View Full Version : More Amphibious Ships Are Needed, Marines Contend

Ought Six
01-27-2008, 10:39 PM
More Amphibious Ships Are Needed, Marines Contend (http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/issues/2008/February/MoreAmph.htm)

By Grace V. Jean
National Defense Magazine
February 2008 issue

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Marine Corps leaders have stepped up pressure on the Navy to increase the size of the amphibious vessel fleet. They contend that the Navy is not buying sufficient numbers of ships to meet the Corps’ future needs.

Amphibious vessels, say officials, are essential to the Marine Corps’ ability to respond to contingencies worldwide and to ensure that troops can reach war zones from the sea.

The warships are employed to land and support ground forces on enemy territory. While they resemble aircraft carriers, the role of an amphibious assault ship is fundamentally different. Its aviation facilities have the primary role of hosting helicopters to support forces ashore rather than to support strike aircraft.

The Navy currently operates 28 amphibious ships, and two are under construction. Navy officials believe a fleet of 30 ships would be sufficient for future expeditionary operations. However, the Marines say they need 34 to properly carry out their missions.

To support the deployment of two Marine expeditionary brigades in 2015 will require 17 ships for each brigade, Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, told a National Defense Industrial Association expeditionary warfare conference.

Although the Corps has determined that it needs 34 ships, the Navy’s long-term plan calls for 31 ships. According to the Navy, that is all it can afford.

“There are some cases where the ship mix varies from the desired force structure, largely due to the resource constraints under which the Navy must operate,” said Lt. Clay Doss, a Navy spokesman.

But the budgeted 31 ships is the minimum number needed for amphibious assault, Marine officials insist, because all the ships wouldn’t be available all the time.

“You need 33 or 34, because you have to apply an 85 percent availability factor against that,” said Conway.

“If we had to fight today … we’d have to take all our amphibious ships,” said Capt. Edward Barfield, head of the Navy’s amphibious warfare branch. “I think we’re going in the wrong direction in amphibious ships. We need to be going the other way — we need to be going up instead of down,” he told conference attendees.

With fewer ships, Marines would have to cut back on the equipment they take to war, officials said.

“When you go from 17 to 15, you’re leaving about 38,000 square feet of equipment on the pier side,” said James Strock, director of the sea basing integration division at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

That will impact what the Marines call their “assault echelon” — the “trigger” forces, those combat and civil support units that would secure objectives ashore and sustain troops in follow-on operations.

Moreover, if amphibious forces were needed during that time for another contingency, the nation would lack the appropriate ships to deploy the Marines.

“Inside the beltway, we have analyzed ourselves to death on how many ships we need to fight a major combat operation. But we don’t have very good algorithms or templates to figure out the day-in, day-out shipping requirement for everything else,” he said.

Having more ships would enable the Corps to respond to multiple contingencies, such as disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions. Strock said studies concluded that the minimum requirement is 11 big deck amphibious ships, 11 amphibious transport dock ships and 11 dock-landing ships.

But in today’s fiscal environment, it is unlikely that the Navy will get additional monies to boost the number of amphibious ships, analysts said. Further complicating matters is that the Marine Corps is reviewing the force structure that will deploy from those ships in the future.

The current plan supports a Marine expeditionary brigade with a baseline of 14,484 people. But that number is out of date because it was based on 2001 data, said Strock.

In recent years, equipment has become heavier because so much armor is being added to trucks and combat vehicles.

“The medium tactical vehicle, a 7-ton truck fully dressed out, is showing up at the pier for embarkation in excess of 50,000 pounds,” said Strock.

As a result, 55 percent of the amphibious ships are exceeding weight and stability limits. Another 16 percent exceed only stability limits.

Navy warships are designed to withstand certain amounts of damage to their hulls and still remain afloat.
However, if they carry more weight than they were originally designed for, their stability and their survivability are affected.

