Monday, April 20, 2020

Eliminate Aviation Amphibious Ships

The Navy’s dilemma in amphibious assaults is that they don’t want to risk the high cost, high value ships like LHA/LHDs close to shore.  Well of course they don’t !  Those ships cost several billion dollars each and we have way too few to risk.  Unfortunately, that means we can’t actually execute an amphibious landing because the ships have to stay too far from shore for the landing craft to get there with the troops in any kind of functional condition.

What’s the problem?  Why has this situation occurred?  Can we do anything about it?

Let’s start by asking, why do we even have a problem?  It’s because we did something very foolish some time ago: we combined an aircraft carrier and a troop transport to get the LHA/LHD.  The LHA/LHDs are gigantic ships that cost a fortune and cram both the aviation element and the ground element together in the same ship.  Talk about concentrating risk!  If we lose a LHA/LHD, we lose both elements and several billion dollars worth of investment.

Wasp Class LHD - Ground + Aviation


Yeah, that’s true, you say, but that’s the way it’s always been.  Wrong, bilge breath!  In WWII those functions were separate.  Let’s recall how it was done then.

The aviation element, in WWII, was contained on a small escort carrier.  This carrier was free to maneuver and remain well off from the landing site because a few dozen, or more, miles meant nothing to the airplanes.  Thus, the carrier could provide effective support for the ground troops without having to risk the ship, itself.

The troop transports (APA attack transports) were free to move in near shore to unload their troops into landing craft.  Being smaller, with the risk widely dispersed, the transports were expendable in the sense that the loss of one would not cripple the entire assault.

We need to return to this model.  We need to separate the aviation and troop transport functions.

We need to build small carriers that house the assault aircraft and that have no other function.  These small carriers can stand as far off from the landing site as needed.

We also need to reevaluate what constitutes assault aircraft.  If the assault aircraft are dedicated to ground support (as opposed to air-to-air fleet defense) then they don’t necessarily need to be high performance stealth fighter designs.  They could, potentially be more akin to an A-10 or Skyraider.

We need to build small (on a relative basis) WWII type troop transports, each with a couple dozen landing craft (which also need to be designed and built).  This reduces the cost, disperses the risk, and makes a landing actually feasible again.

Attack Transport


Eliminating big deck amphibious ships and breaking them up into small, separate, ground support carriers and troop transports reduces risk, reduces cost, and increases the feasibility of amphibious assaults.  Let’s do it, Navy! 

133 comments:

  1. It seems to me that any capable adversary would be defending the beach with not just tanks, artillery and SSM trucks, but with mobile IADS. The Russians sell families of truck-based radars and SAMs on the export market.

    Stealth isn't a panacea cure, but it does give a bit more margin to operate in.

    Of course, as I said before, one has to wonder why the USMC's plans always assume a solo show. You would think that any objective worth invading is worth dedicating a CVM and its desron to support the landing. A solo show can only work against third world opponents - the same opponents that China's LHD fleet is being oriented to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think it would be sensible to land on a beach without destroying before most of mobile IADS.

      Also you would need artillery in the beach or near it to counter any sudden menace.

      You can save the cost of F35 for all that.

      Delete
    2. "I don't think it would be sensible to land on a beach without destroying before most of mobile IADS."

      You make a key point that many of us overlook. So many seem to have a vision of enemy defenses arrayed in neverending rows starting at the shoreline and lined up miles deep. The reality is that any visible defenses ought to have been destroyed or neutralized before the first landing craft is launched and any remaining defenses should be suppressed with area bombardment during the landing.

      Previously hidden defenses that pop up during the landing would be dealt with by naval gunfire or aircraft.

      Of course, this presupposes that we have some sort of bombardment capability - which we don't. Lacking that, we shouldn't even be contemplating an amphibious assault.

      Delete
    3. @Anonymous: Sure, but to head inland and attack SAM sites quickly, you're still going to need high performance aircraft, because the kinematics give you a margin of protection against SAMs. Stealth extends that margin.

      The problem is that the mobile IADS is mobile, and you can't just assume the adversary is going to be so obliging as to park his IADS in the open like Saddam did in Desert Storm.

      I think truck-SSMs are a bigger problem than people believe. You can stage them far back beyond the beach, pointed at the expected approaches, and fire the missiles on bearing-only launches. Yes, that's quite expensive, but there's only so many approaches to a beach one can take, and the cost of expending all those missiles might well be worth it, if it stalls out the US invasion.

      Delete
    4. "You can stage them far back beyond the beach,"

      If they're 'staged' then the moment the first launches we'll know where to attack them all. If, on the other hand, they remain mobile and run around the countryside, stopping to launch from time to time, they won't be capable of a concentrated, large salvo. Individual shots should be easily handled by the Aegis ships since Aegis was designed to handle saturation attacks. Only a massed salvo would have a chance to get through and do serious damage.

      It's the job of carrier aircraft to interdict likely SSM launch locations.

      People seem to think that one anti-ship missile equates to one automatic ship sinking. Historical data (not conjecture but actual data which I've cited in the past and which can be found in Hughes book) suggests a very poor success rate for anti-ship missiles even without the use of active defenses. Unless an enemy can coordinate a massed salvo of missiles, occasional random shots just aren't a serious threat.

      Delete
  2. LHDs and As carry both troops and aviation to perform air assaults. Each can launch up to ten helicopters simultaneously (though more likely 5-6). Splitting them up would greatly limit this capability.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In past posts we've demonstrated that aviation assaults are not feasible against any but a very low end, almost non-existent threat. Like an amphibious assault from 25-50 miles out, it's a non-viable capability. Therefore, splitting the function off is not a problem.

      Do two things:

      1. Go back and read the several posts on the topic of aviation assaults.

      2. Do the calculations yourself. Calculate how many troops can be moved with an entire MEU's helo/V-22 assets and compare that to the number of troops needed for a successful opposed assault (you might want to also factor in some realistic degree of helo attrition! See the Vietnam helo statistics to give you an idea of what's realistic. Then, when you realize how few troops can be transported, calculate the resupply capacity of helos versus the fuel, munitions, etc. required to sustain an assault.

      If you do this, you'll no longer have any argument with my conclusions and propositions.

      Delete
    2. A MEB is the smallest unit that would perform an opposed assault.

      There are up to 48 V-22s in a MEB. They can land around as many Marines in a single lift as were landed in the first wave of LVTs at Tarawa (~750).

      Add 32 CH-53s and the MEB could land more Marines than all three of the initial waves at Tarawa.

      Attrition is a big concern, for sure. The 40+ fighters and 18 AH-1s in the MEB would have to suppress defenses.

      And any assault this large would be likely be accompanied by several carrier battle groups as well.

      If it's a non-viable capability (it isn't), why split it off at all, making it even more worthless? Why not just get rid of it?

      Delete
    3. "Why not just get rid of it?"

      Exactly!

      Delete
    4. At Tarawa (Betio) the assault force landed around 7000 troops the first day and untold amounts of supplies. You're simply not going to be able to do that with helos/v-22s.

      Unless you think a landing will use every amphibious ship in the Navy (and it might!) those aircraft totals are inflated. While a MEB, organizationally, has control of large numbers of aircraft, the vast majority are land based. Finding ships to operate them will be a challenge and something we refuse to exercise. For example, there are only six fixed wing aircraft per LHD so you'd need 7 LHDs.

      I also note that you don't address supplies. Those same helos need to continually supply food, ammo, and fuel. However, they can't do both at the same time. They can do one or the other. Also, helos can't even begin to supply enough materiel to sustain an assault. I've done the calcs and posted on this.

      You need to work through the numbers on this. Not even the Marines claim to be able to conduct and sustain a major assault by air. The entire air assault concept is defunct.

      Delete
    5. Splitting the aviation and troop carrying functions doesn't detract from the air assault mission. Just make some cheap(er) transports with flat spots for the helos to pick up marines or some light equipment.

      Delete
    6. "There are up to 48 V-22s in a MEB. They can land around as many Marines in a single lift as were landed in the first wave of LVTs at Tarawa (~750)."

      V-22s have a ready rate of around 50%, so halve that number. And wargame their use at Tarawa. They'd have to land atop the Japanese and not would survive the small arms fire. In most areas of the world, LZs are limited, and will be mined and covered by fire so helo or V-22 landings would be foolish.

      Delete
    7. All this mental gymnastics is useless. The Commandant has already signaled we (the Marine Corps) are not going to be doing any forcible entries after 2030. He has set the course for the Marine Corps to be some sort of rocket troops. He does not want the large deck amphibs and wants something smaller and faster. Heck he even wants some sort of autonomous subsurface logistics vessel of some sort.

      Delete
    8. "All this mental gymnastics is useless."

      Well … yes, in a sense. The Commandant is certainly not going to suddenly change his mind and adopt our brilliant ideas. However, this kind of speculation serves a useful purpose by exploring options and creating alternatives. While the Commandant may not adopt any of these ideas, it doesn't mean that others won't read and be influenced and at some point in the future be in a position to act on them.

      If no one ever engaged in 'mental gymnastics' human progress would never occur! We, and our ideas, are the vanguard of the future and the hope of humanity!!!! … Okay, I may have gotten slightly carried away there, for a moment. The point is that I'm not going to stop thinking just because we have a Commandant who seems set on a different path. Remember, the reign of a Commandant is fairly short and another one will come along in a few years.

      Delete
    9. You bring up valid points....but within the "reign" of one Commandant, the die is cast for the next 2-3 in line. Look at the mess Amos left us with.

      Delete
  3. Mobile IADS is even more reason to separate the air and ground units. Aviation may need to stay high and well off the target while the ground element does its work.

    A proper gun armed ship would do a respectable job of suppressing those air defenses while we're at it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "A proper gun armed ship would do a respectable job of suppressing those air defenses while we're at it..."

      You speak truth!

      Delete
    2. I love big guns as much as anyone, but it begs the question of how much range do we need out of our guns, and what are the sacrifices we will need to accept in that design to get that range. Air defenses are fairly soft targets, but they don't have to be physically on the objective beach to defend it. As ComNavOps noted about AAW ships in the comments below:

      "Similarly, an AAW escort with SAMs that have ranges of a hundred miles don't need to be a hundred feet from the ship they're escorting. They should be one to several miles from the ship they're escorting and out along the threat axis."

      Surely the same logic also applies to mobile IADS and artillery?

      Perhaps AGS and LRLAP shouldn't have been cancelled, in order to fill this need? It strikes me that a gun with 200 km range would let your ships hold station 50km offshore, twice the distance of the radar horizon, while still having enough range to reach inland and suppress offset air defenses and tube artillery that's covering the shore. On the other hand, maybe the Navy would have still cancelled AGS anyway: unlike the Army, which is trying to get 70 mile range for its self-propelled guns and 1000 miles for theater-level artillery, outside of the railgun program the Navy doesn't really seem interested in long range guns.


