Home » Aviation » Marines Challenged on How to Fit New Vehicles, Aircraft on Legacy Amphibs


Marines Challenged on How to Fit New Vehicles, Aircraft on Legacy Amphibs

Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP) are offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau (T-AKR 304) onto the pier in 2008. US Navy Photo

Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAP) are offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau (T-AKR 304) onto the pier in 2008. US Navy Photo

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO — The U.S. Marine Corps is in the midst of several acquisition programs that will extend the reach of the force and keep Marines safer while on the ground however the Corps is struggling how to fit the new kit on the Navy’s existing amphibious ships.

The Navy’s fleet of amphibious warships were designed decades ahead of the hard lessons of improvised explosive devices (IED) that wreaked havoc on U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rapid growth in the weight of new and better protected vehicles are pushing the margins of what the current crop of amphibs can transport.

“There’s a lot of great equipment out there but if the amphibious fleet, the seabase has to carry by weight by cargo foot some of the assets that we see available or in the future, will the seabase have that type of room?,” asked Maj. Gen. Michael Regner to a panel at the Modern Day Marine exposition on Wednesday.

Before Sept. 11, 2001, an amphibious ship averaged about a 70 percent utilization rate for stowage in its hold with a sizable margin for growth, Marine Corps Seabasing Integration Division director Jim Strock said at a panel at the Modern Day Marine exposition on Wednesday.

“Today — and we’ve analyzed new load outs since 2009 — that growth and stow [margin] is down to .62-.63 [percent],” Strock said.
“We’ve had a ten percent loss in in utilization rate on existing amphibious ships and deck space because our equipment is bigger. Its heavier and most importantly, it’s higher.”

Inside an amphibious warship there are internal ramps in which crew use to maneuver vehicles and some more recent vehicles — like Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) trucks — have had problems moving through out the ship.

A MV-22B Osprey from the Greyhawks of Marine Medium-lift Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) in 2015. US Navy Photo

A MV-22B Osprey from the Greyhawks of Marine Medium-lift Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (Reinforced) lands on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) in 2015. US Navy Photo

“When we first put MRAPs on some of our amphibious ships you had to deflate the tires, couldn’t make some of the turns had to be in the upper [vehicle stowage hold] not the lower [vehicle stowage hold],” Regner said.

Keeping heavier vehicles higher in the ship can lead to a host of problems in safely operating a ship.

“If you have a vehicle that’s too high because it needs ground clearance means you have to stow it higher in the ship you begin to impact the meta center of the ship and you run into trim and stability issues you run into center of gravity locations you run into displacement issues.” Strock said.
“I’m a ship handler, I got qualified years ago, and it gets a little dicey when you’re driving top heavy in the water.”

The problem is not only ground vehicles but also new and heavier aircraft to be fielded by the Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious ships (LHD-1).

“The LHDs were designed for the CH-46 on the flight deck, [now] they’re carrying the V-22. They’re designed for Harriers, they’re going to carry the [Joint Strike Fighter], huge differences in weight in the top of the ship,” he said.

The next looming challenge for Marines and the Navy is incorporating the pending fleet of 5,500 Joint Tactical Light Vehicle (JLTV) on the amphibious fleet.

The Oshkosh JLTV — selected by the Army and Marine Corps in late August — has almost three times the curb weight of the 5,500 pound HUMVEE that were used in the baseline designs for the San Antonio-class amphib (LPD-17).

Oshkosh Defense L-ATV which won the competition for the JLTV for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Oshkosh Photo

Oshkosh Defense L-ATV which won the competition for the JLTV for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Oshkosh Photo

“The JLTV — factory curb weight of 16,000 pounds, fully dressed out 21,000 pounds,” Strock said.
“The first thing we do is take the ‘L’ out of JLTV, because it’s not [light].”

Strock did recognize the need for the JLTV capability but “the challenge to industry is how to mitigate [weight issues]. The enemy now has a vote, we get that,” he said.
“It’s not who came first, the ship or the equipment, the issue is making sure those capabilities into the future are mutually supporting warfighting from the sea.”

  • magic3400

    As Marine logistics specialist from the 80s, that was an ASTONISHING read. We always made fun of the Army for being the “heavy branch” of the military. We prided ourselves on being light, agile and mobile…looks like Marine Corps has now gotten fat, dumb and heavy.

