America’s Next Armored Amphibious Vehicle: An 80% Solution that is 100% Right

by admin on April 25, 2014

mpcIs the recent release of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) 1.1 RFI a sign that the U.S. Marine Corps finally going to get serious about procuring modern amphibious vehicles?

I have something of a personal stake in this, after urging the USMC to reconsider the early 2013 abandonment of the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) back in November of last year.

I thought the MPC offered a cost-effective “80% solution” that bought the USMC time to put the EFV behind it–or time to wait for tech to come along that enabled the USMC to salvage something–anything–from the billions sunk into the abortive Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) (A topic I discuss here).

Time For A Change:

Operation TomodachiSomething has to be done. The Marines have dithered over the sea-and-shore interface for so long, most of the amphibious fleet is actually younger than the vehicles the Marines use today to “hit the beaches”. Don’t believe me? The AAV-7 entered service in 1971. All but two of the LCUs were delivered by 1970. The first LCAC was launched in 1984.

I mean, when USS DENVER (LPD-9) and USS PELELIU (LHA-5) leave the fleet, the oldest amphib will be USS WHIDBEY ISLAND (LSD-41), commissioned in 1985. Everything else in the Gator fleet is comparably new, and were, in fact, planned around the EFV–but the EFV met it’s demise in 2011.

So little attention is being paid to crossing the sea/shore interface, the Navy’s official LPD Fact File still says that the LPD-17 class LPDs are:

“used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies by embarked air cushion (LCAC) or conventional landing craft and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles (EFV)…”

And they are:

“…built to operate with 21st century transformational platforms, such as the MV-22 Osprey, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV), and future means by which Marines are delivered ashore.” 

movewater-6-lg(Hope springs eternal, but…the EFV was cancelled in 2011. It ain’t coming back, and it’s beyond silly to have EFV stats sticking around in the Navy’s “official” public info sheets.)

Anyway, it’s about time the USMC did something to get young Marines’ creativity focused on something more directly related to amphibious warfare than, oh, strategizing on how to keep their aged and infirm AAV-7 operational and…afloat.

The Marine Personnel Carrier–an 80% solution:

Havoc_armoured_personnel_carrier_MPC_Marine_Personnel_Carrier_program_United_States_Marine_Corps_Lockheed_Martin_640_001The Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC)/Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1 (ACV 1.1) isn’t a fancy, tracked partner for the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. It is intended to be a cost-effective (we’re talking about $4 million dollars a unit), eight-wheeled vehicle that has modest ability to transit open water. Think, for example, of an amphib Stryker.

So the MPC should end up being nothing particularly sophisticated–just a platform with potential to get the “job” of getting Marines ashore “done” in a relatively non-threatening (and largely Pacific-Basin-oriented) environment–think, say, East Timor, or someplace a little more dicey, like Africa. Buying a few APC/MPCs simply gives the Marines something relatively modern to work with, and offers them a bit more flexibility in responding to future challenges.

The APC 1.1/MPC–whatever model that gets picked–may well prove a better fit for some of the innovative platforms that are starting to enter the fleet. At a minimum, the new vehicle” will help free Marines from the doctrinal shackles of the old AAV-7, get beyond the old EFV PowerPoint Deck” and into the field.

Where they should be.

Or so we hope.

Dissecting the MLP RFI:

102714_BAE_Iveco_MPCHere’ s the guts of the RFI:

  1. Open ocean water mobility: Significant Wave Height (SWH) of two (2) feet and sufficient reserve buoyancy to enable safe operations
  2. High level of Survivability & Force Protection: Details are contained in the Classified Annex
  3. Shore to shore operation: 4-6 feet plunging surf (ship to shore operations and launch from amphibious ships as an objective)
  4. Land mobility: Ability to operate over the Marine Corps mission profile (30% improved surfaces; 70% unimproved surfaces)
  5. Lethality: Ability to integrate a .50 caliber Remote Weapon Station (RWS) with growth potential to a dual mount 40mm/.50 cal RWS or a 30mm cannon RWS
  6. Carrying capacity: Three (3) Crew + Embarked troops (10 Threshold; 13 Objective), associated combat loads (assault, approach march, and existence loads), mission essential equipment, and vehicle ammunition (see performance specification for details)
  7. Communicate: Ability to integrate the command, control, and communications (C3) suite provided as Government Furnished Equipment (GFE)

This RFI is a heck of a lot less detailed than the earlier 2011 MPC RFI, but we are early in the process, I guess. Here’s what I’m gleaning from a quick pass:

My first thought is that somebody has gamed the RFI a bit to sideline BAE (who I thought was the front runner in the last competition) The carrying capacity has grown from 9 Combat loaded Marines to ten, and that put’s BAE’s SuperRAV 3 crew/9 troop capacity offering (here) at a disadvantage. I think General Dynamics, the SAIC Terrex and the Lockheed Martin Terrex have a real opportunity now.

Second thing I notice is any mention of coordinating with the M1A1 Main Battle Tank is gone. That’s good–As I have written before, for a USMC heading to the Pacific, the Pacific ain’t tank country. But it’s good for MPCs–at least in the scenarios I suspect will be challenging us in the near-term (which will likely consist of the US racing to Pacific islands facing, say, an outbreak of ethnic unrest and restoring order before the Chinese arrive in their new amphibs to, oh, take over the place).

Third, surf mobility seems to have been rejiggered a bit–previously the objective was to swim at speed in a sea with wave heights of three feet. Now the objective has been dumbed down to two feet, while there seems to be somewhat more interest in the MPC being able to handle a plunging surf of six feet.

131212-N-PO203-233Sadly, there is no real mention of supply-carrying capacity or a requirement to “swim” off of a non-well-deck-equipped vessel while carrying a goodly amount of stuff.

That’s a critical oversight, particularly if the USMC wants to try and deploy from non-traditional platforms like, say, your average MSC Ro-Ro or the JHSV–Possibly going straight into the ocean via something like this interesting Sea State 3 ready JHSV Ramp?  Don’t laugh–It might happen, from DOD Buzz:

“…there’s a new openness to a two-piece solution: say, for example, a troop-carrier optimized to operate on the land, with limited amphibious capability to wade through rivers and surf, and a high-speed watercraft to bring that land vehicle to the beach, or at least close enough to dog-paddle there.”

If a force is being dropped off by a fast JHSV or other speedy non-traditional “non-amphibious” amphib, the MPCs are going to carry much of their ammo and initial supplies with ’em.

That said, the Marine Corps should take real care to not engage in any of the silly evaluation games that kept the EFV a “viable” program for way too long–none of the coy little “look, the EFV can get up on a PLANE….er, without ammo or troops…but let’s not quibble over details, man, it’s plainly planing…” type games.

And I know the Marines have something of a habit of going ashore without ammo in the past, but the MPCs–if they are deploying from one of the non-traditional amphibs–will need to go ashore fully loaded (if not overloaded) or they’re not going. (The ammo-handling rules for MSC-run ships are quite strict and the JHSV has some particular rules of it’s own, too).

A Plea to Move Quickly:

patria mpcDespite the distraction of two long land wars, the U.S. Marine Corps remains a world leader in amphibious assault. Even after a long hiatus from the amphibious field, the USMC remains the World’s amphibious “taste-makers”, and the kit and tactics they develop are adopted throughout the globe (Just look at where the AAV-7s operate today!). But that leadership role is going to change unless the U.S. Marine Corps reverses years of dithering over the sea/shore interface.

We don’t have time to dither. Today, amphibious vessels are being produced in great numbers. Those newly amphibious navies won’t wait for the U.S Marine Corps to finish playing “Hamlet” over their amphibious gear. Our allies will go to build their own stuff, create their own doctrine, and America will loose a once-in-a-lifetime chance to direct our partners and allies towards common tactics and interoperable (and, ahem, American made) equipment.

images (4)The potential for leadership is there. At sea and in the air, the U.S. Marine Corps has gotten almost everything it wanted. Seabasing is becoming a reality. The MV-22 is changing the game in the air, and the CH-53K will back it up as a robust heavy-lifter. Yes, the Amphibious Fleet has shrunk, but it has become a robust assemblage of relatively spry “high-end” ships, with a relatively clear recapitalization pathway.  And a vibrant set of low-end vessels are opening a number of interesting opportunities to advance tactics.

