Navy Launches Plans on New Amphib Design

Navy Launches Plans on New Amphib Design

The Navy is wrestling with considerations about what the future of naval and expeditionary conflict will look like as it designs a new amphib to replace its aging fleet of 12 dock landing ships.

Called the LX®, the new amphib ship could be a new design or configuration of several existing ships such as a version of the existing LSD 41/49 or a modified version of the Navy’s LPD 17 San Antonio Class amphibious transport dock, service officials said.

Before deciding upon a final design and configuration for the ship, the Navy is currently conducting a study of requirements called an analysis of alternatives, or AoA, Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, recently told lawmakers on the House Armed Services, or HASC, Committee.

“We examine the art of the possible — things that might be out there – some may be commercial off the shelf and some may be developmental. There are seven or eight variables out there that are potential solution sets to the LSD. That’s what we’re looking at that right now,” Amos told the Committee.

The requirements for the LX® are grounded in estimations of a future conflict environment as part of the 2024 Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Unit and Marine Expeditionary Brigade requirements, said Lt. Rob Myers, Navy spokesman.

“The AoA includes both a full LPD 17 repeated design as well as a reduced capability LPD 17. We are continuing to closely examine costs but it is too early to determine a budget cost since we are still working through and understanding the desired capabilities,” Myers said.

The AoA is expected to be complete in the Spring of 2014, he added. Construction plans for the ship are still being determined but are initially slated for around 2020, Myers added.

“The AoA is researching alternatives in three categories: traditional Navy standards, tailored specifications and commercial standards,” service officials said.

While speaking of the importance of amphibious missions and expeditionary platforms such as amphibious ships, Chief of Naval Operations told the HASC that he wants the LX® to be affordable in today’s budget environment. He explained that the right kinds of investments can result in substantial production and manufacturing savings.

“We want that thing to be affordable. If there is a feasibility of taking seed money and looking at what can we do to help industry and designers – we’ve done this with the Virginia-class. This saved us $200 million per copy with the Virginia class,” Greenert said.

Both the LSD and the LPD transport docks are integral to what’s called an Amphibious Ready Group, or ARG. The ARG is tasked with transporting up to 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.

The current configuration of the LPD transport dock is slightly different than the LSD dock landing ship in that it has more aviation capability, more command and control equipment, a crane for use on small boats and a different well deck configuration, Navy officials said.

The 1980’s era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life.

There are four Harpers Ferry–class dock landing ships first deployed in 1995; these 16,000-ton ships are also 609 feet-long but only carry two LCACs. The Harpers Ferry-class carriers fewer LCACs but increase the cargo-carrying space on board the ship.

The LSD, which is key to bringing a lot of equipment from ship to shore in LCACs, does not have the same ability to operate independently of an Amphibious Ready Group compared to the LPD 17.

“The LPD will have more robust aviation capability. It still has a well-deck but it is not able to carry as much equipment as an LSD ship. LPD has the command and control and aviation capability to operate independently. The LSD is a cargo ship designed to support the big-deck amphibious assault ship in the ready group,” a Navy official told Military​.com.

The LPD is able to transport up to four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Ospreys.

The AoA, therefore, is examining the need for well-deck support, command and control, aviation capability and the extent to which the ship will need to be engineered to operate on its own away from the ARG.

“Requirements change and the world changes and the Marine Corps finds itself doing more disaggregated ops. We are trying to figure out how the LSD will need to function in a future environment,” the service official said.

Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., and industry advocacy groups are hoping the Navy will sustain the amphibious warship industrial base by purchasing a 12th LPD ship, something the Navy and Marine Corps have said is not possible due to budget constraints.

However, Amos did say a 12th ship would help bridge the way forward to LX® production, if even in theory.

“We would love to have the 12th ship – there’s little to no money in the budget to do this. The 12th ship would buy us some decision space as we look toward what is going to replace those 12 LSD 41/49 class ships which are nearing the end of their service life,” Amos told the Committee.

Chairman of the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition, Brian Schires, said he hopes that the LX® is based upon the LPD 17 design.

“You need to have stability and predictability when you are in a building cycle.  It makes good sense to take an LPD 17 hull and you can make that ship into what you need it to be with an LX®. We need to continue to build what we are building today to keep costs down and deliver products on time,” said Schires, who is also with Rolls-Royce North America.

The argument is to build up an existing LPD 17 production line and avoid the challenges, pitfalls and budget problems typically associated with a new-start ship, he added.

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Its a difficult balance between shoveling money to the contractors and the fact that there is no practical operational requirement for a Marine force at all.