    Yeah, the enemy gets a vote, but with these staggering weight increases it changes our capabilities. Our ability to get into the fight quickly is what makes us an effective expeditionary force. These numbers will make that much more difficult. It will require additional support, basing and transport. It’s too heavy, IMO.

    • Curtis Conway

      Big Army wants heavy defensive armor to keep their troops safe and the risk equation more on the defensive side. The Marines have always been light, swift, and tactically agile. One colonel was explaining to me why the M1A2 was not accepted by the Marine Corps because they wanted to be light, mobile and offensive in nature, instead of overly restrained by a huge logistics train. However, it looks like ‘Big Army ways’ are weaseling their way into the Marine lexicon, and this is a function of your leadership. This is antithetical to the warrior ethos, and the HiStorical nature of Marine Corps Combat Arms. The 911 Force of the USA has to be True Spartans.

      • Secundius

        @ Curtis Conway.

        Would any of those “Lexicon’s” include, Guadalcanal, Raid on Cabanatuan, Raid of Los Banos, Battle of Manila…

        • Curtis Conway

          Well, as I have always said “Context is everything”. When in Island Warfare, its kinda hard to do broken field running like Patton, on a volcanic island where the enemy has been digging in for a while. tropical jungle fits in this category aswell.

          SOF forces are the exception in the US Army’s case, if you talk to any of those folks, or spend any time with those folks, you will fully understand the term “Big Army”. The USMC is considered an SOF Force. Big Army is not the Green Berets or Rangers (who also must be True Spartans).

          Also, this is not an ‘us vs them’ mentality argument . . . we are ALL Americans. Some are just more highly trained, and skill sets developed for certain missions. At present SOF seems to be the Name of the Game in GWOT. All forces must be trained and equipped to handle the mission in the environments represented in their COCOM areas, and some of those areas are rather diverse. Other forces simply have to be capable and BE THERE providing PRESENCE like a Cop on the Beat, for when they are not THERE, we experience around the globe what we are experiencing today. Almost every senior officer in command of substantial forces in each COCOM has stated before congress during testimony that he did not have sufficient forces to maintain presence. I would not be surprised if the JCS has been pressured to remove ‘presence’ from mission sets, just to justify current draw-downs.

          • Secundius

            @ Curtis Conway.

            Green Beenies and Grasshoppers, huhhh…

      • magic3400

        I agree totally, Mr. Conway. I don’t think this is the right direction for the Corps. I think the Corps must remain true to its mission as a Expeditionary Force in Readiness and to that it must be as light as possible. That’s how I was trained and I think your comment summed it up nicely.

        • Carlos Jerez

          The problem is that is not the job the marines have been doing in Irak or Afganisthan.

          • magic3400

            Actually, I think that is exactly the problem. In both AOs, the Marine Corps operated as an additional Army division, patrolling like Army units and becoming “Army”. Those conflicts have raised a generation of young Marine officers, SNCOs and NCOs whose combat experience is much closer to “Army” than Marine. They’ve become defensive, depending on “heavy” armor and kevlar for protection. They know little about MEUs or amphibious operations in a combat environment and their master is CentCom not FMFLANT, we are losing our offensive nature because we have become “Army”.

  • Curtis Conway

    It does not surprise me that older Amphibs would not be constructed to handle some of our new rolling stock, but if we are having problems getting MRAPS on the new Amphibs ? . . someone has dropped the ball. Weights and balances recognized and the meta-center understood, if we are having top heavy issues with LPD-17 or LHA-6 Class vessels then heads should roll. Now I’m wondering if we better understand why the LHA-6 & LHA-7 will be the only non-well deck in the class.

    • magic3400

      Yeah, I don’t get this either. Weight is one of the easiest things to plan for. You have all that info even before the platform is built. So to be surprised by the weight of these platforms is just baffling to me. Yes, some heads should roll…for sure.

      When I was at Little Creek, a very large portion of our sealift training centered on weight and balance, even for equipment that hadn’t entered the fleet yet. I just don’t get it, how is the Navy not prepared for this heavier gear.

      • Curtis Conway

        Let us hope it is not slipping qualifications, training and engineering expertise, because if it is, we are sunk.

        • magic3400

          Yessir, sunk indeed.

