Monday, October 30, 2017

Connector Conundrum

The crux of the Marine’s amphibious assault capability is the connector – the vehicle, whether surface or air, that transports the Marines and their equipment from their ships to the shore.  As you know, doctrine calls for the assault ships and their escorts to remain 25-100 nm offshore due to fears of land based anti-ship missiles.  However, this creates a problem since there are no initial wave connectors that are capable of transporting Marines 25-100 nm to the shore.  Let’s see if we can sum up the state of affairs for the amphibious connectors.


There are no surface connectors capable of transporting initial assault waves from 25-100 nm.  The Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) and its planned follow ons are limited to around 3-5 nm travel.  Beyond that, the troops will be incapacitated from seasickness due to the extended travel time.  The LCAC and LCU are doctrinally considered non-survivable in a contested environment and are reserved for follow on waves after the landing area has been secured.

“… Marines now want their connectors to drop amphibious vehicles off five miles from land. That keeps the connectors out of range of ground troops with anti-tank missiles, for one thing. In fact, the fastest current connector, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft, is so lightly protected the Navy refuses to land it on anydefended beach.” (1)

Aviation connectors (helos and MV-22s) have the range but are incapable of transporting tanks, artillery, and heavy vehicles.  They are also incapable of logistically sustaining an assault.  Additionally, their numbers are limited and attrition of helos and MV-22s will be significant, further weakening any resupply and support efforts.

We see, then, that the current state of affairs is unworkable.  That being the case, what does the Navy/Marine Corps envision as the future of amphibious assault connectors?


The Marines vision for the moderately near future is for high speed (relative to the AAV) connectors such as the LCAC and LCU to transport AAVs to within 3-5 nm or so of the shore and drop them into the water for the final, short leg of the trip.  The thinking is that this will keep the non-survivable LCACs and LCUs safely out of range (they’re still going to be in range of a LOT of weapons!) while keeping the AAV travel time acceptable.  This will require modifying the LCAC and LCU ramp systems – not a particularly challenging engineering feat.

The major problem with both the LCAC and LCU as regards initial assault waves is that even limiting the approach to 3-5 miles exposes the craft to lots of weapons (artillery, Hellfire type small missiles, rockets, helos, drones, etc.) and if one of these connectors is sunk, they’ll take a lot of troops and equipment down with them as well as cripple the follow on waves.  That is the flip side of having high volume/capacity connectors – if you lose one, you lose a lot of people and materiel.  This makes the Navy’s move to smaller well decks which carry even fewer LCACs/LCUs even more inexplicable.  But, I digress …

Another option popular in the commentary world and that has received Marine Corps attention is the ultra heavy lift amphibious connector (UHLAC).  The full scale version would be 84 ft long with a capacity of three M1 tanks or 200 tons of cargo and a speed of 25 mph in the water although the prototype was only capable of around 5 mph.  How, exactly, the UHLAC, at the same size as an LCAC and much slower, would be any more survivable than an LCAC is a mystery.  It seems likely that this would be relegated to the same follow on role as the LCAC.

We see, then, that the future vision for connectors is still suspect and depends on cobbled together solutions that are highly dependent on the enemy cooperating by not sinking any of our LCACs or LCUs.  This seems like a plan based mostly on wishful thinking.  That being the case, what do we need to actually solve the problem?


What’s needed is a long range, high speed, small connector.  The Marines tried for many years to develop such a vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and failed to reconcile the conflicting requirements of both a high water speed transport and a land based fighting vehicle.  The EFV was symptomatic of the military’s obsession with trying to make every platform a “do everything” asset.  What’s needed is a dedicated water-only landing craft – a Higgins boat with speed, in essence – that can transport troops, tanks, artillery, heavy vehicles, and supplies to the shore quickly, unload, and return to the amphibious ship for more loads.  The fighting vehicle – AAV, ACV, IFV, or whatever that might be – can then be a separate, dedicated, specialized vehicle optimized for land combat and transported ashore via one of these notional Higgins boats.

The need for speed is obvious.  Speed increases the distance that troops can be transported before succumbing to debilitating seasickness.  Speed minimizes the exposure time to enemy weapons.  Speed increases the delivery rate by increasing the number of trips per unit time.

Given the requirement to limit the troop’s time afloat to a maximum of one hour and a desire to stand 25 nm off shore, we get a notional speed requirement of around 25-30 kts.

What’s less obvious is the need to be small although we’ve already touched on the rationale.  The smaller the landing craft, the less we lose when one is destroyed.  Smaller also minimizes the targeting size of the landing craft.  Conceptually, we’d like a landing craft that is so small that it transports a single soldier.  Of course, we don’t have that technology and there is a marked lack of efficiency in such a system.  What’s needed is a balance between risk (loss) and efficiency.  The WWII Higgins boat hit that balance fairly well and had a capacity of around 30 troops.  I would suggest that a modern Higgins boat with a capacity of around two squads (24 or so troops) is about right. 

We also need the ability to transport tanks, artillery, and heavy equipment ashore in the initial assault wave.  Keeping in mind the requirement to remain small and minimize risk (loss), a landing craft with a capacity to transport one tank is needed.

The key to this is separation of the two functions:  transport of the initial assault wave and combat ashore.  The Marines have combined those functions and produced an AAV that is good at neither, and EFV that failed miserably at both, and a doctrine that is unexecutable.  Separating the functions allows for the design of an optimized connector and an optimized combat vehicle while keeping the costs of both down since neither will have any unnecessary functions added on.

Speaking of costs, the conceptual Higgins boat must be cheap.  They will be lost during an assault and cannot be so expensive that attrition will be a problem.  There is nothing wrong with wooden construction, for example.  We’re not building them to last 50 years!  These need to be cheap to the point of being free by modern acquisition standards. 

Model For The Future

We should also re-examine the well deck concept.  In WWII, Higgins boats were mounted externally about the ship’s decks and superstructure and lowered into the water.  A typical attack transport carried a couple dozen landing craft.  They occupied no internal ship’s volume.  The well deck, on the other hand, is a huge penalty in internal ship’s volume – volume that could be used for additional storage of troops and equipment (wouldn’t it be nice to not have to leave the tanks behind when the ship loads?) or to simply make the ship smaller and cheaper if additional storage is not needed.  Some thought would have to be given to how to load tanks, artillery, and heavy equipment into the landing craft, of course – perhaps a RO/RO type ramp at the waterline?

For too many decades we’ve leapt immediately to the far, complicated end of the technology spectrum for every solution and requirement.  The time has more than come to begin thinking of simpler, affordable solutions even they aren’t elegant.  I know the thought of a wooden landing craft would give a modern naval officer apoplexy but, in combat, the KISS principle reigns supreme and we would do well to remember that and begin applying it.  To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, the simplest solution that meets the requirements is, invariably, the correct one.

“Away all boats!”


(1)Breaking Defense, “Marines Seek New Tech To Get Ashore Vs. Missiles; Reinventing Amphib Assault”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., 16-Apr-2014,


  1. "a Higgins boat with speed, in essence – that can transport troops, tanks, artillery, heavy vehicles, and supplies to the shore quickly, unload, and return to the amphibious ship for more loads. "

    So basically a small transport vessel type of similar size like this one pictured here:

    1. That's in the ballpark although I would think something with higher sides for a bit of small arms and shrapnel protection might be desirable - possibly some frontal steel plate for the same reason. A somewhat larger version would probably be necessary to fit a M1 tank. I don't know the speed of this thing but, yes, it looks to be in the ballpark.

  2. You've touched on this before. I think that the way our current gator navy is set up is completely unrealistic to what they say it's supposed to do, and it takes up a huge amount of time and money.

    The America class is.... what? A carrier? It doesn't do a great job at that. Aviation asset? Okay, but as you've pointed out Helo's suck when it comes to supporting a landing. So, its job seems to be an F-35B/Osprey carrier... but its use seems to be problematic.

    I guess where I'm going with this is that I concur entirely with your connector point, but really agree with your larger point (if I understand it correctly) that our whole 'phib philosophy has to be rethought. We don't have the right equipment for what we claim to do, but we keep building a lot of it and spending a ton of money on it. That's just insane. It's like a college football team loading up with heavy, slow lineman and a drop back quarterback and saying it's committed to running the option.

  3. "Some thought would have to be given to how to load tanks, artillery, and heavy equipment into the landing craft, of course – perhaps a RO/RO type ramp at the waterline?"

    In conjunction with an INLS RRDf or JLOTs? LCU 1600s, LCU 2000s, and Army LSVs load/offload RO/ROs from those fairly routinely during exercises, but if you have a well deck, they can just lower their ramps into it.

    While lowering modernized Higgins boats from davits might be relatively trivial, and a good idea, carrying and lowering something that can carry a combat-loaded tank will not be trivial. Why not retain the well deck and store lighter vehicles/cargo on deck instead?

    The forthcoming MSV(L) is sized to carry one combat-loaded M1, have a 5' draft and move at 15 knots while doing so. A well deck will be needed to deploy one of those without using up a lot of deck space and stability margin. Or, perhaps, carry them aboard an ESD. I think the Army usually charters FLO/FLO vessels when moving LCU 2000s between theaters.

