Navy Bringing Well Decks Back to Amphibs

Navy Bringing Well Decks Back to Amphibs

The Navy has begun early design work, affordability studies and planning with industry partners for its third big-deck America-Class Amphibious Assault Ship, or LHA 8, slated to enter service in 2024, service officials said Jan. 15 at the Surface Navy Association Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.

Unlike the first two America-Class amphibs now in development, the USS America and the USS Tripoli designed as aviation-centric large-deck amphibs, LHA 8 will be built with a classic amphibious assault ship well deck designed to move personnel, vehicles and equipment from ship to shore, said Capt. Chris Mercer, amphibious warfare program manager.

“This is a very classic, in-house Navy design,” he said.


Navy design work and affordability initiatives on LHA 8 are now underway through a cooperative deal with Huntington Ingalls and NASSCO shipbuilding firms, Mercer explained. Following the early design work and some advanced procurement dollars in 2015 and 2016, detailed design and construction work is  slated for 2017 and 2018.

Mercer said the well deck will be important for the Pacific rebalance and linked the decision to return to a well deck with LHA 8 to a capabilities based assessment in 2011 run by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, or OPNAV. This effort examined the total amphibious footprint in light of current and anticipated future threat and conflict scenarios.

“This was an assessment by our requirements folds and the Marine Corps were involved – looking at the total footprint including vehicle lift and cargo. You’ve got more up-armored vehicles from all of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, so air assets are not going to be the sole answer,” Mercer explained.

One analyst agreed that re-introducing the well deck and surface connectors such as Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, could allow for easier and more efficient ship-to-shore transport of heavier vehicles and amphibious units.

“It is expensive and labor intensive to bring a large amount of equipment through airlift. Vehicles have gotten heavier and complex over time,” said Ben Friedman, research fellow in defense and homeland security, Cato Institute, a D.C.-based think tank.

Friedman explained that during the late ‘90s and early ‘00’s the Pentagon was quick to emphasize lighter vehicles, sensors and the notion that heavier combat assets might be less crucial than was historically the case. This approach, however, was overturned by lessons learned during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which led to up-armoring and use of increasingly heavier vehicles.

“Even in a counterinsurgency environment there are a lot of advantages to a heavy vehicle,” Friedman added.

The requirements for the LHA 8 have been set for several years now, however some small changes here and there have led to tweaks of the Capabilities Development Document, Mercer said.

Bringing the well deck back to the ship will require that the ship’s island to be slightly smaller compared to the first two America-class amphibs.

Aviation-centric big-deck amphibs are configured with more deck-space than their predecessors Wasp and Tarawa-class amphibs are engineered with more hangar space to accommodate the MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter as well as other aviation assets.

LHA 6, the USS America, recently completed builder’s trials and is slated for formal delivery to the Navy later this year and fabrication and steel-work recently begun on the USS Tripoli or LHA 7, Mercer said.

Mercer said as many as 14 different design changes were made to the big-deck amphibs so that the ship could accommodate the heat generated by landings of the F-35B.

“Some changes were as small as putting covers over life rafts and covers over refueling stations and relocating antennas. These are all to help the flight deck accept heat input,” Mercer said.

Overall, the America-class amphibs are large warships. The 40,000-ton USS America, which completed sea trials in November of last year, can reach speeds of 24 knots and is 844 feet –long, Mercer said.

Also, the America-class amphibs use a hybrid-electric drive system, he added. Hybrid-electric drive for amphibs started in the 90s with Wasp-class amphibs, Mercer said.

“As we were delivering LHD 7 (USS Iwo Jima), it was very clear that we had to get away from steam plants with the inefficiencies and dangers and the training and maintenance and costs. In the late 90s large deck amphibs had a big change. We went with an electric drive option,” he said. “We put that in the USS Makin Island. Fuel savings efficiencies that we gained from a hybrid electric drive in a large deck amphib is moving forward and will only get better as we develop more electronics.”