      @ComNavOps: this is more a thought for the other blogpost, but it strikes me that if we assume that a defended beach is going to be pre-sighted with artillery, then the current generation of amphibious APCs and IFVs - AAV, ZTD-05, even ACV and Terrex - are not protected enough to last long enough on the beach. The standard protection measure is against airburst HE fragments, which is fine when you're being area bombarded by an enemy who's guessing where you are - but a presighted beach means the guns have a better chance of scoring direct hits with HE. Then again, no armored vehicle can really stand up to a direct hit from HE, so the point is moot, I suppose.

      Delete
    3. "begs the question of how much range do we need out of our guns"

      What you're really asking is what is the intended purpose of naval guns? Answer that and you'll know what range you need.

      My answer is that naval guns are intended to provide firepower support AT THE IMMEDIATE BEACHEAD (meaning up to 10-20 miles inland). Beachead gun support is intended to destroy disrupt enemy infantry, destroy fortifications, counterbattery mortars, disrupt any enemy armor that appears, and counterbattery enemy artillery that's in range. In other words, supply the firepower needed to assault and establish the immediate beachead. Longer range targets would be dealt with by cruise missiles and aircraft.

      Again, we have a tendency to try to make every platform a do-everything platform. There's no need for a naval gun to be designed to win a war single-handed. Naval guns are for up close and personal use. Missiles and aircraft provide the longer range firepower. Let each system do what it can do best.

      We can design a simple, basic, 10-20 mile range naval gun for a very affordable cost. If we try to make it a thousand mile, hypersonic, networked, guided munition then the cost quickly runs away and we get nothing (AGS/LRLAP). Stay basic and stay affordable. Let each asset do its thing and not try to do everything.

      Delete
    4. "don't have to be physically on the objective beach to defend it."

      Of course not! On the beach would be the worst possible place to be! Of course the trade off to being set much farther back is the increased difficulty in targeting. As I've so often said, it does not good to have a thousand mile missile if your targeting sensors can only see ten miles. Artillery and SAMs located 10-100 miles from the assault site are going to have a very difficult time 'seeing' targets. Unless, the defenses are situated on top of a mountain, looking down with a clear, unobstructed view, terrain alone is going to mask most of an assault force. The defenders will need remote sensors (UAVs or manned aircraft) and one of the major tasks of the aviation component will be to find and destroy those sensors before they can provide targeting information.

      Delete
    5. The best reason to cancel the AGS/ LRAP is that it was cheaper to send in a Tomahawk that had better range and a bigger warhead.

      Delete
    6. "Missiles and aircraft provide the longer range firepower."

      I guess part of my confusion here is because I've gotten the impression that you think guns are a better option for supporting the amphibious landing, as you suggest here when I brought up the idea of attaching a CVN to support an MEU's landing:

      "This would be viable only against a very small defending force. A carrier air wing is woefully insufficient for preparatory bombardment. I leave it to you to calculate the weight of explosives an air wing can reasonably deliver over time as compared to even a very small, low end WWII assault with cruisers and battleships and whatnot providing bombardment support."

      I'm not looking for an argument, just trying to understand the thinking.


      "My answer is that naval guns are intended to provide firepower support AT THE IMMEDIATE BEACHEAD (meaning up to 10-20 miles inland). Beachead gun support is intended to destroy disrupt enemy infantry, destroy fortifications, counterbattery mortars, disrupt any enemy armor that appears, and counterbattery enemy artillery that's in range."

      "We can design a simple, basic, 10-20 mile range naval gun for a very affordable cost. If we try to make it a thousand mile, hypersonic, networked, guided munition then the cost quickly runs away and we get nothing (AGS/LRLAP). Stay basic and stay affordable. Let each asset do its thing and not try to do everything."

      The "in range" is the operative aspect that concerns me. Don't get me wrong, I think the Navy made a mistake in passing over the 8" Mark 71, but the range concerns me. American 6" SPGs can easily shoot unguided rounds out to 24 miles, European SPGs can do up to 30 miles, rocket artillery gets us a 60 mile offset, and you've mentioned the dozens of miles offset that AAW assets can be sited at. But the math seems to me that naval gunfire just doesn't have the range to do what RE Jones is suggesting. it seems to me that a 20-mile naval gun doesn't have the range to suppress enemy fires coming in even 20 miles inland.

      You've said that long range attack against enemy indirect fires is going to be the job of aircraft, but we have to assume a competent adversary is going to have a sophisticated IADS protecting his long range firepower - if I could think of that idea, enemy planners certainly have done so. As you've noted, helicopters are vulnerable to ground fire, which to me suggests we will need high performance aircraft to swiftly penetrate the combat zone and suppress the air defenses.


      "Of course the trade off to being set much farther back is the increased difficulty in targeting."

      Perhaps, but if civilian enthusiasts like us can see the value of area bombardment with artillery, surely the adversary can also see that. I'd expect pre-sighted, preplanned fire missions covering the beach in fires once the bunkered defenders report "The Yankees are coming!", because 20 miles from the beach to the artillery park (or a retrans station) is nothing to run wired comms. If they've had time to prepare and strongpoint the beach, they should have done that as well. I can't imagine a defensive setup where the beach defenders have no observers with eyes on the beach to call fires. A well camoflaged foxhole that's running wires back 20 miles is pretty low signature.

      Delete
    7. "The defenders will need remote sensors (UAVs or manned aircraft) and one of the major tasks of the aviation component will be to find and destroy those sensors before they can provide targeting information."

      This is why I don't favor the air element being lower performance aircraft like the Skyraider or A-10, even though the Skyraider is my favorite WW2 aircraft: Even assuming the cruise missile strike was sucessful in suppressing the airbase, a competent adversary has already planned on hardening his airbases and we have to assume that he can still generate sorties to contest the air and take out attack aircraft hunting his tanks and arty. I'm reminded of A-4s being forced to tangle with MiGs in Vietnam and the Israeli-Arab wars.

      On the other hand, how much sensors do they *really* need if they've got pre-sighted guns performing pre-planned fire missions?

      Delete
    8. "the value of area bombardment with artillery"

      I've explained the concept but you seem to be ignoring it. Let's try turning it around. You've been looking at this from the enemy's POV. Try looking at it from the attacker's POV. How would you suppress enemy artillery situated beyond the range of your ship's guns?

      The answer is fairly obvious. You'd have counterbattery radar on your ships (Aegis is capable of it but the software hasn't been implemented for unknown reasons) which would instantaneously pinpoint the origin of the enemy artillery and then you'd vector waiting aircraft to attack within moments. At best, the enemy would get one free volley and then they'd be too busy running (being mobile!) too provide any effective sustained bombardment. No one claims that we can 100% prevent any enemy artillery round from being fired. What we want to do, and can reasonably do, is prevent any sustained, EFFECTIVE artillery attack.

      All we have to do is suppress the enemy artillery long enough to get our own long range, counterbattery artillery ashore.

      By the way, if we can develop long range land artillery, is there really any reason we can't develop an equally long range naval artillery?

      Delete
    9. " how much sensors do they *really* need if they've got pre-sighted guns performing pre-planned fire missions?"

      You seem to have an unrealistic idea of the enemy's ability to fire artillery with total impunity. I've described how an attacking force would suppress artillery.

      You also seem to have the idea that the purpose of an assault is to pile up on the beach so that the enemy can rain 'pre-sighted' artillery on us until we're destroyed. The goal of any assault is to GET OFF THE BEACH AND GET INLAND. Worst case, you'd have to drive through sporadic artillery but the moment you get off the beach, that threat greatly decreases.

      Delete
    10. "The answer is fairly obvious. You'd have counterbattery radar on your ships (Aegis is capable of it but the software hasn't been implemented for unknown reasons) which would instantaneously pinpoint the origin of the enemy artillery and then you'd vector waiting aircraft to attack within moments."

      Can this really be executed speedily though? I recall your discussion with Wild Goose previously on the delay involved in coordinating offboard sensors with C&C assets and then shooters. On the other hand, given the shorter distances involved, maybe the delay won't be so bad?

      But having aircraft waiting around... you'd still have to keep them at an offset, because this is a peer opponent with defended airspace, not permissive airspace with no effective AA like we see in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then again, the whole point of aircraft is that they can travel speedily...

      I'm reminded of the report of the USAF F-35 test squadron that practiced DACT with aggressors, and then immediately after went to the practice range to drop JDAMs. Something to be said for internal weapon bays!


      "By the way, if we can develop long range land artillery, is there really any reason we can't develop an equally long range naval artillery?"

      Supposedly isn't that what the railgun is for? Or so the navy claims, anyway.

      As I understand it, the reason the europeans can get more range out of the same caliber guns is because they use longer barrels and load more bag charges, which isn't something modern autoloaded naval guns really do, since it's all about one-piece ammunition now.


      "You also seem to have the idea that the purpose of an assault is to pile up on the beach so that the enemy can rain 'pre-sighted' artillery on us until we're destroyed. The goal of any assault is to GET OFF THE BEACH AND GET INLAND. Worst case, you'd have to drive through sporadic artillery but the moment you get off the beach, that threat greatly decreases."

      I think you've misunderstoodd me. No, I'm envisioning a mad dash across a beach littered with obstacles and artillery-scattered mines, while under steady fire from tube artillery dropping HE and HE-frag, and rocket artillery deploying submunitions, ala MRLS, the famous Grid Square Removal Service - and oh, as they're driving off the beach, they're running into infantry ATGMs, tanks and enemy IFVs, to say nothing of enemy helicopter gunships and tactical aviation.

      This is what confuses me, because when I read your posting and your comments, it seems as if both enemy beaches are going to be so defended as to be impossible to crack, and yet it also seems as if we can in fact get off the beach?

      If the artillery is going to be sporadic, if aircraft and naval gunfire are going to be able to destroy fixed defenses and suppress enemy artillery and air defenses, then doesn't that suggest instead that there is a possibility of sucessful amphibious assault? Or have I misunderstood you?

      Delete
    11. "doesn't that suggest instead that there is a possibility of sucessful amphibious assault? Or have I misunderstood you?"

      The only thing you misunderstand is that I discuss both sides of the same issue. Consider this fact: in modern times, meaning WWII and beyond, almost every amphibious assault ever attempted has been successful despite what would seem to be overwhelming advantages to the defense. Why is that? It's because the attacker is able to mass overwhelmingly superior forces AT THE MOMENT AND PLACE OF ATTACK.

      The fact that it requires overwhelming force for a successful amphibious assault speaks to the inherent advantages the defenders have as well as to the ability of the attacker to mass. So, everything I say about the attackers is true and everything I say about the defenders is also true. Victory will go to the side that best takes advantage of their inherent advantages. It will be easy for neither side!