    I think an alternative is building a LSV or LST that has enough armor/protection (e.g., ERA and APS) and armament to fight its way ashore. Protection against anti-tank missiles, RPGs, and DPICM submunitions should be the priority. But as you say, that means putting more eggs in one basket, albeit a heavily protected basket.


    1. You've packed a lot of good thoughts into one comment!

      "The forthcoming MSV(L) is sized to carry one combat-loaded M1"

      From what I can glean about it, the MSV(L) is significantly oversized, overequipped, and, likely, overpriced for what I'm describing. I'm suggesting a simple, ship-straight-to-shore tank carrier that has perhaps two feet of clearance around the dimensions of the tank. In contrast, the MSV(L) has a one day endurance, apparently radar of some sort, crew shelter, etc. Its purpose is intra-theater transport, not ship to shore assault.

      The M1 tank is 12 ft wide and 26 ft long. The "Higgins" tank connector should be 16 ft wide and 30 ft long plus whatever additional length is needed to accommodate the engine and operator(s). I haven't seen dimensions of the MSV(L) - how does it compare to what I just described?

    2. "building a LSV or LST that has enough armor/protection (e.g., ERA and APS) and armament to fight its way ashore."

      That's an interesting thought. The downside is the risk and impact of loss - you'd lose a LOT of troops and materiel. Also, what would you be armoring against? Even armoring against RPGs requires at least tank like armor, if not more. If we start adding active protection systems (possibly not a bad idea) and CIWS then the cost quickly begins to increase. Still, it's a concept worth considering even though it violates the number one rule regarding initial assault waves which is dispersal of risk.

    3. I don't know why so many think an RPG is a super weapon, or any ATGW. They can burn through armor and kill crew in a tiny tank or APC compartment. If they hit a ship, they'll make a baseball size hole. That's it, and may kill or wound anyone nearby. An LST or LCU can take a dozens of these hits and keep steaming forward.

    4. RPGs and anti-tank missiles are small enough that the infantry can take them down their hidey-holes and emerge with them when the bombardment lifts and the landing forces are about to hit the beach. Russia and China can deliver DPICM munitions over very long distances using 152mm artillery and rocket artillery, and they don't need accurate targeting info to be effective.

      Yeah, in most places the plating will act like spaced-armor against these threats for anything important deep in the hull, but a pilot house or bridge is still vulnerable, as is the ramp and its hydraulics. Why not use a little more steel and light ERA like Kontakt-1 over the important bits? APS systems like Trophy and Iron-fist seem to work, if they work at sea, why not use them? Every inch of the ship doesn't need protection.

    5. "I don't know why so many think an RPG is a super weapon, or any ATGW."

      No one has made that claim. Don't read more into comments than is there!

      An RPG is merely a good example of a ubiquitous weapon that any incoming assault craft might face and should be prepared for.

      Also, in addition to that baseball size hole, an RPG will cause extensive splintering and shrapnel and likely fires - both serious enough to warrant some mitigation effort - hence, the comment.

      The far more serious threat is mines and that's a threat we are totally unprepared for and those will sink LSTs.

    6. "The M1 tank is 12 ft wide and 26 ft long. The "Higgins" tank connector should be 16 ft wide and 30 ft long plus whatever additional length is needed to accommodate the engine and operator(s). I haven't seen dimensions of the MSV(L) - how does it compare to what I just described?"

      I think you're basically talking about a modern DD tank that uses a powered barge instead of a telescopic buoyancy screen. Sure, with enough draft it's possible to build something sized around the external dimensions of one M1, but it will have a very deep draft and it will be very slow. The issue is the weight of the tank, not the size. A shallow draft is also important for getting over reefs and shoals. The deeper the draft the more tide it'll need and fewer beaches that will be accessible.

      The MSV(L) is about 100' long and 25’ wide. It look like the concept has been in development for a while. It appears to be based on the Royal Navy’s Mk10 landing craft.

      8 might fit in the Whidbey-island class and 4 in everything else with the exception of the San Antonio-class, which have a well deck that's about 40 feet too short to hold four. My guess is that the MSV(L) is the size and shape that it so that two can fit side-by-side in a well deck and so that it can make 15+ knots with a 5' draft while carrying a combat-loaded M1. The length also lets it carry two strykers or 4 JLTVs when not carrying a M1. The MSV(L) could double the amount of armor that the Navy can put ashore in one wave versus the LCAC while doing it twice as fast a LCU. If infantry accompany the tanks in fast-landing craft lowered over the sides, that’s a pretty good upgrade to our current capabilities.

    7. I'm not a naval architect. It may not even be possible to build a small, single tank landing craft. On the other hand, I have no reason to think it's not possible.

      Here's a data point. The WWII LVT(A) was, essentially, a light tank and mounted a 75 mm howitzer. It weighed around 17-18 tons and swam ashore with no landing craft.

      Here's another data point. The WWII Navy LCT Mk6 was 119 ft long, 32 ft wide, and had a 3 ft draft. It had a carrying capacity of 136 tons of cargo including 3x50 ton tanks.

      The Marine's M1A1 is 57 tons. Surely, we can build a significantly smaller version of the WWII LCT to carry a single M1 tank?

    8. "The Marine's M1A1 is 57 tons. Surely, we can build a significantly smaller version of the WWII LCT to carry a single M1 tank?"

      We can. It's the MSV(L). But the The MSV(L) payload table lists the combat loaded M1A2 SEPv2 at 76.25 short tons.|||

      The LCT Mk6 carries roughly 200% the weight in tanks relative to the MSV(L). the LCT Mk6's horizontal space claim is about 153% that of the MSV(L). That's significantly larger! But this is misleading because the MSV(L) will have much less displacement per unit area because it goes 2-3X faster thanks to the more streamlined tri-bow monohull. That research paper lists the displacement of the MSV(L) while carrying a MBT at 210 long tons. The LCT Mk5/Mk6 displace about 395 long tons at maximum capacity. That's 188% the displacement of a MSV(L) carrying 50% of the payload of the Mk6 at at least 200% the speed of the Mk6! All this indicates that the MSV(L) is probably sized around the requirement to carry a M1A2 at 15 knots. You don't get the extra speed of the MSV(L) for free after all. It's longer and a little heavier than what you'd end up with if you scaled the Mk6 for the same payload, but it goes 2-3X faster due to the extra power, aluminum construction, and streamlined hull.

      You can hamstring the Marines with outdated M1A1s if you want to get the size of the landing craft down, but the LCT Mk6/MSV(L) comparison seems like a pretty good guide to the differences you should expect versus the WWII craft if you're looking to make at least 15 knots.

    9. "combat loaded M1A2 SEPv2 at 76.25 short tons."

      To the best of my knowledge, the Marines do not use the M1A2 and have no plans to upgrade. They seem stuck with (or satisfied with?) the M1A1 which is, apparently, quite a bit lighter.

      I'd be interested to see what an MSV(L) would spec out to if all extraneous "stuff" were removed meaning reduce the endurance (hence fuel tanks) to ship to shore, remove the radar, reduce the size to fit exactly one tank, reduce the crew to just enough to get from ship to shore, eliminate any crew conveniences, etc.

    10. Physics, folks, physics !!
      You can't get around it.
      70+ tons per 1x MBT requires a substantial hull to float without beginning to go into any design-discussions.

      And how would you get them anywhere you need them - in time.

      US Army never worried about such details with their Landing Craft since they'd get 'there' many weeks after the event. Did we see them help Puerto Rico ? Not that far ...
      Their proposed L-CAT-based MSV-L won't get 'there' in time either, apart from its structural fragility during a hard combat-correct landing with one of the hulls twisting upwards to ruin the function of its 'trick-deck'.
      US Army only wants a me-too thing without any plausible way to ever get this hardware anywhere in time. Just like with LCU-2000 etc. etc.

      This discussion here is not on any track that would match the already bought-&-paid-for 30+ USN Amphibious ships internal parameters. And if 'solutions' don't fit, don't maximize on these hard unarguable givens, then they are no solutions !

    11. The M1A1s are probably getting heavier. New armor is getting installed beginning in 2019.

    12. "The M1A1s are probably getting heavier. New armor is getting installed beginning in 2019."

      I'll believe it when it happens! The Marines plan a lot of things that don't materialize. Witness the EFV!

  4. Damen for example makes similar craft, here are two.

    However one thing that comes to mind is that a swarm of tens of small landing craft are gonna need organic fire support for shore bombardment, initially before the landing to take out missile teams and machine gun nests and entranched defense positions . One thing that comes to mind is this

    But a little bit bigger, and at least a quad pack of Hellfires.

    1. "landing craft are gonna need organic fire support"

      Well, yes and no. In WWII, the Navy provided a curtain of heavy bombardment that lifted moments before the landing craft hit the beach. We no longer have that capability but we should. If we did, the landing craft wouldn't have to provide their own fire support.

      Lacking naval gun support, the next option is a modern version of the LVT(A) which was, essentially, an AAV with a big howitzer for in-contact fire support such as you describe. The LVT(A) had the advantage of being able to come ashore and fight on land.

