Sunday, January 26, 2014

LST - What Happened?

Most posts have a point to them.  Not so this one.  It’s more of a question.  I’d like to take a look at a ship that has always fascinated me and yet my understanding of it is limited and its demise is a mystery to me.  I’m talking about the USS Newport (LST-1179) class tank landing ship.

A little background to start …

The Newport class LST was the ultimate development of the WWII LST and represented the largest landing ship that could discharge directly onto the beach.  The bow doors differed from the classic WWII LST in having a ramp that deployed over the bow as opposed to having the entire bow open up.  The ships also had a stern ramp to operate AAVs or mate with other landing craft.  The class began construction in 1966 and served through 2002.  A dozen or so were sold to foreign navies where they are, presumably, still serving.  Bow thrusters allowed enhanced maneuverability.  The ships can carry 2000 tons of vehicles  and 400 troops.  A large helicopter flight deck was located on the aft deck but no hangar.  Speed was 22+ kts with Wiki citing a reference to 27 kts.  Range was 14,250 nm at cruising speed.

The class was intended to put tanks and heavy vehicles on the beach.  That’s straightforward.  What I’m puzzled by is the reason for discontinuing the class without a direct successor.  I’ve read that the LST line was ended so as to make room for the LPD-17 class but I haven’t found any solid confirmation of that. 


USS Newport

My puzzlement stems from the fact that I still see a need for the capability. 

I understand that the Marines are largely out of the frontal beach assaults or, indeed, heavy combat.  They have relatively few tanks and are planning to cut back on the number they do have.  However, the Marines are just one part of the assault effort or, at least of a serious assault effort.  The Army will always be the major participant in a serious assault.  I’m not sure we can count on friendly, secure ports to land our heavy tanks and equipment at a leisurely pace while the enemy waits patiently for us to complete our buildup (seriously, what was Iraq thinking in Desert Storm?!).  Lacking a port, how are we going to get the tanks and heavy equipment ashore?  -one at a time with LCACs?  If one does the delivery rate math for an LCAC versus an LST, there’s no comparison.  An LCU can carry a bit more but there’s still no comparison.

An LCAC is faster but would have to make dozens of trips to equal a single LST delivery.  That shoots (pardon the pun) the survivability argument of the LCAC out of the water.  Plus, missiles don’t care about the little bit of speed that an LCAC has and area artillery bombardment is completely immune to speed as a defense beyond a somewhat reduced exposure time but, again, the dozens of equivalent trips negates the exposure argument.

Someone help out, here.  Why was the LST concept abandoned?

47 comments:

  1. Short answer: Ship to Objective Maneuver. The entire objective was to not build up on the beach. By definition a LST was going to spend many, many hours sitting on the beach.

    So that is your answer. Now if that is a good idea or bad idea that is a different debate...

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    1. Well, that's fascinating. I'm kind of half grasping your meaning, I think. Tell me more.

      Are you suggesting that the LST would deliver too much equipment in too short a time and that the result would be that equipment would sit on the beach? If so, isn't that better addressed by logistics/traffic control than eliminating the transport?

      I have neither data nor experience at this but it would seem like the LST is going to spend far less total time on the beach for the quantity of equipment delivered than the LCAC which would have to return to the beach over and over again. What am I missing?

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    2. If the idea is to completely unload the BLT onto the beach in a short of amount of time as possible. Than yes the LST beats the LCAC hands down. What the LCAC enables you to do is to either use multiple beaches or only unload a couple of key items.

      Remember the key idea of Ship to Objective Maneuver is that holding the beach is not the objective. Your objective is the key piece of terrain, destroying an enemy capability, or something else that furthers the commander's intent.

      This would be accomplished by MV-22 flying dismounted infantry that are dropped near the objective, EFVs driving over the beach and straight to the objective and LCACs carrying a couple of key enablers, like M1A1, to the beach where they will roll off and head straight to the objective.

      So the death of the LST was from two parts, the USMC saying that holding the beach was not an objective of itself, and the Navy not wanting to take a ship all the way to the shore.

      Of course this is only the thinking from a strictly doctrinal perspective.

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    3. The logic keeps circling back to the light versus heavy combat capability issue. STOM, by definition, limits the assault force to light infantry composition with, as you suggest, the couple of odd pieces of heavy equipment/tanks.

      Further, if holding the beach isn't an objective then everything you want had better land all at once since there won't be a follow up (follow up would necessitate holding the beach).

      I'm not agreeing nor disagreeing with the concept, just trying to understand the parameters and limitations.

      If we're not going to hold the beach so as to enable follow on logistics then why do we have heavy equipment in the MEUs? I know, the answer is because we might want to hold a beach sometime. The problem with that answer is that with the current and foreseeable budget we no longer have the fiscal resources to cover all possibilities.

      It seems like the Marines need to make a hard choice about what they want to be and what capabilities they want to have. In fact, it looks like they already have given that they're downsizing, cutting tanks and heavy equipment, and emphasizing the aviation element both from a transport (MV-22) and combat (F-35B) perspective.

      Is that a fair assessment?

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  2. Aren't they in part being replaced by the spearhead class? As I thought that once a beach was secured that causeway piers would be constructed within 2 days. Then ships such as the spearhead class would be able to quickly unload their vehicles and troops.

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    1. y, there's a couple of problems with the JHSV in the role of heavy equipment transport in a combat assault. First, the JHSV, by law, can't partake in combat as it is crewed by a civilian crew. Of course, that could be changed. Second, if it takes a few days for transport of heavy equipment (tanks being the most important for the immediate assault) to be enabled then we probably don't need the heavy equipment to begin with. Third, the JHSV is intended for intratheater high speed transport rather than assaults. Finally, I'm not sure whether the JHSV is rated for tanks or not. Anyone know?

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    2. JHSV cannot land vehicles across the beach.

      JHSV can carry tanks.

      GAB

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    3. The US Merchant Marine is considered to be a uniformed service in wartime, so that shouldn't be a problem.

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  3. I was assigned to OP-37 during the time frame the decision to decommission the LSTs was made. I can provide some background.