      When I discuss amphibious assault, I do so from the perspective of the USMC and their non-viable assault doctrine and near total lack of appropriate equipment. In that case, the defenders have the overwhelming advantage. In conjunction with such a discussion, I also talk about what's theoretically needed to conduct a successful assault.

      Unless you're looking to argue for the sake of argument, it really isn't that difficult to understand both sides of the assault operation. That's all these types of discussions are: an examination of both sides of the operation, offense and defense, so as to better understand how to conduct either side. Do you understand?

      Delete
    12. We've gotten off track from where we started, which was yourself and RE Jones musing wistfully about the potential of naval guns to suppress air defenses. Which is all fine and well, but the fact is that naval guns with the range to suppress air defenses positioned at an offset from the beach objective DO NOT EXIST. If we start talking about how we can develop guns to reach inland and seize that objective, or how we can vector aircraft within moments... isn't that the same thinking and rationale from Navy leadership that leads to all these good ideas that don't pan out?

      I am just concerned that you may at times fall into the same traps as the Navy leadership. We're all only human, afterall.

      Delete
  4. In my humble opinion ships like the old Royal Navy "Roundtable" class is what you need with loads of cheap (relatively) close air support from a small /simple carrier. Fast jets from the big carriers further away. But as "opposed landings" are "no longer required", neither are the ships that enable them.
    h//en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_Table-class_landing_ship_logistics

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Royal Navy "Roundtable" class"

      Interesting. I wasn't familiar with that class. It appears to have been a cargo ship rather than a troop transport?

      Delete
    2. Had doors at the front so could be beached unloaded then pull back. They didn't use that facility in the Falkland's because the didn't want to damage the hull. As a consequence (from memory) two got bombed with loads of Deaths!!

      Delete
    3. "didn't use that facility in the Falkland's because the didn't want to damage the hull."

      Should this impact our thinking on the use of LSTs? A lot of people seem to want to use LSTs in the initial assault wave.

      Delete
    4. S"this impact our thinking on the use of LSTs?" Sorry not sure what you mean. But using something like this removes the need for ship to shore connectors for the vehicles / personnel on it. They are larger than most landing craft so can take more punishment and still deliver. However they are alot cheaper than the current amphibs. Added to the fact they have great utility for little ops, the UK ones also had decks to land a helecopter on. The roro facilities may well be useful for port seizure / defence. May be I'm just looking backwards, but several of these give you more permutations / options / resilience than one large ship.

      Delete
    5. "Should this impact our thinking on the use of LSTs? A lot of people seem to want to use LSTs in the initial assault wave."

      When I was in LSTs, we used them two ways. First, we carried the LVT's and would proceed across the line of departure(LOD) at the start of the assault, launching LVT's out the stern gate as the first wave of the assault, while other waves formed behind us. When that was completed we would withdraw and proceed to anchor. Once the beach-head was established, we would then beach and offload our other cargo over the bow ramp. We had two twin 3-inch mounts which could fire only aft, so we weren't going to shoot our way in anywhere. IIRC we could go up to 9,000 tons fully loaded, and could get the draft at the bow down to 2 feet, but to do that we drew 18-22 feet aft and that gradient didn't fit too many beaches. The one thing you couldn't afford to do was ground out aft first.

      Since we couldn't get a dry ramp many places, we carried up to 4 pontoon causeway sections that would be laid out between us and the beach, and the bow ramp would offload onto the causeways. We could also offload via the stern gate to LCMs or LCUs while anchored. The Brits had Mexeflote causeways that were self-propelled, so they could come out to a ship at anchor, offload via the bow ramp onto the causeway section, and then drive it to the beach.

      We carried up to 4 LCVPs in davits. We had a helo deck above the stern gate, but no hangar. We didn't have a well deck, so other than those and the LVTs, we didn't carry any ship-to-shore connectors. We didn't need ship-to-shore connectors in theory, but we used them often.

      They were workhorses. As Clive noted, they had great utility for smaller ops, and the RO-RO capability was useful port seizure/defense ops. Once we got to the beach/pier, we could unload or offload a lot in a hurry. They really gave a lot of options, and we used the heck out of those options.

      The Aussies bought two and converted them to an air assault role, removing the bow ramp and adding a hangar, and replacing the LCVPs with two LCM-8s. I think they could carry up to 3 and operate up to 4 helos. They used them a lot, but they were pretty worn out by the time they got them, so they didn't last long.

      I would like to see a return to real LSTs. I would want one in my PhibRon because of the versatility. As noted elsewhere, the blunt conventional LST bow limits them to about 18 knots, regardless of how much power you give them. But if you are willing to live with an 18-knot SOA, you get a much more capable LST, and the rest of your PhibRon can be a lot cheaper if you're not trying to squeeze an extra 2-3 knots out of the engineering plants. Nobody really transits much faster than 15 knots anyway. If the difference between 18 and 20 knots is critical, you probably had them located in the wrong place to begin with. So I'm trading 2 knots for a much more versatile and cheaper set of amphib ships.

      Delete
    6. Five Round Table-class LSL's were sent to the Falklands. A small ship at 5,550t displacement, they were intended to carry cargo, vehicles, helicopters and upto 534 troops for a single trip from point to point in spartan conditions.

      Optimised for UK to Europe operations, their poor seakeeping limited their approach to the Falklands, but did not prevent it. They were not beached, on D-Day primarily because only one captain had ever beached one before, due to peacetime concern about hull damage. At Bluff cove, where one was lost, they were not beached because it was felt there were no suitable beaches at that location.

      However, they did sterling work, and were available in enough numbers that they could be, and were, risked close to the enemy. The loss of one to air attack did not prevent a successful outcome to the campaign.

      They provide a recent real-world example of a small focused design available in numbers doing useful work, where the big mission-critical craft cannot be risked.

      Delete
    7. "Interesting. I wasn't familiar with that class. It appears to have been a cargo ship rather than a troop transport?"

      We operated with them in the Mideast in 1970-71, before the Brits bailed out east of Suez in mid-1971. They were about 6,000 tons and carried 400 troops and around 1,300 tons of cargo. They were named for knights of the Round Table--Sir Lancelot, Sir Bedivere, and others. There were a total of 7. They were operated by the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary, similar to our MSC). They were designated LSL, landing ship logistics, although they were clearly LSTs with a beaching capability.

      Delete
    8. "When I was in LSTs, we used them two ways. "

      This is the key aspect to an LST that most people don't grasp. The LST is NOT an initial wave landing craft. It's a follow on resupply vessel as you note in your comment.

      We need to solve the initial assault problems before we can even begin to entertain the notion of LSTs. Right now, we can't get any troops ashore in an initial wave because we want to stand 25-50 miles off.

      So, turn your attention to the initial wave. How do we accomplish that?

      Delete
    9. I justed wanted to state here that I really enjoyed reading CDR Chip's stories and opinions from his past experience. Thank you.

      Delete
  5. Not going to lie i always was thinking that this was a odd set up. Also the fact that the Nimitz classes where all the rage and took the high performance fighters into the fight. It would have been nice if the last of the conventional carriers or a new class of Mid/Light carrier was built for this task and still accomplish the maritime missions needed. To be honest a Nimitz for certain task is over kill and a big threat to a national treasure.

    But yeah they need to rethink this and in the current environment its not gonna happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "would have been nice if the last of the conventional carriers or a new class of Mid/Light carrier was built for this task "

      I assume you mean a conventional/mid/light carrier for the ground support role? If so, you first need to remember that a carrier is irrelevant. It's the air wing that matters. So, you first need to 'design' the air wing and then you can worry about what kind of carrier is needed to host it.

      For example, if you were to conclude that the air wing needed to be all helos, that would require a vastly different carrier than if the air wing was all giant bombers. And so on …

      So, what kind of air wing do you see being needed for short range (by aircraft standards) ground support? What types of aircraft? How many (need to estimate payloads to achieve useful effects)?

      Answer that and then the form of the carrier will become obvious.

      I think you've brought up a fascinating aspect. Now, follow through on it for us!

      Delete
    2. With the AF dying to get rid of the A-10, maybe let them?!? Modify them for folding wings, tailhook, cat gear, corrosion resistance, etc, and build the Marine squadrons around them rather than the F-35!! I understand theyre getting old, so maybe a new run of them, but navalized?? Leave the air dominance fighter work to the Navy, and under their umbrella let the Marines do their own CAS. I could imagine a use for a slower, Forrestal-sized ship just to embark Marine CAS, with a minimal CAP embarked, since they would only operate with regular big decks. They wouldnt need their own embarked AEW, and probably not even tanking. A ship with 65+ A-10s, once given the ability to get close by the big decks and combined ops, would give the Marines a huge percentage of the support they need.
      There could certainly be a use for even cheaper attack planes like the Tucano, but the A-10 seems like an awful good template for a Marine CAS plane, with good payload, simplicity,redundancy, and survivability. And it, along with its maintenance and supply chains, already exist!!

      Delete
    3. Also, refocusing Marine air strictly to CAS, the L-class ships can go back to focusing on getting Marines ashore. The aviation-centric ships are a waste, but since we have them, lets put the "H" back in LHA, and do away with the VTOL F-35 entirely. Of course we should steer back towards more conventional troopship/landing craft ideas in significant numbers.
      Another though on restructuring airwings... By creating strictly CAS Marine squadrons, if they dont have their own purpose built ships, I could envision our 3 or 4 CVN group, once having sanitized an area before an amphib landing, then having one or more ships sending their fighters ashore and then bringing the Marine CAS squadrons aboard just prior to the assault. Its a gamble between reduced/simplified logistics for the Marine squadrons and "putting eggs in one basket" by designating one CVN as the CAS ship vs spreading them out across multiple ships, so that's somthing to be considered as well...

      Delete
    4. @Jjabatie

      Love your ideas in these posts.

      Delete
    5. "So, what kind of air wing do you see being needed for short range (by aircraft standards) ground support? What types of aircraft? How many (need to estimate payloads to achieve useful effects)?
      Answer that and then the form of the carrier will become obvious."

      I think the Navy/Marines really need three different aircraft, and are trying to fill all three requirements (poorly) with the F-35.

      Fighter/interceptor - long-range sensors and weapons, good maneuverability and visibility if it gets into a dogfight

      Attack - stealth, long legs, and a big weapons capacity

      Marine CAS - good weapons capacity, doesn't need long range, would be nice if it could go ashore and operate off short, unprepared strips

      F-35 is none of those three airplanes. And trying to make it fit all three roles has driven the cost up astronomically. F-18 can probably work for the interceptor/fighter, or something like the French Rafale. F-35 doesn't have long enough legs or enough weapons load for the attack role. Eurofighter Typhoon has decent range and weapons load, but not stealth. This will require a new design. I kind of like something like the SAAB Gripen for the Marine role--10,000 pound weapon load, can operate off a quarter mile paved to half mile unprepared strip, Mach 2 over the top, and cheap. There is a navalized Sea Gripen model that has been proposed, but as far as I know never built.

