Deploying amphibs look a lot like the future

Deploying amphibs look a lot like the future

The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island slipped its lines on Monday and headed out to sea on its maiden operational deployment. If you wanted a photo for the opening slide of your PowerPoint deck about the future of American power, you couldn’t do much better than this.

First, the ship: The Makin Island is the Navy’s first “hybrid” big-deck gator. Unlike the seven ships in the class that preceded it, Makin Island’s main propulsion comes from diesels and gas turbines driving an all-electric system, not enormous steam boilers. That makes the ship much more efficient, the Navy says, and it’s planning to copy the Makin Island’s plant at least on the next big amphibs, if not other future surface warships.

Second, the mission: Although the Navy already does deployments like the one Makin Island is making — along with the amphibious transport USS New Orleans and the dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor — now Washington actually is paying attention. President Obama is heading to Australia to announce the forward-deployment of American Marines there; the Pentagon is standing up its Air-Sea Battle Office; and people at the highest levels are talking about the Western Pacific.

And although it’s possible to imagine a time when American aircraft carriers don’t automatically sail to the Central Command AOR to support combat in Afghanistan, the Navy and Marine Corps are locked into WestPac deployments forever. The ships will exercise with American allies, show the flag during their port visits, and be on hand just in case anything happens — from a natural disaster to a military crisis.

That last bit — just being on hand — is at the core of what the Navy, Marines and parts of the D.C. foreign strategy smart-set see as the key to maintaining stability in the Western Pacific. American expeditionary power will be the control rod in the reactor, the thinking goes, moderating all the nations in the neighborhood and keeping the seas open and peaceful for the free flow of commerce. If there’s any unpleasantness, the unmistakeable shapes of the Makin Island and its companions will appear on the horizon, within easy reach of their main weapons system — the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Or here’s how the mission commander put it, per the Navy’s official story:

“Our Navy and Marine Corps team plays a critical role in facilitating international maritime security cooperation,” said Capt. Humberto L. Quintanilla II, PHIBRON 5 commander. “Global maritime security can only be achieved through the unity of international and regional maritime integration, awareness, and response initiatives. “The safety and economic interests of the United States and our allies, and partner nations depend on unimpeded trade across the world’s oceans,” added Quintanilla.

The big questions for the Navy and Washington are how all this new doctrinaire seriousness about WestPac will affect what the service does elsewhere in the world. Will commanders stay committed to the humanitarian and “partnership” deployments they’ve been doing in South America and Africa, for example? Or could the Makin Island’s deployment signal not just that it’ll maintain its Pacific presence, but increase it?

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It makes sense!

An important point to consider is that those oil burner flat-tops are retiring and there isn’t enough money to replace them with new ships.

Which leaves us with a much smaller USN/USMC amphib flat-top force. Also interesting because that is part of the basis for USMC manpower and…aircraft.

“If there’s any unpleasantness, the unmistakeable shapes of the Makin Island and its companions will appear on the horizon, within easy reach of their main weapons system — the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.”

Dangerous thinking for some PacRim threats that are growing in the region. What is being offered up are targets that an obsolete to the threat carrier air wing (and also what flys off those amphibs) won’t be able to stop. If the interest is Taiwan or the South China Sea, a force as described above will be out of their depth and in high risk.

I think that you mean that oil-burning CVs *have* retired. There haven’t been any in the fleet for several years now.

Oil burning amphib flat-tops… plenty of those still to retire.

exactly James! what ELP also fails to realize is that the San Antonio class is well into its production and all nine will be in the fleet shortly.

what comes next is the LSD replacement but that shouldn’t be too big a push especially since its rumored to be built on the San Antonio hull…

Air Sea Battle guys keep dreaming of a great war with China. that’s not what the future will hold. every major theorist that i’ve read is looking at more Haiti’s and less Iraq’s. we’re returning to a “real” small wars type situation. that should hold the Marines in good stead.