    In the early 1990’s, there were considered to be five components to the amphibious lift footprint: troops, vehicles (in square feet), cargo (in cubic feet), aircraft spots (in CH-46 equivalents), and LCAC spots. LCUs and LCM-8s were not considered components. A classified study in the early 1990s defined requirement for each of these 5 footprint elements for the Assault Echelons of the three classic Marine MAGTFs, The unit (MEU), the brigade (MEB), and the force (MEF). It is important to understand that the lift footprint requirements are not proportional across the 5 components or the 3 MAGTFs.

    The POM process in the early 90’s determined the amphibious lift requirement for the Assault Echelon (AE) to be a “fiscally constrained” 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB). The amphibious force that was to be funded provided the cheapest way to achieve 2.5 MEBs. This post cold war force structure called for the decommissioning of some, but not all of the LSTs. Although I cannot recall the exact numbers, 8-10 of the original 20 seems about right.

    In addition to the wartime requirement for 2.5 MEBs, forward presence requirements in the 90’s required a MEU in the Med, the PG/IO area, and in WestPac. To support this peacetime requirement, the Navy needed to fund a force structure for 12 separate ARGs (Amphibious Ready Groups).

    The backbone of the ARG was the amphibious assault ship (back then the LPH, LHA, or LHD). The proposed force structure provided for only 10 assault ships needed to meet the aircraft component of 2.5 MEBs. This did not meet the need for 12 assault ships to support the peacetime forward presence MEU requirement. For this major reason, and for other less critical ones, in order to maintain the required forward presence, the proposed force structure would have to be modified.

    Of course, the modifications had to occur within approved funding levels, which were declining as part of the post cold war drawdown, the so-called “peace dividend. In order to “buy back” the two assault ships, other ships had to be substituted. As I noted above, decommissioning some of the LSTs were included in the original proposal. Further study and consultations with the Fleet and USMC developed a revised proposal that included the decommissioning of the remaining LSTs.

    Decommissioning the last of the LSTs was only one of several ship swaps made to balance the force structure, although it was probably the most dramatic and caused the most reaction.

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  4. My original post was too long, but here are some of the reasons the LSTs were selected:

    • The ARG of the future was going to consist of three ships: an amphibious assault ship (LHA or LHD), a LPD-17, and a LSD-41/49. Twelve LSD-41/49s were commissioned or building, 12 LPD-17 were proposed to replace the LPD-4 class, and 5 LHAs were in commission, 5 LHDs were commissioned or building, and 2 were proposed. The revised force structure supported the transition to this model, with ships bought back to support the construction delivery schedule. As there was no planned successor to the LSTs, their days were already numbered.
    • Surface ship-to shore movement would be via LCACs and the now defunct AAAV.
    • LCACs and AAAVs could cross more than 70% of the world’s beaches, whereas the LSTs could beach on only about 5 %. I forget the exact percentages; these are approximate. This was a significant operational limitation and a primary consideration in the decision, if not the primary consideration.
    • Majority of the load out on LSTs were the AAV-7s, which could be supported in the 3 well deck ships planned for the ARG of the future.
    • The unique beaching capability of the LSTs had limited operational utility in an assault. LSTs would probably only beach in a fairly benign environment, thus limiting it’s utility in an assault. The LST-1179 class was not a throwaway ship as where the World War II variants.
    • Decommissioning an entire class offered significant support structure savings.
    • The LSTs were near the bottom of the maintenance pecking order, so had the greatest maintenance deficit.

    Hope this helps, although it will probably engender a firestorm.

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    1. Anon, that's great background. Thanks for the information! I'm surprised about the 5% beaching of the LST. I would have thought it would be much, much higher. What was the problem? Draft?

      So, are you saying that the thought process on getting heavy equipment ashore was that it would be done by LCAC, one piece at a time? That almost eliminates tanks from playing a significant role in an assault just due to the inability to get enough ashore in a quick enough time frame. Am I missing something, here?

      I like your comment about a throwaway LST. It makes one wonder why we can't build a cheap, throwaway transport for contested assaults which we know will cause attrition.

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    2. Biggest issue was beach gradient, note that in the picture Newport is carrying causeways. That helped the problem somewhat. Beside beaching availability an additional issue I did not mention was the shallow water mine problem.

      The thought process back then was the over the horizon assault, hence the LCAC and AAAV, both high speed. The ATF would stay offshore until the Assault Follow on Echelon (AFOE) closed the beach, at that point a beaching ship would have some utility.

      The assault would solely supported by LCAC, at the time we had over 90. Additional support could be provided by LCUs in the force. Again the goal was to "hit 'em where they ain't," quickly and from over the horizon.

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    3. I follow the reasoning although I have doubts about some aspects. One issue is the "hit'em where they ain't" concept. That's fine but the corollary would seem to be that "where they ain't, isn't anywhere we or they care about". At some point, if you want valuable territory it's going to be defended and you're going to have to fight for it.

      I'm struggling with the overall concept of amphibious assault as currently envisioned. It seems to have some serious shortcomings or, at least, limitations. I'll have to factor your information in and continue to ponder the issue.

      Great information, though! Many thanks for taking the time to educate me.

      Care to offer an opinion on whether the current trends are wise?

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    4. Several follow on points. Increasing the beaches open to the threat of assault by a factor of 5, compounds the defender's problem. The old saw that, "He that defends everything, defends nothing" applies here. We would rather get ashore then fight, than fight to get ashore.

      Along those lines, I believe future amphibious ship to shore movements will only occur in fairly, although not completely, benign environments. They will be MEU size forward presence movements as opposed to contested assaults.

      I believe the lack of a well deck on USS America was a mistake, although to be corrected on later ships, we will have several odd balls for the next 40 years, there is a reason the LPHs were replaced by LHAs.

      I don't think we've solved the shallow water mine problem, therefore we can not do in-stride breaching, which was the desired goal in the 90s.

      The reduced force structure in the amphibious force is leading to the same dilemma as the rest of the Navy, increased optempo or decreased forward presence.

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    5. "We would rather get ashore then fight, than fight to get ashore."

      "... future amphibious ship to shore movements will only occur in fairly, although not completely, benign environments."