      In that context, the CVN needs to be something like a Nimitz with an air wing of 80 or so, including interceptor/fighters and attack aircraft. The mid/light carrier could be something in the RN Audacious up to USS Midway size range. I am wondering if the LHAs/LHDs could be adapted for that role, since I'd hate to Sinkex $3-4B and we really don't have anything else for them to do. They are about the same size as the Audacious class were originally. That would seem to suggest that you could widen the flight deck enough with sponsons to fit an angled deck and cats. Get rid of the troop berthing and troop equipment spaces and you could probably carry a decent number of aircraft. I'm not sure they'd be fast enough with their amphib power plants, and upgrading those sounds expensive. Or maybe the Marines would be happy just keeping their F-35B's and operating them as "Lightning Carriers" for a couple of decades. Given our present system, it would probably take that long to get a replacement airplane into service.

      Delete
    6. " I kind of like something like the SAAB Gripen for the Marine role"

      I don't know much about the Gripen but my question for it (or any prospective ground support aircraft) is what makes it ideal for the role? Think about the characteristics you'd want for a ground support aircraft: very rugged construction to absorb the inevitable damage, stable 'self-flying' form so it can fly when a wing has been shot off, large weapons load, extended loiter time, very good low speed handling, excellent air to ground sensors, specialized air to ground communications capability, very good IR missile detection and automated defense, good acceleration without afterburner for aggressive egress, very good carrier landing characteristics, ?two seat?, good groundward visibility, highly redundant flight surfaces and flight controls to allow for extensive damage, etc. Does that sound like a Gripen? If so, you've got your aircraft. If not, keep looking.

      Delete
    7. The navy needs an F-22 adapted for carriers to fill the former role of the F-14.

      The CAS role should be filled by new construction A-10's redesigned for carrier ops.

      I don't know what the correct aircraft is for the strike role. The F-35?

      Delete
    8. "I don't know what the correct aircraft is for the strike role. The F-35?"

      I've stated that there is no need for strike aircraft. Strike is better performed by Tomahawk cruise missiles. They have a thousand mile range, are unmanned, and cost nothing compared to a manned aircraft.

      Delete
  6. How easy is it to build a light but slealthy / semi Stealthy aircraft for just CAS? A Stealthy tuccano as it were. Cheap/rugged/easy to maintain / learn how to fly. No cats and traps on the carrier. Probably impossible (or deliberately made impossible) but used with constant cheap drones flying overhead and the odd "big boys" stealth fighter knocking out SAM's etc, I recon would give the landing force alot more chance of succeeding.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Not sure whether those small carriers would be needed in such a situation.
    Using a carrier group for air power and some big-gun "cruisers" for shore defense destruction sounds cheaper and more effective to me.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I agree with the broad thrust of your post.
    However I have to quibble on one point - escort carriers in WW2 were not limited to CAS - they also filled the important role of CAP over the assault beaches, ASW for the amphibious force (or convoys etc) and took part in strike roles when convenient.
    Escort carriers in WW2 embarked the exact same type of aircraft as fleet carriers, though they usually carried a lot more HE ammunition for ground attack.

    So while their primary role in an amphibious assault was CAS, they were also expected to contribute to CAP and they handled the bulk of the aviation component of ASW.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "quibble on one point - escort carriers in WW2 were not limited to CAS"

      Never said they were!

      "Escort carriers in WW2 embarked the exact same type of aircraft as fleet carriers"

      And that's an interesting aspect to consider. Today, we've become so specialized that a good CAS aircraft, like the A-10, is not even remotely capable of air-to-air. Conversely, an F-22/35 is not capable of EFFECTIVE CAS despite what the AF might have us believe.

      What is this telling us about today's aircraft, if anything?

      By the way, I'll match your quibble on one point - escort carriers that performed ASW were almost exclusively Wildcats and Avengers. They did not typically operate the front line Hellcats.

      Delete
    2. I guess I would just want to expand on that first point. If you see Fleet carriers as preforming a fleet-in-being or screening role, and want to leave the amphibious operation air support to these new theoretical, modern escort carriers we're talking about, then they'll need to handle CAP and ASW as well as CAS.

      One other factor on that - in WW2, fleet carrier air wings were heavily involved in CAS during many amphibious assaults. It wasn't only left to the escort carriers. The escort carriers tended to be ever present in a way that the fleet carriers weren't as the war went on. (I presume we're talking about the island hopping offensive here of course - from Tarawa onwards - because prior to that amphibious assaults were carried out with whatever means were at hand, rather than being protected by the behemoth that Fifth Fleet became from late '43 onwards).

      In fact, in other parts of the Pacific, massed carrier support wasn't necessary, as there were allied held airfields in range of landing sites in most cases, and CAS and CAP were preformed by land based aircraft for the most part (e.g. Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Bougainville etc.), so I presume were talking about a specific scenario where a theoretical assault is being made on an island outside of range of land based air support. Thats something to think about - aircraft have far greater ranges now, particularly with aerial refuelling. Maybe carriers are not going to be as crucial as they were in the 1940s, when they were the only way to get aircraft in range of assaults being made int he Central Pacific.

      On your point about Hellcats, that's true - most escort carriers didn't have them (though some did). So I guess it's not true to say the fielded all the same aircraft that fleet carriers did. The aircraft they did carry were aircraft that fleet carriers did field though. i.e. they weren't escort carrier specific aircraft.
      They just fielded the aircraft that were in production or available.

      Things are a little different now of course. Jet aircraft are lot bigger and heavier than WW2 aircraft. There's a limit to the comparisons you can make.

      Delete
    3. "Jet aircraft are lot bigger and heavier than WW2 aircraft. There's a limit to the comparisons you can make."

      So, how does that impact our thinking on escort carriers? For example, WWII escort carriers were markedly smaller than the fleet carriers but an 'escort carrier' today, if it's going to operate fleet carrier aircraft, couldn't be much smaller because of the need for the same size cats, traps, etc. Similarly, a WWII escort carrier was, essentially, a commercial cargo ship with a flat deck (some were literally that!). That's not possible today. Does any of this change our thinking?

      Delete
    4. "they'll need to handle CAP and ASW"

      Not really. This is why we have (or should have!) a balanced fleet.

      ASW should be performed by destroyers and destroyer escorts - see the Fleet Structure page.

      CAP, to a limited degree, might be performed but screening CVN groups would perform the bulk of that role and the escorting Aegis ships would take of any immediate aircraft/missile threats.

      So many people want to design each ship to be a do-everything platform instead of understanding that a fleet fights together with each ship/aircraft doing its part instead of every part.

      Delete
    5. "fleet carrier air wings were heavily involved in CAS during many amphibious assaults."

      On occasion, yes, however the main role of the fleet carriers in amphibious assaults was to range far out along the threat axes to INTERDICT ship and aircraft threats to the amphibious fleet long before they reached the fleet. Leyte was a good example of that. The fleet carriers were well removed from the assault site (decoyed out of position, actually) while the escort carriers directly supported the assault and wound up fighting the Japanese ships because the fleet carriers wound up missing the main threat.

      Delete
    6. When you look at all the systems we field, planes, ships, etc, it seems that the biggest problem is the 'multirole' mentality. Its created swiss army knives, when we need scalpels and hammers!! (Theres a reason mechanics have a toolbox full of specific tools vs a swiss army knife in their pocket!!) We need to build mission specific tools, and accept that they can be of absolutely no value in certain situations, but optimized for their intended task.

      Delete
    7. On ASW - I actually sort of agree with you on this. ASW has an aerial component and has since WW2. But that aerial component is largely filled by the helos carried by frigates and destroyers etc, rather than being filled by escort carrier based planes as it was in WW2.
      Perhaps that aspect of escort carrier utility is no longer really relevant.
      Speaks to my point that you can only draw so many conclusions from WW2 tactics. Things have changed in some ways.

      In terms of CAP - If you really want to free up your fleet carriers, then they can't be tied to the beachhead providing air cover. You can't have it both ways - if you assign CAP to the fleet carriers, they are now tied to the beachhead. They have to stay at a predictable distance from the amphibious assault zone, and have to devote a significant proportion of their assets to the CAP role. You then lose the flexibility and fleet-in-being role you presumably are advocating they should have.

      Delete
    8. "CAP"

      You may not be recognizing what CAP is and isn't, today. In WWII, CAP existed to provide a layer of defense further out than the range of the ship's guns. Today, however, missiles can provide AAW at great distances, assuming the incoming aircraft can be detected. Incoming missiles are not really susceptible to CAP interception and are left for ship AAW to deal with. Thus, CAP is almost unnecessary unless you have a specially designed, dedicated, very long range interceptor (conceptually akin to a F-14 Tomcat) that can push the protection out several hundred miles.

      In an amphibious assault scenario, the source of enemy aircraft will be well known (enemy bases) and this is the function of the roving CVN group, to interdict the enemy air AT THE SOURCE. Thus, the place to apply the 'CAP' is at the enemy base! Tomahawks are a great way to do this effectively.

      Thus, having a few aircraft circling overhead an amphibious assault is not effective. Given the speed of modern aircraft, the odds of a traditional CAP being able to intercept incoming aircraft is poor. Most likely, the CAP would just wind up interfering with the ship's AAW and be ordered out of the area - in which case, why have them?

      As you say about the lessons of WWII, CAP is one of those lessons that has changed significantly.

      In the specific

      Delete
    9. Leyte is an example of how not to do it, as you infer.
      The fleet carriers and light carriers were separated from the assault force, and the division of capital ships was made primarily on speed - i.e. all the faster ships went with the fleet/light carriers and the older, slower ships and escort carriers stayed near the shore.

      But as you are no doubt aware, the fleet carriers are still supposed to stay within range of the amphibious force.
      Ironically, at the time, Spruance was heavily criticised for not chasing down the remaining Japanese fleet elements after he had decisively won the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and Halsley's appointment to oversea the Fifth Fleet at Leyte was seen by many as being prompted by a desire for a more aggressive commander who would chase down any Japanese fleet elements.
      In retrospect, Spruance was 100% right to stay within range of his amphibious assault force, and Hasley was wrong to go tearing off after what was actually a decoy fleet.

      I guess all I'm saying is that while fleet carriers did stay further from the beachhead, and were a screening and overwatch force, they were, when used correctly, still tied to the beachhead to all intents and purposes.
      At least when used correctly.

      Delete
    10. I take your point on CAP to some extent. It is 100% different now. The fact that planes have vastly greater ranges, that aerial refuelling is a thing, and the existence of missiles means that we have to be very careful about deriving direct lessons from the Pacific War.
      While broad strategic considerations remain mostly the same, tactically, things are every different now.
      I've also been using the term lazily - CAP is something specifically tied to protecting the fleet technically. What I really meant was the establishment of localised air superiority over the amphibious assault zone.
      In trying to derive lessons, one of the issues faced is that we haven't actually had any kind of large scale naval warfare in the modern era.
      Most of what we say is conjecture, which has the benefit that it's hard to be proven wrong, but the negative that i's hard to prove anything is right.

