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Shipbuilding Industry Pushing to Accelerate Amphibious Ship Construction

HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division has received a $165.5 million contract to provide long-lead-time material and advance construction activities for LPD 30, the first Flight II LPD. HII rendering

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – The Navy should accelerate the production of its two newest class of amphibious ships to avoid creating a cold construction line and to get the ships it needs cheaper, an industry official from Huntington Ingalls Industry told the Marine Corps and Navy last week.

Jon Padfield of HII joined officials from three other shipbuilders in promising that the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base is capable of making the major increase in construction that would be necessary for the Navy to reach its goal of a 355-ship

Speaking at the closing day of the Seabasing Operational Advisory Group’s 2018 session at this Marine Corps base, Padfield said the “amphibious ship availability doesn’t seem to be getting any better and may be getting worse,” despite the Navy’s renewed commitment to meeting the long-standing requirement for 38 amphibs.

That goal could get even harder to achieve, Padfield said, unless the Navy accelerates the planned construction starts on LHA-9, the fourth in the America class amphibious assault ships, and the second and third of the LPD-17 Flight II replacements for the aged Dock Landing Ships (LSD).

HII rendering of the future USS Bougainville

The first America-class LHA is operational and the next two are being built or set to start construction next year. But there is a multi-year gap between the construction of Bougainville (LHA-8) and the planned start for LHA-9, which would force HII to close the line, he said. In order to avoid the expense of a dormant production line, “we need to accelerate LHA-9.“

The Navy also could save money by moving up production of LPD-31 and 32, the second and third of the Flight II ships, formerly called LX(R). HII recently received funding for LPD-30, which, Padfield said, will not have the capacity of the original San Antonio class LPDs, “but will be better than the LSDs.”

A quicker rate of production saves money by improving the shipbuilder’s efficiency, he said.

General Dynamic’s Tom Wetherald and Austal USA’s Larry Ryder criticized the Navy’s proposed Common Hull, Auxiliary Multi-purpose Platform (CHAMP) concept to replace MSC’s fleet, which includes widely different type of ships, including maritime prepositioning (MPS), strategic sealift, crane, Marine Corps aviation maintenance, submarine tenders, command and hospital ships.

Wetherald said the CHAMP concept made sense for the large MPS ships, but suggested the expeditionary transport dock and expeditionary sea base ships that GD’s NASSCO yard builds would be better fits for other types. He joined Ryder in proposing variations of Austal’s expeditionary fast transports as more reasonable forms for other MSC ships.

They also proposed the LPD class as a better platform for some of those auxiliary ships than the CHAMP idea, to which Padfield nodded agreement.

Those three were joined in the assurance of the shipbuilding industrial base’s readiness to increase production by Jeff LeLeux representing Swiftships, which builds a variety of patrol craft and has the contract for the Landing Craft Utility 1700, formerly called the ship-to-shore connector program.

Later in the day, two MSC officials highlighted the problems the command has with its outdated fleet, most of which are steam-powered, which are difficult to maintain and take larger crews to operate. But they indicated they had not been involved in creating the CHAMP concept.

They said MSC has yet to receive a formal request from the Navy to study a plan to extend the service life of some of its ships to 60 years, which would be twice their expected life when built.

  • SierraSierraQuebec

    The same common hull approach would work just as well for a diesel semi-electric frigate escort version of the Arleigh Burke class, which could provide the navy with 20 ships for $21B rather than 20 FREMM’s, F100’s, or new design NSC’s for $35-40B and lots of money spent on European systems or domestic produced versions of them rather than selected parts like particular missiles and other consumables. In fact, the outfit of the escort frigate would have some similarity to that on a LPD-17 where the same function is being addressed. The benefits of going with a hot shipyard line with additional LPD-17’s and the transition to a simpler LSD version and possibly specialist auxiliaries as well have already been proven, its a no brainer for most people.

  • Ed L

    I favor a limited run (20) of the National Security cutter HII Frigate design with the 2 × 7,400 kW (9,900 hp) MTU 20V 1163 diesels
    1 × 22 MW (30,000 hp) LM2500 gas turbine engine with a top speed of over 28 knots. With a 127mm forward and a pair of MK 110 guns 57mm a top the hello hanger for at least 270 degrees of coverage. A sea ram, VLS, asw weapons etc

    • Secundius

      Not happening! US Navy already decided back in January 2018, that the Largest Caliber Naval Gun to be Mounted on New Frigate Class is the Mk.110 57mm Bofors…

  • RunningBear

    The minor revisions (2 LCACs) to the LPD-17 design would be better served with the expanded revisions to accommodate the 4 LCACs designed for the LSDs; (8) Whidbey Island class 4+1 LCACs, (4) Harpers Ferry class 2 LCACs.