Join the Conversation

“This is a very classic, in-house Navy design,” — it’s about damn time. I’m tired of these defense contractors dragging out development and jacking the cost of ships through the roof so they can make a bigger profit. For profit companies should only be allowed to do design and development work using their own money and recovering their investment through profits made selling production weapons systems. They should by no means be allowed to make a profit on designing weapons. It is an obvious conflict of interest, and waste of tax dollars earned by the American people, not by Washington DC bureaucrats.

Should read “Navy Bringing Well Decks Back to Amphibs as Planned From the Start”. But then we’d see there was no ‘news’ and move along.

In case no one has ever pointed this out, the creation of new knowledge that brings new capabilities has value unto itself. Unless one is a particular virulent strain of Marxist, believing only touch labor has value, one should understand that. What has value, can be marketed and sold for a profit.
The tiresome repetition of ‘spend piles of capital to design it at your own risk and guess what we want — then maybe we’ll buy it” is ludicrous for a defense infrastructure. While something like that works in a free market capitalist consumer system… alas, the defense industry operates in a monopsony market system. Recommend developing better coping skills if one does not like it.

“For profit companies should only be allowed to do design and development work using their own money and recovering their investment through profits made selling production weapons systems.” Dfens

You might want to ask the shareholders of Northrop how well your proposal worked with the F-20 and then you just might understand why that mistake will never be repeated. If you think weapons systems are expensive under the current system just let those incompetent buffoons on Capitol Hill take over and watch the costs go through the roof.

So…LHA 8 will in essence be another Wasp class.

Ah, you’re both wrong… and right. How’s that? The problem isn’t entirely “defense contractors dragging out development” nor is it entirely “design it at your own risk.” Seems to me that what has gone lacking is simply the discipline to define a broader mission, develop systems that hew to that broad mission, and then build the damned thing. We seem to spend an awful amount of time and treasure whipsawing every time the political winds shift or this or that admiral or general is relieved and trying to design/build a perfect system start-to-finish on the first go. Evolution not revolution, boys. There are plenty of examples of how this works: Sidewinder, Standard (SM-x), F-16, and F/A-18 as well as SPRUANCE which begat TICO which begat BURKE.

This isn’t news by *any* stretch of the imagination. LHA6 (USS America) not having a well deck (later, the Tripoli as well) caused so much concern amongst logistical planners (amongst others) that this type of ship was limited to 2 hulls, with all those following designated to include well decks.

Some folks thought it was a huge innovation to eliminate the well deck to make more room for aircraft, fuel, ordnance, and repair space, to provide better air cover during a contested landing. Others pointed out (correctly) that this innovation is simply called a CV, and represents nothing new (except that its missing the angled flight deck and catapults), and that airlifting means no heavy weapons, vehicles, etc, and taking a lot longer to land troops. For those of us who follow such developments, these arguments were quickly filed away in the “department of the blatantly obvious”.

The USMC (and navy) ultimately agreed and decided to kill the LHA-6 type at two hulls. Since we were going to be short in the carrier department, these smaller CV’s (or LHA’s) could IMHO fill in for CVN’s in less active parts of the globe, freeing the large-deck carriers for the more likely trouble spots, while still demonstrating our interest (or concern).

But given the USMC (read USA) has a shortage of real amphibs (even with the current number planned), I’d like to see more LHA-8 types built, and fewer large-deck carriers. This would spread our assets out more, and free up the large carriers (again) for the hot-spots. A USMC ARG/ESG lurking just over the horizon off your coast will certainly get the attention of a potential adversary. And, as an added bonus, nothing can match an ARG/ESG for disaster relief, because they bring their infrastructure and transport with them, which is something a CVN cannot do — in addition to the marines to help stabilize and secure a disaster area.

You mean like the incompetent Navy that designed the Iowa Class Battleship for less than it cost for Lockheed Martin to design the Little Crappy Ship (LCS)? Oh, and our Navy was able to have the Iowa Class Battleships built for less than it cost Lockheed Martin to built LCS-1. Was that the incompetence you’re talking about? Seems to me like there’s a bunch of yapping going on here without any substance to back it up, just like we are used to getting from defense contractors.

