MRAPs on Ships = Tight Squeeze

17.11.08

Categorie: Naval, Reality Check |

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For the Marines, a big lesson from Iraq has been the need for more armor to counter powerful roadside bombs. Problem is, the Marines are traditionally a ship-borne force, traveling in three-ship groups comprising a big-deck assault ship plus two smaller “landing ship docks” (LSDs) or “landing platform docks” (LPDs). To survive in Iraq, the Marines have adopted 15-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored trucks. Squeezing these MRAPs into the tight confines of a ship (pictured) proved a big challenge, according to Colonel David Coffman, commander of Marines aboard the USS Boxer expeditionary group, currently working up off of California. So much so that, lately, the Marines have had to stow stuff on the flight decks of the ships, and leave other stuff ashore.

(Yes, we know the photo depicts an AAV, not an MRAP. It’s just a generic photo to illustrate the inside of an amphibious ship. So don’t get all self-righteous in the comments, please.)

That’s changing, with the introduction of the LPD-17 San Antonio class of “small-deck” assault ships. The LPD adds a lot of vehicle stowage over the older vessels it replaces. The first two LPD-17s, of at least 10 planned, have been quality-control disasters thanks to shoddy construction at the Northrop Grumman shipyard, but that says nothing about the design itself, which is excellent, and the key to fitting all the Marines’ heavier vehicles without giving up the flight deck.

“With Captain Fedrin’s ship, [the] San Antonio-class … New Orleans, and then our LSD, we’ve got a tremendous leap in capacity in terms of vehicle stowage,” Coffman says. “We’re really the first West Coast [Marine Expeditionary Unit] here in the last few years that’s been able to kind of get all of our stuff well established on board and be able … to get this much stuff aboard.”

Plus more flexible storage means the LPD-17s can carry enough of everything to allow them operate independently from the main expeditionary group. Coffman calls this “distributed ops,” and it’s one of the most exciting developments in amphibious warfare in recent years. You no longer need a huge, sluggish flotilla to put Marines on the beach and support them.

“We’ve been able to execute a mechanized raid profile off the New Orleans,” Coffman says.

[It's] basically as an independent platform with our amtrack and tanks and LCACs [hovercraft] working off of that deck. So we’re very excited about the increased capacity and capability of that ship. So as far as the employment end of it, which is my part of the business, we’re really excited to have New Orleans aboard and have gained increased confidence during the workup period here.

If Northrop Grumman will get its act together on the construction of LPD-17s, and if the Navy really does design a Marine-transport module for the new Littoral Combat Ship, we could be on the verge of a golden age for amphibious warfare.

(Photo: Navy)

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9 Responses to “MRAPs on Ships = Tight Squeeze”

  1. J. says:

    “To survive in Iraq, the Marines have adopted 15-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored trucks. Squeezing these MRAPs into the tight confines of a ship (pictured) proved a big challenge, according to Colonel David Coffman”

    Yes, it’s almost as if the USMC rushed out and bought lots of ridiculously expensive vehicles prior to developing the basic requirements of how the vehicle needs to get to its destination, how it will maneuver through heavily urban areas and along narrow mountain roads, and how to pay for the costs of sustaining such a capability. But we know that can’t be true… because MRAPs are teh GREATEST THING since the M1 Garand rifle.

  2. [...] The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Boutwell, one of the rescue service’s ailing, four-decade-old “high-endurance” patrol vessels, has joined the Navy strike group centered on the USS Boxer assault ship, for that group’s six-month Pacific cruise. The Boxer group has made news, since it began training last fall, as the first strike group in years to include a full contingent of Marines. Previous groups had to do without, for the Marines were too busy in Iraq to go sailing for half a year. [...]

  3. [...] “We’ve been able to execute a mechanized raid profile off the New Orleans,” Marine Colonel David Coffman said of San Antonio’s sister ship. “[It’s] basically operating as an independent platform with our amtrack and tanks and LCACs [hovercraft] working off of that deck.” [...]

  4. [...] The move echoes the U.S. Navy’s and Marines’ decision, last fall, to begin deploying Marines aboard Navy amphibious ships after several years during which the Marines were too invested in Iraq to spend months at a time at sea. The British exercise also offers a tantalizing glimpse at the future British fleet. Despite deep cuts to frigates and destroyers, the Royal Navy has retained and even expanded its amphibious and aviation-ship capabilities, leading some to question how the U.K. will protect a large number of capital ships with only a small force of escorts. [...]

  5. Jimmy Adkins says:

    Lets look at Marines on board ship in a different light. Why not put MSG detatchments on the container ships and oil tankers that are being hijacked by the somali’s. Come on ! Right now there is no less than 16 tankers being held for ransome. The Marines snipers shot british officers during the revolutionary war from the masts of the tall ships. We were used to guard the mail during the great depression. If you give the mSG detachment the proper tactical gear and it wont take long once they have sank about 10 of there little skiffs and have there little skinny bodys floating to shore before it tapers down mighty quick.

  6. in the army says:

    Um, just to let you know, those arent MRAPS in the picture, they are AAV’s.
    Google a little bit more and you will see their is AMPLE room in cargo ships and aircraft for all variations of the MRAP…
    http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/NovDec07/Story_Images/MRAP2.jpg

    https://www.marcorsyscom.usmc.mil/news/syscomnews.nsf/0/C8302DE2B2DAF4588525758500531F7B/$FILE/Loading%20MRAPs%20on%20ship_sml.jpg

    http://www.msc.navy.mil/sealift/2009/January/graphics/LTcolKingSDDC591stMRAP-sm.jpg

  7. Semper Fi says:

    I can not believe that it took a soldier to inform everyone that the picture is of an AAV and not an MRAP. The story loses so much credit when the picture is not even correct.

  8. David Axe says:

    Everyone relax. We know the photo is not of an MRAP. It’s just a generic photo to illustrate the inside of an amphibious ship. We couldn’t find any featuring an MRAP.

  9. I really like it when individuals come together and share views.
    Great blog, continue the good work!

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