      If we ever attempt an opposed landing, we're going to remember very quickly why we once had battleships and cruisers providing fire support and we're going to pay a heavy price in blood for having abandoned it.

    2. "organic fire support for shore bombardment"

      You cite the 120 mm boat mounted mortar. Given the history of only semi-effectiveness with WWII battleship bombardments, do you really see a handful of 120 mm mortars providing effective sore bombardment in an opposed landing?

      Having some boat mortars would certainly be helpful but not really significant. One of the major problems would be targeting! Frantic, pinned down troops are unlikely to be able to call in and control precision mortar fire in an electromagnetically (jamming) challenged environment.

      Do you really see this as a viable solution or just a nice-to-have niche weapon?

    3. My point was the whole concept of a small and up gunned fast boat, i gave the link as reference because this is a existing system.

      If you ask me i would add up at least eight Hellfire missiles ( or better SPIKE NLOS ) and a small UAV with a good thermal sight for shore target location.
      And the Mortar is a very good weapon for shore bombardment instead of straight firing guns, todays extended range munitions give you a lot of options, and hey if you don't like one barrel here's two :

    4. And about that "electromagnetically (jamming) challenged environment."
      Todays modern artillery systems have very good computers witch can put a lot of "dumb" rounds in a very good CEP.

    5. You missed my point about an electromagnetically challenged environment. The point was not that "jamming", to use a generic term, would somehow degrade accuracy but that the act of providing target locations for a mortar will depend on good old fashioned radio - a soldier calling in a target location. Radio communications are susceptible to "jamming" or other disruption as the Ukrainians learned the hard way.

    6. Well in this event you would need something like the LVT (A) close to the troops to support them while under attack.
      Hmm, where did i see something like that concept .. Oh, yeah in Russia of course

      And just in case you need a amphibious 120mm mortar near by

    7. "Well in this event you would need something like the LVT (A) close to the troops to support them while under attack."

      The operational history of the LVT(A) is fascinating. They were used to provide up close fire support for infantry during the initial assault but suffered very high rates of attrition since they lacked significant armor. They provided firepower but were not very survivable. They didn't last long on the battlefield but they did the job they were intended to do.

      A much better choice is a full fledged main battle tank - which brings us back to the question of how to get them ashore during the initial assault wave.

    8. Well, there are MBT's and there are heavier MBT's

      A optimum weight/protection level is achieved by the T-90SM at around 46 tons.
      Depending on what you read about the last M1A2 SEPv3 upgrade it might go beyond 70 tons . .

      A lot of authors out there suggest that the US needs some sort of new "light" tank, i think a new "medium" tank should be more practical in the longterm, a tank at around 40-45 tons.

    9. The problem with a light/med tank is that it loses in a straight up fight with a heavy tank. So, unless you have superior numbers (WWII Sherman) or unless the light/med tank has some sort of outstanding advantage (say, a gun that has a magic one-shot, one-kill capability against every heavy tank out there), you'll lose. A light/med tank is also going to be less able to stand up to artillery, mines, infantry anti-tank weapons, etc. Since we'll be fighting Russian and Chinese heavy tanks, a light/med tank is a disadvantage for us.

      We're never going to have a numbers advantage since we've actively ceded that to the Russians and Chinese who are big believers in numbers.

      How do you see a light/med tank overcoming its inherent disadvantages on the modern battlefield?

    10. Ironically, the only way to increase the overall tankforce is to addapt a new lighter tank design.
      And while i suggested a vechicle in the 45 tons weight range,
      Thats not light or underprotected at all in fact most of the russian and chinese tanks are within that category.
      You alerady have enough M1's from all modifications, but the M1 now matter how upgraded is in esence a 1970s techological design, thats 40 years.
      If a US company designs a new tank now they can levarege on all the new technologies.

      "say, a gun that has a magic one-shot, one-kill capability against every heavy tank out there"
      Yes, google LAHAT missile, and that a 90ties design.

      My take on a new US tank would be
      -keep it within 45 tons while using all new types armour passive/active protection.
      -unmanned turret, 3 man crew capsule
      - use the most efficient diesel engine out there.
      And of course all the high tech gizmos like IR/EO sights, 360° cameras, maybe a short range X band radar with SAR capability

  5. Instead of wood, how about ice? Or more specifically pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice). It was originally developed for Project Habakkuk in WW2. Just ship on some collapsible mold with refrigeration gear, and a couple shipping containers of wood pulp. The biggest problem would be developing a propulsion system, but I've been thinking that a reusable metal keel (which also reinforces the area under the most stress) with what is basically a treadmill hooked up to a prop, should do. No ramp, just run a plastic hose full of thermite through the bow ice and melt it when you hit the beach. These would be purely for the assault phase, with LCAC and LCUs used for logistics.

    Randall Rapp

    1. Yeah, that was an interesting experiment in WWII. I'm not sure how practical the concept is for a small landing craft.

  6. For the cost of one $2 billion LPD or LSD, we could buy ten small LSTs. (World War II size, not the big Newport Class). These don't need the big ampbhibs as they are seagoing.

    I see 100 of these (six of these rocket variants) charging the beach and taking hits, but nothing but a big multi-million dollar anti-ship missile can stop one, and it might survive that until it beaches 15 mins later.

    Most LSTs will hit the beach. Those few that cannot make it can launch their AAVs off the back ramp to swim ashore, and launch their "Higgins" boats with more infantry, just like in WW II.

    1. I think part of the problem is: The Navy is trying it's best to have as few actual sailors as possible.... No lives shall be lost and automate everything possible to keep manning to a minimum. So the very ideas that work best (from history) are the very solutions the Navy wants to get away from. IMO.

    2. "keep manning to a minimum"

      Yes and they're doing so because they're trying to run the Navy like a business and treating combat as a business case. Unfortunately, the Navy is not a business and can't be run as such. Sure, they're some accounting practices and whatnot that can benefit from good business practices but the foundation of manning and acquisitions can't be run like a business. They have to be run from a combat perspective which, inherently, is a very poor business model. Combat is wasteful and inefficient - the opposite of good business!

  7. Mine neutralization should be addressed during any amphibious assault. Here's a article in "Breaking Defense" about the Navy's concept for addressing this issue.
    Note that there are no dedicated mine detection or sweeping vessels in this concept.

    1. This is typical of the poorly thought out thinking that passes for operation acumen in the Navy today. Clearing mines from a non-combat area can be done at a relatively leisurely pace by any assets operating from any platform. Clearing mines in a matter of hours from an assault location while under peer-level opposition fire is a completely different matter. The article you cited is absolute fantasy regarding assault mine clearing.

    2. Here's a article on mines.
      Note the types of mines, such as remotely controlled mines.
      My first sentence above was poorly constructed. Mine countermeasures should be planned for, before the assault.
      Mine detection and countermeasures

    3. If you aren't intimately familiar with it already, you should check out the mine clearing effort that was associated with the Normandy invasion. The resources that went into that are staggering and far beyond the combined mine countermeasures capability of the entire friendly world today!

      While we may not mount a Normandy sized amphibious assault again, any assault will likely encounter Normandy sized minefields and require Normandy size mine clearance operations - and we just don't have the capability!

      We allowed our MCM to atrophy to the point of near non-existence. We need to rebuild the capability. Asking a Burke class destroyer to take on MCM is idiotic in the extreme. Aside from the illogic of taking the world's best AAW platform away from its main task and parking it in a minefield, the Burke isn't going to be any good at MCM. They'll never train for it (maybe one set piece exercise a year to check a training box) and, despite what the Navy would have us believe about the autonomous capability of UUVs, there is still a great deal of art and technique to successful MCM operations.

    4. This is another area that the ice boats would be handy. Just take a solid block, a noise maker and a basic propulsion kit, then program it to run right through the lanes you need cleared. Who cares if it gets hit! and being solid it could probably take multiple hits. Add some radar reflectors on top and its also a missile decoy.

      Randall Rapp

  8. What would you think of two part LCM? The idea is this:
    First the ground vehicles (IFV's, Tanks, etc) go diesel-electric. Then you make a sort of "Flatbed LCM" which has a clamshell front (hydrodynamic shape) and open rear with motors and but no power plant, or pilot station. The vehicle rolls on, hooks up a cable that carries power to the motor and signals to the steering. The vehicle commander pilots the boat from a panel in the turret. The boat would be a simple lightweight composite hull which combines with the lack of the need for an engine or pilot house reduces weight and cost. Plus the boat has the full 700-1000 hp of ground vehicle which should enable it to get say 1/4 to 1/2 its ground speed, so as much as 20-25 knots.
    The ground vehicle with have an APS like trophy and every 4th vehicle would have AA vehicle with missiles and a 30mm (which can also assist on ground targets).
    The flatbed pulls up as far as it can go on the beach,the commander hits a button to disconnect the cable, and rolls out thru the clam-shell doors. After the battle the flatbeds are recovered by something cheap like a humvee with a generator. You could have two sizes; one for IFV's and one for MBT's. This way you could have a full-on Abrams hitting with the first wave...maybe even firing while going ashore to add fire support.
    So you would have greater speed and since each flatbed is a separate target, increased survival thru numbers.

