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Marines in the News

June 29, 2010

The Italian aircraft carrier ITS Giuseppe Garibaldi will be replaced by a future LHA.

A couple of Marine related stories, the first being from Inside the Navy (subscr. only), which details a new operating concept being revealed by the Corps today titled “The Marine Corps Operating Concepts: Assuring Littoral Access . . . Winning Small Wars”. They seem to be on the right track, as New Wars has contended, to get them away from their “second land army” status and back to the sea. Here is an intriguing idea:

Amphibious vessels are not the only floating assets the Marines could make use of in the future, the MOC notes.

   “By embarking Marines aboard a wider variety of naval vessels, we can expand the capability and capacity to conduct discrete, sea-based engagement with a greater number of partner nations,” the document states. “Doing so will have the additional advantage of increasing the flexibility and utility of these vessels for the range of military operations.”

   Marines could deploy on anything from large Navy surface combatants to Coast Guard cutters, according to the MOC.

Smart thinking. I see limiting the Marines to a handful of giant base ships which are too big and expensive for modern war as placing an unreasonable burden and inhibiting the Corps natural flexibility. I have likened them to “giant floating green zones” which seems to fit well for a second land army, but not the elite raider mentality of the sea soldiers.


Speaking of amphibious ships, here from Andy Nativi at the Ares blog are details on how the Italians are expanding their Gator Navy with some cost-effective and effective proposals:

The Italian navy has received the go-ahead to procure two 20,000-ton amphibious assault ships (LHDs), with the possibility of a third ship, configured with extensive aviation facilities (LHA).

The preliminary LHD project is funded and will take 12 months for completion. It will be followed by a project definition phase requiring eight months and leading to a contract. Delivery of the first ship comes within 30 months after that. If everything goes to plan, the first LHD arrives in late 2014.

LHDs will replace two 8,000-ton San Giorgio-class LPDs, commissioned in 1987 and 1988. The LHA will eventually replace the carrier Garibaldi, which is being dedicated to amphibious and helicopter roles now that the Cavour carrier is in service.

Here are some preliminary features:

  • 190 meters (623 ft.) long
  • A well dock holding four LCACs (landing craft air cushions)
  • A hangar able to hold 6 medium-heavy helicopters
  • 6 landing spots on deck and 2 elevators
  • Total helo capacity will vary from 12-15
  • Ships crew is 200 plus up to 760 troops
  • Garage capacity of 360 tons.
  • top speed of 20 kt.
  • Range of 7000 miles at 16 kt.
  • Propulsion is combined diesel and diesel scheme
  • 1,000 sq. meters of hospital space able to treat 54 patients

The cost each is, get this, $369 million USD, or about 10% of the USN latest amphib, the LHA-6 class America. In other words, you can deploy 8-9 Italian type 20,000 ton vessels for the cost of a single LHA-6. Any wonder the Navy continues to shrink?


Concerning the future of the America class, and USN amphibs in general, here is Michael Colombaro at Combat Fleet of the World:

Personally, I think that the better solution was to stop the LHA 6 America class and buy slightly smaller but cheaper ships : ideally, finish the LHA 6 America (because this ship is “now too in advanced building process and too expensive to cancel”), but stop immediately work on next LHA 7/8 ships and begin to study newer LHX alternative’s for a 1st ship commissioned by 2020/2022:
– A radically newer 33 000/48 000 tons, 240/250 meters monohull design (a catamaran or trimaran hull design, although more efficient, unfortunately probably reach a ASTRONOMICAL cost).
– Likely with a full clearer flight deck and a smaller/compact/stealthier island than on board the Wasp/America class.
– With a radically less expensive crew onboard (currently on Wasp’s, +/- 1100 sailors + 1800 troops on board), maybe around only 380/500 sailors + 1500/1800 troops onboard).
– Maybe with 2 conventional shaft but probably more likely 2 or 4 pods.
– With well decks (for amphibious use and avoid the LHA 6 class error of omitted the well decks).
– With fewer (and more costly) VSTOL aircraft, helico & UAV on board.

As I pointed out, if we buy smaller European types, we could ensure that the Marine fleet will not always be targets when the Navy is looking for savings, much like our mine fleet often is, except we still both these type of ships badly. And though they may be less capable they are far from incapable. A ship at sea is far more useful than a fantasy fleet on paper.

Summing up, Michael earlier pointed to the admirals main problem, and how it can be fixed:

The US Navy needs to reconsider its plans and buy:
– Fewer
– Smaller
– More modern
design warships “Flattops”


12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2010 11:24 pm

    er…MV-22. But yeah close to the cost of an F-22.

  2. June 29, 2010 11:23 pm

    Lets see.

    USMC has a large helicopter that is in procurement that has cost problems trying to pretend it is an upgrade.

    Then there is the gold-plated F-22.

    Then The F-35 which has a bunch of affordability problems including figuring out if its drive shaft will deliver… (IOC 2012 and all that)

    Then there is the $4B flattop with no well deck

    Then the EFV which is another gold plated easy target.

