Bulk means sea.
Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to dominate the headlines, both conflicts are very much land-force-driven operations. However, significant investments into expeditionary and amphibious capabilities by the world's leading navies continue. The last twelve months have shown that the ability to perform ship-to-shore operations to provide humanitarian support in cyclone, flood or earthquake-stricken areas is essential.
Navies are increasingly being called up to assist government agencies, international bodies such as the United Nations and non-governmental organisations in providing assistance and relief in the aftermath of major disasters. Two recent events have demonstrated this. In December 2007 Bangladesh suffered a devastating cyclone. Washington DC reacted quickly and the U$ Navy's Pacific Command immediately despatched a 28-strong humanitarian assistance team to the region. This was quickly followed by the arrival of the USS Kearsarge Landing Ship Dock (LSD) along with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
US Pacific Command had ordered the deployment once it became clear that Cyclone Sidr would hit the Bangladeshi coast. In particular, the Kearsarge played a vital role in supplying fresh water; over 757,000 litres (200,000 US gallons) per day can be filtered on the vessel. This ship was later joined by the USS Tarawa Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ship and the llth MEU from the Western Pacific to continue the relief efforts. The Tarawa had, ironically, assisted disaster relief efforts before in Bangladesh in 1991.
The US Navy also offered assistance to the victims of the Burmese cyclone in early May. The navy's Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which consisted of the USS Essex, Harpers Ferry, Janeau and Mustin; a total of two Landing Ship Docks (LSD), a single Landing Platform Dock (LPD) and a guided missile destroyer, were sailing off the southern coast of the country. Despite the impressive capabilities of the ESG; coupled with the navy's offer to also despatch the USS Mercy hospital ship to the country, the reclusive military junta which rules the country turned down Washington's offer.
Although forces such as the US Navy are directing their attention towards how they can enhance their provision of humanitarian assistance, offensive amphibious operations have not been forgotten. Vehicle manufacturers in particular are turning their attention towards armoured platforms which have amphibious capabilities to not only protect their occupants on land, but also during transit from ship to shore.
General Dynamics European Land Systems (GDELS), which builds the Piranha series of armoured fighting vehicles, took advantage of June's Eurosatory exhibition in Paris to unveil the Piranha III High Protection (HP) model. This version of the Piranha III is equipped with robust protection against Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and anti-vehicle mines. Vehicle occupants are protected by energy-absorbing seats, and the Piranha III has also been fitted with an enhanced Caterpillar engine that develops 343 kW (460 hp).
One major benefit of this vehicle is that it retains the amphibious capabilities of the baseline Piranha III version and is capable of operating in conditions of up to Sea State Three. This allows the vehicle to perform ship-to-shore transfer and allows for its occupants to ride in a heavily protected carrier once on land. Using the Piranha IIIHP for amphibious operations means that the troops need not change vehicle (from landing craft to APC for example). Crucially, the Piranha IIIHP also protects them in the surf and beach zones where troops can be highly vulnerable from attack when travelling in open landing craft or moving across the beach.
The Spanish government has placed a contract with GDELS to procure 21 Piranha IIIC amphibious vehicles to equip the Infanteria de Marina (Spanish Naval Infantry). All of the vehicles are expected to be delivered by 2014. They will all have an amphibious capability, with two propellers positioned on the aft side of the vehicle and a remote-controlled trim vane. The order increases the 18-strong Piranha IIIC force which the naval infantry already has and the new vehicles will be delivered in several versions including ambulance, command and control, engineer and recovery, fire support, reconnaissance and armoured personnel carrier configurations.
To the west, the Corpo de Fuzileiros (Portuguese Marine Corps) will receive 20 Pandur II 8 x 8s. The order breaks down into ten armoured personnel carriers equipped with a 12.7-mm machine gun, single examples of command and control and engineer and recovery vehicles, two vehicles equipped with a 120-mm mortar, two ambulances and a pair of 30-mm cannon-armed personnel carriers.