    1. That concept has been proposed from time to time. I've never heard anything inherently wrong with it. Whether the engineering (speed, buoyancy, maneuverability, etc.) would work, I have no idea but it's worth some thought. The main problem I see is that the flatbed takes up a lot of room on some ship for a single vehicle (albeit an important vehicle) delivery. Higgins boats were continuously reusable, in contrast (though not sized for tanks). Still, ships are big so there might well be enough room.

      Worth considering.

    2. The key would be making it not much bigger than vehicle being carried.

    3. If you did this right you could stack them like Tupperware containers and save potentially quite a bit of volume and deck space. Which would also you more freedom to vary the loadout you want to transport.

    4. Every tracked and wheel vehicle to have a dedicated generator attached to its engine ?
      You are proposing to buy a completely redesigned new such fleet to power these ship-to-shore rides ?
      Ignoring physics in this Thread earlier is one thing. Ignoring NDAA budgets is something even less possible...

  9. All you talk about mines reminded me of a certain type.

    The 103 Manta is a multi-influence sea mine designed to be effective against landing craft and small to medium tonnage vessels. Its shape, low target strength and low magnetic signature make the mine very difficult to detect, even with side scan sonars. Its shape and in water weight make it remarkably stable on the bottom, even in rivers, channels and in the presence of currents.

    1. I'm on record as stating that I cannot foresee a geopolitical/strategic need for amphibious assault of any significance and the threat of mines simply reinforces the unlikelihood of amphibious assault. We have ignored MCM and simply do not have the ability to deal with them in an assault. Any country that deploys coastal mines is immune from our amphibious assault.

  10. "What’s needed is a long range, high speed, small connector. The Marines tried for many years to develop such a vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV)"

    EFV never could be a Connector. It was only a light Armored Personnel Carrier. Unlike any 'Connector' it could not carry a fuel-tanker, an ammo-trailer, a truck-based battlefield radar-suite, 100 Marines...

    Connectors connect the flow of all USMC-vehicles from arriving ships to the adversary-shore.

    EFV could not even flow itself to the shore with its poor mechanics and implausibly-short range.

    Your 'Higgins-Boat' analogy has all been done over now 80 years. A modern Mike-boat (LCM)is the size because hat is what it takes to float and move stuff. To haul an MBT require a substantial craft, nothing like any 'Higgins Boat'.

    It is always Physics.

    In the context of the mine-threat and your own conclusions on being able to lock out USN with mine-fields - why this discussion here ?

    1. There's a bit of semantics at play here. A connector is generally considered to be a craft that can land and return to the host ship for additional loads. By comparison, the AAV/EFV/ACV or whatever are one way transports. Regardless of the semantics, the EFV is a perfectly viable "connector" but only in a very limited set of conditions - so limited that under today's amphibious doctrine it is non-functional.

      I am unaware of any study that has looked at the MINIMUM craft required to transport one 57 ton M1A1 that the Marines use (not the heavier M1A2 that the Army uses). So, with due respect to anyone who says it can't be done on a small craft, my response is, show me the engineering. It may not be possible but, on the other hand, it may be.

      Every tank transport I've seen seems to include many extra features like extra cargo capacity, longer range and endurance, radars, crew shelter and convenience, etc. I've never seen a bare bones, ship-to-shore tank connector design study. Therefore, I have no reason to believe it can't be done.

      An informative data point is that a 60'x26' barge can carry 125 tons. A 72'x54' can carry 1135 tons! I'm not suggesting that a barge is a suitable tank landing craft. What I'm suggesting is that the people who are saying that a tank is too heavy to carry without building a large vessel do not know what they are talking about - refer, again, to my statement that I am unaware of any relevant design study.

      If you know of a design study for the direct ship to shore transport of a single 57 ton tank with said landing craft having no other features or functions, let me know.

    2. This Thread is getting more and more peculiar.
      Nothing wrong with Sci-Fi-musings.

      But we do know, have known certain basics since the beginning of attempting to land tanks.

      So when you are at a loss about a 'design-study' on a 1xMBT-correct landing-craft, you could go endlessly into USN records, or just look up a contemporary Royal Navy type - the LCU-Mk.10, good for just one NATO MBT.

      Where is Thread supposed to go ?
      Of course, I am just reading the current November PROCEEDINGS...

    3. The LCU Mk10 is not the basic, ship to shore tank landing craft that I'm discussing. The LCU Mk10 is vastly oversized at 90 ft long and with an endurance of 600 miles. I'm talking about a direct tank landing craft with no endurance and no extra functions - just a reasonably fast, direct lander.

    4. "But we do know, have known certain basics since the beginning of attempting to land tanks."

      I imagine that much the same was said to the Wright brothers or to Higgins. Fortunately, they did not listen to naysayers!

    5. Your claim that a Mk.10 is "vastly oversized" suggests that you may want to explore
      - what it take to float 70+ long tons,
      - then add structural weight to carry that load,
      - plus propulsion, plausible ergonomics, basic boat-equipment.

      Adding 600nm of fuel is NOT what accounts for the size of Mk.10. That is just good enough for a round-trip-plus-margin to match what CMC Amos outlined in Feb'14 at WEST'14 when he discussed 200nm approaches (OTH-200). Check YouTube:

      She is the size because 80+ years of LCU-type knowledge, and because of the Laws of Physics.
      Feel free to argue with both...

      As to the War Dept. being slow in 1903 about the Wright brothers' accomplishments, it did eventually get it - within just a year or two.

      By comparison across SEVERAL DECADES now, no major military-industrial corporation has offered USMC and USN any plausible 'Connector' solutions, nor have any top-level universities, nor even the USN-internal 25,000 tech-folks strong staff.

      You, here, can claim to 'know better' than all these - but where would that leave you, since you are without any actual design-concepts to convey your clear-cut analytics.

      Rather, I'd propose, you study the S2ME2 ANTX-2017 event-catalogue, showing you what was on offer last April at Camp Pendleton on the biggest such Naval Advanced Technology Exercise on this board 'Ship-to-Shore' subject-cluster.

      Read PROCEEDINGS July '13, June'14, Dec.'15, Nov.17, and other sources.

      These references should help to get out of the conceptual and thus doctrinal Doldrums.

    6. You have a different and well documented view of how amphibious assaults should be conducted (your LCU-F). You're welcome to your opinion. I have a different view.

      We are in complete agreement that the USMC has failed, utterly, over decades, to produce a viable assault connector. That we have different views of what that connector should be is irrelevant as regards the Marine's failure to design and procure a viable craft.

      My foundational document for amphibious assaults is the book, "Marines Under Armor" by Kenneth Estes. It describes the evolution of Marine armor and, in particular, the development of amphibious assault related armor in WWII. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. The one sentence takeaway from it is that the history of amphibious assaults is a constant trend towards trying to get firepower (tanks in one form or another) ashore in the initial assault wave. From this I get my focus on individual tank landing craft, among other things.

      I know you've carefully read all the comments in this thread so you've seen this statement that I made:

      "... to anyone who says it can't be done on a small craft, my response is, show me the engineering. It may not be possible but, on the other hand, it may be."

      That statement acknowledges the engineering challenge involved in getting an individual tank ashore. I've also offered data points that suggest that the task can be done even if the general wisdom concludes that it cannot.

      I've asked you for any specific link or reference that addresses the issue of individual tank landing craft and you've offered none - not surprising since I'm unaware of any such design study in the public domain.

      Lacking specific evidence to the contrary and with data points that suggest it is possible, I conclude that there is a fair chance that it can be done.

      What anyone at a trade show has or has not offered is irrelevant. I doubt the Wright brothers would have found any aircraft designs at an internal combustion engine trade show prior to their efforts!

      Regarding Amos, he was, frankly, an idiot who inflicted damage on the Corps that they may never recover from. A 200 mile standoff assault is simply ludicrous. That puts the assault ships beyond effective helo and MV-22 range, negates any naval gun support, negates any Aegis anti-cruise, and significantly reduces the effectiveness of even F-35 support by reducing time on station, sortie rate, and response time. If you believe a 200 mile standoff assault is viable then you'll have to explain how you see a LOT of problems being overcome without the benefit of huge amounts of wishful thinking.

      My focus remains: an individual tank landing craft with a range of around 20-40 miles, as much speed as can reasonably be had, no radar, no crew comforts, no armor - just a basic (wooden?) individual tank landing craft for straight-line ship to shore delivery; no ranging up and down enemy coasts waging war singlehanded. A small barge, barely bigger than the tank itself, can easily carry a tank. Conceptually, we just need to add an engine!

      I am not trying to create an LCU - that's a vessel for a different task. I'm also not trying to create an aircraft carrier or submarine so don't bother trying to argue that an individual tank landing craft can't do any of those various tasks. Of course it can't!

    7. There will be no tutorial on landing-craft design if the basic readings have not been done.

      Prime example - on OTH-200 you are revisiting discussions and solutions on the table over 4 years ago.

      You wanted an MBT-capable LCU, but remain uninterested in a current such RN design because you claim that you'd know better... or whatever seems to disqualify Mk.10 from your focus.

