determine the utility of that type of vessel.”

He is speaking here of the light assault transport idea for the LCS, which we reported on earlier in the week. However, we can see the 1/3 less costly JHSV catamarans as being a better platform for Marine lift than the exquisite LCS, or even the cheaper Sea Fighter in a Marine commando role.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2015 2:54 pm

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  2. leesea permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:20 pm

    I am quoting what a USMC 0-6 said. I meant as a tactical sealift ship NOT an HSV as an aircraft carrier! Understand the JHSV is for transporation and the LCS is meant for who know what?

  3. January 18, 2010 2:46 pm

    “What is really needed is a 125 meter HSV will tall cargo deck to lift avaition assets around.”

    Good one!

  4. leesea permalink
    January 17, 2010 8:31 pm

    Scott the Marines of III MEF have been doing more than “playing around” with the WPE. It is their essential transport for administrative lifts from Okinawa to as far away a Thailand, Korea and Guam. The vessel is used so extensively its looked on a a railroad service. In point of fact, the II MEF officers wanted a bigger HSV for the ships second charter but someone scotched that idea in think? The JHSV is not significantly larger and the LCS is less capable. What is really needed is a 125 meter HSV will tall cargo deck to lift avaition assets around.

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 17, 2010 5:46 pm

    At one point when I worried about such things, I thought how effective the Ekranoplan might be in combination with paratroopers in seizing the Naval Air Station at Adak.

    The Aleutians are sort of the Northern Antilles.

  6. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 17, 2010 4:01 pm


    Given the layout of the Caribbean Sea’s island chains (Antilles), then something akin to the ekranoplan might be real useful for deploying company to battalion sized units to any place from the Bahamas down to Aruba and over to Trinidad & Tobago. They’re fast and they don’t need a functional runway to deliver personnel (of whatever sort) or supplies to a beach. Build it with a LST clam-shell like bow and reverse thrusters and many shorelines could be used as delivery points (where there wasn’t a functional port).

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 17, 2010 3:26 pm

    Not a stupid idea at all elgatoso, but more likely a niche, Special Forces type vehicle, as I would also place the V-22 Osprey. Probably too pricey for full scale production but good for shock troops as X mentioned.

  8. January 17, 2010 2:44 pm

    “Could be a stupid idea but why the West never try a ground effect vehicle like the ekranoplan,AKA Caspian Sea Monster.”

    The ekronplan actually address some of the problems of the catamarans (low speed compared to aircraft etc.) And as you point out they can lift a bit. But I still don’t see how they can replace conventional ships. I see them more as “paratroop” delivery systems where a diversion or rapid reinforcement is needed. (Paratroops as shock troops ahead of main force.)

    The Greeks make use of their ACV in their archipelago. But this is a unique environment.

  9. elgatoso permalink
    January 17, 2010 2:25 pm

    Could be a stupid idea but why the West never try a ground effect vehicle like the ekranoplan,AKA Caspian Sea Monster.I red that the Caspian Sea Monster was over 100 metres (328 ft) long, weighed 540 t (531 long tons) fully loaded, and could travel over 400 kilometres per hour (249 mph), mere meters above the surface of the water.Also read about another WIG called Lun.the Lun-class vehicles had a top speed of 297 knots (550 km/h) (341 mph) flying in ground effect and 550 knots at altitude. The Lun ekranoplan had potentially a lifting power of 1,000 tonnes (984 long tons).

  10. January 17, 2010 2:04 pm

    Above I meant to say a third of a brigade not a battalion. Whoops!

  11. January 17, 2010 1:46 pm

    At the moment the British build ops around battle groups. Basically a battalion plus support elements which averages about 1300 personnel. Think of it as a third of a battalion. This isn’t far off the personnel numbers in a typical USMC ARG. Remember the USMC is a light force. And to move this size of force with the most basic of equipment and minimum stores requires all 3 ships in ARG. There isn’t much spare space onboard.

    To do anything useful ashore you need a landing force of this size as a minimum.

    As others have mentioned here already it is best to think of these catamarans as very large slow planes. They fill a niche. They can’t substitute for the large amphibs. Nor the sea keeping abilities either.

  12. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 17, 2010 12:57 pm

    I’m not saying they have no capability but if you go over about 50 men in the unit the inability to land them all or with draw them all quickly makes the prospect very dicey.

    Certainly putting a company ashore from a single LCS with no other support looks like a non-starter.

  13. Matt permalink
    January 17, 2010 10:06 am

    All this talk about making LCS an amphib just doesn’t make sense.

    Why should we take a program that’s already vastly overbudget because of requirements creep and tack on yet another requirement? We would be stuffing the proverbial 15 lbs of “stuff” into a 10 lb sock.

