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Navy Renames Three Ship Classes, Creates ‘Expeditionary’ Designator in Naming System

A Landing Craft Air Cushion is launched from the Military Sealift Command mobile landing platform USNS Montford Point (MLP 1) during Pacific Horizon 2015. US Navy photo.

A Landing Craft Air Cushion is launched from the Military Sealift Command mobile landing platform USNS Montford Point (MLP 1) during Pacific Horizon 2015. US Navy photo.

This post has been updated to include additional information regarding the ship naming action memo from the chief of naval operations to the Navy secretary.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus redesignated three new ship classes to give them more traditional three-letter names.

Whereas Navy ships have previously been named based on root designator letters – C for carrier, F for frigate, G for guided missile-capable – the most recent ship classes to enter the fleet have taken on long and unusual names of their own. In the case of the Littoral Combat Ship – dubbed LCS – the name is actually misleading, given that the L designator is used for amphibious ships, which the LCS is not.

Mabus began to address the issue in January, when he announced the next flight of LCS would be called FF, a frigate.

This week, the secretary announced three more changes: Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) will be called Expeditionary Fast Transport, or EPF; the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) will be called Expeditionary Transfer Dock, or ESD; and the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) variant of the MLP will be called Expeditionary Mobile Base, or ESB.

Spokesman Capt. Patrick McNally said the chief of naval operations’ staff made the recommendations to Mabus, who signed off on them this week to give these new platforms more conformative names.

The decision establishes E as a new designator, similar to the L-class amphibious ships, S-class submarines, A-class auxiliaries and more. These three E-class ships were previously listed as seabasing ships in the Naval Vessel Register.

The decision also allows for a better understanding of the ships’ purpose in the fleet. The MLP being called an ESD, for example, lines it up with the amphibious dock landing ship LSD – both the expeditionary E-class and amphibious L-class ships will transport and launch smaller vehicles as needed for operations. The Navy notes in its Fact File that the LSDs “transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations.” The mission of the Mobile Landing Platform is quite similar in other warfare areas – to transport and launch vehicles for mine countermeasures or special operations missions, based on the original requirements for the ship, or in other warfare areas as the Navy continues to learn the full capabilities of the flexible platform.

In an Aug. 31 memo to Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert explained that “the ESD serves as a ‘pier in the ocean’ or transition point for vehicles and equipment which are transferred ashore by Landing Craft Air Cushions. The ESB will conduct an array of missions and may have more than just Navy personnel conducting those missions. Although the ESD and ESB are not designed as amphibious assault platforms, they will conduct operations which can be characterized as expeditionary.”

He added that the Joint High Speed Vessel’s new name, EPF, indicates it is expeditionary, a transport vehicle, and fast.

In the memo, Greenert wrote that the “class name and class designation changes would be consistent with the ships’ operations, with our instructions, and with the assigned mission set.” He cited the July 1920 General Order #541 that established the standard nomenclature for naval vessels and said the “E” designation for “expeditionary support” would fit in.

  • Marcd30319

    Well, at least the finally got rid of those annoying acronyms masquerading as ship designations although the “E” for expeditionary will take some time to gain acceptance.

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  • Sailboater

    Interesting

  • Haole Jon

    ESWS just got more fun.

  • vincedc

    How can anyone read this article, and still believe it was done to reduce confusion?

    • gunnerv1

      I still like the term “DE” as in Destroyer Escort, the only reason we changed to “FF”, Fast Frigate, was to appease the European Union.

      • John B. Morgen

        It was really a NATO standard or a paradigm of the Royal Navy’s standards. The EU has nothing to do with the changes.

        • gunnerv1

          I know, the only reason I said “European Union” is that The UK is a reluctant member of the EU.

          • John B. Morgen

            I have heard about some talk within the UK about leaving the EU, maybe, I heard it just before the last UK’s elections.

          • gunnerv1

            I was over in the EU last year (The Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland), the UK still uses the “Pound Sterling” as it’s Official Monetary Unit (never retiring it) but will accept Euro’s (current exchange rate .89/1.00) Whereas all other members of the EU use only the Euro.

          • John B. Morgen

            That is true……

      • RobM1981

        I used the term Corvette, and John says Sloop, but I could get behind DE too – if just.