      Start the reading with the NOV.'17 PROCEEDINGS, then the ANTX-catalogue, then the other references. Reading just this very modest sequence in either direction will offer doable solutions.

      And on your vision of "...just a basic individual tank landing craft..." you simply can't ignore the Laws of Physics. Obviously, quite a few postings in this Thread have done that - but these would flunk high-school-level reality-checks.

    8. In fact, discussions around OTH-200 go back to 2003 at least.


  11. :D why didn't you say so in the first place

    The LCM-1E can carry different cargo load combinations including one M60A3 / M88A1 recovery vehicle; one Leopard type tank weighing 62.5t;

  12. That's a good one. I was unaware of it. Thanks.

  13. Hi, question ComNavOps, could a cb90 work well for transporting troops? There would be a requirement for some other thing to transport the tanks.
    CB90 is fast, can get to the beach and carry 21 troops
    I have no experience of naval warfare and that is why I'm asking.

    1. It could be used. It has some desirable characteristics (fast, right size troop capacity, a bit of shrapnel protection) and some undesirable ones (lack of a quick discharge ramp to get troops off in a hurry under fire, too expensive at $3M or so per copy, over equipped which contributes to the cost, can't carry cargo for resupply).

      Possibly a CB90 could be modified for assault.

      Good thought.

    2. Looking at this video, i would say the landing could be very quick, the risk i see is the one file exit but still. (1.25min)
      I don't think this is the best example but has good potential with practice and drill. The landing should then be quick. Mounted weapons on the cb90 could be a .50 or a Mk19 grenade launcher, could be used for smoke i guess.

    3. As I said, there's some potential there but did you happen to notice how narrow that exit was? If one guy is shot exiting, the entire exit is blocked and there's no room to move the body. It's not what you would design for the purpose. By comparison, look at a landing of a Higgins boat with the large, wide ramp. Troops just stampeded out of those. Troops could, and did, jump over the side to get out if necessary. The troops in a CB90 are trapped inside if the craft is hit and takes on water.

      So, no, the CB90 is not an ideal landing craft but with suitable modifications the possibility of a useful craft is there.

      The CB90 weapons, radar, and comm gear serve no purpose in an assault craft.

  14. The principal danger to landing craft is the shallow water mine, not direct fire weapons.

    In spite of several promising technologies, we do not have a proven effective way of "in-stride-breaching" mines from the six fathom curve to the high water line of a beach.

    Displacement hulled landing craft (conventional boats) will forever remain vulnerable to cheap, effective shallow water mines - what is required to overcome these mine is a non-displacement hull vehicle like the
    LCAC, Zubir, or other SES based technologies. De-coupling the vehicle from the water makes such craft much less vulnerable to mines.

    The British LCAC(L) is a diesel powered hovercraft designed to transport personnel, and is an effective, relatively invulnerable to mines, and comparatively cheap way to move assault wave infantry ashore - at least compared to helicopters.

    Of course the USMC lacks a cheap, effective vehicle for clearing land mines from the surf zone inland having long ago retired the LVTE-1, the tracked engineering minesweeper version of the LVT-5, but that is another chapter in the sad history of post WWII amphibious doctrine.


    1. GAB, good to see you back!

      The Navy/Marines consider the full size LCAC to be non-survivable in an opposed landing and, doctrinally, not part of the initial assault wave. It is reserved for follow-on and sustainment operations. Do you see the LCAC(L) being survivable enough for the initial assault wave?

      The LCAC(L) has a small transport capacity (Wiki lists 16 troops) and it appears to have no vehicle or cargo capability other than small boxes since it appears to lack any ramp for loading/unloading. So, we would still need larger craft for vehicles/cargo. Not a problem - no need to try to have a one craft does everything solution.

      How susceptible would the LCAC(L) be to acoustic-triggered mines?

    2. The USN/USMC failed to see the need for a ship-to-shore vessel capable of transporting heavy AFVs, but other nations have designed such vessels (e,g, British PASCAT0, while the Russians and Chinese actually operate them (Zubr).

      The LCAC(L) would be ideal for the USMC as it provides assault transport for a reinforced rifle squad (13/14-men +a machinegun or mortar team), which is consistent with doctrine (look at the original specifications for the LVTP-7 or CH-46).

      on fusing and survivability, not much can be stated in this forum, but physics dictates that a conventional landing craft will absorb 100% of the shock wave from a submerged mine, while a SES type craft will experience a blast wave attenuated by the inverse cube of distance.


    3. Personal aside to GAB: did the CEV arrive intact?

  15. Just to add some facts/clarification to this excellent discussion...
    - The USMC M1A1 weighs approx. 67 tons (combat loaded). Add another 2 tons to account for front-end implements (mine plow, mine clearing blade) & add-on belly armor kits.
    - Just because the USMC is still using the M1A1, it's definitely not your dad's M1A1 introduced in the 1980s. Significant upgrades have been made with the USMC version over the years, to incl state of the art thermal sights/optics as part of a Firepower Enhancement Package (FEP), upgraded Commander's Weapons Station (best .50 cal weapon system in the DoD with stabilized thermal sight for simultaneous shoot on the move at moving targets at night capability), upgraded ammo compartment, M1A2 suspension, belly-armor, enhanced multipurpose main gun ammo, powerpack upgrades, FBCB 2, & a lot more that I've forgotten than I remember.
    - The decision to modernize the M1A1 platform vice adopting the US Army's M1A2 SEP V3 has been very deliberate. Firstly, the USMC version of the M1A1 is uniquely designed for expeditionary/amphib operations as its hull is different than an Army tank and designed to add a Deep Water Fording Kit (allowing shore to shore fording up to turret roofline) and disembarking into the surf from an LCU. Most importantly, the ever increasing weight of the Army M1 series tank has deterred the USMC from adopting the M1A2 specifically for weight (& size) fit issues on US Navy well-decks, black bottom shipping, legacy surface connectors (& for that matter, future replacement connectors).
    - The USMC will likely continue to upgrade the M1A1 into the foreseeable future. Why? Until the US Army decides to invest R&D into a lighter more expeditionary future tank that can achieve overmatch against the newest threat armor, you can bet the Corps will not do this on its own. Replacing the AAV (failed EFV & the emerging ACV programs) has proven to be extremely challenging so the idea of the Corps coming up with some Gucci future tank is very unlikely.
    *** More to follow ***

  16. ** Continued **

    - The future of Armor in the Corps is constantly debated despite its proven & highly successful expeditionary performance in combat (WWII Pacific Campaign, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan) in places that even the US Army refused or didn't believe possible to employ. Other threats to USMC armor include the need to fund & create manpower for other emerging capabilities (F35, cyber, etc) leaving a legacy (although still highly lethal and effective) platform ripe for the picking.
    - Because the USMC (especially its Ground Combat Element) is limited on funding and thus revolutionary modernization, it is prudent to continue upgrading existing platforms until something compelling is on the shelf (likely courtesy of the Army). Perhaps the Corps can look to modernize the existing M1A1 w/ a combined manned/unmanned teaming remote vehicle concept that replaces the current manned turret with an unmanned main gun/weapons system with a lower profile, less armor, less weight (no Marines- lesser need for heavy weighted armor, etc). This concept might drop the weight of the M1A1 to the 50 ton mark. The future tank platoon could include 1x fully manned tank with 3x of these remotely piloted/reduced weight tanks which in aggregate reduces the tank platoon's weight by 150 tons w/no sacrifice in combat power & improves the space/weight factors for amphib embarkation & connector delivery to shore at a potential minimal $$ of investment.
    - Going back to your excellent comments on the connector conundrum, it sure seems like these requirements are much more on the backs of the Marine Corps & not as much on the Navy. The Navy must get more involved & be willing to revolutionize its connectors than its current strategy of SSC and SC(X). This aint't gonna cut it! Need to think outside the box, UHAC is a neat idea. Maybe a submersible/semi-submersible connector that can bring heavy combat power ashore that negates/mitigates/reduces A2AD detection systems. Something completely different than LCU & LCAC.

    1. Very good contribution. Thanks!

      What are your thoughts on the need for tanks, meaning heavy firepower, in the initial assault wave? The Marines seem to be trending towards light infantry and away from heavy assault. That trend would seem to limit the Marine's usefulness in a peer war. Any thoughts?

    2. Getting armor from ship to shore in the initial assault wave is even more critical today than ever considering the advances in threat armor and anti-armor systems and the sheer proliferation of that threat armor throughout the world, mostly in the littorals. Tank capabilities within the Corps has steadily (and massively) dropped since Desert Storm (from 3x active and 3x reserve Bns to 1.5 active Bns and 1x reserve Bn). The effect on capabilities has been seen most notably with the MEUs- some MEUs deploy without tanks (no help from well deck-less amphibs and increasing space requirements from non-ground combat equipment. The future of armor on MEUs seems further clouded with the increasing of SOF encroachment of otherwise MEU missions (leaving lower end ROMO tasks to the MEUs), disaggregation of MEUs, the belief that MEUs are not designed/optimized for forcible entry operations (unless combined with additional forces), and the recent publication of the Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment specifically stating "major combat operations and campaigns versus peer competitors are beyond the scope of this concept" all point to this trend even more. Furthermore, when ACV is fully fielded, the precious few surface connectors available will be completely tied up (and surely pre-boated) with ACVs. The fact that it takes 2x ACVs to equal the lift capacity of 1x AAV potentially means no more room for tanks, artillery, etc. Against a near peer or even a 3rd rate enemy equipped with rudimentary tanks and ATGMs- will present a formidable opponent to a landing force equipped primarily with ACVs with no armor. Remember, the ACV is a troop transport (albeit more survivable than AAV) not a fighting vehicle. Tough challenge for sure but a very worthy topic to discuss and solve!