    – More capacity to move the “gear” and less capacity for additional Marines.

    – LHD/2,200 + LPD/700 has the capacity for the MEU 2,200 Marines.

    • vetww2

      Tne AALC craft were invented by Jim Schuler, who worked for me. They were named for his 3 sons, Joe, Jeff and Jim. Joe being the largest, Jim being the smallest and the Jeff being the mid size. It was decided to develop the Jeff boat as Amphibious Assault Landing Craft, AALC. Two contracts were let, Aerojet’s boat was called the JEFF-A and Bell’s boat, the JEFF-B. Bell (Textron) won the competition with a better performing boat. This is what became LCAC. An amphibious mother ship was designed to replace the outmoded LPDs. This new ship was slightly larger and looked much like an aircraft carrier, except that the deck sloped to water level fore and aft, to allow continuous, efficient through loading of the 8 LCACs it carried, and 4 of the larger Joe boats (the size of the Russian Pomorniks), if we ever built them. The lack of vision to foresee that assault landings would no longer be made, led to the demise of the design, and termination of Joe boat development.
      Just thought that you would like to know.

  • proudrino

    Isn’t the Navy fortunate to have all this free advice from HII, GD, and Austal!

    It’s great to advocate pushing up the LPD 31 & 32 when you’re HII and concerned about keeping production lines open. Nevertheless, I don’t see anything in this advocacy that suggests what program or platform gets sacrificed in order to obtain additional funding for the LPDs. Budget cuts would, of course, be a Navy decision but there is no doubt that Navy would have to find the funding elsewhere in the budget.

    Which is a long way of saying that pushing up the LPD schedule is only going to happen if delivering amphibs is a higher priority that something else.

  • RTColorado

    The US Navy needs submarines, the attrition rate due to planned obsolescence combined with routine maintenance and stand downs leaves the US Navy with a minimal number of submarines available for patrol…the Navy has to stop chasing it’s own tail, it has to set priorities and stick with them. One minute the Navy needs more Destroyers, then it’s Littoral Combat Ships, then it’s Amphibious Attack…or it’s Space, or AI…or it’s a new land attack cruise missile…or ballistic missile defense…or hypersonic missile defense….or…The Navy needs to have one of those “knees-to-knees” meetings and figure out what it is they need versus what they want…and then prioritize the lists….Amazingly enough, the public will accept that line of reasoning, but the public begins to balk when it looks like the Navy itself doesn’t know what it needs versus what it wants.

    • Steamroller00008

      I totally agree with RTColorado. The Navy must prioritize critical needs and address the top needs first, and in proper order. The Navy said SSBN’s need to be first. OK. But Readiness needs to be next. The recent RIMPAC ship non-available of multiple Amphibs I think will be this year’s Navy top scandal.
      Next on the priorities list should be SSN’s. Clearly the numbers shortfall, stealth, added weapons (Virginia Payload Module), and survivability make subs much more important in the long than other desired ship types.
      No lower priority ship programs should be expanded until these top priorities are substantially met! That means OK to SLEP Arleigh Burkes, but that extra aircraft carrier needs to wait for the top priorities to be met FIRST. I believe we need to meet the needs of our country first, not the wishes of HI!

      • RTColorado

        The Navy needs to calm down and speak with some kind of unified voice. The last itme I looked (admittedly a few months ago) the Amphib process was moving along. why the Navy didn’t have an Amphib for RIMPAC is mystery though commitments to actual operational requirememnts might precluded them. Submarines and aircraft need to be the priority in my humble opinion as they constitute the”Uniquely American” ability to project power.

    • There is a decided trend in these articles in which competing weapons builders briefly combine their lobbying efforts to enrich their business sector. Today it’s amphib contractors issuing a press release, tomorrow it’s frigate builders, and next Tuesday it’s tactical jets.

      Many of these efforts take advantage of the media which continues to consolidate online, cut costs and reduce their workforce of journalists. (It’s ALL media, not just defense reporting.) Now the press has fewer field journalists and must rely instead on press releases from industry, advocacy groups, lobbyists, crime blotters, government reports, etc. It comes to a point where the press is merely recycling ‘puff pieces’ from parties with an axe to grind.