It’s just that the interface between the sea and shore has not aged well, and without some new gear, we won’t be able to adequately realize a return on the billions America has already invested in today’s modern-day amphibious fleet.

Ultimately, when the majority of the nation’s amphibious ships are younger than the Amphibious Assault Vehicles operating from the well deck, something is wrong. So, USMC, quit dithering and move the ball downfield with the MPC, the 80% solution.

See ya’ll on the beach!

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

メンズ ファッション パンツ August 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Everyone loves what you guys are up too. Such clever work and
coverage! Keep up the very good works guys I’ve incorporated you guys
to my own blogroll.


TwentyTwenty May 4, 2014 at 7:26 am

Reading and listening around, I should have added, indications are that both Sailors and Marines may actually be ADDING to the range of missions they appear conceiving to use LCU-F for. Instead of ‘scrubbing’, some of the hands-on folks seem to be piling options of potential use on that proposal.

She is certainly conceivable as one major element of extending Well-Deck-Centric Thinking seeing Amphibs as the carriers of endless systems-diversity in successive generations across the full 40-50 year life-span of the Amphib. And that just follows CNO Greenert’s ‘Payload over Platforms’ perspective…

I for one can see the simple elegance of this growing field of considerations, in which Amphibs would not be ‘cure-all’ for all demands upon the USN-USMC Team, but would assume significant relevance across broader purposes than ‘just’ landing Marines.

And on that issue both the CNO and the CMC may be in agreement on, judging by their statements across the last two years.


TwentyTwenty May 3, 2014 at 3:54 pm

“An enclosed, missile/cannon-firing chopper fueler? No evidence from CMC those were requirements. No evidence they’ve undergone or survived such a scrub.”

If you ‘d claim privileged access to any such levels of ‘insider-knowledge’, I’d be ‘all ears’.

The idea of an ‘enclosed’ rolling-cargo carrier seems to really rub you the wrong way. Why ?

Ditto for defensive/offensive systems on a frontline combatant ?
Would really propose to drive around other people’s inshore waters without any self-defense ?
Or would you reflexively call in a CSG, multiple DDGs etc.; as if they were routinely shadowing ARG/MEU movements ?
Or would you wait until they’d show up from somewhere ?
Are we then to have the MEU show up without weapons as well ?

So no ship-to-shore combat-tanker either for you then ? I’d reckon Marines would disagree. How would you get fuel to the GCE if not via Connector ?

What other ‘requirements’ would you be talking about beyond what Connectors are supposed to do ?

Your ‘West-Pac’ perspective suggests that CMC Amos and the Doctrine are not stating what they did and do state ?

How far are you willing to go insisting on your opinion ?

As a basic principle, technology happens – as does the application of it. There is no plausible ‘button-pushing’ to have folks magically go forth to invent things anew from scratch ‘on-demand’ to any plausible budget.

Conventional thinking has glued the ARG/MEU to between 6 and 12nm from shore for an unconscionable amount of time, while shore-defense potential vastly outgrew any capacity to defend against from this close inshore. Hence the growing ‘agreement’ amongst ‘specialists’ that nobody should try amphibious assault anymore. And you opine that 20-30nm ship-to-shore distance still should be ‘good enough’ – despite fairly certain ‘death’ of the ARG-MEU in that kill-box, and thus likely any chance of amphibious assault ever again.

Mark, no ‘official requirement’ could ever be formulated that could plausibly include the range of useful functional elements LCU-F seems to offer. Whatever the initial question that triggered her development this far, LCU-F likely went far beyond any ‘requirements’. In fact, she appears to have emerged out of a body of work across decades of design by folks not inhibited by ‘what thou shalt not think’. And unless you’d work hand in hand with such folks, you’d never be in any position close to formulating LCU-F-matching ‘requirements’ – since you’d have no sense of might be possible.

Lucky to have those creative minds innovating, and along the way challenging indefensible entrenched ‘orthodoxies’ that have been dubious, if not outright cynical for too long…

About this ‘scrubbing’ thing…


Mark May 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

> Which means that those top-level war-fighters have
> likely been doing the “scrubbing” since the article
> appeared last July. And yet (?), early February’14,
> CMC Amos did speak of a 200nm mission-profile
> (one-way calculation) via such Connectors !

“A folding connector” in a speech, yes. In a Powerpoint, yes. So far so good.

An enclosed, missile/cannon-firing chopper fueler? No evidence from CMC those were requirements. No evidence they’ve undergone or survived such a scrub. A LCU-F demonstrator will represent half the scrub, production LCU-F’s will represent the other half. So I think we can agree on your final sentence: “No point in attempting to interrupt USMC’s thinking deeper and deeper into this direction.”


TwentyTwenty May 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Good engagement, this, Mark.

‘Friendly Fire’ risks ? :
From what I know from near-close-enough, both USA and USMC have solid doctrine on folks not eliminating each other on the ground and in the air due to the inherent proximity of combat-elements and relative density of such potentialities – unlike the typical day-to-day realities at sea, inshore or deep in blue water.

LCU-F-based defense- and offensive systems:
Since Pacific ‘Island Hopping’ nothing new here really.

If LCU-F can be used as a ‘Picket-Boat’ combining the full range of defensive/offensive systems like the 20-30mm cannon system and the AVENGER-turret-based (expanding) options incl. STINGER, SIDEWINDER, and SL-AMRAAM, guided by low-cost AN/MPQ-64F1, then that modest hard-to-target fast-moving platform should surely do defensive duty to protect the advancing LCU-F flotilla and the ARG offshore.

Again in USA- and USMC-circles, the use of light, thin-skinned but agile big-barrel-bore forward-most positioned ‘tank-killers’ is almost as old as tanks. LCU-F would simply serve a similar purpose in a similar cost-effective and tactically-superior way, than, say, bringing in what vessel-class that is 10-20-times larger with what systems that would not soon become the first major victim of swarms of outgoing CDCMs ?

GCE-Marines would thus immediately draw the connection between an 60mph-capable 8-wheeler LAV with either tank-killer system, be it the 105mm gun or the TOW-system, and, perhaps unexpectedly to some, the front-line LCU-F serving e.g. as interceptors of ARG-vectored outgoing CDCMs.

And that is before she’d serve, if so reconfigured in the Amphibs well-deck, as a 24 or even 36-tube MLRS ‘land-attack’ IFS system, offering somewhere between 125 and 200 shots of unguided and guided shorter-range missile, plus a few ‘golden shot’ ATACMS for up to 180nm range.
Then, beyond stabilized 155mm systems, there might be the option of a 52-cal (62-cal ?) stabilized 203mm barrel-system, borrowing heavily from the 203mm 39-cal M-110 USA systems last used in IRAQ-2. If, after Afghanistan battle-exposure, PzH-2000 howitzer can do 30nm with a 52-cal 155mm, what would twice the weight of a 203mm do for guided impact on the far end ?
….before doing such things would risk breaking the back of an LCU-F that is… Folks have fired a non-stabilized M-109 155mm off LCU-1610 – with not much useful aim however.
Fired from a perpetually moving position from just outside of tank-gun range, LCU-F would do way better than the idea of bringing in a Destroyer close enough to anywhere near rival that cheap and agile performance of such LCU-F based systems. You don’t want to lose an LCU-F. But you could, without ruining much of the whole effort. Can you risk a DDG for shore-bombardment ?

Comparable or better MBT/AAV-7 ‘Situational Awareness’:
LCU-F’s geometry visible in the published renderings clearly features a upwards-ramp for GCE- and CSSE-assets to drive out of the main-hull cargo-bay level up through that stern-gate and the large RTCH-capable overhead hatch out on to the much elevated stern-module. That seems to measure something like 30′ x 20′, plus the rear beaching-ramp’s length. Therefore as the MBT- or AAV-7 commander has her vehicle climb the 5-6 feet of ramp up on to the stern and then levels off, she’d have as much 360-degree ‘situational awareness’ from about 14-15′ of elevation above sea-level as anybody ever has on an LCU-1610 or and LCAC. So that has been a moot issue by LCU-F’s published design.