      No one could argue with those thoughts. However, they do pigeonhole our actions to an extent. A competent enemy (and thankfully, we haven't had many of those), knowing our doctrine and their own desirable targets that need defending, could easily predict where we would choose to land. Given today's long range missiles and artillery, a seemingly undefended beach or assault location could be vigorously and effectively defended without having any actual enemy presence.

      If I were a defending enemy, I would attempt to hit the transport ships (being the most densely packed, they offer the biggest return on attack investment). Failing, or secondary, to that, I would target the landing site with long range missiles, artillery, scatterable minefields, etc. with the ship-to-shore connectors (whether landing craft or airborne) being the next most densely packed targets.

      I suppose we could always land at a truly undefended, remote location but that would also put our forces in a truly ineffectual position, strategically.

      Do you think these thoughts are valid and, if so, how do you see them linking to, and being accounted for, in our assault philosophy?

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    6. "Given today's long range missiles and artillery, a seemingly undefended beach or assault location could be vigorously and effectively defended without having any actual enemy presence"

      Which is exactly why the Navy/Marines decided that having a large, stationary ship like an LST sitting there with TARGET! SHOOT ME WITH A MISSILE! painted on it was not a good idea.

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    7. Totalitat,

      Balancing all of that is the lunacy the idea of attempting to logistically support troops ashore from up to 250-miles at sea using V-22s and helicopters (which are many times more vulnerable to SAMs and AA) than ships to the odd ASCM.

      The specter of Operation Market-Garden is a testament to what happens when a vertical envelopment cannot be supported and fails leaving thousands of men trapped behind enemy lines.

      The English Channel is only 50-miles wide and that was good enough to stop the Wehrmacht. The Taiwan Strait is 110 miles wide and has stopped the PLA.

      We either control the seas and skies, or we do not.

      Sea and air control enabling us to neutralize or suppress defenses is a prerequisite for any introduction of ground forces by sea or air. OMFTS is deficient for precisely the reason that it assumes that naval and air power will be insufficient to deprive the enemy of his A2/AD options.

      Back to the drawing board folks!

      GAB

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    8. Balancing all of that is the lunacy the idea of attempting to logistically support troops ashore from up to 250-miles at sea using V-22s and helicopters (which are many times more vulnerable to SAMs and AA) than ships to the odd ASCM.


      Maybe, but what's your solution? Logistics are also hard when your resupply ships are burning hulks on the beach.

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  5. ComNav, if you get chance, have a read of my 26 part series on ship to shore logistics

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 01 (Introduction)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 02 (History – 1944 Europe)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 03 (History – 1982 the Falkland Islands)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 04 (History – 2003 Iraq)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 05 (History – 2010 Haiti)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 06 (Case Study Observations)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 07 (Doctrine and Concepts)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 08 (Requirements and Drivers)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 09 (Current Capabilities and Future Plans)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 10 (Allies – the USA)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 11 (Mid Point Review)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 12 (Ports, Beaches or Both)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 13 (Expeditionary Port Access Concepts)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 14 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 1 – Survey and Munitions Clearance)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 15 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 1 – Repair and Debris Removal)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 16 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 1 – Dredging, Aids to Navigation and Mooring)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 17 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 1 – RORO Link Span and Cargo Handling)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 18 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 1 – Summary)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 19 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Introduction)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 20 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 - Why Not Just Buy JLOTS)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 21 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Requirements and Components)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 22 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Pier Head and Material Handling)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 23 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Access Pier)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 24 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Fuel)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 25 (Expeditionary Port Access – Concept 2 – Wave Attenuation)

    Ship to Shore Logistics – 26 (Wrapping Up)

    Start with Part 1
    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2013/06/ship-to-shore-logistics-01-introduction/

    I cover the logistics rather than assault phases but there is a bit in there about US capabilities

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    1. Think Def, that's a great series. Thanks for the link. I've read several parts and will continue with the remainder.

      The series focuses on the how of the logistics, as you point out whereas my thinking has been focused on the why and the how of the assault and subsequent port security aspects.

      Turn the perspective around. If an enemy attacked Britain and attempted to seize and use a major port city, don't you think you could make the port essentially unusable for major logistics operations? Aside from all the attacker's transports being clustered in a very small area (the port) and presenting a fantastic targeting opportunity, any equipment/supplies/forces that got ashore would have to follow a very few obvious routes away from the port to get to a combat area. Roads, hemmed in by massive buildings are an ideal ambush site for mines or simple mortar attacks. Any thoughts?

      Have you, perchance, done a post/series on the initial assault phase or the defense of the port?

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    2. The LST was killed largely mostly because it was an expensive way to transport cargo to the beach. The typical bluff bow LST of WWII was too slow to keep up with the fleet. Further arguments against the LST are the dangers of shallow water mines. Added to is the USMC desire to eliminate the “iron mountain” of supplies associated with a WWII type sea-borne invasion. Note that even in WWII, LSTs were considered to be too valuable to use in an initial assault. They were never expendable the way landing craft were.
      There were four USN proposals to solve these issues: the well-deck (still in use), using ramps from AK/AKRs to launch loaded landing craft (advantages because the AK could be fast, and unloading quick), the LST 1179 with a bow launched causeway (weight growth killed the beaching ability), and catamarans with some form of causeway (killed because it was unconventional). The well deck survived, but the modern equivalents of LCTs (LCAC/LCUs) have their own issues.
      The unsolved operational problem is however, that the greatest danger to an amphibious assault lies not during the initial invasion waves, but when the enemy commits his reserve to counter attack (typically the first 24-hours). By Korea it was evident that tanks were too heavy to load onto assault craft from AK/AKRs using cranes.
      Viewed in this light, the LST is an invaluable means of moving critical units and supplies to a beach, particularly armor, air defense, or artillery units. In an operational sense, the high costs and vulnerability associated with a combat loaded LST are trumped by its ability to quickly reinforce a beachhead. Without LSTs, we are totally reliant upon helicopters, ports, or the construction of causeways to move supplies from ship to shore. This has been problematic even during peacetime disaster relief.
      GAB

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    3. Think Defence,

      That was a particularly well-argued series from a wonderful site - many thanks!