“It is critical that Navy ships maintain their damage stability criteria,” said Joe Carnevale, senior defense advisor at the Shipbuilders Council of America. Most warships are designed with 15 percent error margins to accommodate weight changes during construction. During the course of a ship’s service life, materials tend to accrue on board the vessels, nudging them closer, and in some cases over, the weight and stability limits.

That 55 percent of the amphibious ships are above those limits isn’t surprising, said Carnevale. “The question is by how much, and whether that dramatically affects the ship’s survivability,” he said.

Next generation weapon systems, such as the joint light tactical vehicle, are expected to weigh even more than current equipment.

“Maybe we ought to think about taking the L’s out of that name, because the lightest version is 14,000 to 15,000 pounds,” said Strock.

Amphibious ships are built to accommodate certain numbers and types of equipment and supplies. The problem with vehicles becoming heavier is that the ships can carry only so much extra weight.

“The number of aircraft, tanks and rolling equipment you can put on an amphibious ship is already fixed. You can’t jam a lot more equipment on that ship than what it was designed for,” said Carnevale.

Future weapons systems in all categories are expected to be heavier than current technologies. Increasing the number of ships to accommodate more of those technologies may be one of the only solutions.

During the Cold War, the amphibious fleet size held between 61 and 65 ships. In response to changing strategic conditions, the fleet dropped from 53 to 38 ships in the early 1990s.

“We should be more concerned about capability than the number of ships,” said Navy spokesman Doss. Even though there will be fewer ships in the future amphibious fleet, those ships will be more capable than the Cold War era warships, and they will have a similar loading capacity, he said.

Strock said Marine officials are working with ground mobility experts to rework the baseline standards for a Marine expeditionary brigade. They are looking at notional loads of various armory mixes that can be anticipated for future operations, he said.

The new baseline numbers for a Marine brigade are expected in the summer. Because the results could alter the capacity requirements for ships, the team plans to meet with procurement officials to discuss any changes to the current and future fleet.

Ought Six
01-27-2008, 10:41 PM
Marine Corps Makes Strong Pitch for ‘Sea Bases’ (http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/issues/2008/February/MarineCo.htm)

By Grace V. Jean
National Defense Magazine
February 2008 issue

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Senior Marine Corps officials are asking Navy leaders to commit to a plan to deploy floating military bases within the next decade.

Since 2002, the Navy and Marine Corps have debated “sea basing” options as alternative means to bring troops close to shore when land bases are not accessible. Advocates point to Turkey denying U.S. forces rights to its ports and airfield before the invasion of Iraq as an example of why the United States needs to be able to launch operations from the sea.

So far, however, there is little consensus on what exactly constitutes a sea base. Some officials have argued that the Navy already deploys sea bases — in the form of aircraft carriers, large-deck amphibious ships and cargo vessels. Others, particularly in the Marine Corps, contend that future sea bases require more sophisticated equipment that the Navy currently does not have.

“Sea basing would allow the military to exploit maneuver of the seas 365 days a year,” said Lt. Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, at an NDIA conference.

Troops could be as far as 150 miles off shore and still have the ability to operate from the sea base doing a range of missions, from humanitarian assistance to major combat operations, he said.

Beyond attaining access for major combat operations, the need for sea bases has been demonstrated in recent natural disaster relief and humanitarian aid missions around the globe, officials said.

Shortly after his installation as chief of naval operations, Adm. Gary Roughead formed a “sea basing and forcible entry task force” — an advisory group consisting of leaders in academia and industry. The task force will pay particular attention to relationships and cooperation among the maritime services and international and interagency partners, said Cmdr. Pamela Kunze, spokeswoman for the chief of naval operations.

“Effective sea basing is critical for maintaining the expeditionary character and versatility of maritime forces … in areas where access may be denied or limited,” she said.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, recently endorsed the sea basing doctrine.

“One of the important cornerstones in my mind is this concept of sea basing,” he said. “To be able to put something at sea that serves as a port and an airfield, to flow things through to shore” in an anti-access environment is crucial, he said.