I find this troubling. If the shipyard are being truthful that they may lose their capacities if they don’t keep something in production at their yards…it would be understandable to try get a hybrid version of LPD-17 produced like LHD-8 did as they switch over to making America Class LHDs. Only problem is the LPD-17 has had alot design flaws and short comings. I’m not saying they weren’t worked out, but its bit telling since the problem continue onward.

I hope the budget allows for them to create a new LPD design that meets the needs of the Navy and Marines verse bandaid design. Its bad enough that they can’t afford to replace the Blue Ridge Class with a modified LPD-17. I just wish they would make solid decision and be able see it to its end without having governors and other politians blocking new design just because it keeps them in office verses the needs of the service. Enough poltics in defense industry already!

Sigh. My last ship, USS Comstock, was 3 years old when I reported aboard and now she’s part of the “aging fleet of 12 dock landing ships.”

I’m getting old.

How about a stretched LPD-17 with 3 LCACs and a pair of rail guns to give fire support to the Marines? The ship is big and must go relatively close to shore so you might as well arm it with rail guns! Such a ship could operate alone in places like Libya where presence is needed but not a full MEU.

So we can buy Endurance class ships from Singapore for $125 million per copy and then customize. Can’t do that, we need $800 million dollar ship from some US based company.

The U. S. Army hasn’t had a great 69 years since 1945. Fortunately, the USMC is still around.

Endurance class is tiny compared to what is needed for the US Navy. The US used to have LSTs (like Endurance but even though they were much larger, they could not carry LCACs or LCUs which are key components that the LSD carries.

Thank god for the Marines at Lebanon…oh wait.

This interservice thing is getting pretty nauseating.

It sounds really nice but the power requriements of a railgun (or 2) require a huge amount of power and that is an order of magnitude greater than the LPD-17 design. Really not very feasdible at this time.

LPD-17 design flaws seem to have been corrected. Not many problems reported with the later ships of the class so using the design as a basis for other ships is probably a good idea.

The Endurance class is about half the size of the current LSD 41/49 classes, I don’t think it would be an appropriate replacement for them.

Here is Huntington Ingalls propaganda, errr, I mean promotional material, on using the LPD 17 as a basis for the next LSD:

What the Admiral says about being cost friendly even now seems a stretch. Mostly they have to make do with older docks for now. Overall its not likely we will be a a amphibious war right now so for the next five years they can make do with older LSDs for now.

It will take more than 5 years from approval through research, design, construction and commissioning. The LSDs are a problem NOW, they will be much worse 8 or 10 yrs from now. Isn’t it a good idea to start the analysis and research soon?

USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) class Dock Landing Ship has a well deck large enough to transport and deploy up to 8 Mark V Special Operations Craft (82_ft long) or up to 8 Mark VI Patrol Boat (85_ft long), and the crews, support, etc. These could be used for littoral patrol (green water and brown water) and to provide screening, perimeter defense, force protection, etc. for a squadron of LCS working in the littorals with a DDG. But the LSD041s are getting old, and are in need of replacement. And if they are replaced with something with a smaller well deck, then the replacement would have reduced capacity in patrol boat mother ship role. Gators need some LSDs with big well decks.

USS San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious transport dock, configured differently with a large aperture variant of AMDR and a large number of VLS cells, would be a good platform for a large air and missile defense ship that could be used to protect the ESGs and could also be used as a blue water BMD picket ship. It would be much slower than a CVN so would not be a good choice for that mission in the CSGs.

For the CSGs they need a very different ship, a new class of large fast CGN, at least as fast or faster than the CVNs, large enough to support a large aperture AMDR (very much larger than could be supported by the Ticos or Arleigh Burkes), as well as a large number of VLS/PVLS cells, and C2 capacity for the flagship role.

Neither of these is in the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan., probably because they are having difficulty getting funding for what is already in the plan.

Thank you! Most folks don’t seem to understand it takes on average 9 to get the first of class into service. And generally those are fraught with first of class type production issues that won’t get worked out for another 2–3 hulls. The design (whichever approach is selected) needs to begin ASAP to avoid a capability gap.

You must be thinking of a Soviet aviation cruiser in re missiles combined with aircraft.

Combinining lots of VLS tubes /and/ a large radar and a well deck, internal cargo and marines would probably require something in the supercarrier size range.

Too small. But Endurance would be a nice basis for carrying drones to do minesweeping, ASW and drones to fight surface combatants…and modules.

Ha ha ha.

How about a dual turret or two sporting 8″ naval guns? MK71 would be devastating. If we strip down all the bells and whistles of the LPD and just add the plug for the bay and maybe the guns the price could be held reasonable.