‘War-fighters scrubbing LCU-F’:
Of course, before the Commandant discussed “a folding Connector” at WEST 2014 in early February’14, his GCE-staff would most likely have looked at her with their multi-war well-seasoned perspectives, likely more focused yet than my or any West-Pac vantage point could ever be.

Which means that those top-level war-fighters have likely been doing the “scrubbing” since the article appeared last July. And yet (?), early February’14, CMC Amos did speak of a 200nm mission-profile (one-way calculation) via such Connectors ! Over a month later, he adds “Expeditionary Force F-21” and its OTH-65 realities (e.g. p.32), and it seems that the USMC war-fighters have been doing what needs doing from their end of things.

We may not know for a while to come how far any of this may go. But this is intriguing stuff, possibly of far-reaching positive consequences for the Marines, and then the MEU-supporting ARG and USN Amphibs in general. No point in attempting to interrupt USMC’s thinking deeper and deeper into this direction.


Mark May 3, 2014 at 11:34 am

> Dispersed (headless ?) Marines without any
> link to each other ? Since when ?

No, not headless. The opposite. Call it the folly of multi-headed or multiple boss syndrome. Marine Air support personnel (refueling, re-arming) answer to squadron commands, but fundamental rules of seamanship and command require crewmembers and passengers to adhere to the boat skipper when embarked (safety, accountability, etc.). Combining the two is a red flag.

> Mad trigger-happy weaponeers going haywire ?
> None of those will make into the MEU.

LCUs dictating airspace will not make it into the ARG.

> ‘Darkness’ now scaring Marines ?

Marines just cargo? Undeserving of situational awareness?

> If you’d claim that all 25 aboard an AAV-7 need to personally see…

Nope, already pre-butted. Platoon/Squad commanders get an AAV hatch and then decide during ramp drop where their nap-in-the-dark troops will disperse (and sometimes we open the troop compartment hatches, while ashore the darkness is called ‘armor’). So how did this respect for the warfighter happen? Someone got an AAV prototype actually built (hint) and then it underwent a scrub by warfighters and end users. Then Iraq and Afghanistan’s IEDs called for another warfighters scrub; was that also unreasonable?

What’s important is that end users are not ‘scaring’ the visionaries. Design engineers should welcome the warfighters scrub instead of holding up their Powerpoint or YouTube video, insisting its the final design and slamming a toy gavel. I hope the LCU-F is a home run as a speedy OTH utility craft, but it hasn’t reached first base in its current configuration. It gets my vote for the batters box and it should take the fastballs.


TwentyTwenty May 3, 2014 at 9:45 am

‘The end user does not know what they need — we the visionaries know what they need.’ Quite the opposite, Mark. LCU-F looks by all indications to be a response to what ‘end-users’ have been looking for and training towards. How many Marines will step forward in staunch refusal to maximize the opportunities that LCU-F would offer ?

Based on an early/premature sense of her, you then decide on ‘improving’ her without much apparent spatial understanding of her interior, basics of her structure and her various functions, to then arrive at a much compromised concept. Not best practices !

Then you are raising objections that seem hard to follow. To take just a few
– Dispersed (headless ?) Marines without any link to each other ? Since when ?
– Mad trigger-happy weaponeers going haywire ? None of those will make into the MEU.
– ‘Darkness’ now scaring Marines ? If you’d claim that all 25 aboard an AAV-7 need to personally see where they are going, stick a wireless cam on the driver’s prisms and feed the view into every handheld or helmet mounted eye-piece aft…

Odd reactions to a serious innovative proposal not based on Unobtainium, yet-to-be-developed tech-stuff, endless budgets, and perhaps incantations ?

There is little gain in early ‘Yes – But…’ reflexes, except to display ‘dark visions’ – rather than work the material thoroughly with an eye towards addressing serious questions and boosting solutions. The ‘dark visionaries’ are all too common, with their threadbare claims to ‘realism’. With that mindset we’d be pretty much ‘tech-free’ since earliest days of humanity…

Fortunately, other mindsets may prevail, taking lessons from past episodes of innovative opportunities and challenges. Instead of pursuing or resisting ‘visions’, LCU-F seems a rather sober high-concept/low-tech exercise based on as many COTS elements as plausible, simple laws of physics, best (likely) returns for the effort involved.

I hear that we shall convene a ‘Tribal Council’ to deliberate your membership-status…


Mark May 3, 2014 at 8:39 am

> Any level of ‘turf-war’-type problems will be resolved
> in protection of and the further tactical evolution of
> the ARG-MEU’s central task. And those who can’t,
> will likely not be part of that next stage of evolution.

That can be translated to mean: ‘The end user does not know what they need — we the visionaries know what they need.’

The end result is likely to be something that achieves reasonable distance in reasonable time, and LCU-F accomplishes that. But the man-machine interface always gets a scrub by the warfighters. (Can we even get one prototype built?) When that scrub reaches CNO and CMC, they will immediately recognize the folly of scattering disparate Marine personnel away from their chain of management, launching heat-seeking missiles among Marine choppers and jump jets, and packing Marine groundfighters in the dark until the ramp is down. It’s an embarkation officer’s dreamboat; I like it. Now it needs to pass through the amphibious and utility wringers.


TwentyTwenty May 3, 2014 at 7:28 am

this is indeed a question of ‘feasibilities’.

Taking the ARG/MEU as the baseline example as the forward-most immediately deployable amphibious assets:

– As recognized in EF-21, distance from shore – here as a minimum OTH-65 – is an obvious major step towards re-establishing (!) the practical viability of amphibious assault as a matter of ‘Joint’ survival.

– OTH-65 (+) – or just plain survival of the ARG-MEU – requires fast heavy-lift Connectors to be organically carried aboard the ARG-MEU to plausibly execute a First Wave of GCE and ACE asset – very much a ‘joint’ interest of the Navy-Marine Corps Team.

– As so many times before, when a new system or vessel-type allows a major leap in doctrine and execution, both will set out to seek the highest ‘feasible’ levels of collaboration, here to reestablish and then enhance plausible Amphibious Assault capabilities.
Both CNO and CMC have a high interest in seeing their subordinates develop new practices and mindsets to progressively respond to the challenge of OTH-65+, and to progressively leverage the opportunities of a new system/vessel-type – here perhaps LCU-F. Matching challenge and opportunities with appropriate practices will be central to the projected ‘feasibility’ of the amphibious assault enterprise. Any level of ‘turf-war’-type problems will be resolved in protection of and the further tactical evolution of the ARG-MEU’s central task. And those who can’t, will likely not be part of that next stage of evolution.


Mark May 3, 2014 at 1:18 am

While the description of vehicle maintenance space aboard an LCU-F is a little more reassuring, we will just have to wait and see what doctrine says about helo decks, roofs and topside armaments.

There are different definitions of the term ‘feasible’ when designing this. It is proven and therefore feasible that a C-130 transport can land on a supercarrier (both off the shelf, yes?), but we also know it’s not feasible enough to make it practical, routine or doctrine worthy. Likewise, a helo can touch the water (fair weather) and some float, but requiring each pilot to make a hundred such touchdowns a year in realistic seas would fill a cemetery with Marines. It’s feasible – and yet it’s not.

Much of what’s feasible is cultural, political and psychological. A dead GI’s grieving mother on national TV can alter alter the tide of war. Now throw in turf battles, divisions of responsibility, troop confidence/fear and safety thresholds. Witnessing these things I conclude the following:

1. Admirals will not yield specialized crew positions on LCUs to Marine personnel (helo deck, gunnery).
2. Marine Air generals will not tolerate spreading their support personnel across a dozen LCU-F helo platforms (and answering to who?).
3. Marine pilots will not have their choppers refueled or re-armed by unfamiliar personnel.
4. Marine ground units may identify targets ashore for Naval fire support, but will not be directly commanding the gun turrets.
5. In land warfare, anti-air missile batteries in congested air space are traditionally commanded by the aviation element, but not in naval warfare. The resolution is to erase the point of friction. (Off the shelf yet unprecedented.)
6. Marine generals will not tolerate having vehicle crews and commanders subjected to claustrophobia and unable to fully observe the approaching shore they’re about to assault. (AAVs reserve a topside hatch/seat for infantry commanders.)
7. Naval base commanders will not tolerate LCUs with missiles and cannons to mingle in civil marine waterways and harbors.
8. Admirals and amphib CO’s barely tolerate small AAVs negotiating their well decks, but the Navy will never tolerate entire LCU fleets staffed by Marines to overcome the points above.