In the future, Marines want to be able to pre-position forces at sea rather than rely upon airfields, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Benes, director of the Navy’s expeditionary warfare division.

Achieving that goal will require more than just large ships, officials said. A sea base also must have sophisticated cargo loading equipment that can move supplies from one ship to another, as well as transport vessels that ferry troops and equipment from the ships to the shore and back.

“We think it’s going to work, but we’re not sure yet,” said Conway.

The Navy has a fleet of landing craft air cushion vessels that it plans to replace with a next-generation vehicle. “That’s the main connector for the sea base. The sea base is not a reality without that connector,” said Benes. Capable of operating from the well decks of amphibious ships, the LCAC rides a cushion of air and delivers forces and equipment onto beaches. Research into a replacement began in 2006 and the first craft is projected to begin service in 2014.

To transport forces quickly into austere ports, the Navy joined efforts with the Army to procure 12 high speed vessels. These shallow draft ships will accommodate company-sized units with their equipment and will have flight decks for helicopters and off-loading ramps for vehicles.

“It’s essentially a truck,” said Benes.

The Marines require at least six such ships for operations in the Pacific, he added. Rear Adm. Charles Goddard, program executive officer for ships, said the decision of which vessel to buy will be made in August or September. The Navy plans to buy five ships and the Army is procuring seven. Delivery of the first ship is expected in 2011.

The cornerstone of the sea base is a fleet of ships collectively known as the maritime pre-positioning force future. It would have a mixture of amphibious assault and cargo ships, including two Landing Helicopter Assault Replacement ships (LHAR), one Landing Helicopter Dock ship (LHD), three Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off ships (LMSR), three dry cargo/ammunition carriers (T-AKE), three mobile landing platforms (MLP) and two maritime pre-positioning ships (T-AK).

The LHAR and LHD amphibious ships resemble small aircraft carriers that can host vertical take-off and rotary wing aircraft operations. They have well decks that can accommodate sea base connectors, such as the LCAC boats. The LMSR and T-AK ships can carry ammunition, food, water, fuel, vehicles and other equipment and supplies to sustain up to 20,000 soldiers for up to 15 days, and 17,000 Marines for up to 30 days, respectively. The T-AKE dry cargo/ammunition ships will provide at-sea replenishment of supplies. Finally the mobile landing platform ships will enable at-sea cargo transfers.

Together these vessels would provide assembly areas for forces to prepare for operations. They will transfer the necessary troops and equipment from ship to ship and then support those units as they operate ashore.

Navy and Marine Corps officials have initiated a study to examine the mix of ships for the sea base.

“I think this is a really good time to ask these questions. The debate over the proper mix of MPF(F)s and amphibs is intertwined in this. We still have a ways to go,” said Robert Work, senior naval analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
“The vehicle transfer system is critical. The technology must be fully developed,” said James Strock, director of the sea basing integration division at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

One such system is found on the mobile landing platform, a partially submersible platform that will link the LMSR ships with connectors, such as the LCAC. It will have a dynamic lifting capability and a high tech ramp to facilitate the transfer of equipment and vehicles from the cargo ship and onto transports that will move troops ashore.

The LMSR ship must be outfitted with anti-roll tanks in order to maintain its position even in rough seas — so that a lance corporal in a truck or tank can get across those ramps, said Strock. The Office of Naval Research has determined that the ramp technology is still not ready for deployment. “There’s a reasonable sense of confidence that these technologies will be mature in time when these ships come on line,” Strock said. Such technologies must be developed in order for sea basing to become a reality, he added.

The Navy plans to award a contract for the MLP in 2010 and the fleet will probably see those ships four or five years later, he said.
A recent study examined the squadron composition of MPF(F) for contingencies in other parts of the world.
“The consensus at this point is that big decks will stay in MPF(F),” said Strock.

