Navy Designs New Amphib

USS San AntonioThe Navy is evaluating designs, costs and specifications for a new class of amphibious assault ships designed to replace the current fleet of cargo-carrying LSD 41/49 dock landing ships, service officials said.

The existing fleet of dock landing ships, which function in a key cargo-carrying capacity as part of an amphibious ready group, will be nearing the end of their expected 40-year life span in coming years, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert Walsh, director of the Navy’s expeditionary warfare division.

“It is not often you replace a ship class,” he said.

Slated to be procured in 2020 and enter service by 2026, the new LXR amphib will need to function with more autonomy than its predecessor and be able to conduct what’s called disaggregated operations apart from an amphibious ready group.

The LXR will need more aviation, command and control and medical technologies compared to existing LSDs, Walsh explained.

“The LSD’s we’re replacing were meant to be the trucks – heavy cargo capability for the [amphibious ready group]. It has a landing platform but it doesn’t have a hangar and an aviation deck,” he said. “Due to the concept of operations we are under today, it needs independent capability. It needs to have aviation capability and be able to go somewhere and take helos with it. It needs an aviation detachment and be able to do the maintenance.”

The Navy used to be able to deploy ARGs with up to five ships at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with three ships per ARG and  as few as 33 amphibs overall.  As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.

“When it comes to amphib forces, quantity does matter.  We’ve got to have the numbers to be able to do the things we want to be able to do. We are trying to recapitalize the LSD force,” Walsh said.

The Navy has completed its initial capabilities document for the LXR and recently finished an Analysis of Alternatives, or AoA, wherein service engineers, experts and acquisition professional explore options for the ship.

Results of the AoA determined that the Navy is considering basing the construction and design upon the existing LPD 17 amphibious transport dock hull – or designing and entirely new ship altogether.

Walsh explained that the AoA wound up reducing the alternatives or options for the LXR from eleven different options down to two options.

Designed to serve alongside 400 sailor-strong LDS dock landing ships in the ARG, the amphibious transport docks, or LPD 17s, carry up to 700 sailors and have a higher degree of aviation and command and control technologies for independent operations, Walsh explained.

The new LXR will need to have the command and control and aviation technology to operate independently while still remaining true to its cargo-carrying mission and be less expensive than an LPD 17.

The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD also travels around 20 knots, however, it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.

Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. The LPD 17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons. The Whidbey Island class of LSDs can carry and launch up to four LCACs.

The new ship now in development, the LXR, will likely wind up drawing upon elements of both of these amphibious assault ships as the Navy seeks to maximize the performance of the ship while keeping its cost well below $2 billion, the approximate cost of an LPD 17.

“The LPD 17 is just too high-end cost wise when you are looking at replacing the LSD class. We’re working with industry to look at lowering costs for the ship,” Walsh explained.

The Navy has recently awarded two “design for affordability” contracts to two shipbuilders, Huntington Ingalls Industries and National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, or NASSCO. The contracts are aimed at exploring design specifications and technologies best suited for the LXR with a mind to lowering costs while maximizing technical capability, Walsh explained.

Walsh said the Navy is integrating the requirements work with cost analysis in order to ensure that cost goals are not compromised by growing requirements.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at Military.com.

25 Comments on "Navy Designs New Amphib"

  1. We used to have, LHA, LSD, LST and LPD. Now they want to combine these into just 2 ship designs? Basically a small Carrier with a well deck. They already have the LCS that is not living up to expectations.

  2. Maybe one of these days all the countries of the world will progress technologically to such a point where nobody's actually able to afford a big enough military to threaten anybody else, lol.

  3. New designs? WHere is the money for the construction going to come from? More FED printing out of thin air?

  4. Before designing anything, the need to seriously figure the size of the USMC & what their mission is. With the EFV now dead for the Corps, we should ask how to get to the beach before building the ship to get them there. Or should they fly over it more?

  5. I christen thee the USS Camel!

    because the USS Boondogle will certainly be the lead ship name for any CGX

  6. "“The LSD’s we’re replacing were meant to be the trucks – heavy cargo capability for the [amphibious ready group]. It has a landing platform but it doesn’t have a hangar and an aviation deck,” he said. “Due to the concept of operations we are under today, it needs independent capability. It needs to have aviation capability and be able to go somewhere and take helos with it. It needs an aviation detachment and be able to do the maintenance.”

    Which makes it more like a LPD. In which case, procure more LPD?

  7. Interesting comments about the Marines. Hmm… let's see… Marines have consistently accomplished missions and major successes where the Air Force and Army failed. Many might recall in Desert Storm the Army's armored division that was halted by barriers and Saddam's elite guards. What did we do? General Schwarzkopf called in the Marines, and they smashed through the barriers like they were made of soft butter. By the way, SEALS do not do what the Marines do. Different missions altogether!

  8. Throughout naval history, it has been proven that hybrid warships do not work. ‘Jack of all trades’, and so on.

  9. When looking at true multi role and stand alone designs why not take a page from the Soviet play book. Look at the old Moskva idea. Flight deck on the back half conventional ship on the front half. Keep a well deck for the amphips. Your hanger could be forward with the ships structure on top. You can have a VLS system forward with defensive weapons mounted were needed. You would have to have Aegis elements even if only to help in it's own defense. Just an old grunts two cents.

  10. The Navy has recently awarded two “design for affordability," just the start of this sentence leads to a FAILED project, like many military programs before it. We haven't learned. Make the requirements and let the manufacturers bring there projects and cost projections and start the negotiations from there. When you buy a car do you pay the 'sticker price?'