Now what is feasible?


TwentyTwenty May 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm

You wrote: “… it’s about time the USMC did something to get young Marines’ creativity focused on something more directly related to amphibious warfare than, oh, strategizing on how to keep their aged and infirm AAV-7 operational and…afloat.”

I would submit that LCU-F will get juices flowing in the way you’d hoped for.
In may be true that the CMC’s ‘juices’ could be flowing already…

I’d argue that EF-21 with the right hardware to support it will indeed reassert USMC’s amphibious superiority in ways that should not just excite folks but ought to protect its fiscal future for a long time to come. The future may be less about vast land-armies clashing but more about credible potent global amphibious reach by USN and USMC.


TwentyTwenty May 2, 2014 at 5:28 pm

good to see constructive engagement with LCU-F. I have noticed in too many responses to her that folks seem to be mostly ‘shooting from the hip’, rather than reading what we all have access to on the proposal. And it does take a good amount of reading, re-reading and then studying the limited graphics to get a spatial and functional understanding of her. LCU-F is challenging in so many ways.

In this spirit, Mark, welcome to the growing tribe of supporters of the intriguing opportunities that LCU-F seems to put on the table. Unlike some recent programs, this should be fairly low-tech and thus lower-cost stuff that folks are used to. And if she works as outlined by the authors, there’d be both ‘force-multiplication’ of extant USN Amphib assets – as you point out – and also savings in not investing in EFV-like ideas, or just losing an LCS in the Littorals somewhere.

Going down your response, let me engage item by item. I’ve chewed on LCU-F for while now. So I may the advantage…

Between growing shore-defense sophistication and thus USMC’s EF-21 stand-off of OTH-65+ you’d find few Amphib COs who’d ‘sit duck’ within barrel-arti reach at 20-30nm. Currently the German PZh-2000 will throw a 155mm round 30 nautical miles !

LCU-F versus other Connector concepts:
The Upsides you observe reflect a solid technical and tactical grasp of the essentials that should guide Connector-design. I’d add the crucial foot-print advantage literally doubling the available numbers of LCU-s over LCU-1610 by two and adding much more in heavy-lift carrying capacity such as 3x 140 tons of LCU-1610 per LSD-41 versus 6x LCU-F 200-tons per LSD-41. No other globally-discussed LCU(x) comes anywhere near this capability. By their own design-approaches L-Cat, PasCat, etc. can’t deliver this.

Helo-Ops off the afterdeck:
I see CH-47s literally settle in the water, supported left and right by those big sponsons. You could/can buy AH-6s (MD-500 Defenders) with solid/permanent floats for routine alighting on the water-surface.
NAVAIR would likely cycle this option and study the ins and outs. AH-6 and UH-1 Helo-drivers I’ve talked with will claim that they will put their mount exactly into that spot – when and if circumstances dictate. Looking at the geometry involved, it seems like 3 feet of freeboard. And that folding bulwark may extend the surface out to something like 30-33 feet for least spray generated by the rotor. OTH-65 will require ‘new tricks’ if combat-range is to be effectively used in any aggressive amphibious landing.
Foot-print wise a short-wheelbase SH/MH-60 might fit physically.

Well-deck based Amphibious ops always will depend on moderate sea-states (3-4 max)before allowing 5000+ tons of the ocean to slosh about the LSD-41 well-deck.

Crews and Crews:
Folks will work this. Where would be the challenge of USMC folks doing USMC helo-work aboard a USN-vessel ? Rolling/tracked-vehicle-based CSSE would move with the advancing GCE. And LCU-F based CSSE folks would stay aboard until no longer needed.

Preloading GCE and CSSE-assets:
For an aggressive mission you’d preload your LCU-Fs in order to maximize vehicle lane-length aboard the Amphib with the well-deck chock-full with LCU-F.
However, if you want to change your mind about the vehicle-mix per LCU-F, flood the well-deck, move outside the LCU-Fs, dry her out – a total time of 60 mins likely for the dry-wet-dry sequence – and then have two LCU-Fs at a time side-by-side unload their cargo-mix over their stern ramp on to the Amphib-gate and into the dry well-deck. Then the vehicles can be done to whatever you think is necessary in terms of mixing and matching – or medium to massive repair and component-exchange sessions can be pursued.

Routine GCE and CSSE Vehicle maintenance aboard LCU-F:
The sections shown suggest width enough for an M1A – i.e. at least 12 feet, plus any additions of TUSK-1 and -2. Or just an Indian MBT. Make that between 13 and 14 feet of net cargo-bay width on what must add up to well over 100-feet in length. An MTVR is just over 12 feet high, for a net LCU-F internal clearance of 12’6″ likely. Which makes for a 100’+ x 14′ x 12.5′ box to do things in. Certainly wide enough to take wheels off trucks and LAVs, pop the hood and open all sorts of doors and AAV-7 gates and hatches. Then we’d note the 2+’ wide passages left and right only that narrow through the bulkhead door, but elsewhere open to step down on to the parking-lane or climb across the MBT-engine hood. Apart from at least four crew-hatches, I also notice two sizable cargo hatches, incl. one – the article mentions – big enough to park an 14′ high RTCH in, or a 8×8 with a container. With all trucks 8 feet wide, there’d be 2-3 feet of space left and right to mess with lug-nuts, grease-nipples, tie-downs etc. And on AAV-7s and MBTs things happen mostly top-down. So there would be adequate room, light, and in particular on-demand ventilation to periodically fire up the engines while LCU-F sits folded up inside the Amphib. Or course, you could set up LCU-Fs engines to run them for a while she sits folded-up high-&-dry in the well-deck or stacked side-by-side on land at a base somewhere..

Closed-Roof Geometry – Seaworthiness and Weather-Protection:
Whether across OTH-65, OTH-200 or self-deploying loaded across 1500nm, keeping the weather and that periodic risk of White Water from that wave-piercing bow out of the cargo-bay would seem a matter of seaworthiness and protection from the elements across possibly many hours of transit of Marines and their vehicles. Remember, that USMC-Commandant Amos discussed at WEST 2014 a deployment-scenario that added up to about 200+nm of travel before hitting the beach, which would be about 12 hrs aboard LCU-F first and last.

Closed Roof Geometries – Tactical Stealth:
almost as important as hiding from eyeballs and sensors what exactly you are actually carrying. Whether you’d carry
– 300 seated Marines,
– 55,000gals of fuel,
– 3x MBTs,
– a shore-bombardment suite with at least 2x MLRS for 24 tubes and likely at least 6-8 reloads,
– a bunch of 4x4s with water-maker trailers ,
– or whatever,
keeping that load out of sight seems highly desirable.
And that makes targeting priorities very difficult to determine.

Between issues of seaworthiness, tactical stealth – you see something is coming but know not what – and what also seems to be structural considerations, there would appear to be good reasons to keep that roof, that second helo-spot and of course her self-defenses. Who would want to send anyone into harm’s way across OTH-65+ and thensome without at least such rudimentary self-defenses, if not aggressive picket-boat capabilities against outgoing ship-killing cruise-missiles ?!

Trundling around the base:
A few of the old LCU’s and LCMs can be retained to do base-wide pick-up truck-duty, even pushing around a modest barge for slow but heavier-yet loads in a hifghly-permissive setting.
For armed LCU-F, a security-detail would be standard, like that protecting even USCG Island-class cutters. Of course, you can keep the cannon-ammo and STINGERs locked up inside or off-ship. Not much effort to reload these in an emergency.
AIM-9X SIDEWINDERS or SL-AMRAAMs on that AVENGER-turret however would be much less handy to carry around. So it will be the detail to protect her.

In general, on a 420tons displacement-speed craft losing a even 10-20 tons of structure won’t produce much measurable positive performance-outcomes.

So there seems to be
– adequate clearances,
– ventilation,
– accessibility,
– crew- and Marines-ergonomics
– crew- and m=Marines onboard-safety,
– the need to shelter and hide stuff,
– at OTH-65 and well beyond the need to carry plausible self-defense – if not ‘Pickeboat-Duty’ Amphib-defense via SIDEWINDER/SL-AMRAAM guided by AN/MPQ-64 F1.