Besides technological hurdles, the sea basing doctrine faces political and budgetary obstacles. The concept must appeal across the entire military force in order to be successful.

“None of the MPF programs or the connector programs will fare very well … unless we ensure that those capabilities fully address the needs of the joint force,” said Strock.

Sea basing has been more or less embraced by the Army Training and Doctrine Command.

“Why do we have to go to an airport? Why don’t we move from ship to shore to an unpredictable place?” said Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Martz, director for concept development and experimentation at the Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

TRADOC officials support the development of a “joint heavy lift rotorcraft” as a potential replacement for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter and as a key transportation asset for troops and gear deploying from sea bases.

“People think it’s a big helicopter. It’s not. This is bigger than a C-130,” said Martz.

As envisioned, the rotorcraft could carry the service’s combat vehicles without having to rely upon airfields.

“This is just the Osprey on a larger scale,” and it has to work for sea basing, to cover that 24 nautical mile gap, he said. “Being able to insert small forces at key points will have a dramatic impact on the enemy,” he said.

Sea basing proponents, especially those within the Marine Corps, remain adamant about the need.

“I think sea basing is probably the most revolutionary war fighting enabler that’s on the market today,” said Amos, who expects that funding for the program will be approved as early as 2010. Implementing the concept will be difficult and expensive, he acknowledged. But the United States must pursue it aggressively, he asserted. Other nations, including China, India, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have proposed similar concepts.

“Why is it so difficult to think you can bring a group of ships together, have the ability to move people and equipment from ship to shore?” he asked. Supporters such as Amos point out that the sea basing concept is not quite as elusive as some might think. In the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom, expeditionary units of Task Force 58 made their way 760 miles inland into Afghanistan. “It was a significant operation in that you had maneuver from the sea,” said Amos.

Current Navy deployments known as “global fleet stations” are essentially sea bases on a smaller scale, said Benes. These are combinations of different ships that are engaged in a variety of missions in three theaters around the globe. “We’re learning quite a bit on how to do this,” he said.

Amos asked that industry invest in the technologies that will enable the concept and make it a reality in the next five years. “It’s that critical,” he said. “This is what we need to get to 2025.”

But technology is not the greatest challenge, he said. The concept requires financial commitment from the Defense Department and the military services, he said. “This is now beyond the bowels of the Pentagon.”

01-28-2008, 05:59 PM
This kinda answers the question I asked in the "EFV" thread:

Q: "How many Marines can we put ashore at once?"
A: Apparently not enough. :(

Maybe if the Navy would cut some of those billion-dollar nuke subs from the legacy force it could afford some new amphib ships?

01-28-2008, 06:07 PM
Q: "How many Marines can we put ashore at once?"
A: Apparently not enough. :(
Agreed. People forget that aircraft carriers are not the sole instruments of power projection - they have to be backed up by the ability of put boots on the ground in large numbers, opposed or not.

01-28-2008, 06:20 PM
The legacy nuke boats cost effectively nothing from the shipbuilding budget. they have no effect on that issue. and we're talking about MAYBE $3bn/yr for the carriers...

the problem for funding is that the senior officers over at NAVSEA are currently obsessed with the boondoggle c-f that is LCS.

that, and no SWO worth his cutlasses wants anything to do with the Gator-Craters, as it is not glamorous.
and the fact that projection of power via boots on the ground tends to result in dead boot-wearers, which is currently not the thing. much easier to sell the idea to politicians that we can win a war purely with missiles and UAV's. expensive missiles and UAV's, launched from expensive surface combatant ships, to guarantee the SWO's second careers with the contractors...

01-28-2008, 06:54 PM
IIRC the active duty fleet was down to 313 ships. This is the lowest I can recall in my lifetime.