      GAB

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    4. GAB, that was a mixed message comment about the LST. You seem to suggest that, ultimately, the drawbacks of the LST are outweighed by the benefits. Did I understand you correctly?

      The logic of all this keeps circling back to armor. If we're going to conduct more than a light infantry operation (meaning we need tanks and heavy equipment) how do we get them ashore? They absolutely can't be airlifted (unless we seize and secure an airport) which means that they must come over the beach or through a port. However, if we have the combat power to seize and secure a port or beach and defend it through the entire logistical buildup period (port reconstruction/repurposing) then we probably don't really need the armor, at least not for any immediate purpose.

      So, how do we conduct a vigorously defended port/beach seizure without armor or heavy equipment? There are only two answers:

      1. Figure out a way to get the tanks and heavy equipment ashore in the initial wave or,

      2. Depend on the Navy for gun support, counter-battery fire, anti-missile defense, etc. until such time as armor and heavy equipment can be brought ashore (possibly days or weeks).

      The problem with the first option is that we don't have an efficient means of doing it. The problem with the second option is that the Navy lacks both the means (heavy gun support, an effective CAS capability, counter-battery, etc.) and the desire (doctrine) to support land forces to that degree and with that level of integration.

      That seems to leave us with just a light infantry raiding capability which, if that's the case, leaves us with a set of questions like why do the Marines even have tanks? - is the Army better suited for inland seizures? - is the size of the amphibious forces (both Marine and Navy) justified?, and so on.

      I definitely need to do more serious thinking about this. I would suggest that Marines and Navy also need to do more thinking!

      As I've said, I'm really struggling with the entire amphibious concept in terms of placing it in context with our overall military strategy (such as it is).

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    5. ComNavOps: “GAB, that was a mixed message comment about the LST. You seem to suggest that, ultimately, the drawbacks of the LST are outweighed by the benefits. Did I understand you correctly?”

      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      ComNavOps my point is: “the LST is an invaluable means of moving critical units and supplies to a beach, particularly armor, air defense, or artillery units. In an operational sense, the high costs and vulnerability associated with a combat loaded LST are trumped by its ability to quickly reinforce a beachhead.”

      I am a firm believer in the value of “heavy units,” which currently means some form of AFV.
      In the past this meant chariots, knights, or samurai; in the future it might be an anti-gravity sub-orbital craft; but there remains the general need for armies to project mobile, firepower, onto the battlefield, with staying power (armor). This is not a shot at light forces, they are needed as well.

      But we seem to repeatedly relearn the value of “heavy units” at great cost. Modern AFVs have proven remarkably adaptable to different terrain. It is particularly noteworthy that the USMC of WWII, after suffering badly at Tarawa, up armored its infantry with LVTs, added SP howitzers, and above all, included tanks in every major amphibious operation after Tarawa. The first thing the USMC did when preparing for Fallujah was to request tanks, and the Corps took tanks to Afghanistan.

      I suspect that a lot of the bias against tanks and other AFVs has been driven by budget, and lack of sealift. As I noted earlier: the greatest danger to an amphibious assault lies not during the initial invasion waves, but when the enemy commits his reserve to counter-attack (typically the first 24-hours). The USMC needs tanks and other supporting AFVs. The Navy needs to support getting these AFVs ashore.

      GAB

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    1. LST's, including in the elegant final iteration of LST 1179, have been too fat a target, with too many eggs in one basket for too long. Anybody on a moped, an RPG launcher and reloads strapped to the bike could stop those 2000 tons of combat-load in a burning inferno approaching the beach. That reality applies to all old and current LST-offerings on the market.

      Shore-defenses from sniper-rifles to Coast-Defense Cruise-Missiles (CDCM)have long ago outpaced any plausibility to slowly, very visibly arrive on the 'perfect' beach to then start arranging traffic-cones, beach-master tents etc. A few IEDs on the limited road-access off the beach will be one of many defenses.

      Equally unviable in anything but peace-time conditions the current policy of keeping the Amphibious Ready-Group (ARG) at 12nm inshore to allow the slow movements of the MEU' AAV-7s and the endless back-&-forth of LCACs and aging LCU-1610s. Again very fat targets - with one burning LSD on CNN shutting down for good any further visions of amphibious assault.

      As the USMC comes out of the mountains and deserts to reassert its amphibious capabilities, distributed fast heavy-lift ship-to-shore Connectors will have to be the backbone of amphibious assault.

      Study this project for an advanced LCU type as featured in the PROCEEDINGS July'13 ( http://hallman.nfshost.com/bolger/LCU-F.pdf ).

      Here the authors develop an approach that would offer surface-based delivery of up to 2600-tons of assault-cargo in up to 15 locations concurrently, assuming a Connector-mix of 12x LCU-F (200tons each) per 2x LSD-41 and 3x LCAX/SSC via 1x LHD.

      - At 19-20 kts on LCU-F, the ARG can remain well out of harm's way at 50, 100, 200nm so-called OTH (Over-The-Horizon) distances.

      - And from those distances, shore-defenses can get stretched very thin very quickly. Even if successful in neutralizing several LCU-Fs/LCACs, the others are still at work, with more self-deployable.

      - Add to that 'Vertical Envelopment' via rotary-wing aircraft, plus STOVL-assets, and LCU-F medium-range self-deployment options, along with a broad range of mission-modules (up to 200 tons each) for 'MASH'-duty, Inshore Fire Support (barrel- and tube-based), MARSOC-base duty, 55,000 gals Combat-Tanker/FARP-duty, MCM-duty etc. etc.

      - Then the whole Ship-to-Objective Maneuver Doctrine (STOM) may actually become at long last a viable option, whether from OTH-50, OTH-100 or OTH-200+ as the given scenario demands.

      To summarize, up to 2600 tons in up to 15 baskets, deployable on the surface at between 19 and 35kts from distances safe enough for the ARG. Add MLPs, long-range self-deployment of LCU-DFs and you can really begin 'streaming' increasing loads of USMC-combat vehicles and gear to shore under decreasingly hostile conditions.

      This would have a major impact on Doctrine.
      End of Part 1 of 2.

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    2. You may be somewhat overestimating the lethality of an RPG against an LST. To be fair, how would the LCU-F fare against the same RPGs?