USMC-control of the LCU-F weapons:

‘Joint’ defined once more. You could play this all sorts of ways. Perhaps the GCE CO will cue these with his ‘GOOGLE-GLASS’ or she will trust the LCU-F crew knowing what they are doing. After all, with a full First Wave just landing with all those barrels, sensors, tubes pointing all sorts of ways, each weapons-officer will do what they are trained to. Why LCU-F onboard weapons-specialists should be less competent would be unclear.

There it is Mark ! I hope to your satisfaction… Good Work-Out !


Mark May 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Taking a longer look at the LCU-F concept through my WestPac lenses, and accepting a modest OTH strategy (20-30 miles, not 65-200), I find it downright genius in many ways with only a few snags that should not be show-stoppers.

First the upsides: 1. It doubles the speed and lengthens the range over legacy LCUs, an OTH must; 2. Its off the shelf components make it the most proven concept on paper (it could’ve been built 40 years ago), and; 3. Its solid compatibility with legacy amphibs, as six fit inside an LSD – that’s masterful ergonomics.

And now, some snags:

Piggy-backing helicopters: As envisioned, each mile of OTH distance would tax the fuel and loiter time of helicopters, so the LCU-F’s loading ramp would double as a helo platform for a single chopper to ‘rest’ for the ride to about the horizon (15 mi) and maybe even refuel there when needed.

But this would not pass the Marine Air community sniff test for the following reasons: First, a platform only a few feet above the waterline (with rotors overhanging it) is a safety issue for a Marine Corps that already has a long record of chopper mishaps. The designers acknowledge the difficulty by recommending only the smaller Hueys and Cobras attempt it (also because a loaded CH-53 would be too heavy). The larger amphibs with flight decks 30-50 feet above the waterline allow a pilot to recover from wind gusts, downwash effects and control malfunctions, but no such margin for error would exist on a LCU-F. It would need a relatively calm sea state which would make amphibious doctrine a ‘fair weather only’ proposition.

Second, landing craft are Navy crewed while Marine choppers are refueled and re-armed by Marine support personnel. This is by design and deliberate. Pilots get nervous when someone they don’t know (personally) approaches their idling chopper and cranks moving parts in their blind spots. So flyers and support personnel come from the same squadron.

Cargo access and maintenance: To maximize space, tanks, trucks and other rolling assets are pre-loaded in their assault sequence, but they can’t then be ignored for a 6-8 month period of forward deployment. Engines must be periodically run and sometimes even replaced (lowest bidder + Marine abuse). Moist, salty sea air and dank well decks increase rust and corrosion, especially for vital comm gear.

The LCU-F boxed design with a rooftop and just inches of crawl space beside the vehicle lane would suffocate daily preventive maintenance, inspection and testing and block major mechanical repairs. Changing a tire would be like rescuing trapped miners. Speaking of trapped, no Marine would tolerate an ride down below with a half-blocked escape route, especially upon hearing the explosions of incoming ordnance and breathing the carbon monoxide of started vehicles. The roof needs to go, and that affects rooftop armaments.

Armaments and fire control: A 20mm Vulcan cannon and Stinger launcher are in the design, which explains the roof and the need to protect passengers from strong weapon noise and missile exhaust. While we wish all units were well armed, the aviation and fire control communities might have issues with an LCU-F independently deciding what threat receives a missile in crowded airspace. Is an LCU crew identifying friend or foe? Will a missile-trained crewman be doubling as a ‘bosun’, quartermaster (and now helo flight ops)? Would the Navy invest as much training time and money in a 4-year enlisted crewman as they do in a 6-year pilot/officer with similar weapons and multitasking?

Legacy LCUs are armed with, we’ll, nothing. Which is to say they have mounting stations for .50 cal machine guns that spend 99% of their time in an armory. LCACs have similar, but it’s difficult to fire in 40-mph winds and spray. This ‘barely there’ approach is deliberate and lends greatly to the LCUs peacetime utility.

LCUs are often more busy in home waters than when forward deployed. They play water taxi and water truck through civilian waterways and harbors. (I’ve seen one go grocery shopping.) An LCU can tie up to a civilian pier, lock its hatches and be left unattended. It’s a civil craft in its own squadron at home. But all this would dramatically change if it sports a half-ton Stinger missile launcher and 20-30mm cannon. Neither can be easily stolen as a complete unit, but components (like a terrorists wet dream Stinger) would significantly alter the the basing, availability, utility, security and civil interface of that LCU-F. Lastly, Marine commanders on a hot beach would want to control and coordinate that Vulcan (‘defend us, not yourself!’)

It’s difficult to part with those three features: helo deck, roof and heavy weapons, but doing so might enhance speed further. I just sense that a thorough scrub by Marine pilots, tankers, motor-T operators, maintainers, anti-terror analysts and civil support gurus will result in an unconventionally fast LCU that checks all the conventional boxes. I suggest we build it.


TwentyTwenty April 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm

– LCU-F would have no more hydraulic circuits than the slightly-above-average back-hoe – some of which are part of the USMC CSSE already.

– There are more controls and broader spectrum of vital systems aboard a COBRA to keep her in the air than on this LCU-type.

– Would you then also mind the ‘ride-control’ active fins control-system on JHSV ?

– The average 2014-model Compact-Car has more ‘brains’ and systems-complexity than would be necessary to have LCU-F perform as proposed.


phillip April 29, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I like your comments on the JHSV and I agree it might be a “sorta” LST for the modern age. However, I think the JHSV can work but it will need some major/minor tweeks. First a military not Civie crew. Second, Self Defense weapons and stuff to get the vessel close to shore… the Russian Zubr Hovercraft has MLRS rockets built in… might be a good call to add 2-4 MLRS boxs, 2 CIWS, and a RAM to the top side. Third, I dont think you need to make quarters for the assault force, you will need space for the Vehicle crews, but with the JHSV flight deck you could transload the actual assault infantry a day or two prior to the landings. While you need to modify the space onboard, it would not be as much as keeping the full group onboard. Finally, you need the abilty to support from the sea. IE you need to transload food, fuel, and maybe even the next assault waves.
The problem I have with F-LCU is the number of moving parts to get this to work… We already have the overly complex V22.


TwentyTwenty April 29, 2014 at 10:09 am

– Deficits matter. Hence the need to use smarter Connector-concepts to not leave massive investments into an Amphib Fleet ham-strung with the current LCU/LCACs to end up with analysts state with decent logic that without adequate Connectors and respective Stand-Off distances amphibious assault is a really tall order with these hardware-profile. Some have indeed questioned any need for anything but HA/DR amphibious needs. Which is ‘Blue-Helmet’ stuff – nothing that sustains the existence of USMC.

– OTH-65 is a major (tectonic !) shift from 12nm now. And as that LCU-F piece points out, OTH-100 even OTH-200 must be Connector-supportable.

– As that piece (and the October Letter on LCU-F) discusses, LCU-F would haul AH/UH-assets towards the shore until, just Over The Horizon (depending upon shore topography and adversary’s sensors), LCU-F would do a 90-degree turn stop and reaccelerate through another such turn, but now stern-first towards the shore. So the helos would launch at best 20-30nm from shore to get the most out of their combat-range. And, as discussed there as well, LCU-F kept just out of mortar-, tank-gun- range would serve as a perpetually-moving refueling/re-crewing/re-arming platform within just minutes of flight-time from the theater of combat. Since the authors also mention a 55,000 combat-tanker mission-module (any USMC-assembly of well-braced fuel-bags will do for this impromptu-capability for at best a few weeks of logistical support) that much fuel will refuel the 300gal/600 gal helo-tanks how many times ? Comforting numbers.

– With 1500nm standard range quoted, at 19-20 kts, a lot of ship-to-shore capability would be on hand.

– As the October Letter clearly outlines, LCU-F would reverse direction 10-25nm offshore. Then its ‘business-end’ is pointed at the shore, incl. stabilized 120mm smooth-bores. Stern-first she hits the beach, with GCE-assets speeding off while she heads out at 20kts without any turning of any sort anywhere near shore and weapons to take aim her exposing her broadside.
Compare that to the need to clumsily turn around an LCU-1610 indeed in or near the surf-zone, exposing her (zero-defenses) bulk to any 4th-rate weapons.
Or putting LCAC/SSC on the beach, deflating the skirt, unloading gently, then re-inflating the skirt, then turning her around, to finally head out… That is why LCAC/SSCs are unlikely to ever do a ‘hot landing’.