The LPD is a solid hull form now the bugs are worked out. I still think we should leverage it also for the DDG replacement rather than a flight 3 version of a Burke which are over maxed already as far as room. The LPD is huge with plenty of room to, add generators for more power, whatever size radar we choose, VLS banks in depth, large aviation detachment, UAVS, and or a small boat group if we keep the bay.

It’s just Oblatt he always says that. He has a tick or something i think.

Forgetting railguns are for the foreseeable future line of site weapons and still have a lot of testing the ship you envision would cost as much as a super carrier and still require tons of escorts.

Yea gets rid of a lot of the excessories and pretty much is only a landing ship. None of that stealth BS either.

CSG’s rarely cruise at 30+kts. These ships have to stick with the Auxiliary vessels for supplies.

Having served my first four years on a CGN (Truxtun), I deployed with the Enterprise and Arkansas in 1986. When we came around Africa after not going back through the Suez, we regularly did 30+ knots when seas permitted. US didn’t want to pay what the Suez wanted to charge for us going back through. Did all four fleets during that cruise!!!

You’re right… Because the 15th MEU in 2001 off the Peleliu did an absolutely horrible job being ready for the longist amphibious assault in the history of the USMC.

Feel that… I was on Tarawa (now decommissioned) and Peleliu which is the last of the “old” LHA’s…

Funny to me, a retired Surface Officer with 20+ years on ships and shore duty in acquisition billets and major shore staffs, how people make comments about the tactical use of ships, shipbuilding, and the health of the fleet with no real credentials or experience to back them up. I think a lot of the comments come from folks who are gamers or go to lots of movies and thus feel qualified to weigh in as “experts”. Too funny!!

I feel your pain. The two ships I was on was the USS Tarawa LHA-1 and the USS Fort Fisher LSD-40, they both are moth balled now! Even my shore duty station at the Naval Hospital in Orlando was closed down, every duty station I was at is gone. I really feel old and I still miss it! Oh well, thats life I suppose…

Traditionally the Marines were the President’s own force. He could order them to do little clean up efforts that didn’t rate a declaration of war. Today they really aren’t necessary because the President simply bypasses congress even if he’s committed our Army, Navy, and Air Force to an undeclared war. We might as well get rid of them, their purpose is made obsolete by modern presidents who took it upon themselves to rewrite our constitution. But its ok because as long as 1/3 of the population supports them they’re unlikely to be impeached.

Doubting that the shipyards are being truthful about losing their capacities is truly naive. How could they possibly not lose building capacity if they have no business? Would they just send their skilled workers home to twiddle their thumbs for months on end and then snap a finger and have them reappear? Doubtful that would happen.

Until robots take over the shipbuilding business there’s a lot of human labor that goes into them. But yes, shipbuilding is perishable, and that is why after we lost our lead to foreign nations in shipbuilding that we’ll never get it back. A lot of it is because our merchant marine disappeared, and with it the primary customer of American ships. Now its Chinese and South Korean ships, carrying South Korean and Chinese-made goods to the US, and perhaps carrying some American-made products overseas.

The traditional Marine role was to repel boarders from Navy ships, and stiffen up shore parties.

Thought the whole banana republic invasion stuff was a legacy of the 20’s? Though the Navy/Marines did go to the Barbary states, since they would’ve been the only force capable of responding to threats far from America.

Last month we were talking about the LCAC“s replacement now we are talking about removing the vessel that transports and maintains the LCAC. Correct me if I am wrong but I am under the impression the last time an amphibious assault was made was by 3–9 on 8 march 68. If amphibious assaults are so far and few between why do we need all this? The majority of assaults will be by marines in aircraft. They are certainly less of a target during the assault than by vessels waiting for them on the beach. Give those ships to the birds and get good aircraft for the landing jobs.

Aircraft are great for inserting light forces which can sieze chokepoints to isolate the landing beaches and neutralize key objectives (Pegasus Bridge and generally the overall efforts of the US 82nd and 101st and the British 6th Airborne on D-Day are classic examples). Add to that small craft pre-landing raids for the same missions (Rangers at Point-du-Hoc, Navy (?) frogmen in the Pacific island-hopping campaign). With the technology we have today, such missions are still feasible. But to execute anything less than a quick raid, you have GOT to be able to follow up with heavier systems that are just not air-transportable by ship-based aircraft, like heavy artillery, armored personnel carriers, weapons carriers, and tons and tons and tons of beans and bullets. (continued below)

Just because we haven’t conducted a “traditional” amphibious assault in a while (and I would argue that Grenada, not Vietnam, was the last one) doesn’t mean that we will never need to. Marines afloat provide forward presence, a credible deterrent, and a strategic forced entry capability (along with our airborne division’s ready brigade). And that is coming from an old Army guy. Personally, I think the USMC’s mission should be “strategic forced entry by any and all means”, and that they should therefore assume the vertical envelopment mission of the 82nd as well. And that is coming from an old Army 82nd guy!