  11. stephen russell | August 14, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Reply

    Merge LHD & LHA into 1.,
    Save money
    downsize Well Deck for Spec Ops
    & reuse existing LPD LSD types for Rescue, Disater aid alone & Resupply
    Remove troop spaces in those for Cargo holds.

    More can be done.

  12. If they get rid of LSDs, does that mean they are getting out of the heavy warfare business?

  13. Oh yes, they want it to do all these things and cheaper than before. Watch how all the suppliers will say 'Yes, we can do it! Just sign here' and watch as the costs soar so we end up paying more than if we had done it the old way. And they'll get away with it because the ones that organise it and the ones that agree to it will be long gone when the cost start to go up. same old same old.

  14. I hope their able to go with a new design despite the advanages making an improved version of the San Antonio Class. The LPD-17s have plenty of room for fit cargo if they re-arrange things and keeping same hull in production may keep cost down depending on how many additional features into what ever the Flight II version.

    However, that Class did have a lot problems, the Navy wasn't thrilled about having design that was bigger than they needed, and had history from its inception quality and mechanical problems. Bugs may have been worked out, but i rather see the Marines and Navy get exactly what they need to do the job than getting politicians trying win votes over needs of the nation.

  15. As a former Vietnam Era Marine…I'd like to see the Corps reorganized like that of the British Royal Marines. A fast, hard hitting light/amphibious infantry. The RM's have internal support such as supply, but that is it. The Amphibs could then be reduced to LHA's or the new larger version (can't recall the type but I believe USS Wasp is one). This would allow helo insertion as well as amphib.

    I would remove armor, artillery and fixed wing aircraft. This is all duplicated by the other services. It's time to think smaller…more efficient. I am not one of these cut defense…as although it eat's a large amount, it is a third of what we spend on Medicaid and other social giveaways (not talking SS or Medicare).

  16. more automation? I guess the new ships will just be thrown away when it has a fire. no one to put it out or fix .

  17. Doent anyone remember LKA's and an integral part of ARG;s sigh!

  18. A waste of taxpayers money….

  19. Does the USN REALLY truely need a LPD and a LSD?

    The requirements of both ships are merging. Another waste of money designing 2 ships, that end up doing the same thing.

    You have the Gator carriers to lead ARGs, and service the air wing. Make the carrier a carrier, fast, OTH and use the jets (future F35B) to the max.

    Leave the close stuff for a good tough GP-LSD, designed to land (by surface) and act as Forward fuel pojnts for helos. Forget EFVs with BS high speed and useless a shore. Have a high speed connecter, to get a LVTP to swim the last part only (across reefs and surf).

    An ARG with an CVE/LHA and 3+ LSDs can fo more than all this pot perri of current ships.

  20. It will need defensive and offensive capability, and that would mean ability to counter cruise missiles. Remember Exocet and the British losses during the Falklands war.
    Now there are supersonic cruise missiles, Russian Onyx and Indian BrahMos, jointly developed by Russian Federation and India, with mach 2.8 to Mach 3 capability, and apparently developed for self guidance and working as a "wolf pack" with a group of missiles which is able to make attack decisions independently such as what target to attack and which missile or missiles to attack. There are both land and ship based versions, including submarine launched. There are export versions of these missiles, although news reports say the export versions have less capability than those produced for domestic or home country use.
    Any ship will need extensive defense capability to be able to survive such attacks.
    Probably it will be increasingly difficult for solitary ships to be able to defend themselves against determined defenses if they are equipped with advanced weaponry.
    Even carriers may have difficulty surviving such attacks in confined spaces, such as occur near shore in amphibious operations.
    Probably it will be necessary for ships to remain "over the horizon" until landing areas are secured. This would require substantial airlift and also some type of landing vehicles, most likely some type of air cushion vehicles.
    Probably ships with multiple capabilities will be necessary with open water potential, possibly even some antisubmarine capability and extensive air defense.
    Also troop support with capability to carry significant numbers of Marines, probably several hundred at least along with some armor support and logistics capability for transport.
    It has become standard to provide in-depth medical support for American troops where-ever deployed as much as possible, including capacity for medical evacuation, transport and operating room capability to treat major injuries as close to the battle field as possible.
    Probably, if there is any law of warfare, it's that more is better. Probably the more ships the better chance they would have for successful completion of their mission and increase their likelihood of survival.

  21. Great idea. Just destroy the effectiveness of the navy, and get rid of the manpower. Then, name all of the AMPHIBIOUS force ships..the UDADT San Francisco class.
    Change the Navy, and Marine Corps hymns to "YMCA". Then listen as our enemies laugh while steaming up the Mississippi to New Orleans, and Bourbon street for the TAKE OVER OF THE FORMER USA.

  22. I have been out a while, but during my time the boats from the papa boats to the lcm3, LCM 6, lcm8 and the bigger ones the LCU,s and finally the ski lacks. All these boats served us very well in all but the new wars of the 2000,s. None of them needed officers, usually a 4 man crew and 8-12 on the u boats and ski lacks.
    We seemed to never run out of them. Most of them were made out of old pig iron. In nam we used to push them up on the beach to weld patches over rusted out hulls and rocket hits. We just could not wear them out.
    In fact some of them still exist in the civilian world.
    Probably pretty cheap to make also. Maybe that's why we do not use them any more they are not big bucks.

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  25. Im an old LSD VET, all the new ships coming on line are too automatic.
    Hi tec will be our down fall.
    Good luck new navy.

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