When it came to amphibious warfare across a 60-year-run from 1942, when USS LST-1 was completed, through 2002 when USS Frederick (LST-1184) was decommissioned, the beachable tank landing ship was a key part of putting troops and material ashore for the U.S. Navy-Marine team.
Bougainville Operation, 1943-1944. USS LST-449 loading equipment and supplies from a Guadalcanal Beach for her journey North to Bougainville, in November 1943, soon after Marines landed there. Note the LST’s camouflage and truck in foreground bearing “Cub 9” markings. Photographed by Major W.A. Halpern, USMC. USMC Photo 79815
However, the arrival of the fast air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC) in the 1980s– which allowed for over-the-horizon attacks in which heavy trucks and armor could be landed– made the beachable LST obsolete in the eyes of Big Blue-FMF. This led to the shedding of the LSTs in favor of the big-well-deck LHA/LHD and enlarged dock LPDs, thus keeping the Navy off the beach for anything larger than a 200-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU)– which can fit in the well deck of a big phib.
A landing craft, utility (LCU) assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), lowers its ramp to unload a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, as part of a simulated amphibious raid, at Kin Blue, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 14, 2019. This simulated amphibious raid marks the first time that HIMARS have been inserted by landing craft, utility, demonstrating the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to conduct combined-arms maneuver from amphibious shipping. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)
Whelp, with the move by the USMC to dump their seven companies of main battle tanks, three bridging companies and 16 of 21 155mm howitzer batteries in favor of fielding 21 (14 new) rocket batteries to be fielded by three new “Marine Littoral Regiments,” it seems an ideal means to land such units may just be an LST.
Only you don’t want to call it that, of course.
The Navy has begun looking for a Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) to land cargo/vehicles with the following characteristics (bold added by moi):
*Minimum 5,000 ft2 (1,860 m2) vehicle and cargo stowage space (8,000+ ft2 preferred) on weather deck or with access to weather deck capable of handling static deck loads up to 450 psf, and with at least 13.5 ft (4.1 m) clear overhead or open overhead and a 5-10 MT crane to facilitate cargo and small boat handling.
*Habitability for US Navy crew of approximately 30 + surge capacity for additional 43 Marines or Sailors supporting 11 day missions without replenishment
*Minimum 14 knots Sustained Speed with full cargo load
*Minimum 3,500 nm operating range
*Single point off/on load to beach (e.g. beachable)
*90,000 gal. cargo fuel storage
The design would be fielded fast, preferably by 2023, with commercial and existing designs considers.
Such a ship would be significantly larger/faster than the Navy’s current 200-ton/8-knot LCU 1627-class, and closer to the Army’s 1,100-ton/11.5-knot Runnymede-class (LCU-2000) large landing craft. The Runnymedes are essentially smallish LSTs in all but name, able to carry 350-tons of cargo or 24 20-foot TEUs (96 Quadcons) with a self-deploying range of 6,500nm.
U.S. Army Spc. Michael Breneman signals to a Japan Ground Self Defense Force light armored vehicle during an on load evolution aboard U.S. Army Runnymede-class landing craft utility USAV Coamo (LCU 2014) at Commander, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, July 27, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Specialist Kristopher S. Haley)
As a harbinger of just such a thing, the Marines tested HIMARS missile trucks on an Army Runnymede for the first time last November.
Everything old is new again.
LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943