Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos recommended the Navy replace its dock-landing ships (LSD) with the San Antonio-class amphibious platform docks (LPD) just days after he oversaw the commissioning of the Navy’s newest LPD, the Arlington.
Amos made his recommendation with a caveat Monday at the Sea Air Space Expo sponsored by the Navy League at National Harbor, Md. He said the service must work to make the San Antonion-class LPD more affordable.
An LPD costs about $1.4 billion to build. The ship can transport 800 Marines as well as the 400 sailors that make up its crew.
The Arlington (LPD 24) was commissioned on April 6 in Norfolk. Amphibious transport dock (LPD 25) Somerset is set to go to sea trials this summer and be delivered to the fleet by the end of the year, said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Irwin Edenzon.
The Navy has planned to replace the LSD fleet with a program to build 10 ships. The last one would be delivered by 2032. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the average cost of the LSD replacement ships will cost $1.2 billion per ship.
Navy officials plan to deliver the first LSDs between 2018 and 2022 before the older ones retire. The Navy sees this as a hedge on the risk it took reducing the amphibious ship fleet from 33 to 30.
The cuts to the Navy’s amphibious fleet left many Marine Corps leaders frustrated and worried the service was losing its amphibious roots after ten years fighting land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The LPD and LSD fleet share similitaries. The major difference is the LPD has a hangar to embark helicopters while the LSD has a helicopter landing area but no hangar.
Ingalls Shipbuilding builds the LPD fleet and supported the commandant’s recommendation, Edenzon said. Ingalls has made the case to utilize the LPD as a LSD replacement and it appears it is receiving support on the highest levels of leadership.
With budgets tightened by sequestration, Edenzon said the Navy will have to perform more missions from single hulls. He highlighted the possibility of building a ballistic missile defense variant of the LPD.
The LPD has the “ability to be the truck” of the Navy’s amphibious fleet, Edenzon said.