Right, because these new ships are so damn high tech. Hell, they won’t even survive high seas some of them. That’s not high tech in my book. We get fewer ships for more money than we spent during the Cold War and they are crap from the start. It’s not some conspiracy from the Admirals. It’s not some conspiracy of the procurement people. It is quite simply because we pay defense contractors more to drag out designs and jack up prices, and then if the ship or weapon doesn’t work, they get more money to fix it. You may not think that capitalism works, but the defense contractors who lobbied for this system of procurement show that it works every day with every crappy weapon they produce, with every weapons development program they drag on for year after year, with every weapon that costs 10 times more than it should.

our daughter drove one of those kinds of ships & when they would come back from deployment it was just so awesome to c all those ships coming in to dock together. we even got to tour her ship one time. that was very huge!!!!!!

Seems to me that ANY large hull Amphib needs to have a well deck. The shortcoming was not to include them with the America and the Tripoli in the first place.

eI am MS3 staller of the USS Speigel Grove LSD –32 . I have served my country in many ways from the Med to Pamama City Fla workin with Jeff craft in the late 70’s and I can not be happier that they now see how vital we are as amphil . Read an atrial at military dot com giving all the credit to later 80’s ships workin with jeff but I am here to tell all thew USS Spiegel Grove was the first to work with her . And pleased to know anphil is back /

We honestly can’t have it all. Modern aircraft are big enough that the ship required to carry meaningful amounts of aircraft and keep them well supplied with fuel and munitions to strike round-the-clock has to be quite large as well.

The LHA was a major compromise of well-deck just to add air capability. Not sure what the end game really was here. Perhaps the plan is to keep the deckless ones around the Middle East and move the carrier groups back out to open ocean where they belong; and where they are infinitely safer from land attack.

If the export market were bigger it’d be a “free market”…but it isn’t the freest marketplace. More often than not it’s a question of who is willing to allow their vendors to sell.

A lot of the Cold War navy was old WW2 stock, upgraded to operate as long as possible. (eg, Gearings, Sumners and the FRAM programs, Baltimores->Albany & Boston class, plus the obligatory Midway class and a few Essex.)

Of course, nobody tried to fit an PESA radar to an old WW2 cruiser…just to increase the cost and all.

Pretty amazing how they were allowed to waste over $6B for two ships without well decks. Also curious for the F-35 fanbase

…When will they demonstrate how the F-35B Just So Failed , $27M each motor can be changed aboard ship? Soon? Never?

“As we were delivering LHD 7 (USS Iwo Jima), it was very clear that we had to get away from steam plants with the inefficiencies and dangers and the training and maintenance and costs.”

As she was being delivered?

It had already been conclusively demonstrated by the late Seventies, a number of years before LHD 7 was on the builder’s ways, that steam was a long term dead end propulsion-wise for surface combatants, and that gas turbines were the future for anything that wasn’t nuclear powered.

It was ridiculous to have specified her with a steam plant.

I say bring back the Naval Shipyards then let’s see how quickly Lockhead changes their attitude

We had 600 ships then. We can’t even keep 200 floating now for the same damn money.

I’m damn tired of ship and airplane design being nothing but glorified welfare programs for Bob Stevens, the $25 million a year man. That slimy worm doesn’t have a single program that’s on schedule or on budget and he sucks $25 million a year out of the US tax coffers when his company couldn’t last 10 minutes if they had to compete in the free market. That’s just wrong.

Sounds like you’ve spent a lot of your time protecting the broken PoS acquisition system that’s really causing the problems. Lets bet at NAVSEA? or NAVAIR maybe?

Private industry exists to make a profit. Without that primary, ECON 101, motivation there would be no jobs, and no economy. Profit and revenue are NOT 4-letter words. Gov. acquisition acts as though companies should be satisfied to simply break even or even lose money, just like the a gov’t entity, and if you are suggesting that gov’t should take over those roles .….…. well, we all know how that movie ends and ask the USSR for an autograph.

Here’s a news flash for you, the Navy is a socialist institution. It was set up that way in the US Constitution. The Navy designed and largely built their own ships for well over 200 years. It is only recently that they’ve outsourced ship design to “for profit” defense contractors. The profit incentives for these contractors are such that the longer the contractor drags out the design of these Navy ships, and the higher they are able to jack up the cost of both the design and production of these ships the more profit these contractors make. Is that the kind of capitalism you want? I want the Navy to go back to designing their own ships, because that’s how the founding fathers of this nation intended the Navy ships to be built, it’s a system that has worked and will work.