      RPGs aside, your premise seems to be that you prefer the LST in a distributed form, meaning several LCU-F's instead of one LST. That's fine. Be fair, though. The qualities that you're praising in the LCU-F such as the ability to start far from the beach or delivery goods at distant locations are qualities shared by the LST.

      Good comment.

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    3. Thanks CNO.

      You'd have to know that those 12 LCU-F (420-tons max. each) are in the vicinity to pull together the Unwelcome-Committee in up to 12 different locations vs. just 1 cell-phone call by the incredulous bleary-eyed early-morning beach-comber being surprised the LST-apparition.

      An 5-6 story high 8400-tons NEWPORT-class vessel is very visible for at least 1-2 hrs as she slows down for the carefully prescribed landing-approach, hoping for no big boulders, opening that bow-gate, swinging out that ramp, checking on those kedges etc. - to eventually begin the discharge, which will take quite a bit of time...
      Then the backing out, retrieval of kedges (?) turning her broadside to allow departure bow-first over the horizon.

      - One RPG would take out one of those twin ramp-supports to cancel the disembarkation-process.
      - A second one aimed at the bridge.
      - A third bending that bow into a permanent jam requiring ship-yard time.
      And then wood-pecker-like, it's just a matter of time with sniper-rifles, mortars, more RPGs, before any cannons arrive...
      One burning APC might just do it.

      And if the ship's hull-integrity is compromised she might come to draw more water than allowed to get off that beach again for at least the next 10-12 hours - if ever.

      Part 1 of Message B.

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    4. Part 2 of Message B.
      Meanwhile, at up to 12 different locations, LCU-F on apparently about 10-foot 'Air-Draft', coatable with neoprene sheets to further reduce radar-returns, offers not really much to 'find' electronically before her low 10' x 22' profile can get noticed as coming towards the beach stern-first still sat up to 10kts in the shallows, and with MEU-GCE tracked and wheeled weapons aiming the right way. Even missile seeker-heads usually do not 'sea-skim' this low.

      - Full-load full-length hull-draft of 4.5 feet suggests about 6-foot of water minimum for those flush thrusters to work at 8-10kts. That opens up all sorts of beaches, estuaries, tidal-streams, river-systems.

      - Disembarkation in under a minute as a matter of pride and practice.

      - No need to turn her around to promptly head out at 20kts

      - 20mm and 8x STINGER self-defenses standard for that long dispersed de facto solo-run coming and going.

      - Carrying 1x AH/UH-1 plus optionally an AH-6 to within a hour of the beach for max helo combat-radius while shaping the landing zone ahead of LCU-F's arrival.

      - LCU-F has enough range and speed to run all sorts of feigned attacks, fuel electronic 'bubbles' to indicate major surface assets ("Potemkin's Fleets") maneuvering nowhere, etc. etc.

      - And consider a stabilized 155mm barrel-arti-piece on one of her cargo-bays, two in two, with another 150-tons for ammo...
      A redefinition of 'Land-Attack' naval vessel. Or 2x MLRS with say 150 shots at the ready, incl. a handful of 180nm-range (N) ATACMS.

      Individual LCU-Fs could be lost without massive consequences for the operation. Here is why:
      - 8x LHDs carry the LCACs (3x per hull).
      - 8x LSD-41 carry 6x LCU-F each (48 total)
      - 4x LSD-49 carry 2x LCU-F each (56 total)
      - 11x LPD-17 carry 2x LCU-F each (78 total)

      Plus prepositioned LCU-Fs aboard MLP.

      Plus prepositioned LCU-F sitting dry on land like cord-wood at Guam, Sasebo, Perth, Diego Garcia, Hawaii, Rota etc. ready to be picked up via travel-lift either already pre-loaded or ready to receive whatever mission-module and additional fuel necessary to self-deploy, if need be across the Pacific - weather-depending (!!).

      Plus multiple training LCU-Fs each at Coronado, Camp Lejeune, Perth etc. for, say, 90 hulls ?!

      What's the old umpteen 'D's again ? Disperse, Deceive, Deploy, D-something...

      LST = FAT target ! Easy to decide to spend projectiles on.

      LCU-F = hard to find, fast, in the theater in many multiples, carrying whatever in its closed cargo-bays. Hard to find and then prioritize defensive assets towards - "which one is the most valuable, assuming she can be hit without getting return-battery from any or all of them ?

      Opportunities here.

      Plus a rich range of at least 70+ junior command positions for budding would-be leaders to sharpen their teeth some.
      Likely more challenging than PC "Cyclone"-class duty.

      Delete
    5. TT, your enthusiasm for the LCU-F is commendable but be sure to maintain your objectivity.

      RPGs would be far more lethal towards an LCU-F than an LST just due to the LST's substantially greater bulk. At RPG ranges the LCU-F's smaller size isn't going to significantly degrade RPG accuracy. The LCU-F would still be very large target at RPG ranges.

      The use of a helo by the LCU-F applies equally to an LST. In fact, the LST has the potential for substantially larger supplies of helo fuel and munitions.

      Positing a dozen different landing sites for LCU-F's is highly unlikely as that would result in a hugely spread out landing force. Regardless, the same would apply to multiple LSTs.

      The LCU-F speed would only be somewhat greater than an LST and the difference would have little tactical impact.

      Any defensive weapons or artillery that could be mounted on an LCU-F could equally be mounted on an LST and in greater numbers due to the LST's greater size.

      If you're going to credit the LCU-F with being able to discharge 200 tons of cargo in under a minute (!) be sure to credit the LST with the same unloading rate - 2000 tons in under 10 minutes (!).

      I'm not arguing for or against the LCU-F concept. I'm just encouraging you to be objective.

      The LCU-F has characteristics that are worthy of consideration but discuss them objectively and fairly! I like the concept of a near shore helo pad, for instance.

      Delete
  7. Part 2 of 2.

    Without further mad money thrown at EFV-flavors, there would likely be enough money to build the minimum stated 60 LCU-types, while allowing to once more up-armor the AAV-7, saving more money yet.