01-28-2008, 08:02 PM
IIRC the active duty fleet was down to 313 ships. This is the lowest I can recall in my lifetime.
actually, we are down to 280, and I think that includes MSC and Aux/non-active vessels. 313 is the goal being aimed at by current shipbuilding plans. Among other things, 313 will include the Gerald R Ford, however many more of the Virginia-class subs we are planning on, the rest of the San Antonio-class LPD's, a total of 54 more LCS's than we currently have, and however many DDG-21 Zumwalt-class Destroyers we are planning for.
I'm not sure, but the 313 may also include the CGX/CGNX cruisers...
while the Ticonderoga-class CG's are starting to close in on the end of their design hull lives.
we've just decommed the last of the Osprey-class minehunters, without ANY LCS's ready, or even close to ready, to take up the load (fleet delivery 2009. late 2009.). The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates are on the way out, as well, and all of the Coastal Patrol Vessels (PC's) are long gone. Two more roles the LCS was supposed to cover. We haven't even nailed down yet how we're going to handle training/crew for the, supposedly modular, LCS. I just read that apparently it is going to require the invention of several entirely new ratings, which afaik has not even been started.

All of this is at the same time LCS, LPD-17, and DDG-21 are so far over their costs that projects are getting shut down. If we can't figure out how to get the builders to stop bilking the Navy for substandard products, we aren't gonna have a Navy at all. The Marines will be riding into combat on civvy bulk freighters...

... I think I ran square into a few of my own buttons, there...

also decomming ships, particularly nuke subs, costs money. quite a bit of it.

01-28-2008, 10:23 PM
I remember reading something about these sea bases (not sea basing) where its basically a big ass militarized oil rig. Anyone know what the law of the sea would be if we planted a rig in international waters, and essentially made it a FOB? The territory isn't anyone's, so why not use it. Granted it would be an engineering feat, but if possible...

01-29-2008, 09:27 AM
they would be treated as ships, or maybe the same way oil rigs are...

the problem isn't so much engineering, if we went with the oil-rig-style setup, the engineering is already there. the sea-base plans I have seen, though are basically just super-supercarriers, "free"floating and mobile. that would be both difficult and insanely expensive, particularly when the crux of the discussion is that we don't have enough money to build the "conventional" ships we need for our most basic mission (sea control/naval power projection), much less our most important secondary mission (power projection by boots-on-the-ground)

Ought Six
01-29-2008, 01:27 PM
Seabase (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/seabase.htm)

The Federation of American Scientists


Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) is the Marine Corps' new warfare doctrine expected to be in place by 2010. The idea is that all logistics support will come from the sea, rather than from a large, land-based supply point (as in traditional combat service support). This means that the several support ships comprising the sea base will have to operate as "floating warehouses," a task for which they are not configured.

The Marine Corps’ concept paper “MPF 2010 and beyond”, signed by the Commandant on 31 December 1997 describes four pillars for future MPF operations and a triad of capabilities. The four pillars describe new capabilities for the MPF ships, to allow full participation in OMFTS and to allow Marine Forces to deploy and be indefinitely supported from an MPF sea base. The capabilities triad describes three capabilities, of which the first and third are increases from today’s capability. Our analysis discovered that all three capabilities could be accomplished with a single type of moderate-speed monohull ship. Fast deployment did not require a fast ship. Sustained sea basing with the full range of logistics support can be done from large conventional ships without the need for a mobile offshore base.

The MPF MAGTF Aviation Combat Element (ACE) is composed of a fixed wing and a rotary wing component. The Marine Corps aviation plan would substitute 5 squadrons (60 aircraft) of VSTOL Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) for the two F/A-18A/B (12 plane), one F/A-18D (12 plane), and one AV-8B (20 plane) squadrons. The KC-130 and EA-6B aircraft remain as in today’s ACE. Similarly three squadrons (36 total aircraft) of MV-22 aircraft are substituted for the two CH-46 (12 plane) and one CH-53D (8 plane) helicopter squadrons. The CH-53E heavy lift helicopter squadron and the attack and utility helicopters remain. The AH-1W and UH-1N helicopters are upgraded to 4 bladed rotors, increasing range and payload.