The amphibious Pandur and Piranha IIIs are joined by Patria's 8 x 8 Armoured Modular Vehicle (AMV), which was unveiled in 2007. The vehicle is equipped with a pair of jets that can propel the infantry fighting vehicle through the water. The United Arab Emirates placed an order for the Patria AMV in January 2008, which will give that country's armed forces an amphibious vehicle capability, although the number to be delivered has not been reported.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian government hopes to acquire Russian BMP-33 amphibious tanks, with around twenty units expected to be purchased. However, following the election of Russian President Dimity Medvedev, the deal was reported to be on hold as the Russian government reconsiders the credit terms for the deal that was originally offered by President Vladimir Putin's administration to Jakarta. The deal has a sense of urgency following the loss of a BTR-50PK amphibious APC that Indonesian Marines were using during an exercise which caused the death of six troops.
Brazilian amphibious capabilities received an important enhancement in late 2007 with the government announcing that a new 6 x 6 amphibious armoured personnel carrier would be purchased for the Brazilian Army. Constructed by Fiat do Brazil, this new vehicle is known as the VBTP-VR and 16 will initially be built, before a larger contract is announced to replace the country's Urulu 6 x 6 amphibious APCs.
In terms of ship-to-shore landing craft, the Armada Bolivariana de Venezuela (Venezuelan Navy) is to acquire nine Griffon 2000TD hovercraft, which are currently being assembled in-country. The procurement of the hovercraft represents the navy's reorientation of part of the country's Division de Infanter a de Marina (Marine Infantry) towards riverine operations, with a new battalion of troops being raised for these tasks. The hovercraft will supplement the Capana class Landing Ship Tanks (LST) which the navy has used since 1984.
In January 2008, Navantia delivered the last LCM-1E class landing craft to the Armada Espanola (Spanish Navy). The service has acquired twelve of the vessels which were ordered in 2004. The landing craft have a roll-on/roll-off design and can carry around 100 tonnes at speeds of up to 22 km/h (twelve knots) over 296 km (160 nm). The company hopes to secure additional orders of the craft from Australia to accompany that country's Strategic Projection Ship. The LCM-1E class vessels can be carried in the Navy's two Galicia class and single Juan Carlos 1 LPDs (see below).
The Netherlands is also investing in new landing craft, and in 2007 the Dutch government signed a contract with Visser Scheepswerf for the provision of twelve Vehicle Personnel Landing Craft (LCVP Mk 5c) vessels to be supplied to the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps. These landing craft will equip the Rotterdam class LPDs (see below).The LCVP Mk 5c craft are to be completed this year and the entire class will have entered service by 2011.The landing craft will eventually replace the twelve L9530 LCVP Mk 2 and L9536 Mk 3 vessels that the navy currently operates and will augment the services' L9525 Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Mk 2 vessels which have been upgraded to each carry a pair of Leopard-2A6 Main Battle Tanks.
In July 2007, the final Griffon-8100TD hovercraft was delivered to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration to equip the navy's Amphibious Battalion. So far the country has purchased three of these hovercraft, acquiring the first two in 2006 and 2007 respectively. The vessels are equipped with a glass cockpit and triple-redundant controls. They are the largest hovercraft built by Griffon and can move a payload of ten tonnes at speeds of up to 74 km/h (40 knots) although unladen the hovercraft can reach speeds of 93 km/h (50 knots).
On 30th May 2008, EPS of the United States announced a contract to build two M-10 hovercraft for the Saudi Arabian Border Guard which will be delivered in 2009. The vessel can travel at speeds in excess of 93 km/h in conditions of up to Sea State Four and can lift up to eleven tonnes. This can translate into the carriage of light vehicles or up to 70 troops. The construction of the vessel uses weight-saving materials such as fibre reinforced plastic and Kevlar. The hovercraft has been designed for over-the-horizon landing operations and patrol duties in swamp and littoral areas. The vessel also boasts a low radar signature and a range in excess of 926 km (500 nm).
