U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Want Small Ships to Land Troops in a War

David Axe

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are considering acquiring small transport ships in order to complement existing large amphibious vessels and give the fleet more ways of landing troops during a major war.

The new small transports, perhaps based on the oil and gas industry’s typical offshore support vessel, could represent a revival of a defunct class of warship that once filled a variety of roles in the American fleet.

“As the Navy and the Marine Corps narrow in on what their future amphibious operations might look like, they are considering acquiring something akin to an offshore support vessel to help Marines distribute around a littoral environment in a future fight,” Megan Eckstein wrote for the news website of the U.S. Naval Institute.

New commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger turned heads when his Commandant’s Planning Guidance said “the global options for amphibs include many more options than simply LHAs, LPDs and LSDs” and that, on account of a growing anti-access/area-denial threat environment, “visions of a massed naval armada nine nautical miles off-shore in the South China Sea preparing to launch the landing force in swarms of ACVs, LCUs and LCACs are impractical and unreasonable.”

LHA, LPD and LSD are Navy designations for large, armored amphibious assault ships that can displace up to 40,000 tons of water and carry hundreds of Marines plus aircraft, LCAC hovercraft, LCU landing craft and ACV amphibious vehicles. A single large amphib can cost more than a billion dollars.

“Since the document was released in July [2019], those in the military and industry have speculated what that could mean,” Eckstein added.

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