  • leesea

    It makes NO sense. Most ships are expeditionary by their nature. All MSC ships are T-ships. Many were originally typed as A-ships, but many are built as sealift ships and not auxiliaries.

    T-APC (coastal transport) would have worked fine for JHSV. (I suggested it years ago)
    T-AKD (wet dock cargo ship) for MLP which BTW was originally an Intermediate Transfer Ship ITS.
    How about T-FAB Forward Afloat Base? OR T-FSS Forward SeaBase Ship, if AFSB wasn’t ok?
    The Naval Vessel Register is uses the term: “Sea Basing” which has been around for awhile. Pretty widely used today. Why not that?
    They have just create a new ship type unnecessarily IMHO

  • magic3400

    makes sense…

  • Secundius

    I grant you, someone was on “LSD” when it came up with this Re-Designation of Classes Idea…

    • John B. Morgen

      The LSD came about during World War II, and that is when the designation was given, and not after the war.

      • Steve Skubinna

        Until the late sixties there were still amphibious ships with an “A” prefix, such as APA and AKA, and of course the converted DE high speed transports were APD. Sometime in the early seventies all gators were redesignated with an “L” prefix.

        • John B. Morgen

          Both the designations LST and LSD were given during World War II because these types of amphibious transports were designed for the first time; including, LSMs, LCUs, LCIs and so on. However, ship transports, cargo ships were given the prefix designations A during World War II, and same for DE high speed transports, yet APDs were later dropped sometime during the Post-WWII era. You don’t see them anymore, nor they are being built. You got your designations correct, but some of time lines are incorrect….

          • Steve Skubinna

            Well, I did not want to get into a history lesson. But the LST and LSD began as abbreviations, as did the LCS designation. They were, of course, Landing Ship Tank and Landing Ship Dock respectively. Since that fit with the various landing craft designations it made sense later to adopt “L” as the prefix for amphibious vessels, and the few APAs and AKAs left were redesignated..

            The APA and AKA were “assault” versions of the existing transports and cargo ships, so it was actually the suffix that denoted amphibious – the last “A,” not the first. There were pure APs and AKs before and since for point to point carriage of personnel and cargo..

            As for the APDs I believe that the designation LPR was created for them, but after the last one had gone to the boneyard, and so none ever actually carried it.

            Incidentally, there was one LSD type vessel built specifically for MSTS, USNS Point Barrow (T-AKD 1). She was intended for Arctic supply, and was eventually modified and renamed USNS Point Loma and was the support ship for deep diving submersibles, such as the bathyscaphe Trieste.. She never had an amphibious designation, as her mission was quite different. Her major external difference from an LSD was her centerline funnel, rather than the paired small ones along the sidewalls of the gators.

          • John B. Morgen

            Most of the APDs were taken out from service during the mid-1960s, which many of them were scrapped, and some were transferred to other foreign navies. However, the USS Ruchamkin, Beverly W. Reid, Weiss and Kirwin received FRAM refits. All APDs were reclassified LPRs in 1955.

  • old guy

    An LCS, by any other name would STILL smell.
    I would hate to think what the acronym, FF will become.

    • Sailboater

      I wonder what idiots decided on a piece of crap that could not manage the Atlantic or pacific oceans

      • old guy

        I think an old poem applies to our current leadership:

        Little fleas have lesser fleas upon their backs to bite’m
        and lesser fleas have tiny fleas, and so ad infinitum’.
        Now the little fleas have larger fleas, upon whose backs to go on,
        and the larger fleas have bigger fleas and greater fleas….and so on.

        BUT THEY ARE STILL ALL FLEAS!

      • Steve Skubinna

        That’s happened before. The USCG “Famous” class medium endurance cutters have all been redeployed to the Atlantic because they cannot operate in the Pacific. They can barely operate in the Atlantic either.

        The lesson there, as with the LCS, is that when you design a ship to meet marginal requirements you get a marginal ship.

    • gunnerv1

      Remember, DE’s/FF’s are “almost” expendable as they are always on the outside edge of the CV(N)’s AA/ASW screen as almost always “First Contact” with the Opposing Forces, Cheaply Made, Lightly Manned, (in comparison to DDG’s) and therefore plentiful (in comparison). Served on six of them (first one built in 1943).

