Well, the JHSV topic generated more discussion than I anticipated! Here’s a few follow up thoughts.
Relative to an amphibious transport or a cargo ship, the JHSV offers only a small capacity. Its benefit lies in the ability to deliver its cargo to otherwise inaccessible ports and, debatably, its speed. Whether there is a valid need to deliver cargo to marginally accessible ports in the rear of a combat zone is also debatable. And, before anyone types out a response, whatever future uses the JHSV may be adapted for, the fact is that it cannot perform combat zone deliveries currently.
I can see a possible need for movement of cargo (men and equipment) from a larger ship to a marginally accessible port but it seems like a better option would be to design an actual cargo ship to do that. In that regard, as a simple unloading vehicle, the need for high speed seems highly questionable.
Moving on, the origins of ship classes fascinate me. Understanding the factors that lead to a ship class’ design is always highly informative and, yet, often lost in the subsequent discussions about the merits and costs of the class.
The LCS, for instance, originated not due to a perceived need for a littoral combat vessel but because the Navy was faced with the end of the Cold War, resulting budget cuts, and a perceived lack of mission. In other words, the Navy was facing a very real possibility of becoming the neglected step-sister of the services. In response, you may recall that the Navy commissioned several studies and papers to try to enumerate a role in the post-Cold War era and largely failed. They then latched onto the concept of “littoral” (though that was a spurious concept as we’ve shown in previous posts) and used that to sell Congress on the need for a new vessel. Hence, the LCS was born. The Navy simply wanted hulls in the water (to ensure its slice of the budget pie) and didn’t really care what they looked like or could do. They’d worry about that later.
By comparison, I have no idea what the origin of the JHSV was. There was no compelling need spelled out by the Navy and I can see no other budgetary imperative. If the need was so compelling, why did the Navy so readily downsize the class with little fuss or argument? If the need wasn’t compelling, as I suspect, than what was the real impetus for the class? If anyone has any thoughts on this, please share them.