Two ship design agents, NAVSEA/AME and BLA were tasked to develop cost effective solutions for the intermediate capability options. Cost was to be the principal design driver for their ship and squadron designs. Their scope was to include current and evolving technology to develop solutions that could be achieved within the current state-of-the-art of shipbuilding technology. They succeeded. Their solutions for the intermediate capability options demonstrate that current technology monohull ships can be designed to meet the requirements for the MPF 2010 sea-basing capability. The final MPF 2010 ship design will probably incorporate features from both design agents, and will be a blend of the best technologies of both designers.

On the sea base ship for options “C”, “C(+)”, and “D” helicopters are based aboard the sea base, and proportionally loaded on each of the 6 ships required in the squadron. The ship is similar in size to the minimum air capable ship shown earlier, but a small hangar deck fills the bottom after portion of the superstructure. Each ship can carry 10 folded helicopters plus 2 additional operational spots for helicopters. The hangar deck can hold 5 helicopters. Aircraft stowed in the hangar impact the ramp for delivery of cargo to the flight deck. A single large ship optimized for point-to-point delivery of the fixed wing portion of the ACE is required to complete the MPF squadron.

The option “D” capability to sea-base the VSTOL JSF aircraft is achieved by adding two of the fully air capable ships pictured above to the option “C” squadron. Each has the capacity to operate and service 30 JSF aircraft. The flight deck, hangar deck and aviation shops are well laid out. Option “D” requires 8 total ships -- 6 proportionally air capable helicopter sea-base ships, and 2 JSF fully air capable ships. The large number of ships makes this option costly to procure and operate.

The two BLA sea base ships share a common hull, and internal design to the main deck. The minimum air capable ship, on the left, has a flight deck forward, and a large superstructure house aft. The fully air capable ship, on the right, has a smaller superstructure house on the aft-starboard side of the flight deck, and more open deck space, including a full 1,000 feet for JSF takeoff runway. Both ships have a port side quarter-stern ramp for pierside RO/RO discharge, and a external integrated landing platform (ILP) for assault craft interface on the starboard quarter. The flight deck has a 40 foot overhang on the port side. The internal-external gantry crane system rails run under this overhang. The cranes travel from the internal, under flight deck area through large cargo hatches to the external rails. The ILP and gantry crane system limit the ship to berths “port side to” the pier. The flight decks are not optimized for naval aircraft operations. Helicopters and VSTOL aircraft routinely land from the aft of the ship. The arrangement of the superstructure requires aircraft to land forward of the deck house. The JSF takeoff runway requires planes to taxi down the runway and turn in the narrowest part of the deck. The cargo/aircraft elevator also interrupts the takeoff run area. All of these design issues could be corrected in subsequent stages of design with little additional cost.

The three BLA designs are identical to the “B” deck, just below the main deck. The ACE support ship has the main deck removed aft to allow more containers to be stowed (up to 4 high) on the “B” deck below. The two sea base ships are identical to the flight deck, with only the superstructure house different. The use of only 3 total ship designs leaves some of the capability options sub-optimized. The option “B” ACE support ship must carry the supplies for the full ACE. In option “C”, the rotary wing portion of the ACE is based aboard one of the fully air capable ships, and the ACE support ship is significantly underutilized. Options “C” and “D” carry significantly more cargo fuel than required. BLA felt the acquisition savings from identical hull forms was more important than exactly matching the required lift to the squadron. Small changes in the fuel capacity can fix some of these problems. A redesign to optimize the BLA “C” option into 4 ships with identical hull forms -- one sea base design with 3 ships and a single ACE support ship should be pursued.

01-29-2008, 04:19 PM
interesting... unfortunately, none of thsi is even seriously planned for construction at this time. The only thing that even comes close is the Enterprise/Nimitz/Ford-class supercarriers, and that only compares with the "full-air capable" hulls. We'd have to start drafting heavy supercontainer ships...:-(