Not quite. Gas turbines are ONLY neccessary for either normal sized ships (frigate) to hit a high speed (30 knots) or large ships (Amphibious and the like) to hit a moderate speed (20 knots). It’s all about power/speed relationships.

Consider the Arleigh Burke and the Type 45. The AB is about 1500 tonnes heavier. The T45 will do about 30 knots. The AB will do about 33. The AB is marginally faster but has around twice as much power installed. It’s also incredibly more expensive to run at full speed. The T45 has more economical engines.

Gas turbines tend to be a fraction of the weight for the same power output. You don’t need a gas turbine in everything. You don’t need it in a 20,000 tonne ship that only needs to do 20 knots.

Also, steam is the option of choice for Aircraft Carriers. Steam’s about 30% or so thermally efficient so yes, it’s very expensive. However in an Aircraft carrier, steam is what you want. Catapaults and so on require steam, so to get all of your aircraft in the air, you need a bucket load of steam. You just chuck a couple of nuclear reactors in there to generate steam. You can then use that steam for anything you like. Propulsion, hotel loads, electricity generation, catapaults.…..

My understanding is that the steam used to run the steam catapults on CVN’s does not come from nuclear reactors, but rather dedicated boilers.

Well over 200 years? What ships were Navy Shipyards building in the late 70’s and 80’s?

You do realize they had to remove the entire wing from the Harrier in order to replace the engine, right? Compared to that the replacing the engine on the F-35B shouldn’t be impossible.

Your understanding is not correct. The Cats are powered by secondary steam which is heated by the reactors. The catapults and other ship’s service/missiomn steam is NOT generated by dedicated boilers, they are run from the ship’s reactors.

Get rid of all of these excess admirals and flag officers around (there are more admirals than ships), stop wasting money on Powerpoint presentations and politically correct BS about not hurting anyone’s feelings, issue clear requirements for ships and subs (see Burke DDG or Virginia SSN) as opposed to 40 knot underarmed wondership that is supposed to do everything with modules the Navy isn’t even funding. Get some experienced people back in charge of the shipyards who should be giving us hulls that won’t suffer cracks or corrosion problems.

The hulls crack because they are inadequately designed. They aren’t cracking due to quality assurance problems. These failures are the direct responsibility of the defense contractors that design our ships (for the most part) now, and to make sure they don’t make the same mistake again the Navy, in its infinite wisdom, penalizes these defense contractors for designing fault ships by paying them more profit to fix what they screwed up. It really doesn’t matter how many Admirals the Navy has if it has no f’ing ships. Hell, it isn’t even a Navy without ships. It’s just a bunch of people sitting around collecting a government check.

The issue isn’t who is building the ships. Touch labor can be billed by the hour effectively and I am not necessarily against contracting out labor.

If there are hull cracks it is because there is inadequate QC, inadequate maintenance procedures, or design flaw(s).

If it was a design flaw there a few possible explanations.

1. The organization which designed the ship lacked people with experience and the know-how. For some reason or another those who worked on past ships and had a lot of experience didn’t have enough input into design.

2. Sacrifices were made to cut costs and/or meet other requirements such as speed, tonnage, range, etc. As what too often happens, reality proves harsher than computer models and studies, meaning what was supposed to be good enough wasn’t. The specifications may have been realistic or unrealistic and poorly selected, with the LCS it is tough to tell.

3. The contractor intentionally designed a ship with flaws so they could get work fixing what will probably be a reduced number of ships (due to these flaws and resulting cost overruns), rather than get work building the planned number of ships, upgrading them, and getting future contracts for good performance. That sounds like a moronic business strategy. And you’re claiming both Austal and Lockheed Martin are doing this, despite the original intention to only order the better of the two classes following evaluation of the first few ships?

And no I do not work for Austal or Lockheed, or Boeing, or any of the big name defense contractors out there.

Ever hear of inflation? At least compare the LCS to something more similar in terms of role and tonnage, such as the FFG-7 OHP class.