    Fortuitously, the implausibility and thus long-overdue demise of the EFV-concept has come to open up the inevitable discussion around considering OTH-50/100/200. Had EFV made it, the ARG would be been shot up at 30nm, from where EFV would have still been already running low on fuel for adequate combat-radius.

    While the EFV likely would have sooner or later politically spelled the end of such amphibious war-fighting ambitions altogether, the 20kts heavy-lift LCU-F types may be the opportunity to enable the 21st-century USMC to develop the most potent amphibious capability yet.

    On the issue of "heavy units", drawing on sea-basing further yet offshore, consider the extremely unlikely but doable (!) option of loading 3 MBTs per LCU-F x 12 LCU-F to boost onshore MEU b punch via an over-the-beach/up-the-estuary introduction of another 36 main battle tanks per incoming 'wave' of LCU-Fs....

    That article bears multiple readings. As would those two Letters in the September and October'13 issues.

    Word is that USMC may be looking seriously at LCU-F - for obvious reasons.

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  8. All this talk of fighting from sea-bases 150-250 nm from shore is absolutely inconsistent with physical realities of logistics transport. Bottom line is that a full MEU ashore is going to chew through about 850 tons of supplies *each day*, and that does not include allowance for particularly difficult climatic or combat situations.

    The battalion (reinforced) landing force in a MEU requires over 460 tons of water, fuel, and food *each day* just to survive. Projections for ammunition usage add roughly another thirty tons of ammunition. And peacetime ammunition consumption estimates are consistently even ridiculously low. In total, this is 490 tons of logistical support that must be delivered *every day* to support the battalion.

    Significantly, this does not include MEU aviation support for the ACE. If you want to rearm and refuel your helicopters ashore at a FARP, you must bring another 358 tons of logistics per day across the beach. Given the combat radius of an AH-1 is ~150 nautical miles, FARPS are a necessity just to ensure that aircraft have enough loiter time to provide ground support.

    Total MUE logistics consumption = 848 tons of supplies that must be delivered *each day.*

    LCACs, V-22s, H-53s, and hypothetical transport like LCU-F (a proposal that died decades ago), are not capable of off-loading and delivering 850 tons of supplies from ships at any significant distance beyond 50 nm, and that under ideal administrative circumstances. That means that the aircraft are not available for moving marines around ashore, and the consequences of significant combat losses will be catastrophic.

    GAB

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    Replies
    1. LCU-F is apparently just 'years' old - not decades.

      Basics to consider:
      - First the GCE-based 'First Wave' in pretty much one concurrent shot - none of these implausible dozens of back-&-forth visions...
      - Then the 'Second Wave' with a combination of remaining GCE-assets and then already CSSE/Logistics cargo.


      Then some numbers for movements from OTH-200 (200nm):
      - 12 hrs one-way to the beach incl. unloading, (12hrs total)
      - 12 hrs to return and reload in well-deck. (24hrs total)
      - 12 hrs arrival of 'Second Wave'. (36hrs total)
      etc, etc.

      Each LCU-F of 12 LCCU-Fs carries up to 200tons of cargo, which means up to another 2400 tons (200-tons each) at 19kts within 36hrs of the first movement of the MEU from the ARG. 2400 tons max. straight on to the beach, through the tidal-creek, deep into the estuary.

      From then on from OTH-200 up to 2400-tons every 24 hrs - until
      - a.) you are out of supplies, or
      - b.) the matter has been resolved.

      Between pre-positioned ships, MLP, and self-deployment, this pace can be kept up, even if you lose a share of LCU-F.

      If you can load it/roll it/drag it aboard LCU-F, she'd deliver. And at 50% cargo-weight per all-up displacement, a reasonably conservative approach.

      Reading that article is instructive - and worthwhile mulling over its broad range of implications.

      Delete
    2. GAB,
      on the small helos at least (AH-6/AH-1/UH-1) as the article outlines, AH/UH-1 Combat-Radius requires from OTH-100 and beyond that they ride on LCU-F's stern until she gets reverse just before reaching sight of the beach.

      - As LCU-F reverses direction and re-accelerates, AH/UH-1 warm up and then take off from say 15-20nm from shore. This massively extends their combat-effectiveness.

      - Once fuel/ammo need replacement, leaving one or two of the First Wave's LCU-Fs just outside or mortar and tank-gun-range and in perpetual motion to avoid arti- and mortar fire, she'd support multiple refueling and rearming.

      - Which means no FARPs ashore until it absolutely safe to do so.

      - If configured as a 55,000gals combat-tanker (modular tank-farm in her cargo-bays) she'd offer over 180 AH-1/UH-1 refueling, assuming the 300 gals. helo-internal fuel-configuration.

      - With the 'tanker' just a few miles away from shore, any helo can thus prioritize weapons-loads over fuel-loads.

      Just in her capacity to extensively support AH/UH helos, LCU-F thus offers 'force-multiplication' on a decidedly low-tech but high-concept basis.

      These number are quite instructive as well.

      Max. projected helo-size to fit that stern might be the SH-60R, possibly MH-60S, hard to tell on rendering-proportions and dimensions alone.

      Exciting stuff. Potentially with massive very positive consequences.

      Delete
    3. The essential concept of LCU-F was considered decades ago - read Friedman's book on Amphibs and you will find it under his discussion of LST concepts (that failed). Landing ships (and LCU-F is a ship) stern first into a beach was rejected by marines and naval officers with a lot more operational experience in amphibious landings than anyone alive. And that is before we address the complicated folding appendages and other design issues of LCU-F.

      There are numerous proven concepts of wave piercing catamarans, SES, and ACV designs s that can do the job LCU-F is supposed to do and are mechanically simpler. I whole-heartedly agree with the need for a modern LCU/LCT of 20-30 knots speed, but such a craft (working alongside with aviation and LCACs) s not enough to support a battalion landing team.

      Keep in mind that OMFTS argues against not only to avoid the mass build up of supplies on the beach, but also avoiding creation of *vulnerable logistics convoys* and eschews dependence upon air and sea ports for logistics.