The Turkish government announced in August last year that the country would acquire up to eight Landing Craft Tank (LCT) vessels to equip the Turk Deniz Kuvvetleri (Turkish Navy). The Turkish navy already has 25 C-117 class LCTs in service, along with 17 C-302 class mechanised landing craft (LCM). The new LCTs will replace the C-117 vessels and eight vessels will be purchased to this end. The landing craft are expected to lift in excess of 200 tonnes, which can include up to 260 personnel and equipment, or alternatively three MBTs, along with three tons of ammunition. The LCT acquisition comes at a time when the Turkish Navy is performing a wholesale overhaul of its amphibious capabilities, with the country in the market for a single large LPD, two Landing Craft Personnel Vehicles, four LCMs and up to 30 amphibious assault vehicles.
A number of companies responded to the Turkish government's request for information including DCNS and Constructions Industrielles de la Mediterranee of France, along with Merwede of the Netherlands, Hanjin Heavy Industries of South Korea and Navantia. Other European shipbuilders are also offering proposals including Fincantieri, ThyssenKrupp Marine and Downey Engineering. Around twelve local companies have also shown interest in meeting the requirements, and these firms could emerge as possible partners for the European suppliers to help fulfil Ankara's desire to have a high degree of domestic involvement in these landing craft projects.
Amphibious Support Ships
Several acquisition and development programmes for large amphibious support ships are ongoing around the world. In Spain, Navantia was celebrating the launch of the largest vessel to enter service with the Armada Espafiola, the Juan Carlos 1 (see Armada 3/2008, page 81). The eponymous Spanish monarch attended the launching ceremony of this new LPD on 10 March. The vessel has a flight deck that can accommodate AV-8B combat and V-22 tilt rotor aircraft, plus NH90, CH-47 and AB-212 helicopters. The ship is widely expected to replace the Pizarro and Hernan Cortes Newport class US Navy LSTs which were acquired by the Spanish Navy in the mid-1990s.
In the United Kingdom the Royal Navy performed the final stage of its Royal Fleet Auxiliary LSD renewal programme. The senior service took receipt of its last Bay class vessel, the RFA Lynne Bay, which was formally commissioned on 8 August 2007. The vessel joins its sister ships the RFA Largs Bay, RFA Mounts Bay and RFA Cardigan Bay.
Meanwhile, the Koninklijke Marine (Royal Netherlands Navy) performed the final series of sea trials with the HNLMS Johan de Witt LPD before the vessel is formally commissioned. The Johan de Witt will join the HNLMS Rotterdam and is very similar to its sister vessel, except that the former is also equipped with command and control facilities.
South Africa has launched the Project Millennium programme, which is tasked with procuring a Landing Helicopter Dock vessel to perform a number of missions. Project Millennium is currently a feasibility study into exactly the type of vessel that will be acquired. The South African Navy is expected to acquire at least two vessels each displacing around 20,000 tonnes. The ships would perform a number of missions including sealift, humanitarian support, search and rescue co-ordination and joint-force command and control. The acquisition is expected to cost up to $1.16 billion per vessel and the ships will enter service around 2013. The South African Navy is reported to have several existing vessel types under consideration, including the Mistral class, Australia's Strategic Projection Ship or ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems' concept MHD 150.
In Latin America, towards the end of 2007, Brazil took delivery of the former HMS Sir Galahad from the Royal Navy. The vessel has been rechristened Garcia D'Avila and is expected to be deployed for anti-narcotics missions in the Amazon region and also for amphibious operations. The ship has impressive amphibious capabilities, being able to carry up to 18 main battle tanks and over 500 troops that can be transferred to shore or to landing craft across the ships' fore and aft access ramps.
To the west, the Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy) has a need for a roll-on/roll-off vessel which could be used to support amphibious operations. The vessel will be required to have a displacement of up to 10,000 tonnes and a flight deck that can accommodate up to four helicopters. However, Chile's requirement is not expected to be fulfilled with a new-build vessel and will instead be met by a ship purchased on the international second-hand market.
Following the devastating Tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean region in 2004, the Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Navy) has articulated a desire to purchase LPD class ships to assist with military operations and humanitarian missions around the region. A request for proposals for up to three LPD vessels is expected imminently and European shipyards in France, Spain and the Netherlands are likely to offer proposals in addition to the Hanjin Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea. It is anticipated that the vessels would enter service by 2015.