Yeah, well, I have worked for 2 of the 3 you mentioned and I know exactly why these ships are crap. And my purpose in life is not to be someone’s useful idiot.

Ever hear of an inflation of index calculator? They are all over the internet. Go see if you can figure out how to use one. Last I checked the Iowa Class Battleship was $100,000,000 each in 1940’s dollars which is about $1.7 billion in 2013 dollars. The LCS-1 cost $1.9 billion. If you want to compare the cost of other ships that are more capable to the exorbitant cost of the LCS, knock yourself out.

Spruances and Ticos both had lots of cracks including widespread cracking of fuel tanks. LSD41s have a real problem with deck cracks and a big effort in their moderization ovcerhauls is fixing those cracks.

Let me see now, which greedy contractor designed those ships…

Are you still trying to justify selling out your country by taking a spin through the revolving door? You might remember those ships cracking, but they sure as hell didn’t crack after a couple of cruises. Maybe after a couple of decades of cruising.

You love to make the accusations, don’t you. No revolving door here, how about you? I can remember Spruances with cracks in their first 5 years in the fleet. I was aboard a CGN that had cracks in the first two years.

Didn’t the F-20 die because the USAF lobbied our allies to buy F-16’s instead in order to “cut costs via mass production” of that aircraft?

I believe the 2 America class “jeep aircraft carriers” was a deliberate move by the Marine Corps to demonstrate that close air support (F-35B) was required to support Marine Corps type small operations when Navy big decks weren’t needed or not around. They could be built when money was no object.

Now that money is short, moving back to a well-deck version, but BIGGER than what it’s replacing, is a another deliberate Marine Corps move to make sure it stays in the game for power and budgets. We can’t afford these games of bigger is better. How many ships did the Iraqi and Afghan insurgents have? And they chased us out of their countries!

So, what do we really need? Just build an upgraded version of the LHDs. No one out there has anything better anyway.

Do go on about this company meeting you witnessed where they were planning to intentionally screw the LCS up in order to get more work. How does that strategy make any sense as opposed to meeting the requirements and not seeing orders cut back or given to competitors?

And where are you getting this figure of $1.9 billion for the LCS-1? Even the high end estimates give an average of about $550 million for an LCS with “mission module”.

The failings of the LCS (too little firepower, construction issues, cost overruns, etc.) are unacceptable but you’re living in a fantasy world if you actually think a 50,000 ton battleship is cheaper.

gt’s are not needed just for speed, the tarawa 2–5 could do 25+. steam boilers also tend to have better survivability in combat that gt’s. the single biggest advantage of gt’s over steam is instant light off with no long warm ups. unless you want to shorten tube life boilers have to be brought slowly .on efficiency diesels are far superior to either.

Rent a pair, Willy.

I like to cash in on who I know instead of what I know. I’m sure those cracks were terrible things. Probably had to fix them eventually too.

They have actually built LCS-1, Willy. Why don’t you look at that number instead of “estimates”?

It was an airplane built without a ready made group of bureaucratic cheerleaders to prop it up with the usual propaganda. Carter asked the defense contractors to develop aircraft using their own funding but then didn’t support Northrup when they did. The argument for having the DoD reimburse defense contractors for development costs like they did in the 1970s and ‘80s was that no company could afford to develop a new airplane and not go out of business if the government didn’t buy it. In the ‘90s these same companies whined that they couldn’t afford to develop an airplane if they couldn’t make a profit on it until it was produced even given that they were being reimbursed for their costs. That lead to the genius system we have now where the longer contractors drag out development and jack up costs, the more profit they make. The Navy typically never had contractors who wanted to design their ships because the cost of designing a ship is very high, and most companies would go out of business if they designed a warship without being able to sell it. Once the government adopted this “profit on development” procurement scheme (after lots of lobbying by defense contractors) then everyone wanted to design Navy ships because it was a huge cash cow.

I capitalize on what I know and can do to make my living as opposed to exploiting the old boy network. Cracks were fixe in the examples that I gave but of course, the work was done on Uncle Sam’s nickel.

Did Uncle Sam make a profit on those cracks?

