domingo, 16 de março de 2008

USS San Antonio (LPD 17) a more capable first wave

USS San Antonio (LPD 17)

A number of people have called attention to the very good pictures recently added to the Navy Newsstand website of the USS San Antonio (LPD 17) well deck. These are excellent photos, I don't remember ever seeing pictures this good of well deck operations on amphibious ships in the past.

The dedicated space for the AAV platoon is going to give all kinds of options to future loading plans. The big change these pictures remind us of is that the AAV platoon has its own stowage on the LPD-17, where on the Austins they would usually sit on the well deck.

These pictures also appear to reveal the Iwo Jima ESG will include the USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). That got us to think about something.

USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7)
USS San Antonio (LPD 17)
USS Carter Hall (LSD 50)

Adding up those three ships amounts to around 62,800 vehicle square and 211,700 cargo square. That appears to be only about 3200 vehicle square short of what was reportedly taken by the 24th MEU recently forward deployed by the USNS Algol to Afghanistan. That must make Marines very happy. For comparison purposes, the three ships of the Tarawa ESG currently in the Persian Gulf has around 50,700 vehicle square and 149,300 cargo square.

In other words, the LPD-17 class not only adds tremendous vehicle and cargo square for the MEUs being deployed, but because they have stowage for the AAV platoon, they allow for more ship to shore connectors for the MEU. The effect is a more capable first wave, or what we think could potentially become a method ground forces are utilized in the long war for dealing with ungoverned regions, a quick assault. Basically the fast assault by air or sea of mobile specialized units against an enemy stronghold, but includes a rapid, complete extraction. That may sound strange, but there are dozens of places today that would be legitimate targets if the military wasn't engaged in Iraq, with at least 3 locations in Somalia.

When looking at the first wave of an MEU landing, consider the following. With 4 LCACs, and 2 LCUs a first wave can include:

1 AAV platoon with 1 Marine Rifle Company (self deploy)
1 M1A1 Platoon with 4 tanks, 2 per LCU
2 LAV Detachments, 16 total, 4 per LCAC

It is also noteworthy that a Whidbey Island class LSD would provide for 6 LCACs and 2 LCUs per ESG, and the option offered there is the ability to land a full LAR company (24 LAVs) in one wave with 6 LCACs.

That is before you factor in 12 MV-22s and 4 CH-53Es for the first wave.

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