For decades, the naval community has tried to justify mounting expenses for amphibious operations against criticisms that such tactics and equipment are no longer needed to face modern threats.
Now, with the littoral focus and growing interest in delivering humanitarian aid in the wake of natural disasters, navies are finding a solid anchor for amphibious aspirations. Their sails are filling quickly with plans for larger amphibious fleets and other ships to support those missions. The U.S. Navy in particular is searching for innovative ways to buttress such operations while refining equipment to move forces from ship to shore.
Two promising vessels for amphibious support operations, Navy brass say, are the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), which provide transit of more than 40 kt. into shallow coastal waters.
The LCS-1 USS Freedom proved it can perform amphibious support in June, during the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2013 exercise with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) aboard USS LSD-46 Tortuga, in a mock raid with Malaysian army paratroopers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Sailors acted as safety observers from the ship's 11-meter (36-ft.) rigid hull inflatable boat, while the crew of Helicopter Maritime Strike Sqdn. HSM-73 provided aerial support with Freedom's MH-60R (Romeo) helicopter. With its shallow draft, Freedom anchored closer to the beach than other units and monitored landings.
“The Romeo was able to provide maritime support to the amphibious force,” says Lt. Mike Roselli, attached to HSM-73. “We could, if needed, provide Hellfire rockets, torpedoes or a search-and-rescue swimmer.”
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, U.S. chief of naval operations (CNO), is optimistic about using the JHSV in amphibious support with the vessel's capacity to carry more than 300 Marines or other personnel. “Our ability to conduct amphibious operations is an asymmetric capability,” he said in May during the International Maritime and Defense Exhibition in Singapore.