      In terms of an amphibious assault, yes the primary threat will be anti-ship missiles.
      So the primary role of aircraft in regard to that, in my opinion. is going to suppression of ground based anti-ship missile batteries and radars.
      It's another specific topic, but we need to think more about naval Wild Weasel style aircraft but specifically for land based surface search radar.

      In terms of air superiority to enable the amphibious assault - it will still be necessary in my view - because the enemy while still attempt to interdict not just the amphibious forces with land based anti-ship missiles, but also with long range air attack. They may also attempt to provide the defending force with it's own CAS to defeat the amphibious assault.

      Of course this air superiority won't be directly over the beachhead (it rarely was in WW2 either by the by), but at long range to attempt to interdict aerial attacks on the beachhead.
      The ranges are longer now, but that principal held in WW2 as well. It's one of the reasons soldiers at Dunkirk cursed the RAF for not dogfighting right overhead, when in fact they were fighting furiously, but further away from the beachhead, inland and in the Channel.

      Delete
    11. "Leyte is an example of how not to do it, as you infer."

      To be fair, we're looking at it from the perspective of perfect hindsight. At the time, no one anticipated a naval battleship suicide sortie. Our disposition of forces was fine by any reasonable standard. The Japanese simply came up with an unreasonable action and it succeeded in pulling the fleet carriers away. Sometimes the enemy does something right (to the extent that you classify a battleship suicide sortie as 'right').

      Delete
    12. "interdict aerial attacks"

      The most effective way to interdict aerial attacks is at the source, as I said. If you bombard the airbases that are within range with cruise missiles, you eliminate aerial counterattack, at least long enough to establish your beachead. That kind of long range, source interdiction is best done by carrier groups where the carriers escort and protect the Tomahawk shooting Burkes. Of course, hopefully, the Air Force can chip in with some bomber strikes, too.

      Delete
    13. I think you're cutting Halsey an enormous amount of slack.
      At the time (as in during the battle itself) many of his subordinate commanders tried in vain to dissuade him from pursuing the IJN carriers without leaving sufficient protection to the landing forces, including Arleigh Burke.
      After the battle he was bitterly criticised by Kinkaid, Spraugue, Lee and a bunch of the other Admirals. I think the criticism was deserved.

      In terms of interdicting aerial attack - Halsey also thought that way, while Spruance focused on defense (i.e. vectoring aircraft to intercept Japanese aerial attacks, rather than focusing on attacking them at source).

      I don't think it's an either or decision.
      You should bombard airfields in anticipation of an airborne assault.
      That doesn't mean you can assume that your bombardment has been so successful that you don't need to provide air cover.

      Delete
    14. *amphibious assault

      Delete
    15. "In terms of interdicting aerial attack - Halsey also thought that way,"

      And he was both right and successful. Leyte was not threatened by aerial attack. The surprise was a battleship suicide sortie which no one (including any of the admirals who disagreed with Halsey) anticipated.

      Aircraft carriers were the main threat in WWII. At the time, Halsey couldn't know that the Japanese had no effective air wings left. He had to assume that the carriers represented a real threat. As it turned out, he made the wrong choice but at the moment, it's hard to criticize. I think you're applying too much hindsight to your criticism.

      Delete
    16. So I have got to disagree with you. Not only were battleships a known threat in general, at the time of the battle, virtually Halsey's entire subordinate command thought he was making the wrong decision. Not in hindsight, at the time he gave the order - like I said Arleigh Burke (a commodore at the time), actively tried to stop Halsey going off after the IJN carriers without leaving sufficient protection to cover the San Bernadino Strait.
      Nimitz saw the problem from thousands of miles away in Hawaii during the battle and cabled his criticism to Halsey (which famously brought him to tears).
      Almost every single admiral under Halsey saw the problem at the time, tried to change his mind and criticised him afterward.
      It was the worst decision of his career, and would have cost a less popular admiral his job.

      And the threat to the amphibious forces wasn't theoretical or unpredictable - Kurita's centre force was not unknown when Halsey made his decision. The Americans had been attacking it for hours with aircraft and submarines. A reconnaissance flight from Independence has informed Halsey's command that the centre force, after briefly turning away, had turned back and was heading straight for San Bernadino Strait.

      A the time Halsey made his decision, his battleship commander, Vice Admiral Lee, had already worked out that the carriers were a decoy and said this to Halsey's command in form of a blinker message. Admiral Bogan also sent a blinker message to Halsey's ship, requesting he leave sufficient forces to protect the strait. Both admirals had correctly deduced the situation, and it was simply Halsey's obstinance that prevented the correct decision being made.

      In terms of Japanese aircraft - all of Halsey's intelligence indicated that the carriers posed little threat and that there was a battleship group steaming directly for the San Bernadino Strait and the amphibious force. Halsey just chose to ignore this information, to the frustration of virtually his entire command staff. Admiral Mitscher has repeatedly told him that the carriers were no real threat.

      I find it easy to criticise him - as did Clifton Sprague when he said "In the absence of any information... it was logical to assume that our northern flank could not be exposed without ample warning."

      Nimitz considered firing Halsey after the battle, but felt that he had earned the right to a mistake, even one as bad as the one he made at Leyte.

      I really don't know how you can defend him. None of his fellow commanders would agree with you.

      In regard to interdicting air attack - I agree with Spruance more than Halsey.

      Spruance's force at the Philippine Sea suffered no significant damage. At Leyte Gulf Halsey's carriers were trying to neutralize the enemy airfields and attack the enemy fleet simultaneously.
      A Japanese bomber managed to evade the Combat Air Patrols to fatally cripple the light carrier USS Princeton. Likewise, during the carrier-based air raids, U.S. carriers were in a vulnerable position due to readiness to launch strikes, and the low visibility coupled with radar confusion let a Japanese bomber slip through and severely damage USS Franklin.

      Delete
  9. "We need to build small (on a relative basis) WWII type troop transports, each with a couple dozen landing craft (which also need to be designed and built)."

    You recent topic on the ACV got me wondering. Looking at the specs, it would appear the LVT could still do the role, particularly when compared to the ACV and the AA7V.

    My question is, would other WW2 designs still be capable in a modern setting? Personally, I feel so, but I could be overlooking something.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "would other WW2 designs still be capable in a modern setting?"

      It all depends what specific task you're considering. For example, a Higgins boat could still transport troops to a beach as well as anything we have today. The LVT(A)-4, amphibious light 'tank' is far superior to anything we have to day. WWII self-propelled guns, if you updated their fire control, would still be effective. And so on.

      Getting slightly more modern, the old Skyraider would still make a very effective close air support platform in lower threat, 'peacetime' environments.

      Delete
    2. A WWII Iowa class battleship would rule the seas, today!

      Delete
    3. There was a turbine powered Skyraider, the Skyshark,
      killed by the evil XT-40 turboprop. Put a working turbine in it, and bobs your uncle.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A2D_Skyshark

      Delete
    4. "There was a turbine powered Skyraider, the Skyshark,"

      Fascinating! Thanks for the heads up on that!

      Delete
  10. On SNAFU site, couple of nice pictures of USS America operating F35Bs, I guess USA sending a message to China? LOL! Ive seen a few people ask the same question: where is the escort? I mean, not even a DDG is with her...isn't that a little odd? I know it's peacetime but still, just seems a bit odd to me too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea what the escort situation is for the America but I note that ARGs have typically deployed without any escorts. You'll recall the post some time ago about the Navy admiral that expressed surprise and delight in having discovered that an ARG with a destroyer was some kind of new and wondrous creation?

      That said, we've grown up used to seeing peacetime pictures of multiple ships sailing a hundred yards apart and come to believe that's what an escort does. THAT'S WRONG! In combat, escorts would be spread out over many, many miles. For example, an ASW escort ought to be 10-20+ miles from the ship it's escorting in order to find subs BEFORE they reach launch range. Similarly, an AAW escort with SAMs that have ranges of a hundred miles don't need to be a hundred feet from the ship they're escorting. They should be one to several miles from the ship they're escorting and out along the threat axis.

      We all need to start thinking in combat mode. The Navy, in particular, needs to start routinely operating in combat mode (you fight like you train).

      Delete
  11. I've long been on the record favoring more cheaper and smaller amphibs, rather than the all the eggs in one basket approach of the LHA/LHD. The current PhibRon consists of an LHA/LHD ($3.5B) with a San Antonio class LPD ($1.7B) and an LSD ($325MM) or $5.5B for a squadron that can haul 2700 troops plus equipment.

    I wouldn't build all LPAs, though. I'd have some variety, to provide different capabilities that could be used in different situations. I have proposed a fibrin that would consist of 6 smaller and more versatile ships--a smaller LHA/LHD like Spanish Juan Carlos or Australian Canberra ($1.7B, 913 troops); an LPH, like the French Mistral, that all has a well deck ($650MM, 450 troops). an LPD/LSD like British Albion ($550MM. 405 troops), an LST like the British Round Table class or the Turkish Bayraktar class ($500MM, 450 troops), an LPA/LKA which would carry a lot of troops plus some heavy cargo ($500MM, 750 troops), and a land attack frigate with 5-inch guns and anti-surface missiles, plus the ability to land special forces ($500MM, 100 commandos). This squadron would cost $4.4B to construct and carry 3,068 troops plus their equipment. Even with some cost inflation, this would still be a significantly cheaper option and carry more troops. Plus they would be dispersed on a larger number of cheaper platforms, which could be risked close enough in to conduct a legitimate amphibious assault.

    The one disadvantage is that SOA would drop from 20 knots, because 1) that's fast as you can drive an LST hull form through the water, and 2) one way to save money is to accept less speed from your ships. But if the difference between 18 knots and 20 is fatal, then you had them in the wrong place to begin with.

    One interesting thing about the British Round Table class is that they were operated as RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary, equivalent to our MSC) ships rather than commissioned naval ships.

    ReplyDelete
  12. ...and there has been no improvement in ship hull design in 70+ years?...

    ReplyDelete
  13. A few points to Anon’s multiple posts:
    1) aircraft stealth has little value: low rate insurgents don’t have radar; anyone who has radar will target the ship carrying the aircraft with missiles and defend likely CAS runs with AA fire.
    2) Half of the 48 V-22s in a MEB are typically available and hot scenarios like the South China Sea cut advertised loads greatly (say... half?). That means we have the equivalent of 12 fully capable MV22s with long shuttle times.
    3) because of #2, it makes sense to get Marines off aviation based amphibs and only keep a platoon sized force on the amphib for raids. The majority of Marines need to be on ships that can get close to shore and send vehicles that swim ashore like ACVs.
    4) F-35s from L-class carriers make great patrol carriers to augment or replace CVNs in low intensity scenarios but carry too light of a load to provide significant CAS. Make F-35 amphibs to pick up the load of CVNs. Only dedicated NGF and a dedicated CAS aircraft such as a T-6/Tucano/A-10 can provide the ordnance and sortie rates required.
    5) Because of 4, maybe we need cheap dedicated NGF platforms with 155mm or 8 inch guns and cheap (MLP’s?) to stay over the horizon and launch modern A-1 Skyraiders and A-10 types.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "and there has been no improvement in ship hull design in 70+ years?"