– As to her being “a big target”, with a cross-section of 22′ beam and something like 10-11 feet of air-draft, how much radar-returns can she offer between swells or even on smooth seas never showing her sides to the adversary’s sensors. And being Diesel-driven, underwater-exhausts will reduce her IR signature to near-zero. Between her hard-structural stealth, least ‘profile’ approaching at leaving the shore at 19-20kts, and, as(again) the article discusses, the opportunity to use this much larger number of ARG-based Connectors in as many insertion-points as you have Connectors, it is not unlikely to see stretch thin the adversaries defenses, particularly in a sudden surprise attack. Even sea-skimming anti-ship systems may not skim low enough to detect and then hit LCU-F’s Kayak-type silhouette.

– One more observation on the claim of her being a “big target”:
She would carry 20/30mm cannon- and SAM-STINGER missile self-defense systems for which the USMC-logistics already have bar-codes and training manuals in the hopper. Following the ‘gospel’ of BOEING on upgrading the AVENGER turret, then one could go from STINGER to AIM-9 X, to expand the air-defense bubble over the LCU-F flotilla and then the multiple Landing Zones.
MACH-2 plus 15+nm range SIDEWINDERS could also help intercept outgoing CDCMs, if combined with another USMC-bar-coded system, this time their <$3million 3D battlefield radar AN/MPQ-64 F1 to support detection and targeting. Nominally 40nm range exceeding what you could use here, but with a 5'x5'x2' fold-down shape bolted to the LCU-F's top – like the weapons – you now have a very low–cost forward-most (!) mobile least-signature asset that might be effective in protecting the ARG against ship-killing cruise-missiles.
BOEING is currently selling HMWWV-mounted AVENGER-systems, with AN/MPD-64 F1 towed behind on a single-axle trailer. One of the Emirates has bought this combination, however this time upgraded to SL-AMRAAM, which then brings on to the amphibious-assault front-line well-dispersed MACH-4 capable defense/offensive systems, which should work fine to hunt ARG-vectored ship-killing cruise-missiles – and thus even CSG-vectored ship-killers.

All this on a 420-ton (loaded) steel-hull of simple 20knots shape, modest articulation-mechanics, plain 2400hp diesel-drive, good fuel-economy, least-signature profile.
One assumes that Commandant Amos does not expect to be disappointed.


TwentyTwenty April 29, 2014 at 9:07 am

Craig Hooper,
thanks for the engagement:
– LCU-F seems to not exactly be a new idea. You’ll find references to her across various blogs since 2009.

– Which suggests that this has been looked at at NAVSEA for at least about 5 years (note one of the co-author’s job there), as it is now at USMC as well. Indications of ‘parallel universes’, with LCU-F known at NAVSEA, while down the hallway LCU-1610 folks insist that a different grill and a new set of tailfins will suffice to ‘upgrade’ this WW-2 era concept and 1950s design for the Marines under EF-21. Low-cost ubiquitous shore-defenses have for decades had a further reach than the current <12nm ARG/MEU 'stand-off' location to allow AAV-7s and follow-on models to steam to shore on their own bellies. Few Amphib-COs would ever want to be this close in a serious situation. Neither would a MEU CO. With LCU-F lingering at NAVSEA while LCU1610 (2014-edition) is being offered as 'best thinking', you can see why General Amos would (impatiently) assume control to take advanced thinking further and forward faster.

– Even a cursory glance at L-Cat, Pascat etc. will show that you'd never be able to carry enough such in an ARG/MEU to do any better cargo-delivery than currently possible.
Of those that would actually fit inside the standard well-deck cross-section, not enough will fit in the available well-decks to support anything like a short-range of an OTH-65 First Wave. They simply are not space-efficient to match the MEU's needs, nor can thus support the ARG CO's interest to stay out of reach of second-tier shore-defenses.

– No JSHV-CO will ever be allowed to bob in the surf which unloading AAV-7. Even pimple-faced kids fast-moving on off-road bikes with a few shoulder-carried and -launched systems each would ruin that thinking. High-seas stabilized ramp transfers – yes, vital, solid infrastructure. But on to what would you load the GEC-assets ?

– With this much discernible lead-time since 2009, who knows how far along the assessment and R-&-D of LCU-F actually is ?


WireguidedMarine April 29, 2014 at 9:02 am

Very interesting idea about the LCU-F. Would very much like to see a full scale prototype built to prove the concept.

I think everyone needs to take a deep breath about threat weapon ranges and lethality. Long-range weapons, anti-access measures, landing force vulnerabilities; all have been around since WWI.

Anyone looking at Imperial Japanese weapons and doctrine prewar could make the argument that amphibious landings against them were absolutely impossible. Machine guns, mortars, artillery, and aircraft in theory could wipe out the landing force in their Higgins boats before they could drop their ramps.

And yes, at Tarawa and Omaha Beach horrible losses occurred. And at Guadalcanal the USN left Marines on the island with no support at one point. But many other landings were successful. In fact, some Allied landings late in the war like Okinawa landed unopposed, because the enemy learned that defending the beach itself was pointless.

Having revisited WWII (yet again) that doesn’t mean I want to land Marines ashore the same way as 1945 or even 1995. I just feel that there is an unspoken assumption that the other side’s weapons and doctrine will work exactly as planned and our weaknesses, which we know all too well, will cripple us at every turn.

Yes, the DF-21D is a threat as well as the ASCMs in service around the world. That does not mean anything inside their range ring is automatically slated for destruction.

OTH is needed for amphibious ops today. I’m just not sure it MUST be 65, 100, or 200 miles offshore. After the initial assault waves have established a beachhead and Marine units have begun to clear territory amphibious shipping can close in with the shoreline to speed up transits. Because I agree that helos, LCACs, and the current LCUs will be stretched trying to support large numbers of Marines 100-200 miles away in a timely manner.

I like the idea of a reborn LST. But if you are really concerned about having to fight and defend close to the shore, why use the JHSV? It has no armament or sensors worth mentioning. Use the LCS Independence. Modify the stern to handle AAVs and support all the Marines onboard for a couple of days. It will have the weapons and sensors to defend itself and the speed to get in and out in a hurry. (That would be more in vein with the WWII APD concept.)

I wish we hadn’t been so quick to discard the Newport LSTs. For long distant OTH work they may have been perfect to test out the AAV transport and refueling platform ideas before we spent any serious money on the concepts.


Craig Hooper April 28, 2014 at 11:21 pm


I’m just thrilled to have such engaged, informed and opinionated readers! Feel free to drop me a note offline–my email is on the website…

Two things:

A note about Austal–I am no longer affiliated with the company, though I do (and I’ve said this before) hold under 10,000 dollars of stock in the company–stock I’ve held forever–and I’ve taken a tidy loss on it as well! So…this isn’t some strange reverse-judo-marketing ploy…But I like certain aspects of the product and really love the folks who work the floor and put these things together. Shipbuilders are amazing people!

Second–great comment about the LFD. I’m going to use that term again and again until it becomes a recognized acronym!


Mark April 28, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Craig (host/admin),
I highly appreciate your forum and I regret how much comment space I’ve occupied here. Thanks for such a forward thinking site.

Craig logically segued to matters of doctrine, revised assumptions and alternatives. Since the Marines have not assaulted a contested beach since the Korean War (60+ years), and since amphibious assault is inherently high risk, then future solutions should be frugal and must accept risk, period. A once-a-century mission I can understand, but not if it’s gold-plated.

That stated, the 65-mile OTH concept is a utopian stretch for risk-free warfare. Those 65 miles, based on assumed enemy anti-ship missile development, can easily become 70 miles by the time you read this and 200 miles by Christmas. It’s a vision packaged for a congressional appropriations sales pitch; as if it’s 1984 all over again, guns AND butter, deficits don’t matter and sequester doesn’t exist.