      Arguing for LCU-F is actually arguing against the OMFTS – the key point being that the LCU-F depends upon ground transport of supplies from the beach. I think going heavy is unavoidable, but OMFTs embraces light forces that will suffer from siphoning vital manpower for convoy protection basically violates OMFTS. We saw how unprotected logistics convoys faired in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

      If you are arguing that helicopters and V-22s are going to fill the gap and support troops by hauling fuel – do the math on aircraft hauling fuel and ammunition to support air operations and you will see how ludicrous it is.

      The National Research Council Committee on Naval Expeditionary Logistics looked at OMFTS and sea basing and their 2003 assessment: “… shows that a large, heavy force will be difficult to support entirely by air over long distances even when the force’s entire complement of V-22s and CH-53Es is devoted to logistics missions. In fact, because the committee’s analyses assumed ideal conditions—fair weather, calm seas, no enemy interdiction of air routes, a continuous 10 hours of operations per day, 100 percent aircraft availability, and direct routing—the break point is probably well under 125 miles.” Note that range is under perfect conditions.

      The USAAF tried to support B-29 bomber campaign flying out of China in WWII and failed miserably too. The math conspires against moving fuel by aircraft to support aircraft.

      GAB

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    4. Studying the concept on the table is important.

      Beyond the designers, represented among the co-authors is
      - an active-duty "been-there-done-that' active-duty Amphibious Warfare Officer (CO of LSD-41) upon in-depth study of the project, - and the NAVSEA Deputy-Chef Technology Officer whose organization's business it is to either develop in-house such designs, or study and integrate into current fleet-structure and possibly even doctrine such proposals developed elsewhere. Working for NAVSEA, he would have had to have had his organization sign off on this in terms of technical and doctrinal applicability.

      Friedman does not feature LCU-F - and never could have - in light of the time-lines involved. No such concept ever made it on to anyone's desk until LCU-F do so only in recent years.

      Neither in USN design-history nor amongst other navies' efforts at developing amphibious connectors anytime until today has there ever been any design such as LCU-F with its inherent and unprecedented capabilities - all based on low-tech approaches and thus relative affordability.

      What may be overlooked by GAB is the historically unprecedented number of LCU-Fs and thus their carrying-capacity that would become available to the MEU-Commander per given extant USN Amphib.

      Whichever type you pick, LCU-F can come along in multiple per spot in the well-deck ! No other navy has any 'competing' concepts, proposed or built and demonstrated that have these attributes per given well-deck foot-print.

      When you come to study the proposal you will find that neither
      - per available well-deck foot-print, or
      - per burned horsepower - you spoke of logistics, nor
      - per delivered tonnage, and
      - per tactical speed
      anything matches LCU-F. Nothing in Russia, China, UK, France, Italy, S. Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia etc. Do the research !

      Delete
    5. And if you want to compare the fuel-logistics of LCAC to LCU-F, the former will indeed run 10kts faster with 1x MBT while the latter carries 3x MBT at approximately 10-15% the fuel-burn for all three tanks of what the former burns for just one tank !!

      Not-to-mention issues of
      - maximum range (no OTH-200 for LCAC without LCU-F refueling LCAC !),
      - steel versus aluminum,
      - speed of cargo-discharge on the beach/ramp, with LCU-F unloading 3 per 1 off the LCAC in the same time-frame
      etc. etc.

      And 12 to 15 different destinations serviced concurrently may be reasonably unprecedented as well in its much reduced 'vulnerability' - since there is no "convoy" at all. Where would you see convoys if 12 LCU-F run many miles apart, side-by-side or staggered or whatever.

      And there is also no siphoning off any man-power to run LCU-F across those 200+nm, with MEU infantry only too happy to offer their portable point-defenses should the 20mm cannon and the 8-reloadable STINGER-mount not suffice.

      The use of LCU-F has no competing connection with what the MEU-CO will do with MV-22/CH-53 etc. However LCU-F and helos obviously complement each other in their functions.

      Overall, your perspective seems to suggest strong roots in past assumptions of ship-to-shore logistic - but now quite at variance with 'paradigm-shifting' opportunities.

      Hence your odd insistence on air-transport based ship-to-shore ideas beyond lightest on combat-gear and of course infantry.

      Hence your misapplication of the older research to the 2013/14 scenario offered by LCU-F. The use of fast and heavy-lift LCU-F simply does not affect CH-46/MV-22/CH-53 duty beyond their normal light airlift of modest gear and primarily Marines.

      This insistence on the impossibility of LCU-F to significantly support 'heavy-weight' amphibious ops and thus OMFTS and STOM is an odd perspective in light of what has been strongly suggested by the Iraq-experience and thus this Summer of 2013 article..

      Arguing for LCU-F is as coherent as arguing for post 2005-6 much heavier protection of wheeled and tracked vehicles. Out with the soft-top and in with the massively heavier Hess-&-Eisenhardt HMMWV version, and then the MRAP, up-armored M1-A1 etc.

      While you discuss 'flying the hump', the plain numbers on LCU-F as integrated into post 2013 MEU-duty does reflect significant tactical and logistical progress just in the last few years alone.

      As suggested earlier, study of LCU-F plus some reflection on the implications is profitable.

      Delete
    6. Twenty Twenty,

      Your above points precisely correlate to the futility of trying to support a sea-borne invasion 150-250nm from shore.

      Rotary wing aircraft and a flotilla of LCU/LCT craft will not supply the 848 tons of supply a reinforced battalion landing team needs every day to survive, *and* be available support maneuver of the ground for maneuver.

      A fast LCT or LCU is needed, where you and I part company, is on specifying LCU-F over other solutions (ACVs, SES, catamarans, etc.). There are demonstrators like PASCAT and L-CAT that exist now, are comparatively inexpensive, and work. LCU-F is a concept, and one that has a lot of unproven design elements.

      Serious studies of the Sea basing concept derived the requirement for the “T-Craft,” which in spite of the fancy name, is functionally nothing more than a fast LST.

      GAB

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    8. Anonymous, the problems with your references are manifold:
      - The ultimate measure of all things amphibious assault for both USN and USMC is the 30+ hulls fleet if USN-Amphibs.

      - Within that sole relevant context, you can never physically get enough PASCAT, L-CAT or T-CRAFT hulls into the existing well-decks of that fleet to even do much better than LCAC, never mind match the carrying-capacity of the 50+ year old LCU-1610 geometry.