    It’s vaguely reminscient of how the USN into trouble with LCS to begin with – trying to take a small, relatively inexpensive, purpose-built green-water combatant into a jack-of-all trades.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 17, 2010 6:00 am

    The LCS would probably make a better transport than a warship, but Gee Whizz! The price tag…

  15. Distiller permalink
    January 17, 2010 2:44 am

    I also see some raider capability in LCS.

  16. January 17, 2010 2:08 am

    Why is everyone so quick to write off the LCS as an amphibious assault ship lite? It was designed from the outset to be capable of supporting special operations forces and with the Marine Corps reorganizing to make the Company as the smallest maneuver element then it begins to make even more sense. Additionally with its ability to transport vehicles and even a helicopter or two then voices against it seem to be harder to understand. SSN’s have been used for SpecOps, its reasonable to assume that the surface navy’s ships of the line would also be used in that way…if they’re not then 45 knots doesn’t count for a thing…

  17. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 16, 2010 10:22 pm



    The APDs of WW-II were converted DEs of the Buckley and Rudderow classes. Their amidships were converted into berthing space for 162 troops. This meant that the triple torpedo tube mount was removed. The space aft of the funnel was occupied by four LCVP. Also, while they retained a single 5″, 38 cal. DP mount forward they did lose the aft 5″ mount (two single 5″ mounts were typical of the Buckley & Rudderow classes of DEs). They were 1,400 tons light and were 2,130 tons at full load. Their crew was 212 in number plus the 162 troops possible (374 personnel, total). Those are quite different numbers from what the two forms of LCS are capable of deploying…

  18. Scott B. permalink
    January 16, 2010 6:51 pm

    Let’s see :

    The Corps has been toying with the Westpac Express thingy since 2001, but Conway makes it sound like “more exploration [is needed] to determine the utility of that type of vessel” and find out whether JHSV is “a ferry or a troop carrier”.

    Does that really sound like someone pondering on a Plan B ? ;-)

  19. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 16, 2010 5:18 pm

    Relative to the LCS as a light assault transport.

    As I recall the APDs of WWII carried a company and with four LCVPs they could land four platoons or about 144 men simultaneously with the rest of the company coming ashore on a second wave.

    These ships were about half the size of the LCS.

    Presumably now we are talking primarily about landing by helo. Not as many troops per wave. It could be a bit stealthier, but I don’t see it as a significant asset right now.

  20. leesea permalink
    January 16, 2010 4:23 pm

    Like the RFA Bay class LSD(A) or the Danish Absalons?
    Well in all honesty the amphibs do have to lift the essential men and materials for an assault echelon but there could be a different mix or more in MPF?

  21. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 16, 2010 3:58 pm

    Right Lee. The bulk of USMC operations have been sealift. Today our giant ships built to “kick in the door” are doing sealift in Haiti. If this is all of their missions of late, why not build sealift ships with a secondary landing capability for emergencies? We can’t buy enough traditional landing ships for either role, but we can do sealift in a variety of platforms.

  22. leesea permalink
    January 16, 2010 12:59 pm

    Mike is right to ponder the CMC’s comments. I have questioned them also. The LCS were not designed to be light assualt transports – period end of guessing. This not so much about cost as capability.

    There is almost NO use for LCS in support of amphibous operations (unless there were to be some serious mods in the “next-gen RFP”?).

    I know that the JHSVs WILL be in ATFs or MPSrons in the future. NO the JHSVs are not forcible entry platforms, but they are pretty good transports for manuever warfare from the sea. Remember that the Marines sat right along the Navy and Army in developing JHSVs rqmts, so while they are not an exqusite ship solution, they are IMHO about a 90% solution. And I feel the JSHV will be a transformational (to use and over-used phrase) in the near term. Also to be noted is how short a period it took to get the JHSVs building as compared to the warships LCS.

  23. January 16, 2010 9:40 am

    HSVs are nice in a permissive environment, but what if you need to kick a door in? – phibs take 3-5 years to build, and I don’t see a bad guy giving us 3 to 5 years to get ready.

    I have no problem with HSVs and LCSs supplementing the planned fleet. But when it comes to replacement, I have a problem. All too often, group like CAGW get penny-wise and pound-foolish on defense.

  24. Scott B. permalink
    January 16, 2010 8:41 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Thankfully, the General is also pondering on a “Plan B”:”

    Actually, General Conway is NOT pondering on a Plan B, at least not one that would be based on LCS and/or JHSV. I’ll explain later on.

  25. Scott B. permalink
    January 16, 2010 8:39 am

    This other bit of Chavanne’s short piece is most interesting :

    “The construction of large-deck amphibious ships lacking a well deck also worries Conway. “If ships are built without wells, we don’t think it’s wise,” he said. Ships must “be multicapable. It will be a bit more expensive and require some redesign,” but the result will be a ship that is “exactly the size it needs to be.”

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