Those 65 miles can be transited by helos for an initial assault, but not a sustained one. It virtually guarantees overworked, deadlined choppers and crashes. Even exercises could become safety scandals. An AH-1 Cobra, would need 70+ minutes to return to its ship for refueling and re-arming and then back to the objective with pilots distracted by their fuel gauges. It’s a vision for an overnight ‘strike’ or embassy reinforcement, not a sustained occupation or hot war.

Getting back to AAV launchings, I’ve looked over the JHSV and LCU-F concepts and prefer the JHSV, though both are possible. The LCU-F doubles the speed of LCUs, but is a big target that must perform a U-turn before the surf zone and its single-file cargo cannot shoot while in the surf zone. It’s not a true Wave-1 animal, but is an improved if pricey LCU.

I like the JHSV concept as a next generation LST as Craig wrote (Disclaimer: Craig’s bio says he did sales for Austal, the builder of JHSVs – hmmm, clever.) Call it an LFD – Landing Fast Dock. An ideal LFD would need to be about 30% larger to accommodate 200 Marines (rifle company plus ACV platoon) for a sustained deployment. It would need to be armed and up-armored. Like the LSTs it would need to be cheap, lightly crewed and ‘expendable’ to justify passing 3-5 miles from the objective shoreline. (Try telling that to the crew of an all-volunteer Navy). AAV’s and their replacements cannot launch at ship speeds faster than 12-15 knots, so the AAV launch would need to be dash-drop-dash. An LFD would need to be a blue water vessel that can negotiate seas alongside the larger capital ships and with ocean crossing fuel (another vote for larger). Since LHDs and LPDs cruise at 20-25 knots, an LFD can sacrifice some of the JHSV’s freakish speed to accomplish the above. Lastly it would need a post-launch mission that eases the burden on other ships’ helo decks; perhaps as a helo refueler, drone base, or special ops platform. Great discussion.


Craig Hooper April 28, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Sigh. Yes, I thought the MV-22 fold-out was as intricate and wonderful as the EFVs transition from planing to non-planing state. It can be done, but it just costs money–money we may not have right now. I mean, we’re barely done with the AoA for the old Mark I rust-encrusted LCU–and the mandate was low cost, basic, and reliable. He didn’t even want a modest electrical refresh, even!

So we’ve got a ways to go before we really change the game with connectors.

I know video you’re talking about…Here’s what Amos said after he referred to your concept–“I’m committed, I’ve told my money guy, we’re willing to put more money for R&D for connectors” That’s great. But it’s R&D–it’s still powerpoint.

And it’s wide ranging research–including several other connector technologies. (that French beastie, or the Signapore’s crazy-looking contraption…)

Now…Skip ahead to 26.00 in the video you reference. We have JHSV here, now, a SS 3 ramp prototype available and ACV 1.1 prototypes are available, right now, to test and develop doctrine for fancy fold-up follow-ons…

I think the fold up LCU will happen. Again, it’s a great idea, and I’m sure it will happen….but between every great idea and a real capability is a lot of work and cash.


TwentyTwenty April 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Admin, when you state that “we need to get some relevant stuff into USMC hands right away, to be applied today” what do you think the USMC Commandant is talking about between 12:20 and 19:00 ?

And which Marine will argue against OTH-65 to protect the ARG/MEU ?


TwentyTwenty April 28, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Take a look at Col Fuquea’s criticism on presumed ‘complexity’ in the Sept issue of PROCEEDINGS, to then see the solid response in the October issue.

Watching an MV-22 unfold everything in under one minute makes the LCU-F articulation seem a modest ambition. Ever noticed 3-stage Fowlers deployed on a 747 wing whose wingtip will flex vertically up to 10 feet combined. USMC/USA Bridge-Layers ?

What would be the “new tech” on LCU-F that concerns you ?

As to going “beyond the powerpoint stage”… do watch the video, particularly between 12:20 and 19:00.

And watch it enough times to catch everything (!) that is going on there.


Craig Hooper April 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Randall- I don’t think you are correct. BAE’s offering was testing out in the ocean, and it was seen as a SS 2-3, self-deploying from an amphib type of vehicle….


Randall Rapp April 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

So at most, MPCs will be dropped off maybe a 1/2 mile out to swim ashore in optimal sea conditions.


Randall Rapp April 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm

MPCs designs are all currently “river crossing” amphibious, not “swim 4 miles to shore in sea state 2” like the AAV and the EFV are.


admin April 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm

I saw the paper. Neat stuff. Two questions:

Given the LCU AoA guys were, oh, pretty recently, focusing on low cost and robustness–and not new tech, how do you presume getting this to actually grow beyond the powerpoint stage? Can you point to projects that have been deployed using similar, ah, features?

I’m all for new tech, but I think we need to get some relevant stuff into USMC hands right away, to be applied today.


TwentyTwenty April 28, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Then there is LCU-F as of PROCEEDINGS July ’13 p.60-64. Or also here at

Contextualize this into Expeditionary Force 21 and its new ‘stand-off’ of at least 65nm from shore (OTH-65) – and none of the AAV-7/ACV/MCV details matter a lot since none could possibly self-deploy from the ARG/MEU from this far out.

Fortunately EFV collapsed in on itself. Otherwise it would have forced the ARG/MEU to stay 20-25nm offshore, and thus within reach of third-rate shorte-defenses…

Considering LCU-F, things become quite intriguing:
– 200 tons of combat-load per LCU-F at 19kts
– @ 19kts the 12 hours dusk-to-dawn cycle would allow up to OTH-200.
– 6x LCU-F per LSD-41 type.
– 8x LSD-41 = 48x LCU-F.
– 48x 200tons of GCE-load covers 9600 tons of worst-case all LSD-41 called in first wave load.

Then you add 2x LCU-F per LSD-49 and the (astonishingly-) ‘shorty’ well-deck LPD-17 at 2x LCU-F max. and the total amphibious heavy-lift capacity grows further.

LHDs would always carry 3x go-fast/limited-range LCAC/SSC each.
Between LHD, LPD-17 and LSD-41 there would be how much Connector-lift to shove things through someone’s front-/side/back-yard ?

Then LCU-F’s utility expands as
– an IFS platform to carry up to 3x MLRS systems,
– perhaps a long-range barrel or two,
– 55,000 gals of fuel,
– MARSCOC platform for 2x RHIBs, plus 1x AH-1 and 1x AH-6,
– USMC ‘MASH’ unit between the battlefield and the LHD’s hospital,
– GCE or Troops-loaded self-deployment range of 1500nm standard, more if fuel gets loaded instead of cargo,

And that might put things into perspective.
If we are to follow the Commandant at WEST 2014 – “What would the Sea Service Leaders… ( ) he seems to be looking at this option.

Interesting to see things evolve.
Between EF-21 and LCU-F not trying to re-do the EFV performance expectations seems wise and fiscally prudent. Since OTH-65 is only to grow towards and then past OTH-100, with OTH-200 conceivable via LCU-F, how fast an APC will float will only matter across tidal streams, lakes, rivers and the occasional modest-size bay/cove.

And if new armor would help, then the old AAV-7 will still function fine. M1A1/2 is well over 35 years old, with B-52 as a type to be well into her 80s before projected retirement. Which makes LSD-41 at 29 well ‘broken-in’, particularly with much of that class just SLEP’d for another 20 years of service.


admin April 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I have always thought that JHSVs are going to be the modern-day equivalent of the do-anything LST….

Really like the idea of MLRS on the flight deck.


phillip April 28, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I like you concept of the Russian Dolls, but we are unfortunetly are going to have to eat a poison pill somewhere. I come at this from a Navy Tacair viewpoint… that got shipped over to TACRON for a MEU apreciation period. First, shore based defenses are huge problems. Our LCU’s and LCACs let along our larger ships just simply do not have the Armor (something lost years ago) or the defensive weapon systems necessary to approach the beach. Now if we built an ship that had 2 bow mounted CIWS (to shoot down incoming rockets and arty….which was done in Iraq/AF) and a layered RAM and additional defenses this might be workable…However we dont thus the larger ships are sitting ducks close in and the LCAC and LCU will not be landing the second and third wave without the beach being cleared. Second, pushing out the AAVs from a large well deck is a giant waste because you have to move a ship within 3-5 miles for the AAVs to swim ashore. Anything farther out means you force the troops to ride a very crippling ride for almost an hour. Loading a first wave swimmer MPC or similar onto an LCAC to drop off at the 4 mile marker then turning the LCAC back to the big deck give you the ability to have the next wave (in about 1 hour to maybe 2 based on distance and loading requirements)… thats about as good as your going to get. One interesting idea is if they can get the JHSV to be modified to drop off a MPC equiped company, granted they should atleast equip the JHSVs with some CIWS and other defensive items heck putting a MLRS on the Helo deck would be great. If you could equip the JHSVs to be your mid range hauler… you can keep the big decks out to about 50nms which is roughly where you want to be for defensive purposes and works well for the LCACs moving speed loads ashore in about 1-1/2 hours (3hour turns) and if you time it right your LCUs could carry your heavy gear stagered to hit during the second LCAC turn with their larger amounts of gear.


admin April 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Mark, Wireguided, ChrisA–

Great comments all. Really interesting discussion.

