WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Marine Corps is pushing for as much simplicity as possible for the Navy’s planned Landing Ship Medium, the craft the service wants to haul Marines and material for its three Marine Littoral Regiments, the acting head of the service said on Thursday.
Since the Marines have set out to reshape the service via Force Design 2030, the three Marine Littoral Regiments are key to how they want to fight in the Pacific.
The three regiments will be ferried across the Pacific in the LSMs, designed to carry about 75 Marines with about 600 tons of gear. The island-hopping campaign will have Marines move forces designed to attack adversary ships, setting up temporary bases quickly, strike, and then leave for a new site.
For the LSMs, the Marine Corps wants to keep it simple.
“Let’s not over bank this thing. It’s not an amphibious warship and it shouldn’t be. It enables our ability to remain at the forward edge. It enables our forces to move in numbers and sustain in the littoral that are relevant to the fight. We don’t need a cyber truck. We don’t need a $3 billion sports car. We need a Ford F150 with crank windows and maybe a cassette deck,” assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Christopher Mahoney said during remarks on Thursday at U.S. Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.
The Marine Corps and Navy are completing the final requirements for the class of 18 to 35 LSMs and shipped out a draft proposal of the concept to shipbuilders, USNI News reported in October.
“Specific configuration details will be determined during the detailed design phase, but generally the ship will be less than 400 feet long, have a draft of less than 12 feet, an endurance speed of 14 knots, and roll on/roll off beaching capability,” reads an October statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.
In 2021, the Navy awarded five companies – Fincantieri, Austal USA, then-VT Halter Marine, Bollinger and TAI Engineers – a total of $7.5 million in study contracts, USNI News reported.
While the basic requirements are set, “there’s still room to maneuver,” Mahoney told USNI News following his remarks.
“Let me give you an example. We don’t know exactly what it looks like but what we do know the attributes you got to have to be able to go into an unimproved place. Can we negotiate on just what does that precisely mean?”
The number of LSMs and amphibious warships overall are major parts of the shipbuilding framework outlined by Congress in the conference draft for the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act that calls for the Marines to have more of a say in amphibious ship requirements.
“The commandant called for a program of 35 LSMs to support operations of three Marine Littoral Regiments, with affordability and speed to delivery as key considerations,” reads the draft bill language.
“However, the Navy’s program only includes 18 LSMs, a number insufficient to provide continuous support for two Marine Littoral Regiments.”
Behind the scenes, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Navy and the Marine Corps have been split over key attributes of the LSMs, several defense and legislative officials have told USNI News over the last several months.
The heart of the disagreement has been the survivability of the landing ships. The Marines have pushed for a leaner, less expensive design that will take more risk, while parts of the Navy and OSD want a tougher ship that will ultimately increase the cost beyond the $100 to $150 million goal.
As the program develops, the Navy expects to award the final detail design and construction contract for the lead ship in early 2025, with the start of construction later that year, according to NAVSEA.