This is just a repeat of the old “guns are obsolete aboard ships and aircraft” argument/mentality of the 60’s. Surprise! Missiles alone would not do the trick. Lo and behold, “air assets” alone do not bring NEARLY enough ASS to pull off a real world amphib assault. Look, I lived aboard the USS Hermitage (LSD-34) for three years. I know what it takes to put tanks and Marines ashore. And, BTW, I could use one of those high-paying jobs now occupied by ignoramuses in the DOD who can’t contemplate a real world amphibious op. Please ask for my resume…Now, if the idea is to use these well-deck-less amphib flat-tops ( USS America and the USS Tripoli) in the role of modern-day jeep carriers, used to provide air cover for amphib landings while freeing up big carriers for offensive ops, you may have something…

Two LCS of each class (so four total) have been built so far. Once again, where are you getting this $1.9 billion per ship figure? Looking at the first two ships (LCS-1 and LCS-2) alone the cost was about $700 million for each. That’s an unacceptable 200% over budget but well less than $1.9 billion.

Instead of insults all I ask is proof of this strategy of theirs you always talk about. From a business perspective I don’t see the sense in it, especially when future LCS orders may be limited to the better of the two designs.

Well here’s an idea, pull your head out and look around you. You have a fine sense of entitlement, why not try using one of your other senses for a change? And if you’re just fine with what’s going on, then great. I don’t give a flying f. Hell, I think these defense contractors should take your money. Clearly you can’t be trusted with it.

Really, and where did you get that number?

First it was $550 million, now it’s $700 million, I’m dying to find out what the next number is.

also why include them in the term “amphib” there is no welldeck, only a flight deck.

WAY TO GO SPIEGEL EAGLE
FORMER CREW MEMBER

By the way, the Marines aren’t as on the hook for the ship as the Navy. But at the end of the day, that’s Department of the Navy money…

Yeah, they should also retroactively change the LPHs that were called amphibs for over 30 years to Mini-Carriers since they didn’t have well decks either.

I’m sorry OldRetSWO…

All LPHs have been scrapped or SINKEXed starting from the mid 90’s I think…

Now if the navy would go back to in-house design work on their smaller Combatants, then things will get better we’ll stop using 30+ year design for a basis destroyer / large warship.

America Class was always scheduled to have 2 aviation / LPH style ships for F-35Bs and switch to more conventional design after 2nd ship. I am glad their going re-introduce the Well Deck. With shortfall in Amphibs in years ahead, the Marines are going need them.

The navy drives the cost up by CHANGE ORDER. But you can’t tell the public the truth. Contractors have to take the blame.

Oh yeah, the great conspiracy by the Navy to drive the cost of ships up through needless changes. That’s how they drag their contractors kicking and screaming into the realm of record profits year after year. Another kook has spoken.

The second pair of ships cost less than the first. No idea if development costs are factored into those figures. The $550 million is just one of the estimates out there I know, though supporters would say it is less.

What I see is the same sort of incompetence and lies that plague so many corporations and so much of the government. What I don’t see is some conspiracy that doesn’t make financial sense in a market where there is competition. There isn’t enough completion for my liking (and continuing to build both LCS designs won’t help matters), but nobody has a monopoly on shipbuilding here.

So the reference you are citing is the well known “LCS critics association”? Nice job, hypocrite.

Interesting, if it is a bunch of procurement people conspiring to jack up the cost of weapons as you and the defense contractors all all claim is why weapons cost so much and perform so poorly, then that’s not a conspiracy, but if it’s companies acting in their own self interest to maximize profit through failure, then that to you is an implausible conspiracy theory. I guess there’s a reason the Soviet Union never called those who unwittingly supported their causes “useful geniuses”.

right, basically ensuring the air arm of the marines will be represented. In the end may be a good idea when you can build 3 of these for 1 new supercarrier.

We won those wars, or didn’t you notice. We didn’t get chased out by any stretch of the imagination.

*required

NOTE: Comments are limited to 2500 characters and spaces.

By commenting on this topic you agree to the terms and conditions of our User Agreement

AdChoices | Like us on , follow us on and join us on Google+
© 2014 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.