Canada, meanwhile, has had a longstanding requirement for an amphibious operations support vessel. The vessel is to be procured to allow the Canadian Forces Maritime Command to rapidly deploy around 800 troops. However, plans to acquire the ship have been postponed until after 2011, despite the vessel being essential for Canada's plans to raise a Standing Contingency Force to support expeditionary operations.
Ottawa is currently engaged in the Joint Support Ship programme with BAE Systems, SNC-Lavalin Profac and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems all offering proposals. The plans call for three 28,000-tonne ships to enter service by 2016. The ships will accommodate up to three helicopters along with vehicles and containers. The vessels will also have a 60-bed hospital and facilities for up to 75 personnel to staff a joint operational headquarters. In order to finance the procurement Canada will decommission the HMCS Protecteur and Perserver auxiliary oil replenishment ships, together with several aircraft. Downselect of the successful proposal is expected this year, with the first vessel scheduled to enter service in 2012.
The US Navy is continuing its investment into its amphibious support ships. In early July, Northrop Grumman announced that the USS Green Bay San Antonio class LPD had successfully completed collaborative trials with the US Navy. The testing regime examined the vessel's propulsion system along with its steering mechanisms, communications, sensors and radar. The trials also examined the vessel's capacity for flight deck operations, its sea-keeping and also well deck operations for landing craft. The next stage for the ship is acceptance trials before its full commission.
In December 2007, the company won a contract worth $ one billion to construct the ninth vessel in the San Antonio class. The ship will be called USS Somerset and continues from the USS Mesa Verde, which was commissioned in December 2007, and the USS New York, which was formally named in the same month. In late June 2008 the US Navy announced that the first of its new series of LHA ships would be christened USS America once the ship, the lead vessel in the America class, is delivered to the US Navy in 2012. The ship was to have originally been called the USS Gerald Ford bur a concerted campaign to petition Donald C. Winter, the Secretary of the Navy, triggered the name change. The name continues the tradition of the Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier, the USS America, which left the fleet in 1996.
The US Office of Naval Research is looking at acquiring the so-called Sea Base Connector-Transformable Craft (T-Craft) which will be a high-speed vessel to transport and unload material over distances of up to 4700 km (2537 nm).The craft could load and offload cargo onto amphibious support vessels such as LPDs, and also have the wherewithal to transport equipment across the beach as a truly 'go-anywhere' long-range landing craft. The motivation behind US Navy's acquisition of the T-Craft is because its existing landing craft and Landing Air Cushioned Craft hovercraft have to be transported in the well deck of an LPD until they are within suitable range of the beachhead, which uses up value space inside the amphibious support ships.
However, existing landing craft carry a relatively limited amount of cargo, up to 68,000 kg in the case of the Lcac, and rely on good sea conditions. The US Navy also wants to increase the stand-off distances for the amphibious support ships moving them beyond current landing craft ranges to distances of around 463 km (250 nm) from the beachhead whenever possible.
The Office of Naval Research is looking to industry to develop a craft that would have this range and could travel, when loaded, at speeds of up to 74 km/h (40 knots) while carrying loads of up to 680 tonnes. The craft must also be able to drive across the beach when landed, be capable of travelling at up to 37 km/h (20 knots) in Sea State Five and must be survivable in conditions of up to Sea State Eight. The craft must also be able to load and unload cargo from the amphibious support vessel in conditions of up to Sea State Four.
Three consortia are working on the programme including the Alion Science and Technology-led team which comprises JJMA Maritime and Industrial Engineering Group, Nichols Boat Builders and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, which is looking at an air-cushioned design as one way to achieve the ONR's requirements. Meanwhile, Umoe Mandal has teamed with General Atomics, Kiewit Offshore Services, Griffon Hovercraft, Island Engineering, Fireco and Wamit. The company is experimenting with hovercraft technology and the Surface Effect System (SES), used on the Skjold class fast patrol boats operated by the Royal Norwegian Navy, to develop a hybrid vessel which would use both an air-cushioned and SES design. Meanwhile, a hybrid air-cushion and catamaran design is being investigated by a team including Textron Marine and Land Systems, Mino Marine, the Littoral Research Group, L-3 Communications, NSWC Panama City and CDI Marine. The ONR will choose a winning design for a contract worth $150 million to develop a full-sized demonstrator that will be ready for trials around 2013.