    3. ANONYMOUS, then there is LCU-F, as in the current PROCEEDINGS, or those of July'13, June'14, Dec.'15... And of course there was the S2ME2 (Ship-To-Shore) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) of this late April'17 at Camp Pendleton.

    4. "even more critical today than ever considering the advances in threat armor and anti-armor systems and the sheer proliferation of that threat armor throughout the world"

      You get it! Couldn't agree more.

      The Marines appear to be voluntarily and intentionally downsizing themselves into irrelevance and out of their core mission. Puzzling, to say the least.

      Good comment.

    5. "major combat operations and campaigns versus peer competitors are beyond the scope of this concept"

      You noted that, too? That leads to the obvious question: what role do the Marines see for themselves in a peer war? The apparent answer would seem to be, none.

    6. I'm quite familiar with the LCU-F concept, when it was looked at further, there was significant concern with the ability of its unique technology to withstand saltwater/corrosion. But no doubt it was an intriguing idea to enable high water speed (HWS) delivery. LCU-F and UHAC were probably the most promising "connector next" ideas a few years ago and hopefully these kinds of out-of-the-box ideas are still being pursued. Another idea was the use of a semi-autonomous sled (believe it was mentioned in previous comments) in which an ACV could ride on and achieve HWS with the ACV driver controlling the sled when moving from ship to shore. This technology was tested long ago in the mid-1980s with a prototype called HAVIC in which an LAV-25 rode on a sled, operated from the LAV Commander with a slaved remote and was able to get on plane and fire the LAV-25 weapons systems at threats on shore. For some reason, this system was never further pursued but it offered an interesting potential.

    7. "LCU-F ... intriguing idea to enable high water speed (HWS) delivery."

      We already have high water speed delivery via the LCAC. The problem is that the LCAC is considered non-survivable in an initial assault wave and, doctrinally, is reserved for follow on sustainment AFTER THE LANDING AREA IS SECURED. Presumably, the same would apply to the LCU-F which, at 20 kts, is significantly slower than the LCAC.

      Further, the loss a single LCAC or LCU would represent a significant impact on the combat power of the assault force, both from an immediate loss of the troops/equipment on board and from a sustainment point of view. Contrast this with the lesser impact of the loss of a single AAV/ACV/Higgins-ish boat.

      The LCU-F, much like the LCAC, would likely be useful in a low intensity, third world, uncontested scenario where we have complete air supremacy and freedom of movement on the seas and where mines are not a threat - none of which will be the case in a peer war.

      All of this leaves us with the still unfilled requirement to get firepower ashore with the initial assault wave, especially since there is no naval gun support available. We'll be landing unsupported light infantry against enemy armor and fortifications - not a recipe for success!

    8. Anonymous: "I'm quite familiar with the LCU-F concept, when it was looked at further, there was significant concern with the ability of its unique technology to withstand saltwater/corrosion."

      So, plain-vanilla steel-construction, COTS diesel-propulsion, hinges, and some COTS hydraulics give some folks a techno-'overload-condition'?

      Those must be the same well-paid folks who still believe that the LCS is the fastest ever 3200-tons vessel - since they never quite noticed the French early-30s LE FANTASQUE-class of 6 Destroyers which with full armament were clocked at 45 knots. Is there any 'fully-armed' LCS anywhere ? And what is its V-max.?

      Should LCU-F discussions have posted 'Trigger-Warnings' upfront ?

      C.N.O: How do you 'secure' the landing area, if not with a FIRST WAVE arriving concurrently in as many landing-zones as you have heavy-lift medium-speed LCU-F in the ARG for?

      A '5-ARG' - 1xLHD, 1xLPD 3xLSD-41 would from OTH-200 offer 22 LCU-Fs each hauling up to 200-tons of GCE-armor, meaning up to 4400 tons in one FIRST WAVE, plus up to 22 AH/UH helos on their stern-deck. How would you match this ?

      C.N.O.: You do notice that the current PROCEEDINGS on Connectors does indeed explicitly discuss a 'Fighting Connector' approach ?

      Do you notice who these folks are ?

      And that indeed they also discuss Inshore Fire Support (IFS):
      - LCU-F is known to be ale to carry at least 2x 12-tube 9" G-MLRS.
      - Or (possibly) 1x G-MLRS and 2x stabilized 203mm M-110 howitzers systems with EXCALIBUR rounds.

      LCU-F should allow for 6x reloads for the G-MLRS, plus 300+ rounds of 203mm.

      Where else would you get IFS with this potency into this close-to-shore territory ? Possibly 8" arti ? Not available since early-70s cruisers off Vietnam...

      And how do you actually reverse-battery these 8" rounds if LCU-F is constantly moving under thrusters and props.

      Word is that this has been looked at for well over 4 years now.

      - no word anymore about T-Craft,
      - L-Cat won't haul enough - quite apart from their fragility -,
      - and UHAC won't fit in well-decks either and still haul anything remotely like a FIRST WAVE...

      Now what ??

    9. "How do you 'secure' the landing area, if not with a FIRST WAVE arriving concurrently in as many landing-zones as you have heavy-lift medium-speed LCU-F in the ARG for?"

      You secure a landing zone by landing one or more divisions in as short a time as possible and with as much firepower as possible. THEN you can land follow on elements and supplies at leisure. You don't secure a landing with a handful of LCU-F or, to be fair, a handful of anything. The problem is not the LCU-F but neither is it the solution.

      Consider your own statement,

      "22 LCU-Fs each hauling up to 200-tons of GCE-armor, meaning up to 4400 tons in one FIRST WAVE"

      You write that as if it's a monumental amount of firepower. Let's do the math. Let's assume a 70 ton main battle tank. Each LCU can carry 3 tanks - well, that's undoubtedly not true and even if it were that makes no allowance for fuel, troops, ammo, etc. So, let's say 2 tanks per LCU. With 22 LCU, that's a force of 44 tanks and not troops, no extra fuel, no ammo. Let's wishfully suppose that all 44 tanks make it safely to shore (utterly ridiculous but, hey, let's go with it). Do you really think that a force of 44 tanks, all by themselves are going to secure a peer opposed landing area? You need to review the entire history of WWII amphibious assaults!

      Seriously, you're undermining your own arguments. And, if you're taking some of those LCU-Fs and turning them into fire support then you have even fewer tanks!

    10. "LCU-F is known to be ale to carry at least 2x 12-tube 9" G-MLRS."

      Do you have any concept of how pitifully insignificant that is as far as assault level fire support goes? Multiple battleships in WWII were barely able to provide sufficient fire support but you think a few LCU-Fs with a few small rockets are going to do what days of pre-assault bombardment by battleships with 16" guns could barely do?

      Do you even read what you write?

      I've told you this before, if you want to be taken seriously you need to address issues factually and logically not just spit out ridiculous brochure claims. I'd love to have a serious discussion of the LCU-F as one option in the amphibious assault concept but you make it impossible with claims that are ridiculous and have no tether to operational reality.

    11. "Possibly 8" arti ? Not available since early-70s cruisers off Vietnam... "

      This is exactly the kind of one-sided, nonsensical statement that I'm talking about. You dismiss the 8" gun because it hasn't existed for some decades while, at the same time, touting the LCU-F which has never existed. That's the height of illogic and inconsistency. We could just as easily reintroduce 8" guns as develop a brand new LCU-F. I'll say it again, if you want to be taken seriously you need to be logical and objective. Failing that, you're wasting your time and mine. It's a shame because the LCU-F or something derived from it could well prove useful but you're refusing to discuss it in any realistic way.

    12. Nothing but D-Day Re-Enactments for you then.
      Or taking China, plus all the Chinese Restaurants of Brooklyn.

      You want to do that, start scaling this capability.

      What do you bring to this challenge ?

    13. And how come you were not at the ANTX ?

      At any rate, progress continues - even without C.N.O. input...

    14. "Nothing but D-Day Re-Enactments for you then.
      Or taking China, plus all the Chinese Restaurants of Brooklyn."

      Can't you discuss this seriously?

      You've (probably unintentionally) raised one of the key issues with your flip, snarky statement. The Marines (and you) seem to be focused exclusively on low end, low intensity operations where we can have LCU-Fs roam up and down enemy shores unhindered and land their loads unopposed and minuscule numbers of troops can seize entire landing areas.