      - LCU-F would carry 60 tons more 8kts faster than LCU-1610 and triple the load of LCAC at about 60% speed.

      - With each LCU-F apparently fit to haul 3x MBTs or 200-tons cargo, your digressions towards what some helos can't carry seems unproductive.

      - As the article clearly lays out, after the GCE is pumped ashore, most LCU-Fs will then carry each up to 200 tons of whatever you think is necessary - 848 tons - which suggests that 5 of 12 LCU-F will do that job just fine.

      Beyond the likely 'paradigm-shifting' consequences of these simple numbers, where is the challenge here ?


      Certainly the good folks who brought you L-CAT and PASCAT, etc pursued their thinking quite free from the unarguable hard (paid-for welded-steel) constraints of working with and within the given Amphib fleet parameters.

      They could not address the simple and yet to them overwhelming challenge to match as many 'Connectors' with those given parameters to in fact support the MEU's urgent need to produce a viable First Wave from OTH-far-enough to protect the ARG.

      If they can not take these challenges more seriously than these craft suggest, then they may well get some techno lapel-pin (from someone somewhere) but they will not have served the US Marines any at all. And that is the only thing that matters in any Connector discussion in the US context.

      Delete
  9. Finally,
    hand-picked and stood up first as the Amphibious Capabilities Working Group and more recently formalized as the 'Ellis Group' under a 1 & 3-star, the Ellis Group published in the November '13 issue of the PROCEEDINGS (pp.24-29) what seems a preview of a new USMC Expeditionary Assault Doctrine.

    And around the concepts of 'Amphibious Forward Presence' and of 'Littoral Maneuver' based on indeed Amphibious Assault Ships, it has clear references to stealthy heavy-lift Connectors to haul across growing distances the weights of up-armored tracked and wheeled combat-vehicles.

    Earlier on April 21 2012, the Amphibious Capabilities Working Group spend 15 pages out of 75 on just the issue of Connectors i.e. LCUs and LCACs. They concluded then with a stated minimum of at least 60 modern LCU types.

    Overall, the emerging picture would appear to reflect the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan and the need for up-armored vehicles.

    By Spring 2014 we may see the final document for the new amphibious doctrine.

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    Replies
    1. TT, the Nov Proceedings article was a collection of buzzwords and marketing slogans that, at best, presented a picture of a [very] light infantry raiding force that would be capable of operations against only light resistance. I do agree with you, however, that it does seem to reflect the prevailing philosophy within the Marine Corps leadership or, at least, the leadership that is being allowed to speak. Whether this course of action is wise is another issue. This philosophical approach would leave us devoid of a heavy combat, forced entry force.

      Your comment about the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan is at the heart of the current debate. Are we going to shape the future Marine Corps around the lessons of a limited combat, nation building, police action or are we going to shape around the challenges of heavy combat with Iran, N.Korea, and China? Do we need up-armored vehicles or do we need tanks, artillery, and heavy transport.

      It's clear which side of the issue you favor and that's fine. It's good to hear all sides of an issue! Keep writing. I would pose the one question, though, how will the light force you favor kick down the door in an all-out, heavy combat scenario against Iran, NK, or China?

      Delete
    2. When you come to study the proposal you will find that neither
      - per available well-deck foot-print, or
      - per burned horsepower - you spoke of logistics, nor
      - per delivered tonnage, and
      - per tactical speed
      anything matches LCU-F. Nothing in Russia, China, UK, France, Italy, S. Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia etc. Do the research !
      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
      LCU-F is a proposal. There is little to research other than an article with some drawings.
      Every day hundreds of defense contractors “propose” weapon systems and make outrageous and unsupported claims. The corridors of the Pentagon are littered with failed weapons systems.
      If it works great, but frankly there are questions about how well it will work, how well it will cost, what sea state restrictions are, what the cost comparison of available options will show, and ultimately how well it performs against other options.

      GAB

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    3. CNO
      I did mention e.g. 12x LCU-F x3 MBTs each = 36 M1A1/2s in one wave out of 2x LSD-41s - or 2400+ tons per 'Wave'.

      Flat out in 'worst case' scenario via say 50 LCU-Fs we're talking 50 x 200tons = 10,000tons of just hauling combat gear - nothing 'light-force' about that possible tonnage.

      Anonymous,
      again just arguing 'perspective' won't do.
      With a bit of research, there is more to find on LCU-F.

      And which other system would compare ?

      One would figure, with your awareness of MEU transportation-needs you'd engage the opportunity and try to work it to maximum advantage.



      Delete
    4. Twenty Twenty

      I have listed alternatives to LCU-F in prior comments.

      I am not sure why you remain absolutely wedded to a "concept" when working prototypes of alternatives exist?

      At any rate, the Navy and Marine corps were looking to SES for the T-craft. Interestingly in terms of functional payload it looked shockingly like a WWII LSM (essentially a small LST).

      GAB

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  11. CNO,
    about philosophical approaches and apparent doctrinal indications:

    - USMC can only plan on doing what it actually can execute with the given hardware. If USN has yet to offer Connectors that match the OTH50+ minimum stand-off dictate to protect the ARG and MEU, then we are talking plenty of modest numbers, even very problematic assumptions, and a fair amount of the PR you note.

    - However, should proposals like LCU-F emerge as increasingly plausible, then a lot of things change, starting with basic thinking about amphibious assault and respective logistics, over ARG composition, likely to future amphibious ship-building details such as long well-decks like the unique LSD-41 class.

    Once we'd do better than the 50+ year concept of LCU-1610 hardware, then a lot of operational parameter can be adjusted upwards in favor of plausible amphibious assault.

    The task has been on the table for decades:
    LCU-(X) must support
    - OTH-100+ in light if accelerating shore-defenses and their proliferation,
    - and a plausible MEU GCE-based First Wave,
    - must fit the given well-deck dimensions,
    - must be low-tech enough to be affordable,
    - must have operational efficiencies that allow multiple runs from well offshore and within the theater,
    - and be deployable within the current ARG vessel-profile.

    And that seems to just leave well-deck correct concepts like LCU-F.
    No other running craft or proposed concepts do match these requirements.

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