Amphibious Lift’s Future Shape
Even the staunchest proponents of Marine Amphibious Warfare must know drastic change is required to spare America some form of ferrying troops by the sea. Relief actions off Haiti once again reminds us of the importance of this unique capability in times of emergencies, and not just for war.
The problem is, the ships the Navy has traditionally geared to perform specialized beach landings have been in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way. Despite all the fanfare received last year with the commissioning of the latest LPD-17 Amphib the USS New York, made of World’s Trade Center steel, there is no getting around the fact this is a terribly flawed class of warship.
The usual conclusion is problems with the shipyards, but since technical faults have become so widespread in all classes, from submarines to aircraft carriers, ongoing for decades, we can only conclude the problem is with the ships themselves. Specifically concerning the LPD-17 San Antonio class, here is a vessel with so many add-ons, (they are building 9 ships to replace 41!) with missiles, reinforced bulkheads, enhanced aviation abilities for the V-22 Osprey tiltroter, it is almost forgotten her primary purpose is to ferry the troops.
Then we hear of amphibious warfare being increasingly minimized in future Navy plans, though we think this a mistake. So does Marine Commandant Conway who sounds increasingly frustrated at the Admiral’s proposals to makes savings by gutting the Gator Navy.
In the midst of all the gloom and doom associated with Marine lift, there is this little exert from an article by Kaija Wilkinson at Al.com:
The U.S. Navy on Thursday awarded Mobile’s Austal USA shipyard $204.2 million, the second installment on what the shipyard hopes will be a 10-vessel, $1.6 billion contract. The new work on two Joint High Speed Vessels will create hundreds of new jobs by this summer, according to Austal.
The Joint High Speed Vessel, an Army-Navy program, includes up to 10 shallow-draft ferries for carrying troops and equipment – including vehicles and a helicopter — at speeds of up to 43 knots within areas of combat. Austal is the prime contractor, and has the first vessel under construction in Mobile.
If you’ll notice, for the cost $1.6 billion, the price of a single flawed San Antonio, we have just ordered 10 JHSV’s, based on proven high speed vessels currently operating with the US Army and Navy such as the HSV Swift, and the Spearhead. Each vessel is able to carry a Stryker company, or a company of Marines and their equipment. Unlike the LPD-17, it is able to go directly up to a beach or port and offload its deadly cargo, being a shallow water vessel.
Avoiding placing all your valuable “eggs” in a single vulnerable platform is an added incentive. As we wrote in an earlier post “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!”