2011/09/07

LPDs

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About nine years ago I began to notice the incredible versatility of LPD ships, first in a mine countermeasures (MCM) context (in which they usually don't operate, though).
My reasoning was that wartime naval mines tend to offer some surprises, so it's a good thing to have a good choice of MCM approaches. Helicopters, hovercraft, drone boats, underwater drones - all these small MCM assets can be employed by a LPD. The more daring approaches (using a ship in mine-infested stretches of the sea itself, primarily for employing its sonar) would be the only exceptions.

The amphibious invasion, resupply, evacuation, humanitarian aspects and the potential for being turned into a command ship, an improvised missile launch ship and so on are of course also versatility bonuses of a LPD category ship.

Chinese Type 071 LPD, (c)"kunlunshan 998"
I did never really write much about this fascination of mine for LPDs (I think I mentioned it once in a single line) on this blog, though. The reason is simple; it's about "Defence and Freedom". You usually don't need a LPD for the defence of your nation. You only want such ships if you engage at war on far away coastlines or prepare for the same. All you need to substitute for a LPD in an actual defence scenario are a few cheap civilian trucks with ISO function containers.
Refugee aid? Charter a civilian ship at a bargain price.

This is but one of many cost-lowering mechanisms that benefit countries which do not engage in far-away conflicts or prepare for the same.


S O
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4 comments:

  1. "Refugee aid? Charter a civilian ship at a bargain price."

    Civillian Ships require Civillian Ports which may not be available at all after an emergency, and will almost certainly be operating at a reduced capacity. Even if some miracle means the port is fully functional, its unlikely to have been designed for the capacity required post emergency.

    Not to mention, the transport links from major ports to the disaster area could also be crippled.

    An assault ship with landing craft can ignore the civillian network, and do its own thing.

    Admitadly, not worth it unless your territory includes far flung islands


    Personaly, I dont get the appeal of the "warship" looking (and costing) ones over the European ones.
    We get bigger flight decks and at a fraction of the cost, maybe its hidden in the details somewhere, but I cant see why anyone would order that instead of two Bays

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  2. This sounds as if you have never seen medium developing countries harbours. They're often little more than a bay and many small boats that load or unload a ship in small chunks.

    This kind of improvisation is more cost-effective than LCACs, and normal landing boats are just a glorified version of it. I wrote about LPDs, not LSTs, after all.
    All you really, really need to unload without a harbour are cranes on deck - and they can be multi-container modules.

    Compare budget vs. budget instead of 1 ship vs. 1 ship and you'll see that cost effectiveness trumps - especially so if you have almost no fixed costs during the years without a mission.

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  3. SO
    As I said, its a funky little adjunct to the main role, although surprisingly useful.

    An LPD close in sure shore should be able to unload 48 ISOs onto a beach via its boats in an afternoon, depending on specifics and manpower.
    I'd want internal cranes to load the landers, and the landers to push the iso and rollers onto the beach, and then bugger off for reloading.
    If its manpower winched on, and unloaded by hand on the beach, thats going to take a hell of a lot longer.
    Proper cranes, to transfer from containerships to port would be handy too.

    Unloading sacks of grains by hand, from a ship, to boat, to dock, is never going to be fast.

    On a side note, I actualy quite like LSTs too, under certain circumstances.

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  4. If I lived in Singapore or one of the Baltic nations, a LPD would be my choice to combine MCM and area denial MW. At the same time this provides a base with operational depth for the shallow strip of land that is to be defended by sea-backed army units (modern marines).

    In the Baltic my choice would be for a light infantry of jägers,scouts&sappers who rapidly limit enemy mobility with target acquisition for a small joint artillery corps (the cheapest and most surviveable option, including stealthy piston engine UAV bombers as missiles that can observe&strike far enough beyond the border) and allied air forces stationed there.
    Estonia could be clever and turn her NATO MCM role into a LPD based capability with the other Baltic nations helping to get some usefull NBC and medical stuff on these hulls. This way their support capabilities get globally more accessible for the US.
    They take their NATO slot, they can mount a reasonable defence of their own turf and make the Danish and Germans more alliance available (most important argument for the US to help them). Denmark would be the right candidate for a joint acquisition of 2 Baltic & 1 Danish Endurance-class LPD (for ~250 million $ each). These LPD can operate with a boat/corvette screen at home in an emergency, but they would create a win-win for the allied Polish and German surface fleets lacking these amphibious tools and sometimes needing them (making a lease agreement, including trained crews, if part of the acquisition and constant maintainance costs are paid).

    Estonia would further profit from a renewed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish%E2%80%93Estonian_defense_cooperation that this time is about training and equipment, especially amphibious tools.

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