    The problem with the T is the unique hull form required for beaching. It is a very blunt bow with a flat bottom. We haven't been able to design a faster hull that will beach. It's been explained to me as kind of like trying to drive a nail, head-first. No matter how much power you put behind it, it will only go so fast.

    The Navy tried a different approach with the Newport class. They gave it a clipper bow, which enabled a 20 knot SOA, but required a ramp that extended over the bow and into the water some 100 feet ahead of the bow. Even with this ramp extension, it could only get a dry ramp on about 3% of the world's beaches.

    The ramp was notorious for failures. The controls were solid-state and exposed fully to weather on the bow. My ETs used to have to help the electricians maintain it and get it up and running every time we wanted to use it. One of the T's in Little Creek, I think it was La Moure County, tried to extend the bow ramp at the pier one day, and ended up launching it into the parking lot. It was not a highly reliable system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One "new" idea is the Stern Landing Vessel. Basically put the ramp in the stern and back into shore. There are some advantages, but it hasn't been tested on an LST-sized vessel.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnfVxP67w_Y

      Delete
    2. "Stern Landing Vessel."

      Interesting. Thanks for the video link. Some of the claimed benefits were a bit contrived by comparing it to a very small LCU type vessel but the concept is interesting, nonetheless.

      The video claims the stern props are protected but they don't describe how. It's hard to imagine that they wouldn't become buried in the beach!

      Delete
    3. They describe it as a "quad screw, twin skeg" design. Perhaps the skegs protect the screws when beaching?

      Delete
    4. Looking at the videos, they seem to be operating mostly in freshwater locations. I'm just not sure they would work with the gradients of most salt-water beaches. I wonder if a water jet would work. That would at least protect the props.

      Delete
    5. I kind of like the French L-CAT EDA-R.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4C6oXN9HqA

      One thing I like about it better than a lot of the Navy's ideas is that it already exists and is already operating. Surely we could license-build or reverse engineer it.

      Delete
    6. "I kind of like the French L-CAT"

      For what?

      Delete
    7. As a connector. It does 20 knots in catamaran mode, and then for beaching the cargo area lowers to create a flat bottom. I will haul 80 tons. With your 30-minute rule, that would mean 10 miles offshore would be okay, although I would always want to bring them in closer.

      The Mistral class can carry two of them, and they could also presumably go in LSDs/LPDs.

      I would like some of those, and also something like the Chinese ZBD-5 and ZTD-5. I like having cannons come ashore in the first wave.

      Delete
    8. "As a connector."

      It's significantly larger and slower than an LCAC which the Navy has deemed non-survivable in a contested environment and unsuited for initial assault waves. So, what function would this perform?

      Delete
    9. I thought a lot of the LCAC problems were its own reliability.

      I guess I'm not understanding exactly where you are trying to go. You seem to want an amphib fleet of LPAs with a bunch of smaller boats as connectors to get troops ashore, but on the other hand you seem to think tanks and artillery are indispensable. Who brings those tanks and artillery pieces to the amphibious operating area, and how do they get ashore?

      Delete
    10. I thought the big problem with the LCAC was running it a 50 mile round trip back and forth to a LHA/LHD/LPD/LSD that was 25 miles offshore. I'm not talking about having anybody 25 miles offshore, except maybe my Juan Carlos/Canberra which will primarily carry the air element. I would plan to bring everybody else in to around 5 miles or so, 10 at the most. And I'm big on having firepower ashore early. That's why I like the Chinese ZTD-5 and ZBD-5 in the first wave. And they are a lot faster in the water than anything we have too. Then, to get real tanks and artillery ashore ASAP, I don't see a better option than the L-CAT. 80 tons, 20 knots, seems pretty useful to me. Certainly faster than an LCU or even LCM-8. I'm kind of going back and rethinking the whole amphibious assault problem, and it seems a useful connector to me. I guess my question is what better?

      Delete
    11. They are based on a proven civilian design. I think the concept is port to beach on one vessel. Here's a page of civilian craft https://www.seatransport.com/cargo-ship-workboats/.

      Delete
    12. "They are based on a proven civilian design."

      I just still worry about the props. I guess if in any of the materials they showed exactly how that arrangement is laid out and how the props are protected, maybe I'd feel better about that. I know that on the LST were were always making certain that we wouldn't' ground out aft first. I wonder if water jets wouldn't make more sense.

      I also wonder how that would transit to the AOA. Does it fit inside an LHA/LHD/LPD/LSD? Or would it load out in the departure port and sail on its own.

      Interesting concept, just not sure how some important details work.

      Delete
    13. "I thought a lot of the LCAC problems were its own reliability."

      There's that, too!

      "I guess I'm not understanding exactly where you are trying to go. ... Who brings those tanks and artillery pieces to the amphibious operating area, and how do they get ashore?"

      That's the million dollar question, isn't it? What we have can't work and nothing out there in the world can, either! I've documented all that quite thoroughly. So, what are we to do? We either need to design and build amphibious tanks and/or we need to design a brand new, never before done landing craft for tanks and heavy equipment. Conceptually, picture a Higgins boat sized to fit one tank. Now that we know what we need, all that's left is to actually design it!

      The problem with the LCAC or, even worse, the L-CAT, is that is carries TOO MUCH STUFF! When one is lost - and they will be because they're slow (relative to missiles and rockets) - we'll lose way too much troops and equipment to justify the risk. We need a one-tank landing craft so that if we lose it, we just lose one tank.

      Does that make sense?

      Delete
    14. "Does that make sense?"

      OK, so we need a new generation of connectors. I don't think there's any doubt there. But if you just build LPAs, how do you haul the tanks and artillery pieces to the AOA?

      Delete
    15. "how do you haul the tanks and artillery pieces to the AOA? "

      Is this a trick question? The attack transport carries troops and their equipment.

      Delete
    16. "What we have can't work and nothing out there in the world can, either!"

      I think what we have can work, or at least there are things that could work, if we can get rid of the idea of launching an assault from 25-50 miles offshore. We need to get back to an amphibious force that can work within 5 miles of shore. To my mind that requires smaller and more versatile ships, and stronger NGFS, CAS, and CAP than we have now.

      Delete
    17. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    18. "I think what we have can work, or at least there are things that could work, if we can get rid of the idea of launching an assault from 25-50 miles offshore."

      No. My response was strictly about your concern about transporting tanks and heavy equipment. Even if we start an assault from 100 yards off the beach, we have nothing survivable that can transport tanks and heavy equipment. We need a new design. If you think otherwise, tell me what connector can survivably transport tanks and heavy equipment even from fairly close range. The Navy has ruled out LCACs and LCUs. What does that leave us?

      Delete
    19. "So you are not looking at a pure LPA but some kind of LPA/LKA hybrid that would carry maybe 60% troops and 40% equipment."

      LPA (APA) have always transported troops AND THEIR HEAVY EQUIPMENT. Read up on the various WWII APA classes. I'm all for supplemental LSTs, for example, but they're only viable AFTER a beachead is secured at which point they aren't really needed except to support the further inland battle.

      Delete
    20. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    21. "Even if we start an assault from 100 yards off the beach, we have nothing survivable that can transport tanks and heavy equipment. We need a new design. If you think otherwise, tell me what connector can survivably transport tanks and heavy equipment even from fairly close range. The Navy has ruled out LCACs and LCUs. What does that leave us?"

      LCUs are too slow, and LCACs are too unreliable.

      You can't design anything that's 100% certain to survive. I think a big part of survival, for both landing craft and the amphib ships, is planty of NGFS, which is where we are sorely lacking. Put enough 16-inch and 8-inch shells in there to make them keep their heads down, and a lot more things become survivable. We're going to have some losses, no matter what. But we have to go forward with the best we have, and upgrade as we can over time. Nothing is survivable from 25 miles out, and most troops would be worthless by the time they finished that ride. I'm just trying to figure out what are the best of the bunch now, and try to come up with ideas for doing better.

      Delete
    22. "You can't design anything that's 100% certain to survive."

      Exactly! That's why you disperse the risk. An LCAC or L-CAT carries too much relative to the risk. They're too big! Again, I return to the conceptual single-tank landing craft. Dispersed risk!

      " plenty of NGFS"

      You've got it! Survivability increases with suppressive fire.

      Disperse the risk and suppress the enemy response. And, yes, move in from 25-50 miles to around 5 miles or so depending on the landing craft characteristics (speed).

      Delete
    23. We've never reliably gotten tanks ashore in the first waves. The best we've done is armored amphibious vehicles (LVT, AAV, ACV), some with assault guns leading the way.

      So maybe we just need an assault gun armed ACV to lead the troop carriers.

      Delete
    24. "So maybe we just need an assault gun armed ACV to lead the troop carriers."

      That would be a good start!

      Remember, though, that one of the major reasons the LVT(A) from WWII was successful was that it was supported by MASSIVE suppressive fire from Navy ships. We have none of that today. Without that massive suppressive barrage as the LVT(A)s approached the beach, they'd be slow, easy, bobbing targets for an enemy that didn't have to bother hunkering down.

      In my mind, there is zero possibility of success for a peer opposed amphibious assault without massive, large caliber naval gun support.

      Delete
    25. MLRS parked on commercial ships could be an adequate substitute.

      Maybe we also need a modern version of the LCI(G)s, a shallow draft monitor/gunboat that can get in close to shore ahead of the ACVs.

      Delete
    26. By the time I was in gator navy, the LPA's were all gone. I spent one night embarked on the Paul Revere during 2/c Mid cruise but that was it. I didn't get the impression that it carried any heavy equipment, but I wasn't really there long enough to tour the entire ship. They carried about 1500 troops, which seemed to pretty much fill the ship up. LKAs carried only about 200 troops, but they carried plenty of heavy equipment.

      By my time in gators, all the heavy equipment went on LPDs, LSDs, and LSTs. I would see a place for an LPA/LKA, with room for maybe 900 troops and a couple of holds with heavy equipment.

      Delete
    27. "An LCAC or L-CAT carries too much relative to the risk. They're too big!"

      I would certainly think you could downsize the L-CAT to carry a single tank if that's your major concern. It's not as fast as an LCAC, but I would think more reliable. And if you're operating with the ships 5 miles or less offshore, the speed differential shouldn't really matter.