The first waves of the assault may come via aircraft (helos or V22s) but the follow on support including tanks, artillery, vehicles, etc comes via waterborne assets and the Well Deck ships like the LSD are critical to that effort.

comments are very correct. I had no intention to downgrade the assaults equipment. What was intended is the question of doing away with the support ships for this, mandatory, approach when forces are deployed. We will always need equipment to deliver support to major assaults, aircraft cannot provide all the support needed. LCAC vessels are losing some of the support that is needed in the opinion of others reading the article, the LSD appears to be losing out to other support vessels, that deliver less, in the purchase doctrines being invoked. Were the landing craft at Grenada assault under fire?

The other alternative approach would be to buy large amphibs that would pre-position most of the equipment that an amphibious landing would need. Something Zubr-sized can deliver much more to a beach while carrying self-defense capability, versus waiting for a beach to be cleared before sending an LCAC with an M1 on it. The Zubr represents higher fixed costs and risk than two LCAC’s, but it is bigger and capable of self-defense, versus hiding further and further out to sea and relying on faster-and-faster amphibious assault vehicles that have to clear a beachhead before landing craft can arrive.

Of course, a major restructuring of how the Marine Corps does amphibious landings may not be welcome. We have settled on not throwing expensive ships at the shore to unload things (LSTs), have settled on using multipurpose ships that can carry equipment and shuttle it between ship and shore, even if time-to-get-things-to-shore is the functional bottleneck.

I thought with the new MLPs the big and heavy MSC supply ships would pull up, offload their heavy equipment and supplies onto the MLPs, which would LCAC them to shore. If so, we need to rethink our LSD/LPD business model to being troop transport only/primarily. Otherwise, seems we have a lot of redundancy.

I hope your right, OldRetSWO. LPD-17 itself continually has been having problems to this day and was reportorial noted as being unfit for combat duty.

Economically, it is doable to use the LPD-17 as basis as next design. As long they sorting things out.

I am not referring to an amphibious ship, no well deck, no large contingent of embarked Marines to put ashore. Rather, I am referring to the design reuse of that LPD-17 platform in a different class of ship, one with high endurance, capable of operating in high sea states, that can be positioned forward to provide maritime theater BMD, that can also provide air and missile defense for an ESG, large enough to support large aperture radar and a large volume of VLS/PVLS cells, with a helo deck and hangar large enough for a couple of H-53 and/or V-22, etc. Except for speed, essentially a large helo carrying CG.

The idea has been around a while and is not mine. I recall reading a circa late 90’s Newport paper from the Naval War College on the topic of maritime based theater ballistic missile defense, and have seen various notional concepts since on how to accomplish that. Some have been suggesting the LPD-17 platform for that, but were also over-selling it as a possible CG for use in the CSGs. The LPD-17 lower speed would constrain operational maneuver of the CSG. The CSGs need a large fast CGN to provide air and missile defense, large enough to support large aperture radar and to carry a large load of missiles in VLS/PVLS, and as fast as or faster than a CVN with similar endurance. However, LPD-17 can operate efficiently at low speed and can spend a lot of time on station for the BMD picket mission, and would be much cheaper than a CGN.

Horses for courses, etc.

The quickly spreading Ebola outbreak in Guinea serves as a current example of an application for this model. This Ebola outbreak has already killed 59, and has spread across a region of more than 100km in the last several days, moving from southern Guinea to the capital Conakry, a coastal city of ~2M people.

Since the virus spreads easily with close contact, I suspect that it will be difficult to prevent that virus from breaking out into an epidemic in the general population there. People have limited resources, probably have little food at home, and will need to get out into the marketplace to obtain food, where they will encounter others and spread the virus. Some will try to leave. And being a coastal city, patrol boats would be needed to contain the population to isolate the city in quarantine.

Response to this has been slow and it may already be too late to contain the spread of the virus from there, may have already spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.

They are our version of the King’s guard. They defend ships because they’re the only ones in the Navy who are trained to use weapons. For the most part the Navy tries to keep them away from the rest of the sailors to keep from having mutinies in this day of GPS where anyone can figure out how to navigate the boat.

From your post, it is very obvious that you don’t know very much about the Navy, Marine Corps or modern maritime operations.

If only we had a force of nuclear cruisers and destroyers now.

From what I’ve heard the big E could do 30+ on accident.


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