      Well, that's one scenario and it's the unimportant one. The other scenario, the one I look at, is the peer opposed landing. If we can do that, we can do the low end with no trouble. However, to design for the low end and assume that that same design will suffice for the peer opposed scenario is a recipe for disaster.

      We must plan for the high end.

      If you'd care to discuss this logically and objectively, please proceed. If not, stop.

    15. To be honest, very very few can live up to your standard of analysis. Neither moi on my lowly level of existence, nor most of any Admirals alive.

      So I take my leave... and get back to work on actual 3-D projects, while you... well... you know...

    16. And that's why I offer this blog, so that readers can benefit from my analysis. You're welcome!

    17. "nor most of any Admirals alive"

      Just out of curiosity, would these be the 60 or so Admirals being investigated for the Fat Leonard scandal, the Admirals who gave us the LCS, the Admirals who waived certifications that got sailors killed in collisions, the Admirals that have deferred maintenance to the point that we have a hollow fleet, the Admirals who built a Zumwalt that has no ammo, the Admirals who came up with blueberry uniforms, the Admirals who ... well, I could go on all night but the point is made. I'd say you're quite right that most Admirals clearly cannot and do not match my standards. I know you intended that as a shot at me but you inadvertently got it exactly right! Well done and thank you!

  17. And here the link to the current PROCEEDINGS:

    1. TS: Thanks for the link.

      What raises my concern in the article is:

      "This approach would require the Navy to have 12 LHAs/LHDs, 12 LPDs, and 14 LX(R)s to form and deploy the 12 ARGs."

      I believe that this is the fundamental flaw in Current USMC, and to a lesser extent, the Navy doctrine: MEUs are essentially infantry battalions and do not scale up well against Russian, Chinese, or even U.S. Army formations.
      Manpower wise, the 12 MEUs would translate roughly into 6-8 Russian Motor Rifle brigades.

      The concept is unsustainable too. My rough math shows that the proposed amphibious fleet would cost the tax payer roughly $80 Billion in up front purchase costs for the amphibious ships, plus another $240 Billion for personnel, operations and maintenance costs, etc. for a total cost of ownership of roughly $320 Billion just for amphibious lift.

      That is a stout requirement for transportation given the force it moves cannot do much more than chase down illiterate technicals in third world countries.


  18. GAB,
    I agree, like the Laws of Physics, fiscal realities matter as well.
    However, Col. King et. al. write about what it takes to do the work. The assumption here is that the reader knows what is ALREADY on hand or in the pipeline to be delivered, such as
    - 2x LHA + 8x LHD = 10 vs. their 12,
    - 12x LPD versus their 12,
    - 11/12 LSDs (just SLEP'd) versus their 14.

    So you may at most end up talking about $15B. versus your assumed $80B for the hardware.

    With USMC being about 180,000+ strong, and each MEU just under 2,200 Marines strong, assigning 26,400 forward-positioned to the 12x ARGS seems manageable.

    1. Since I have emphasized 'Scalability', once you can deliver a full-GCE FIRST WAVE, then doing this in growing multiples up the required force-strength seems obvious.

      For force-strength, should one run short of Marines and their GCE-assets, then USA infantry and their rolling and tracked armored assets would be in line for 'delivery' to boost the force to its required levels. Just about all of their rolling/tracked hardware should fit LCU-F, incl. MBTs w/ TUSK-2.

      At the risk of getting D-Day-Freaks all giddy and... , once you have established combat-effective Full FIRST WAVE delivery on the MEU-level, then 'scalability' seems in principle to offer extensive upwards-opportunities.

    2. TS: you are making my point, the USMC organization is obsolescent - regiments and divisions are inefficient force structures: the Corps really does not fight or even train to fight in regiments, or divisions, nor has the Corps conducted significant unscripted maneuver exercises against aggressor, USA, or allied brigade structures to validate the continued adherence to this doctrine.

      The excuse for this atrocity is typically leveled at the law making the USMC an independent service, but frankly the law could easily be changed *if* the Corps was willing to put itself under the microscope.

      For comparison, a Russian or Chinese armored or motor rifle brigade is 4 or 5 maneuver battalions (one to three being tank battalions and the balance Mechanized Infantry), an 18-tube SP artillery battalion and one or two MRL batteries; it is made up of about 4,500-6,000 men.

      A MEB is really based on an infantry regiment, it is not trained or equipped to fight Russian or Chinese maneuver formations, and it does compare favorably at all with peer competitors.

      Even a USMC division (~17,000 men) has a single tank battalion.


    3. Here's some distressing information regarding USMC tank battalions. There are two active tank battalions (1st and 2nd) and each nominally has 58 tanks organized in 4 tank companies of 14 tanks each plus two HQ tanks.

      However, as of Mar 2016, 2nd Tank has only two companies and 30 tanks; Charlie and Delta companies having been deactivated as part of the overall Corps draw down. Here's a reference link: Tanks

      The 2nd Tank is supposed to be able to fully support various MAGTFs and no one has yet explained how that can occur now.

      As far as I know, 1st Tanks still has 4 tank companies.

      The entire active Marine tank force now consists of 88 tanks. Not exactly a heavy hitting force capable of sustained high end combat! The Marines are steadily moving towards a light infantry organization - which calls into question their ability to conduct a peer-opposed amphibious assault which, in turn, calls into question their reason for existence and the rationale for their current size.

    4. I would prefer the Corps to ave zero tanks, AAVs, LAVs, SP artillery etc.if they had a clear vision and doctrine on organization and employment; rather than the current muddle of doctrine and force structure.

      The first situation simply requires opening the check book, the later situation requires opening of minds.


    5. "So you may at most end up talking about $15B. versus your assumed $80B for the hardware.

      With USMC being about 180,000+ strong, and each MEU just under 2,200 Marines strong, assigning 26,400 forward-positioned to the 12x ARGS seems manageable."

      Sorry TS, this is just wrong.

      Each of the Armed Services has established cost accounting guidance that conflicts absolutely with what you are suggesting.

      This is not a one time investment where we can consider sunk costs, the amphibious fleet will have to be replaced as ships wear out, which means the total cost of ownership is relevant, and is an extremely high cost.

      The opportunity cost of the amphibious fleet is fantastic: we could eliminate our attack submarine, carrier, and carrier air wing shortfalls, as well as fully fund the USCG for starters.


  19. "However, as of Mar 2016, 2nd Tank has only two companies and 30 tanks; Charlie and Delta companies having been deactivated as part of the overall Corps draw down."

    Just for additional clarification. While 1st Tank Bn remains a full up tank battalion of 4x line companies and a Scout and TOW platoons, you are correct that 2nd Tank Bn has recently divested its Scout and TOW platoons and 2x line companies (Charlie and Delta companies). However, HQMC decided to reinvest a 3rd tank company in 2nd Tank Bn and Charlie Company will be reactivated within the next 12 months. The USMC reserve tank battalion (4th Tank Bn) continues to have 6x tank companies with 2 of them identified specifically to round out 2nd Tank Bn if needed (important enough distinction as it aligns training schedules and processes to integrate as rapidly as possible).

    As alluded before in an earlier post, USMC armor has steadily declined since Desert Storm (at which time there were 3 full active tank battalions and 2 full reserve tank battalions) and although there has been discussion to further reduce armor, it seems the infantry part of the Corps is finally pushing back and realizing that armor is essential to the Ground Combat Element particularly against high end threats.

    Of note, Marine Corps armor is the only truly "expeditionary" armor in the world, with most MEUs having embarked tank platoons and pre-positioned armor in MPSRONs and in Norway and in the Middle East. These forward deployed and pre-positioned armor assets have enabled rapid force closure and employment in contingency operations such as Somalia (Jan-Apr 93), Iraq (after OIF I- pre/during/post Fallujah), and Afghanistan. The impact of this "expeditionary" armor capability has had significant and decisive impacts on the battlefield in all of these cases even if not well known. In the case of Somalia and Afghanistan, it is interesting to note that it was only the USMC not the army, that planned/deployed/employed armor in full spectrum operations (as the USMC has historically done well like in the Pacific Campaign in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam).

    It is for these reasons (along with the threat because it is all about the enemies we may face) that the Marine Corps will never get rid of its armor capabilities.

    1. Thanks for the information about reactivating C-Company. Of course, that makes one wonder about the logic behind deactivating it?

      "Marine Corps armor is the only truly "expeditionary" armor in the world"

      Are they? Given that we have no means of getting armor ashore in an opposed landing (LCAC and LCU being doctrinally considered non-survivable and not employable until the landing area is secured) can we really be considered expeditionary? Yes, in an unopposed landing (Somalia, for example) we can transport armor ashore but if we can only do that against third world, unopposed landings are we really expeditionary?

      For an example like Afg, that's not really expeditionary since none of the armor came from ships (correct me if I'm wrong about that) and, regardless, any movement of armor to the area would have been a "simple" logistic transport exercise not an expeditionary combat effort. By this measure, the Army is "expeditionary" since they can transport their tanks anywhere in the world that we ship them unopposed.

      On the one hand, you may consider this to be somewhat semantic but, on the other, if we're only expeditionary in low/no threat scenarios then what will the Marines bring to the table in a peer war?

      What do you think? Is Marine armor actually expeditionary in a peer war?