      I think we really need to look at the Chinese Type 05, particularly the amphibious tank version.

      I don't think any of them are truly 100% survivable. The best thing for survivability is a lot of 16-inch and 8-inch and even 5-inch NGFS so the bad guys keep their heads down.

      Delete
    28. "LPA/LKA, with room for maybe 900 troops and a couple of holds with heavy equipment. "

      An eminently reasonable concept.

      Delete
    29. There's also the UHAC program. The objective design is supposed to have a 150 ton payload, 20kts water speed, and be able to climb over reefs and sea walls. Kind of "Son of LARC-LX".

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_Captive_Air_Amphibious_Transporter

      Delete
    30. "There's also the UHAC program."

      Does that look survivable to you in an initial assault wave?

      Delete
    31. Survivability is a complicated topic.

      For example, if UHAC allows the landing force to use a much larger selection of beaches, due to its ability to overcome sea walls, dunes and beach gradients, then that's more area the enemy has to cover. That's a survivability advantage.

      It's slower than LCAC but faster than most landing craft.

      Now just looking at simplistic platform survivability, UHAC isn't all bad. The main threats are,

      - mines
      - anti-ship missiles
      - artillery
      - infantry weapons (including ATGMS and RPGs)

      Mines are a problem for all landing connectors, but in theory UHAC should be better than a traditional landing craft because it's somewhat raised out of the water. On land, a mine strike might destroy some paddles, but it should be better able to cope than, say, a tank, due to its size.

      Anti-ship missiles are probably also a problem for any connector big enough to carry a tank.

      The floatation paddles are made from dense, closed-cell foam, which should tolerant a degree of damage from artillery splinters and infantry weapons.

      If you wanted to, you could trade payload weight for some armor around critical areas, or even soft/hard-kill systems. An enlarged Trophy APS, or even a CIWS/C-RAM like Phalanx or SeaRAM might not be out of the question.

      Lastly, if it really is twice as reliable as LCAC, then it will have a much higher ready rate.



      Delete
    32. "Survivability is a complicated topic."

      For sure!

      Survivability also goes hand in hand with risk. For example, a given landing craft may have decent survivability but if it carried, say, an entire battalion of troops (to make a ridiculous example) and was destroyed (nothing is 100% survivable), you'd lose a huge amount of combat power. In contrast, another landing craft might have a worse survivability but if it only carried a single soldier (to continue our ridiculous illustrations) the loss would be negligible. So, worse survivability combine with very little risk might well be preferable to decent survivability but with huge risk.

      That's my problem with all large connectors (LCAC, UHAC, LCU). They concentrate too much risk.

      Now, a UHAC sized for one tank might be a good connector.

      To further address survivability, survivability can also be attained by means other than the inherent survivability of the landing craft. For example, an intensive suppressive bombardment greatly enhances survivability of the landing craft by forcing the enemy to hunker down during the landing stage. Of course, we have no bombardment capability so ...

      Delete
  15. The new Army MSV being built here is capable of carrying one Abrams. 100ft in length with a loaded 15kt speed. Its overkill as a short range connector, with its large size and 300+ mile range, but its somthing to look at as somthing that could be pared down a bit to fit the more traditional landing craft thats needed.
    Or maybe the Marines need somthing with a tad more capacity, able to carry a tank AND and an APC for an armor supported squad/squad supported armor(??)
    Since theyre to small to make an ocean crossing, but too big to be carried aboard a simpler troopship, maybe use a heavy-lift ship to transport them to the operational area(??). Possibly the ESBs then used as a mothership/tender/staging for them prior to an assault...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "capable of carrying one Abrams. 100ft in length"

      Whereas, I'm thinking a landing craft that's one foot bigger in dimension than the tank. Of course, you have to add in the additional space to house the engine and driver but that's nowhere near 100 ft! Again, a Higgins boat sized for one tank.

      The moment you start adding 'and an APC', you start turning a simple landing craft into a costly mini-ship which is harder to transport, harder to maneuver, uses more fuel, requires a bigger crew, etc.

      Delete
    2. "and an APC"

      What is this eternal fascination everyone has with always adding more capability? Doesn't anyone remember K.I.S.S.?

      Delete
    3. "The moment you start adding 'and an APC', you start turning a simple landing craft into a costly mini-ship which is harder to transport, harder to maneuver, uses more fuel, requires a bigger crew, etc."

      Oh I understand your point, and wonder about the rationale for the sheer size of the new craft. Not sure if its based on the ability to carry one 70+ ton tank, or having space for "x" amount of other vehicles(??) I agree with the "just big enough for _____" concept. Then its just a matter of building enough to get a sizeable, or even all of the force ashore in a single wave.

      Delete
    4. "all of the force ashore in a single wave."

      Bear in mind that getting ALL of the force ashore in one wave is likely not a good idea. You'll just wind up with troops and equipment piled up on the beach. You want only as many ashore at one time as can be effectively employed. Consider Normandy. If we had been able to magically transport our entire force ashore in one wave they'd have just piled up for slaughter by the Germans. You want as much ashore as you can effectively use.

      Delete
  16. They would tend to be used for intra theatre lift, but with extra fuel tanks I've see 6000km quoted. They can also be fitted with helipad and a cheap hanger.

    The thing about them is they are a proper ship and can handle weather.

    As I've said one want to land, reinforce quickly, attack. They carry 300 to 500 tonne. So a quick 5 tanks or 15 bradleys, or just badly needed fuel trucks.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Interesting discussion. I would add some considerations of mine. I have never seen the LHA/LHD as assault ships in the sense to get them close to shore for an opposed assault. But I can see their utility as mobile base for an already established force. Back in time that was the role the Iwo Jima class performed around the cost of Vietnam. Of course this means they will be vulnerable to attack, but any form of base (from a CVN to the new Hidden Magic Base) will be.

    If used on this role they can provide an useful depth to beachheads not only providing a full capable and serviced airfield, but also, due to the well deck, hospital, and maintenance facilities, services to the ground troops. This would have the added benefit to enlarge the range of possible locales suitable to assaults. Spreading enemy defenses thin is an important element in assaults anyway.

    Of course this will require CAP and AEGIS support from CVBG except against the lightest of the opponents, but that is to be expected. An element of risk will be always present. Quoting the first sea lord at the time of operation corporate, Warships exist to be risked and even sunk.

    Of course if the Commandant want to scrap forced entry none of this will be relevant. Of course one beg to know why the enemy will leave undefended localities from where the USMC can threaten their operations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Of course if the Commandant want to scrap forced entry none of this will be relevant. "

      Which seems to be where the Marines are headed. The Commandant has all but explicitly stated that the Marines are out of the opposed landing business.

      "Of course one beg to know why the enemy will leave undefended localities from where the USMC can threaten their operations."

      You are exactly right. The enemy will not leave undefended locations that are strategically and operationally important. You obviously grasp that but the US military seems unable to grasp that concept.

      Delete
    2. Funnily enough I heard the same mantra years ago, I think it was in far away 2011... at a Royal Navy presentation talking about the future of the Navy and the Royal Marine. The chap in charge of the brainwashing, professor Greg Kennedy was saying all about maneuver and surprise, and taking critical objectives that the enemy has left undefended. I asked why the enemy should leave them undefended if their are critical... no answer. I think the best summary of this approach was given by the head of studies of the RMAS, a former Australian Light Horseman to booth... 'In the british army periodically someone come up with a manoeuvre scheme that will win wars without attrition and battles'.

      I understand what Berger wants, and possibly why (quite similar to what the marines were trying to do during Eisenhower New Look policy). I read your post on Berger and I have seen him and his 'wargaming truth' (one would like to see the game engine and the scenario) taking a dangerous trajectory. Hopefully it will be a temporary fad and the next commandant will rectify things (another peculiarity of the USMC). Still having spent two chapters of my PhD discussing about this... I have reached the cnclusion that the USMC has some problems as organization, and one of them is the fact that it is a light infantry oriented career organization. It is extremely rare to find commandat from the other branches except infantry, and often meant people are wedded to specific concepts (as Kenneth Estes points out in his Marines under Armor).

      The sad part is that in his quest to make marines 'relevant' he is making them useless. Even if forced entry at division size is not something that you use everyday... it is a relevant capability that should be maintained. If not because end run behind enemy lines must be threatened. Now, I feel the urge to put NW: Taiwan on the table again to see how the USMC can contribute or not to defending Taiwan with different force structure.

      Delete
    3. "Marines under Armor"

      One of the very best books about the Marines. It is packed with lessons that no one in the Marine Corps seems to care about, today.

      Delete
    4. I agree with your comments, but I am always puzzled, how much is the Marine Corps, how much is the commandant and his lackeys. One thing that struck me in my research on the USMC (and my contacts with Marines), is the amount of power the commandant has to shape the Corps, at least on the surface, during his tenure. I am also surprised by the quickness of of changes when a new Commandant arises...

      I would argue (and plenty of Marines will kill me in return...) that the USMC lacks a real doctrine and strategic thinking. There are rarely debtates like the one you can see in the Army, and to a lesser extent Navy and Air Force. On top of that the Marines are essentially an infantry mafia were the other branches (except aviation) are basically ostracized.

      Case study it the 9th MEB in Vietnam (later 9th MAB and then 3rd MAF). The CO was General Karch, previously assistant CO of the 3rd Marine Division. Suddenly despite Karch expressly indicating that he was willing to extend his tour to keep the 9th MEB... Commandant Green replaced him with Lewis Walt (bad decision IMHO). Karch was an artilleryman, Walt an infantryman.

      I would argue that the only thing that matters in the USMC in the long run is organizational survival first, infantry survival later... oh Kenneth Estes was a gunner too...

      Delete
    5. "I agree with your comments, but I am always puzzled, how much is the Marine Corps, how much is the commandant and his lackeys."

      I still think a lot of the problem stems from two things:
      1) Going to the LHA/LHD as primary phib lift ship pretty much eliminated opposed assaults, and
      2) Starting with Vietnam, when Westmoreland (not the least of his mistakes) sent the Marines to I Corps and the Army to the riverine Mekong Delta, and continuing through Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marines have been used more to be a baby Army than to play to their strengths.

      The result of those two things sort of has the Commandant in a box. He has to find a mission to justify continued existence of the Corps, but the obvious ones are sort of blocked.

      I would resolve the first by going back to the WWII concept of a PhibRon (along the lines ComNavOps has proposed) and converting the LHAs/LHDs to light fleet carriers (see my post below). I would resolve the second by getting the Marines back to what they are supposed to do--in and out and git 'er done, not an occupation army.

      Delete
    6. There are several issues here...

      Westmoreland did not send the Marines north, they had already been allocated there by various OPLANs, OPLAN the Marines had helped drafting too. MACV and CINCPAC simply implemented these. To be quite honest, except for Walt unsuitability to the role, the MAF was not unsuited to the I CTZ. They were much less suited to the IV CTZ to be honest, and also less needed in 1965. Westmoreland was not perfect, but it is not the caricature that some unscrupulous historians paint. Certainly implementing OPLAN 32 was not an error.