  • RobM1981

    I appreciate that the LCS name was a bad idea from the very beginning, and renaming it was clearly necessary. However, “Frigate” is hardly the proper choice, and this further underscores a feeling of – pardon my bluntness – deception from the USN towards the Congress and the people.

    The LCS’s are not in any way frigates. By no reasonable measures are they frigates. They do not compare at all with frigates of either sailing or steam era’s, and obviously the Navy knows this. Which leads us, again, to ask “then why do this? To mask a bad choice?”

    Constitution is a Frigate. Knox is a Frigate. Perry is a Frigate.

    The LCS is a corvette. Both classes displace about 1/3 less than the Perry’s did, which in and of itself does not settle the matter. OTOH, look at the hull design and armament. These vessels are obviously designed for inshore work (thus the “Littoral” in their names), and not long-term blue water work. A Perry could, and often did, escort a carrier group. Either LCS design would not perform well in that role, particularly in a heavy sea.

    The armament, in particular, makes the use of the term “frigate” very problematic. A Perry had a 40 missile magazine sized for Harpoon or SM’s. It had a surface/air gun, ASW torpedoes, one CIWS, and a full hangar for up to 2 helo’s.

    An Independence typically only ships one helo to the Perry’s normal two. It has a gun and a CIWS that, hopefully, are equivalent to their contemporaries. It has a 24 missile magazine, sized for Hellfires – that is preposterous. A Hellfire carries a 20 lb warhead; a Harpoon’s is almost 500 pounds.

    And without “modules,” the LCS ships no ASW of any kind other than what’s on the helo. Seriously?

    In its normal configuration an LCS brings no serious AAW, ASW, or ASuW capabilities to bear. It has a helo and it has a gun and it has anti-tank missiles, and that’s about it.

    Who is the Navy trying to fool here? Even “Corvette” is, again, charitable. The LCS, regardless of what you call it, is a fair-weather Coast Guard Cutter.

    Fair weather only.

    • John B. Morgen

      I would call the LCS a sloop, and not a corvette. I’m by using the old school of thought, and then apply it to modern world.

      • old guy

        I would (and have) called it a disaster.

        • John B. Morgen

          I agree. It is the wrong warship that is being assigned for the wrong missions, for the wrong time period. The Navy should be building frigates (cruisers) to be deployed for long range missions, armed with advanced weapon systems that could easily confront both the PLAN and also the Russian Pacific Fleet.. The LCS is a very bad concept, and the program must be cancel…..

          • old guy

            The original concept was and is GREAT. as I have stated before. It is of a well-conceived design, capable of integrating various MODULAR packages, by providing, in the base ship the utilities to operate them as first defined by my SEA 03 people, in 1975. The Germans, in the MEKO have some of this capability. The LCS does NOT have modular capability, only space, which means that the utilities to operate the module are not present. A lousy abortion of the concept.

          • John B. Morgen

            The modular concept does offer a great deal of flexibility than a fixed warship design. Although, several MEKO designed warships were built by Germany for overseas customers, but the modular concept didn’t catch on with the major sea powers. Yet the MEKO design concept would be ideal for this so-called LCS, but I would have the vessel to be enlarge or be built as a frigate (cruiser), for its long range missions. As you and I have stated, the LCS is a very bad judgement call and it should be cancel.

          • old guy

            It fits my assessment of P^7.
            It joins the DD1000, USS FLOPOVER, the V-22, HAIRSPRAY and the 2 piece,125 ton artillery unit

      • Secundius

        @ John B. Morgan. and Old Guy.

        Personally I think the Ship has Merit. But, A “Sloop” is defined as a Vessel between the Sizes of a Corvette and Frigate. In Modern Terms There’s:
        1. Light Draught Coast Defense Vessel (USA)
        2. Blockade Runner (USA)
        3. Perimeter Action Ship (USA)
        4. Sloop-of-War (UK)
        5. Global Combat Ship (UK)
        6. Joint Concept Note (UK), British Humor I Guess…

        • John B. Morgen

          The United States Navy had sloops before, but during the early age of steam, but the term sloop had disappeared when the Navy entered into 20th century..Yes, the term sloop is smaller than a corvette and frigate, but it is still being use by the European sea-powers; a small warship that is use for patrolling or protecting overseas territories. That is why the LCS must be reclassify as a sloop.

        • Vitonio

          I like “Blockade Runner”. It is fast and lightly armed.