My son sailed with the USS Makin Island and here is a wish for him and all the others aboard to have a safe and productive.deployment.

Good you brought up Haiti–many years back we took the air wing off of two carriers and put on elements of Army aviation dropped them off and performed the mission. Nice thing about nuke carriers is they are big and are if anything, just a mobile airfield. One can helo-lift all day with that kind of an airfield in low threat environs.
The San Antonio class cannot field aircraft like an Amphib. Not that it matters much. Funny how the USMC marketing campaign including( places like SLD) push the fantasy of using Amphib flat tops like carriers with the just so failed F-35B. After those oil burner ambhib flattops retire and there is no money to replace them 1 for 1, the USMC manpower and equipment justifications have a big problem. For instance, why do they need 420 F-35s? Well assuming they even work. Add to that with the coming cuts, why do they need 420 fast jets?
The USS Makin Island with its newer propulsion tech is a great ship. But we won’t have many of them.
Small war contingency is fine. Until you need big war contingency and there is no credible air power elements (in numbers and capability) to take on the threat. The Brewster Buffalo II is not good enough for the Pacific Rim threats that are growing.

Army aviation on CVNs? And they’ve repeated that stunt how many times since then? At least you got the part right about “dropping them off.” 420 fast jets? You should do some research on how procurement objectives are calculated — simple stuff even a 5th grader can understand. Then, move on to some higher math questions like why $13B ships that only do one thing make sense going forward in this budget environment.

absolutely spot on … on all counts!

Good Evening Folks.

Two issues in this post.

First is the power plant of LHD 8 USS Makin Island. the Gas Turbine/Diesel Electric appears to be the future for conventional powered ships for the USNavy. The fuels savings of 15–20,000 gallons a day of moving at 10–12 knots is significant. The two shafts can move the USS Makin with a displacement of about 41,000 short tons, at a top speed of 25 knots, of course there wouldn’t be any fuel savings at that speed.

This power system would appear to be something that could add economy to the two shaft DD 51’s and perhaps even provide the USNavy with a perhaps with a four shaft light carrier in the 60,000 category.

The other issued the weaseled itself is the number of MEG’s in the Pacific. Already we have a MEG home bases in Japan, at least one group at Pearl Harbor and facilities to hand a group are being constructed in Guam. The CONUS port for the MEG’s Pacific is San Diego. The politics here is that a Republican administration in efforts to reduce pressures on China would most likely reduce the number of MEG’s in the Pacific especially the West Pac. that would cover the South China Sea.

The current Obama administration who doesn’t enjoy friend relationships with the Chinese chose this week to deploy the Makin MRG the same week he is visiting Asia. This is in your face China politics.

Byron Skinner

Congratulations and I wish you, your son and and the crew of the Makin Island Fair Winds and Following Seas.

I just hope and pray that This ship was built better and are more reliable than the last few ships coming out of Ingals. Hopefully she will get her first deployment with out breaking down. Please, let’s hope she doesn’t have the same problem that the USS Bush is reportedly having. With all those Marines on board that could be a real smelly mess.

Galrahn on ID makes the good point that the real story among the ARGs is not the Makin Island, but the Bataan, which left port on 23 March 2011 and looks like she may be setting all sorts of records for length of deployment if she’s not careful. Which in turn tells you something about the politicians’ eyes being bigger than their stomachs when it comes to tasking versus funding.

The whole idea of the Marine flattops as mini-aircraft carriers takes a bit of a beating when you consider that they can carry half the number of F-35B’s versus Harriers. LHA-6 is only going to have 6–10 F-35B’s — and the followon vessels will carry fewer than that, as they will have the well-decks that were omitted from LHA-6 to give more room for aircraft.

IEP is nothing new to many navies of course, the only surprise is how long it has taken the USN to adopt it. I think all the USN systems come from Converteam?

Other than having the politics backwards, interesting insight.


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