    2. Haha, I like you a lot ComNavOps! I agree with you much more than I disagree and this goes back a couple of years from when I first started reading your stuff. The difference now is I'm actually commenting to you. Back to your follow-on questions and pontifications...yes as is currently constructed, USMC armor is expeditionary (in my mind) if its against a less than peer competitor (or low end of ROMO/threat). Is there an "expeditionary" difference between USMC and Army? I believe there is based on MPS, forward pre-positioning, pre-positioning of ammo, and a few more conveyances to shore (tanks w/DWFKs able to disembark from LCUs short of the shore) aside from the human factors and my own Marine Corps-proud bias of being the most ready force. These subtle and relatively minor differences perhaps explains why its been the Corps that has enable it to get tanks to the fight faster (or alone like Somalia and Afghanistan) in all fights since Vietnam. But, as you perceptively point out, bringing heavy combat power ashore against a peer threat is the conundrum and the ground combat element part of the Corps has been losing much ground in this aspect (in terms of $$, force structure, doctrinal employment concepts, equipment, etc) in a zero sum game competing against F35s, cyber, MARSOC, information warfare warriors, and every other capability that is an inherent part of the GCE killing machine, etc.

    3. I'm glad you decided to make the leap from observer to commenter. Welcome!

      "I agree with you much more than I disagree"

      Good. That means you're right much more than you're wrong!

      Back to serious ...

      Setting aside any debate about the degree of "expeditionary" between the Army and Marines, you seem to be agreeing that the Marines would have a problem with operating against a peer. That being the case, what are your thoughts on getting the Marine's heavier equipment (tanks, artillery, etc.) ashore in the initial assault waves? Without heavy firepower and armor, the Marines are just light infantry and light infantry cannot survive against a peer, armored opponent. How do we get firepower and armor ashore? In my mind, this is the Marine's number one challenge because if it can't be done, then the Marines are of limited use in a peer war!

      As an aside, you might want to consider signing a username to the end of your comments even if you don't want to do a formal sign-in. I get a lot of anonymous comments and it makes it a lot easier to know whose anon comments I'm responding to. It's not mandatory but please consider it.

    4. My thoughts on the need to get heavy combat power ashore in the initial assault waves...I believe this to be a vital necessity if the Corps is expected to maintain its responsibilities to conduct amphibious operations into the future (don't believe this responsibility will ever be abandoned). If there is a possibility of tasking the Marine Corps to seize an opposed shore, island, etc defended by even a 3rd World force (much less a near-peer/peer adversary) of course getting ground-based armor protected heavy direct firepower into the fight is essential. A supreme challenge given everything mentioned above and a great reason to keep this discussion going and expand it to include more of our Navy counterparts because its not just a Marine Corps problem, it is a DoD problem (to address your very salient quote below).

      "In my mind, this is the Marine's number one challenge because if it can't be done, then the Marines are of limited use in a peer war!"

      Got it on the Anonymous- I'll start signing off as Charlie on future comments/posts.

      Great to have this dialogue!

      - Charlie

    5. Charlie, we seem to be in agreement about the challenge but you didn't offer any thoughts about a solution!

      There are various possibilities for getting armor and heavy weapons ashore in the initial wave (LCAC, LST, LCU, ultra heavy amphibious connector, light amphibious tanks, up-armed AAV/ACVs, etc.) and each has its advantages and disadvantages. What solution do you favor? Or, do you have a completely different solution in mind?

      On a related note, if you've been following the blog for some time, you've probably noted my belief that amphibious assaults are unlikely but that port seizure is a vital and likely mission - a mission that the Marines don't seem to even have on their list of capabilities and certainly one that they've never practiced. Any thoughts on port seizure?

  20. As a matter of house-keeping, let us note that your NAVY MATTERS-Index knows nothing of e.g. LCU, LCU-F, a rather astonishing indication of conceptual 'Terra Incognita' challenges, with even ATACMS only 'discovered' some 6 weeks ago, even though known as even N-ATACMS etc. for literally decades.

    "How do you propose doing reloads?"
    On one go-fast 200-tons LCU-candidate under consideration we'd find a 100'L x 13+'W x 12'H (internally-) wide-open cargo-bay, covered on demand with sliding hatches.

    Take 20' away for the M-270 12-tube GMLRS-launcher (fit for 2x ATACMS at a time), that leaves 80' for how many ATACMS
    Running the volumes conservatively, and leaving room to move the projectiles internally, we can figure 5 projectiles wide x 4 high for 20x per 14' section x 5 sections could equal 100 ATACMS plus the two already in the M-270 launcher.
    102xd 160+nm-range guided munitions you'd be hard-pressed to take out in its final approach coming in near-vertical.

    "How do you propose stabilizing the launcher?"
    Same way you are stabilizing for decades now a (USMC) HMMWV-mounted SAM AVENGER turret with 8x STINGERS plus MGs doing 35mph across the sage-brush distinctly-uneven YAKIMA PROVING GROUNDS - while keep an eye on-target.

    "How do you propose tying into a fire control system?"
    No compressed tutorial here on how land-forces do fire-support. This is all fully-understood.

    "How do you propose providing self-defense as well as offense?"
    "Fighting Connector" has since its first (modern-era-)discussion in public in 2013 always included barrel- and tube defense/offense systems. Whether you'd need to categorize a 24"diameter 160nm-range 500-lbs warhead missile as this or that may better be left up to you. But killing ships with these is clearly on the table.

    "Every connector providing fire support is a connector not transporting troops and supplies. How do you propose getting troops ashore when the connectors are tied up in fire support?"

    "Every Connector..." is your assumption, unnecessarily self-restrictive.
    At the S2ME2 ANTX '5-ARG's were discussed, consisting of 1x LHD, 1x LPD-17 and 3x LSD-41/21 for a total of 22 Connector-slots, each with up to 200 tons of load-carrying capacity - to be multiplied via cargo delivered to OTH-200 by ROROs etc...

    With LSD-41/21 about 50% of LX-R cost, getting 20 such instead 10x LX-R offers 1.3 extra well-deck length (stature) miles of Ampgib-Deck Capacity - plenty to designate 2 out of 22 slots for IFS-duty LCU-types, each with 102 'big' shots, many more 9" shots.

    All of this makes the 'mighty' 8"-55-cal cruiser-guns a bit out of sync with its unguided 30,000 yards range, last carried by USS BOSTON off Vietnam in the late 60s...

    USMC needs serious-caliber/warhead IFS. And 'Fighting Connector'-mounted tube-artillery always moving about inshore to evade counter-fire offers plausible and scalable punch.

    1. Trudy, let me make a serious suggestion for your consideration ... Do you possibly have someone else who can write for you? Your personal style of writing borders on incomprehensible. I believe you have ideas worth discussing but your presentation of those ideas is near-gibberish.

      In fact, I believe you are part owner in some type of LCU-F venture company. I would love to host a guest post and serious discussion of the LCU-F. I've stated several times that I have no real opinion about it as I've been unable to gather enough reliable information to form a valid opinion.

      I'd love to host a guest post on the LCU-F but only if it was written by someone else. Perhaps you have a partner(s) in your venture who would be willing to write something? The same applies to your comments. I wind up deleting many of them, not because I don't agree with them but because they are incomprehensible! If you could get someone else to write your comments you would have much more success conveying your thoughts.

      Let me know if you have any interest.

      I'm now going to delete a comment or two for the reasons I just gave.

    2. "let us note that your NAVY MATTERS-Index knows nothing of e.g. LCU, LCU-F"

      I assume you're referring to the Keywords? If so, the keywords only apply to posts. I've never done a post on LCU-F so there is no keyword for it. It's that simple - no need to wander off into conspiracy land!

  21. What about taking the UHAC pontoon-track concept, bolting it onto the sides of Abrams/Bradleys and powering it via their normal axles? This way they could axe the connectors, pack more vehicles into the amphibs *and* start operating more survivable vehicles. They could also potentially fire when on water.

    Additionally, optionally-foldable boat frames could be filled with semi-durable foam and bolted onto the fronts/backs of the vehicles. For softer ground they could shed the boat parts and for harder ground they could shed the pontoon tracks.

    For survivability, the vehicles could operate under massive smokescreens deployed by the Navy/USAF while still maintaining visuals via networked 3D imaging-radar provided from overhead aircraft/UAVs and semi-expendable small boats/UGVs. The vehicles could potentially use rotary-cannon turrets with guided/airburst ammo to do APS/C-RAM/etc work. If the enemy tries to use their own radar to see, they would give their position away and could be engaged. The Navy could also buy swarms of smaller unmanned SW/ASW/MCM subs to demine the staging area when they could be spared from CBG ASW picket defense. The USAF might also be able to carpet-bomb good-enough paths through near-shore mines. Once the B-21s and SACMs/lasers come online, they could potentially do anti-ASM work.

    I've written much, *much* more on how amphibious assaults could potentially be pulled off. I could link to it but it'll be "more of the same" and likely wouldn't be worth your time if you disliked the ideas mentioned above.

    Also, what did you think of Randall Rapps' treadmill powered props idea?


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