Meanwhile, the US Army has announced a major restructuring of its watercraft fleet. As part of an initiative known as Joint Logistics Over The Shore (Jlots), the army is scheduled to operate 148 vessels by 2013 which will include high-speed boats capable of landing a Stryker armoured vehicle. The force will also acquire up to 34 landing craft and eight 83-metre-long logistics vessels. Floating causeway and causeway ferries will also be purchased.
The US Army's current watercraft fleet includes the LCU-2000 52-metre landing craft and the LCM-S 22-metre landing craft, most of which were used during the Vietnam War and were based around World War Two-era designs. The vessels are part of the 7th Transportation Group at Fort Eustis, Virginia and the boats were active during Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing lift for Marine Corps and Special Operations troops during amphibious missions. In co-operation with the ONR's T-Craft programme, the army is looking at a larger vessel that could transport more troops and materiel over longer distances, preferably up to 300 troops or 23 Stryker vehicles. To this end the Army has performed trials, in conjunction with the US Navy, with the Joint Venture, a catamaran owned by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. The vessel served as a command ship for humanitarian operations during the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and also supported special ops' missions during Operation Iraq Freedom.
The US Marine Corps is running into trouble trying to replace its AAV7A1 amphibious landing vehicle with the new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). The new design is intended to carry up to 17 troops at speeds of 46 km/h (25 knots) at sea. The vehicles are intended to have a range of around 40 km (21 nm) from ship-to-shore. The corps has maintained that the EFV, with its flat-bottomed hull, has the best design. However, members of the US Congress have disagreed, arguing that the current design lacks adequate protection against anti-vehicle bombs. Instead, they have urged the Marine Corps to considera V-shaped hull design, although members of the Corps have argued that this will reduce the vehicle's sea performance. Current prototypes being trialled by the Marine Corps have also suffered around one failure for every four and a half hours of operation.
Other problems include the cost increases for the EFV programme, which have risen by almost 30% with each vehicle predicted to cost around $17 million, with over 570 units expected to be purchased. General Dynamics Land Systems, which is developing the EFV, has also suffered problems in developing a propulsion system that can move the EFV through the water at the required speed. Moreover, the vehicles were originally supposed to enter service in 2008, however they will not enter the US Marine Corps inventory until 2015 at the earliest.
The range and depth of missions that navies are expected to perform in terms of amphibious operations has increased significantly over the last fifteen years. Naval operations to provide humanitarian relief for victims of natural disasters in Asia anal around the Indian Ocean region following the 2004 Tsunami will be repeated in the future.
High-intensity military amphibious operations are here to stay. Looking back at the landings on the Al Faw peninsula at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, one sees that this action could be a harbinger of things to come. It is not inconceivable that a country's armed forces may have to fight their way from the sea to their objectives on land, no matter how dangerous such an operation might be.
Fortunately, recent and new designs of armoured vehicles offer both a means of protected transport, an amphibious capability that can get troops to the shore in relative safety, and a protected environment once on land. The recent acquisitions of hovercraft by Sweden and Saudi Arabia, plus the US T-Craft initiative, underline the importance of being able to reach the shore at speed. The less time a squad of troops or their equipment spends at sea, the smaller its window of vulnerability to attack. Finally, navies across the world are also recognising the capabilities offered by large amphibious support combatants, not only to provide a means to transport troops and materiel, but also to provide a mobile air base, deployable command and control facilities and support services such as hospitals and drinking water filtration systems.
From Russian On a Cushion
Russian has a strong history in the construction of civilian and military hovercraft. Amongst the military models offered to the export market by Rosoboronexport art the Zubr (Bison) and the Murena-E (Moray). At 550 tonnes, the Almaz Zubr (left simply is the world's largest hovercraft, has a range of over 216 nm, a top speed of 60 kts and can land three main battle tanks. Also from Almaz, the smaller Murena-E tips the scales at 150 tonnes with a payload of 24 tonnes. It will carry 130 men over a distance of 200 nm at a cruise speed of 50 kts.
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|Title Annotation:||Complete Guide|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2008|
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