    Yeah I’d say USMC procurement is healthy.

  3. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 29, 2010 9:00 pm


    I’m only saying that I’m amazed by the capacity for accepting helos and MV-22s as is being shown by USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). Otherwise, I wasn’t saying anything especially positive about that over-priced LPD-17 class of gators. Now, if those ships were equipped with a MK-41 VLS (as they are prepared to accept) and a land-attack gun system (MK-45, mod. 4 127 mm / 62 cal. or the in-development 155 mm NGS) – then maybe their great expense could be supportable.

    Of course, maybe a division of four Absalon type Command & Support type frigates could deploy much of the same functionality in conjunction with several much smaller gators.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2010 8:59 pm

    Thanks for answering my question Mike.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 29, 2010 8:41 pm

    D.E.-the Euros we are told are cutting their budgets yet are building some very good ships and deploying needed capability. Some lessons could be learned here as we dread to cut our own budgets.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 29, 2010 8:39 pm

    “In the beginning of the post you criticize the Marines for limiting themselves to “a handful of giant base ships”

    Thats right. Lets have fewer giant amphibs, more smaller landing craft and sealift vessels, hsvs, etc. Return flexibility, numbers, and survivability to the fleet.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    June 29, 2010 5:45 pm

    In the beginning of the post you criticize the Marines for limiting themselves to “a handful of giant base ships” and said that such a small number of ships hurt the flexibility of the Marines. But at the end of the post you praised Michael for saying the Marines should buy fewer ships. Could you please clarify this for me?

  8. Heretic permalink
    June 29, 2010 5:22 pm

    That Italian Gator configuration makes me wonder what would happen if you were to put them into mass production and deploy MEUs using 3 of these for troops, land vehicles, lighterage (ie. LCACs) and helicopters … plus an extra 1 configured for fixed wing operations, command and control, and logistical support (machine shops, stores, etc.) instead of land vehicle stowage, while still retaining its well deck for LCAC transfers (and so on).

    Basically, you could make a “little fleet” of 4 of these gators for running a MAGTF MEU, supported by a T-AKE for running supplies, a JHSV for administrative lifts, a surface minesweeper, two U212As for coastal surveillance, covert landings of advance beach scouts and ASW protection/escort, plus 2 AAW frigates and 2 ASW frigates. That would mean 13 hulls for a MEU that would be somewhat self-contained that would have plenty of flexibility.

    All you’d really want to make sure of is that the basic gator design is “modular enough” to be reconfigured from a LHD to an LHA without too much trouble while the ship is docked back at home port.

  9. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 29, 2010 4:29 pm

    Consider the -size- of a helo det that you might expect to be carried aboard a typical USN gator that ain’t a big flight deck LHA or LHD. Then consider what’s recently been carried aboard USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19). This is from The Scoop Deck and it’s a quote by the photographer MC1 Steve Smith.

    “What you are looking at is the hardest working LPD flight deck crew in the Navy. For the record, there were two CH-53E Super Stallions, two UH-1N Huey and two AH-1 Cobra helicopters already on the flight deck. And, of course, the MV-22 Osprey takes the last parking spot. The hangar bay had three additional helicopters. Mesa Verde deployed in January and had conducted more than 3,700 flight evolutions!”

    Count those numbers. That’s -NINE- birds already aboard the LPD as a -TENTH- bird lands. But, as someone else mentioned elsewhere (ID, I think) – if you folded up that MV-22 then it might be fitted in between the two sets of birds already aboard that small flight deck gator. So, even an -ELEVENTH- bird might be taken aboard. That’s quite a LARGE CAPABILITY small flight deck gator!!!

  10. June 29, 2010 2:51 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    according to the article you linked to:

    “According to one estimate, the ship can be built for €300 million ($369 million), excluding combat systems.”

    Those combat systems which that price excludes ofen make up the bulk of the price of a warship.
    It will be interesting to see how much these vessels cost fully equipped.


  11. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 29, 2010 2:48 pm

    Speaking of European gators and the continuing growth in numbers of LHAs & LHDs amongst the navies of EU and NATO members, I picked up this information from a Dutch commenter at another blog. I’ve edited this a bit, so I’m not -exactly- quoting this individual’s very useful accounting of European gators.

    European amphibious forces gave grown during the last 30 years, so here’s the total of those currently available gator forces:

    LHA: 0 … LHD: 4 … LPH: 2 … LPD: 11 … LST: 8 … LSD: 4

    So, that makes for a total of 29 amphibious ships. If you would only deploy the NL/UK Landing Force its ships it would be capable of landing +/- 2657 troops. That’s using only HNLMS Rotterdam, HNLMS Johan de Witt, HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark, & RFA Lyme Bay. Adding the new construction gators of France, Italy, and Spain would raise this number of troops significantly. Thus, a large brigade-sized force might be employed in an European emergency situation (if everyone came together during such an emergency sometime five to eight years in the future).


  1. Utility ship problem….lets look at Italy for a solution? « ELP Defens(c)e Blog

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