US Navy develops requirements for next-generation amphibious platforms and logistics ships
Warship Technology: July/August 2020
These still embryonic programmes envisage the adaption or alteration of an existing commercial ship design, or a ‘build to print’ from a historic design.
Taking its cue from the 2018 National Defense Strategy – which redirected the Marine Corps’ mission focus from countering violent extremism in the Middle East to great power/peer-level competition with a specific focus on the Indo-Pacific – the Force Design 2030 report outlines a radical restructure of the corps’ capabilities to address a profound shift in missions from inland to littoral, and from non-state actor to peer competitor.
Acknowledging the strategic guidance that has shaped Force Design 2030, General David H Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, said that wargames, modelling and operational analyses had revealed a number of capability shortfalls consequent of the shift in primary focus to great power competition and a renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our current force design, optimised for large-scale amphibious forcible entry and sustained operations ashore, has persisted unchanged in its essential inspiration since the 1950s,” he said. “It has changed in details of equipment and doctrine as technology has advanced toward greater range and lethality of weapon systems.
“In light of unrelenting increases in the range, accuracy, and lethality of modern weapons; the rise of revisionist powers with the technical acumen and economic heft to integrate those weapons and other technologies for direct or indirect confrontation with the [US]; and the persistence of rogue regimes possessing enough of those attributes to threaten US interests, I am convinced that the defining attributes of our current force design are no longer what the nation requires of the Marine Corps.”
General Berger outlined a number of shortfalls in expeditionary capability, while also identifying certain areas where the Marine Corps had ‘over-invested’ in capabilities judged to be of reducing relevance.
He added: “[As] an element of the integrated naval force, we have capability and capacity excesses and shortfalls in areas not organic to the Marine Corps, but which are essential to our ability to contribute to sea control and sea denial in a contested littoral environment.
“These include a requirement for smaller, lower signature, and more affordable amphibious ships and a shortfall in affordable, distributable platforms that will enable littoral manoeuvre and provide logistical support in a very challenging theatre for the kind of operations envisioned in our current concepts.”