          • Secundius

            @ magic3400.

            What ever happened to the Paddle-Wheeled Amphibious “Brick” the “MC” were testing…

          • magic3400

            Oh God, I sincerely hope that thing was an X-craft. I’m scared to look it up, I’m afraid I might find out it actually made out to the fleet.

          • Secundius

            @ magic3400.

            I’m going to make the Assumption, that it got Cancelled. Latest entry on the 1/5-scale UHAC, was dated in August 2014…

          • magic3400

            Wow, yeah…1/5, that’s scary.

            We’d have to hope that the enemy is at least a full grid square away so he can’t see us coming.

            What was the speed, something like 5 knots…at 1/5 scale? I love DARPA, but this is one time they did a few too many mushrooms.

          • Secundius

            @ magic3400.

            DARPA, is doing a Feasibility Study. To see if the Concept of a Helicarrier is possible. Just like the one used by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Comic Books, The Avenger’s…

          • magic3400

            Geez, wouldn’t want to be near that thing on takeoff. I think that concept will have to wait for a new power source.

          • Secundius

            @ magic3400.

            Lockheed-Martin is already in the “Laboratory Stage”, of Building a Man Portable Fusion Reactor. Unfortunately it’s about the size of “Fat Man” Atomic Bomb. Field testing Lockheed-Martin, say’s is in 2035. Realistically, I don’t expect to see a Working Model before 2050 or 2060. And by that time, I’m going to be Beyond Caring…

          • magic3400

            LOL…at those time frames, I’ll be with St. Peter drinking a cold one. Hopefully war will not be an issue up there…LOL

            I’ll have to look up LM’s PFR, sounds interesting.

          • magic3400

            Wow, looks really interesting. Skunk Works is the right place for such an effort.

  • Rob C.

    Isn’t this on the manufacture heads that they took made these machines more bulkier, heavier than they were original intended? It wasn’t so blasted hard to get newer class of ships developed and built in first place, it won’t have been so bad. I’m curious if the next generation of LCAC, new LX-class ships will be able handle the increase weight and stability required haul newer equipment the US has in their inventory now.

    • Curtis Conway

      Current LCACs are going through upgrades a life extensions. Next generation LCAC is Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) which carries more further. The Surface Connector X Replacement, or SCXR will be the replacement for the 40+ year old LCUs that can carry more farther, at slower speeds. All of these are supposed to be in the coordinated amphibious warfare plan.

      • marunekubs

        Remember the MRAPs were ~1yr fast track to solve all the unarmored Humvees & armored versions 1/2/… that could barely get out gate b4 being destroyed by IED/VBIED.

        • Secundius

          @ marunekubs.

          That’s what happens when you build a Kentucky Derby Racehorse and get a “Stubborn” Mule, instead…

    • Secundius

      @ Rob C.

      Your probably referring to the Flight II variant of the San Antonio class Gator-Freighter. Where they “Reduced” some of the Superstructure of the Ship, to make it less “Top Heavy”…

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Gator sailor here 74 to 86. I remember when the Marines went from using Jeep 2 1/2 ton trucks and the 105’s towed. To humvees 5 ton truck and 155 towed. We knew the vehicles were going to be bigger But the eye opener was abandoning old methods like bouncing a jeep sideways to fit into a space. Having a guy draped over the tube of a 105 while 2guys moved it around. Now this new gear is plain huge. Just amazing.

  • magic3400

    We’re gonna need a bigger boat… – Sheriff Brody

  • Marjus

    Just to add to the excellent comments below. So let’s see, 40% empty ships yet too heavy and unstable for all possible conditions and environments/circumstances, old and slow and short range amphibious vehicles because the new fast and long range one was canceled due to yesterdays street patrol (IED) concepts and some made up excuse that over the shore operations are not necessary. Huh? We have to potentially do amphibious raids against a near peer (China or Russia, don’t scoff) with slow, short range and vulnerable assets against all sorts of air/shore defenses, missiles and sensors. Yup, receipt for success, the bravery of our Marines will mean naught I am afraid. 15 plus years in the sandbox has totally screwed the Marine Corps and set their doctrine, experience and procurement/modernization back decades. Heck, you probably have Marines today that have seen a ship or water less times than the number of fingers you have on your hand. Now we play catch up with a broken team and hope for the best.