      There is nothing the marines are supposed to get done, excpet the mission the Commandant decides. The misisons changed in the almost three centuries of history. The USMC has been used as an occupation/garrison force from its inception and much longer than as an advanced base force. Getting history right is important, otherwise one ends up with these strange concept coming out from some Commandants.

      There is no 'right# way to have a marine corps, as plenty of countries with amphibious organization show. Also the 'in and out' mission plays straight in Berger current fantasies that ComNavOps rightly denounces. The 'baby army' predates Vietnam, and it is just a logical consequence of the advanced base force concept faced with Japanese defenders, or any kind of defenders. IT took corps sized organization to take really important islands, and an army size one for Okinawa. Even what where basically tiny specks of sand (like Betio) required a full division. Do a serious game on Tarawa landing, and the first thing that hits your head squarely is... this is small... how the *** they needed a division to take it! (recommendation, try D-Day at Tarawa... good simulation, and no I did not design it).

      The issue here, a Marine Corps will be a land army if it has to do anything except raids (and you can get Berger organizational survival points here).

      Also the LHA/LHD concept is not, per se, the antithesis of opposed landing. It is how you fit then in the whole ARG and expeditionary concept here. I, for one, differently from ComNavOps, found them extremely useful in peace time. They can really support a MEU for a wide range of operations including gunboat diplomacy. They are for all purpose, baby carriers, and they are quite useful. Said that, if a MEU is sufficient for an oppose assault, well probably the a2d2 capability of the opponent is not that big and the LHA/D can be risked.

      Anything requiring a larger force. Well as I said the LHA/Ds come handy later on. You just need conventional amphibious vessel for the first lift, and even there, something like a CVE is useful. They are part of a mix, as they always have been. The issue is if they become the only element of the mix.

      Delete
  18. CNO, what would you propose be done with the LHA/LHD's? Could they legitimately form the nucleus of ASW groups with the new frigates? Or if the navy finally saw the light and began to build proper ASW ships? Or would you retire them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Could they legitimately form the nucleus of ASW groups with the new frigates?"

      Could they? Sure they could but it would be like asking if a battleship could be a patrol vessel. It could but it would be a huge overkill and horribly inefficient and costly. So, too, with the LHA/LHD. It would be an ASW carrier but it would be a huge overkill and horribly inefficient and very costly in that role.

      I would just place them in reserve.

      The one possible role I could see for them would be a peacetime, low end carrier operating Tucano/Skyraider type strike aircraft.

      Delete
  19. “We need to return to this model. We need to separate the aviation and troop transport functions.
    “We need to build small carriers that house the assault aircraft and that have no other function. …
    “We also need to reevaluate what constitutes assault aircraft. …
    “We need to build small … WWII type troop transports, each with a couple dozen landing craft ... This reduces the cost, disperses the risk, and makes a landing actually feasible again.”

    Pretty much what I’m thinking.

    I think we need a little more variety than all LPAs in the PhibRon. The LPAs carried a lot of troops (1500) and light equipment (vehicles, APCs) but their ability to carry heavy stuff was limited, and their only means of assault was boats over the side. The really heavy stuff went on LKAs, later on LSDs, LPDs, and LSTs. I have proposed a 6-ship PhibRon concept that could carry 3,000 Marines (the size of my proposed upgraded MEU) plus all their heavy equipment.

    1. Smaller LHA/LHD like Spanish Juan Carlos ($1.7B) for air element – 27,000 tons, 21 knots, 10 AV-8/F35-B, 10 assault helos, 913 troops
    2. LPH like French Mistral ($600MM) – 21,000 tons, 19 knots, 16 heavy or 35 light helos, 4 CTM or 2 LCAC or EDA-R L-CAT, 450 troops (900 surge)
    3. LPD/LSD - like British Albion ($500MM) – 21,000 tons, 18 knots, 4 LCU, 4 LCVP, 2 helos, 405 troops (710 surge)
    4. LST - like British Round Table or Turkish Bayraktar ($450MM) – 7,000 tons, 18 knots, 1 helo, 4 LCVP, 2 Mexeflote self-propelled pontoon causeways, 486 troops
    5. LKA/LPA like Charleston/Paul Revere ($400MM) – 17,000 tons, 20 knots, 18 landing craft, 2 forward holds for heavy cargo, 900 troops aft
    6. Fire support frigate ($450MM) – 3500 tons, 30 knots 5” guns, anti-surface rockets, 100 commando/special forces

    6 ships, $4.5B (less than 1 current LHA/LHD @ $3.4B and 1 LPD @ $1.7B), 3254 troops (4000 surge). You reduce the SOA of the PhibRon from 20+ to 18 knots, but you save a lot of money and also get an LST that can actually beach.

    So what to do with the current LHAs/LHDs and LPDs?

    For the LPDs, HII and the Navy have a plan to build a huge ABM ship on the San Antonio hull, so convert them.

    I still think LHAs/LHDs could be converted to light fleet carriers. Consider this comparison with other carriers with angled decks and cats and traps:

    USS Makin Island – 41,000 tons, 843x104, 20 AV-8/F35B, 6 helos
    UK Hermes – 28,000 tons, 738x90/144, 19 jets (Sea Vixen/Buccaneer), 5 prop, 6 helos
    UK Ark Royal – 43,000 tons, 804x112/171, 26 jets (F-4/Buccaneer), 4 prop, 8 helos
    French Clemenceau - 32,000 tons, 869x104/168, 29 jets (Etendard), 7 prop, 2 helos
    French CDG – 36,000 tons, 857x104/211, 30-40 jets (Rafale), 4 prop, 3 helos

    Add sponsons to get flight deck width to 150-160, add angled deck, cats (probably have to be EMALS), and traps, convert well deck and equipment storage to additional hangar space, and troop berthing to aircraft maintenance/repair spaces. Maybe not quite your proposed Midway clone 48 aircraft air wing, but it would be close. Probably need to upgrade propulsion systems to get up to 30 knots, maybe something like the UK Queen Elizabeth IEP that drives a 65,000-ton hull up to 32 knots. That is expensive, but while you’re taking out the well deck, access might be a lot easier and cheaper. With 40-year lives, 2 LHDs would project out past 2040, and potentially 12 America class would project out past 2050, so conversion would be worthwhile. The future Americas could be built from scratch to this standard.

    Maybe the “Lightning Carrier” on an interim basis until the Marines figure out where they want to go with their new A-4/A-10, and the there could be some coordination in design. I like the SAAB Gripen for the Marines, takes off in 1/4 mile (prepared) or 1/2 mile (unprepared) so it could easily go ashore with them, Mach 2 over the top, 10,000 pound weapons load, and there is a proposed Sea Gripen STOBAR design.

    But this would be a small fleet carrier, not just an assault carrier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shouldn't we be looking to shrink the MEU/ARG, not enlarge it? Even enlarged to 3,000 it's still too small for a major amphibious assault, but it's even more unwieldy for presence missions, especially with 6 ships.

      I'd like to see the MEU shrink to 1000-1500 and fit on maybe just two smaller LHDs like the Juan Carlos. Two big decks with well decks provides flexibility across a wide range of missions. If necessary throw in an LST or LPA/LKA.

      Major assaults should be handled by the MEB or MEF. That's the place where we really should look for less expensive options, since the current MEB needs 14 of the current gen, expensive, amphibious ships to carry it.

      If we want a new LPA/LKA, we need to figure out a better way to get Marines and equipment off of them than over-the-side-loading, be it well deck, MLP, INLS, or whatever.

      Delete
    2. "Shouldn't we be looking to shrink the MEU/ARG, not enlarge it? "

      I would argue that we should abolish it but, still, you're on the right track!

      "Major assaults should be handled by the MEB or MEF."

      Or more! Again, you're on track!

      "If we want a new LPA/LKA, we need to figure out a better way to get Marines and equipment off of them than over-the-side-loading,"

      Why? I'm not against better methods but let's be sure that we actually have a problem before we look for a solution! Over-the-side worked just fine in WWII. Why would it not work today? Again, I'm not arguing that we should do over the side unloading - I'm just trying to get you/me to pin down EXACTLY what problem we're looking to solve.

      So, what do you see as wrong with an over the side method?

      Delete
    3. Just seems really slow and cumbersome and downright dangerous, especially in bad weather, to climb down a cargo net carrying all your kit on to a pitching and bobbing landing craft.

      Same goes for LO/LOing vehicles and equipment out of a hold onto those landing craft.

      RO/RO through a stern ramp or well deck seems safer and potentially faster.

      Delete
    4. Well, sure, if you attempt to do it during a typhoon you'll probably have problems. However, we did it all through WWII and had no particular problems. I'm sure, someone, somewhere got hurt doing so but it certainly wasn't a systemic problem or we wouldn't have done it.

      The problem with a well deck is that it consumes HUGE internal volumes of the ship - volume that could be better utilized berthing troops or storing equipment. Now, if you can combine the two: a minimal well deck plus deck transported landing craft, you might have something.

      RO/RO only works if you're next to a dock! Not something likely during an amphibious assault!

      So, still not seeing what specific problem you're trying to solve and not yet seeing a better solution.

      Delete
    5. A well deck lets you drive (RO/RO) from the vehicle deck directly into landing craft in the dock.

      The problem is how to offload LPA/LKAs faster, safer, and possibly in higher sea states, without blowing out their cost.

      Delete
    6. "The problem is how to offload LPA/LKAs faster, safer, and possibly in higher sea states, without blowing out their cost."

      Okay, so what's the solution? And, while you're at it, you need to design a better landing craft than what we have now!

      Delete
    7. MLP is probably the fastest offload route, but obviously an expensive, single point of failure.

      Stern well deck or ramp seems to be the most popular options.

      A ramp only would preclude interfacing with LCACs directly, but would save internal space and cost. Not sure if you can launch and recover ACV/AAVs from a ramp safely.

      A well deck large enough for two LCMs or an LCAC would be more flexible, but would cost more and use up interior space.

      Someone would have to do a cost benefit study.

      In either case, ideally you would adapt a commercial design, perhaps a car/passenger ferry, to keep costs down.

      The solution for an LKA might be very different, adapting a CONRO ship instead.

      Delete
    8. "MLP is probably the fastest offload route, but obviously an expensive, single point of failure."

      In addition to being a single point of failure and obvious enemy target, the MLP is a major bottleneck. You can only unload a single ship at a time. Imagine Normandy or any Pacific island assault if they could have only unloaded a single ship at a time! If we want to use MLPs (and I think those are horrible ideas) then we need several dozen of them for any serious assault, not the few that we currently have.

      Delete

Comments will be moderated for posts older than 30 days in order to reduce spam.