It has launched a fast-track study to explore the concept of a multi-role/multi-function vessel, based on a modern commercial platform design, which could operate as a forward-deployed sea base for the Future Commando Force and special forces.
An accelerated concept and development phase for the Littoral Strike Ship is being funded through the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Transformation Fund. Current planning assumptions envisage the acquisition of two ships that would be permanently forward-deployed so as to increase the ability of the UK to maintain global presence in areas of strategic interest.
The Littoral Strike Ship concept has been evolved from an earlier Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) pre-concept study which was performed during 2017-2018. Building on the MRSS study, the Littoral Strike Ship was one of a number of proposals emerging from work undertaken in support of the Ministry of Defence’s Modernising Defence Programme.
The concept shows many similarities with the US Navy’s new Expeditionary Sea Base ships (which are a purpose-built adaptation of a commercial tanker design) and the special forces mother ship Ocean Trader (a converted ro-ro ship operated by the US Military Sealift Command as special warfare support vessel).
The concept envisages an adapted commercial hull equipped with command and control capabilities, helicopters, fast boats, underwater automated systems, and a sizeable embarked military force. According to the Ministry of Defence, the concept and development phase is seeking to design the ships for versatility and cross-government utility, noting that the vessels would have “the flexibility designed-in to be able to accept different ‘mission fits’ as well as sufficient resilience to operate in a range of environments”.
The intention is that one of the ships would be permanently deployed east of Suez, and the other in the Atlantic/Mediterranean/Baltic region. Littoral Strike Ships could also form a central part of a larger aggregation of forces, known as Littoral Strike Groups. These groups would be scaled appropriate to mission requirements, drawing on UK amphibious assets and other shipping.