    • Steve Skubinna

      Corvette would be my choice for type designation. However there’s no way one can justify placing a three striper in command of a corvette and so the Captain’s and Commander’s Union would never stand for it.

      The LCS program cannot be looked at in a vacuum. It’s as much a political issue (by which I mean internal Navy and DoD politics) as a combat platform.

      • RobM1981

        Wow… I never thought of this, but it makes a LOT of sense. Thanks for the feedback.

  • John B. Morgen

    LCS are actually sloops, and should not be refer as frigates. A frigate is the old term for cruisers, whereas destroyers should be refer as corvettes. However, all of our present day destroyers are over the 6,000 ton range which makes all them to be cruisers because of past naval treaties’ definition. We should return to the past classifications and definitions in order to bring sanity, and clear up this whole mess of things.

    • TomD

      Perhaps this is a good idea. However, tonnage was not the only requirement for determining what was a cruiser and what was a destroyer. Cruisers were built to be more survivable and to be capable of greater independent action than destroyers. Cruisers were often also capable of acting as flagships.

      In the U.S. Navy a sloop or corvette would have been classed as a patrol craft, so it would have been a PC or similar designation.

  • TomD

    C by itself was for cruiser, not carrier. V (apparently for aviation) was the basis for carrier, although we have seen V in both carriers as CV and airship and seaplane tenders as AV.

    • Steve Skubinna

      “V” is fixed wing heavier than air aviation. Helo units of course use “H” and back in the days of lighter than air they used “Z”. I believe the first “LHA,” at least functionally was USS Commencement Bay, originally designated CVHE.

  • TomD

    So, we now have L ships and E ships that both project power ashore. What is the difference? Speed? Or is the difference merely who crews the ships?

  • Chesapeakeguy

    They should get rid of the “G” for Guided Missile”. If you put a MANPADS on a row boat, you technically have a guided missile capable craft. At least ONE letter can now be ‘retired’.

  • Secundius

    Ahhh, Yes and “AF” need’s a new part for it’s Fresh Water Condenser…

  • PolicyWonk

    Makes sense, overall.

    But Mabus, when re-designating LCS, claimed that the title “Littoral Combat Ship” confused people. And it should – and still does “confuse” people.

    Adm. Greenert said that the Littoral Combat Ship was never designed to “venture into the littorals to engage in combat”.

    To “confuse” the issue further, Sec NAV Mabus reclassified LCS (that Adm. Greenert admitted it was never intended to do) as a “Frigate”, that according to DOT&E will not be significantly different in either armament or protection. Hence – the “confusion” will persist, because giving a designation of a certain class of ship that in no way lives up to the designation (in either case).

    If Mr. Mabus wanted to provide a more realistic designation to LCS and its slightly modified but vastly more expensive cousins, he could have called it a EUS (expeditionary utility ship), or better yet, CWP (Corporate Welfare Program).

  • Ctrot

    LCS = OEC

    “Overly Expensive Corvette”

  • Bull Jones

    It is about bloody time someone began to strain out the alphabet soup. It was getting too thick to swallow.

  • leesea

    this all started because senior naval leaders allowed ship classes to be connected to the ship acquisition program title. WHY? The so-called initial ships classes are self-inflicted wounds.
    And once again shows that SECNAV will do what he wants to do about naming conventions. See the 2013 report that on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

  • HTC Retired

    RobM is correct, the LCS’s should be classed as PC’s continuing the numbering system all ready in place since WWII. SECNAV was dumb in Okaying the “E” designator, in the first place. The MLP’s should be designated LPF because of their high speed, the JHSV’s should be classed as LSV because of their capability of taking aboard vehicles, and even tanks. As a Naval Historian it’s clear to me he blundered. The follow on LCS’s should also be PC’s or Corvettes (PF) such as RobM says, and not a full blown frigate like an FF…..

  • Rob C.

    All these re-designations just don’t work. Why confuse people more? Grant you the JHSV doesn’t really tell anyone what it does on paper. E-designation makes sense but JHSV become EPF makes no translation. EST i can understand, ETF would make sense.

    As for mentioning of the T-designation. That was used for signify a difference between in-service civilian manned Auxiliary ships from active-durty military personal manned auxiliary ships which happen to be armed. Virtually all the auxiliaries are civilian manned. It’s just hold overs from old era.

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