Wireguided–I have an old post that I’ll recycle soon discussing bolt-on/blow-off floatation aids. It’s amusing, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Mark– Good stuff. I totally agree with you about the logistical complications that would come from relying upon a craft that swims like a poodle. Got it. I don’t understand why the ACV 1.1 offerings cannot match AAV-7 seaworthiness.

I also understand your concern about disturbing the intricate logistical dance required to support a full-scale landing. Understood. That said, how often have we done one of those?

I’m not necessarily suggesting that we compromise the existing ARG/MEU setup, either. Keep that loadout, but employ assets like the JHSV or an errant Ro-Ro to support lower-level activities–an embassy reinforcement, HA/DR, training/engagement/shaping. Stuff like that.

if we want to tinker with doctrine, I have long been a proponent of keeping the AAV something that was more happy “at sea” and using them more for at-sea activities or, in the case of a landing, to secure the area for insertion of land-warfare specialized assets.

Amphib assault vehicles are an exercise in compromise. It’s time we made our peace with that and moved on it.


Randall Rapp April 28, 2014 at 11:21 am

One operation I’ve read about where a self-recovering vehicle was vital was not a combat situation. Several blogs I’ve read mentioned that during the Haiti disaster relief efforts, the damage to the port infrastructures was so severe that the majority of supplies was brought ashore by AAV-7s shuttling back and forth.


Mark April 28, 2014 at 5:10 am

I’ve forward deployed as an amtracker (AAVs) with Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs, 1,500 troops) afloat for twelve months (two WestPacs) in the Asian Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the first wave for each exercise landing in the Philippines, Korea, Australia, Diego Garcia, Somalia, Oman, Okinawa, etc. No wars (just shot at once). While I’ve already commented above about how a self-deploying, self-recovering AAV is critical to freeing up the connectors (landing craft) for Waves 2, 3 and beyond, allow me offer a macro or satellite view of the importance of flexible utility when thousands of miles from friendly ports.

Imagine a young child handed a Russian wooden nesting doll. It’s about the size of a small thermos. She removes the top half to reveal the next nesting doll inside, and then the next. Six repetitions later, with high anticipation, she reaches the final thimble-sized doll and thinks its the coolest of the bunch. Our amphibious forces are structured similarly, and all those nesting layers can help – and hinder – the end result. Sometimes an amphibious fleet with embarked Marines can look cool when we narrow our focus to a specific small component, say an Osprey V-22 transitioning in flight or LCAC hovercraft skimming at high speed. But pound-for-pound this force offers limited firepower for the naval tonnage we send around the globe. The Air Force often values its supporting units based on whether they “help deliver STEEL ON TARGET.” So, just how much steel do Marines and the amphibious fleet deliver on target, you ask?

Like the nesting dolls, imagine: coming out of a shipyard is a big amphibious vessel; which then sails overseas and gives birth to a landing craft or helicopter; which then drops a vehicle ashore; which then shuttles Marines carrying small arms; which fire tiny bullets (a fraction of which strike their intended target). Yes, there are also bombs, rockets and artillery shells, but they are also small relative to the ‘gun’ doing the firing (and also often miss). So for a Marine to fire a 4-gram lead bullet, he relies on a transportation system weighing EIGHT BILLION times the bullet’s weight! It’s enough to break out the calculator for comparing to a feather-light Army airborne division! (Except those paratroopers don’t come with heavy weapons, armor, choppers, close air support, logistics supply line, bottomless fuel and a floating hospital.)

Each amphibious nesting doll, each ‘birth’, is EXPONENTIALLY smaller than its ‘mother’, and this weighs on the minds of planners in the Pentagon. Like the smallest nesting doll in the eyes of a child, each amphibious wiz-bang (F-35, V-22, LCAC) is seen by the defense blogosphere as valued for its ‘cool’ factor, while oblivious to the shortage of steel reaching the objective.

So the key to maximizing “steel on target” is to MINIMIZE the layers or ‘nesting dolls’ of amphibious hardware. The cavernous ships we understand. The Marine, his rifle and ammo we also accept. But the amphibious fleet cannot afford MULTIPLE layers of heavy, bulky delivery systems between ship and shore. Imagine what that 8bil-to-1 weight ratio must cost? For a beach landing, the transition of infantry from the well deck to the shore and inland must be via a single delivery system, not two. And it must carry a sizeable number of Marines, not half a rifle squad.

Future, compromised, armored personnel carriers that swim like a poodle and reliant on landing craft would easily max out those limited connectors in the well decks. That would leave tanks and other heavy ground weapons (waves 2 and 3) waiting aboard ship during the initial assault – possibly for hours – instead of hitting the beach within 2-5 minutes behind wave 1. Lack of heavy weapons and armor abandons and exposes the personnel carriers and 1/3rd of the infantry forces they carry. This in turn forces a shift of close air support to the beach and away from the helo-borne forces carrying 2/3rds of the infantry maneuvering inland from the flat-top LHDs. So all combat elements (air, land and sea) are compromised by an excessive nesting doll approach.

Bottom line: While helicopters deliver 2/3rds of the grunts, it’s the landing craft that deliver 2/3rds of most everything else (tanks, trucks, pallets, support). Every square foot on those landing craft is critical; they’re too important to carry redundant additional nesting dolls. That means self-deploying and self-recovering amtracs are critical to free up all connecting craft. And even if a way were found to increase the number of connectors carried by amphib ships – shoot, even strapping barges to the outer hulls – such extra flotation should be dedicated to additional assault waves or logistics deliveries (ammo, water, fuel, ASAP!), not “nesting” the personnel carriers. Take it from an amtracker (and “generals who think logistics”): the landing force, including air, owe everything to the utility, flexibility and AVAILABILITY of landing craft. A self-deploying wave 1 of amtracs selflessly makes it all possible, without which Marine Corps doctrine is doomed.


ChrisA April 27, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Hi Mark, thanks for the effort in explaining the complexity of assault schedules in Amphibious operations.

I agree that ideally capability solutions would fit seamlessly into our extant doctrinal procedures, however sometimes they don’t, or the changing requirements and circumstances make previous approaches unfeasible. The number of conflicting pressures, including increasing armour and increasing amounts of gear carried by each individual, means we either need to change the equipment we use, the way we use it, or both. We should not be so wedded to a single (changeable) process that it becomes the driving imperative behind setting capability requirements. There are number of possible procedural solutions, or force / platform mix solutions that may mitigate the issues. For example, you could front load the preparation of the battlespace to reduce the risk to the landing.

None of these soutions are ideal, but they are all achievable within varying risk tolerances.


WireguidedMarine April 27, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I agree with Mark, the current AAV has issues, but also has strengths. If the goal is to get a lot of infantry ashore quickly in amtracs then the ACV/EFV capacity is too small, unless you use more vehicles. Which won’t happen.

The Corps has gotten many things right but an area that has been weak is big-ticket program development. Smaller programs like individual weapons it can handle fine, or modifications like the M1 assault breacher with MCLC.

The EFV and V-22 suffered from this lack of institutional experience within the USMC of managing big projects.

I agree with others that the the demand to have everything onboard drove the complexity and cost of the EFV. I know some concepts over the years for a AAV replacement had extra propulsion and buoyancy for the vehicle bolted on for the long trip to shore. Once near or on the beach this component was detached. What was left was smaller, more nimble, and better protected.

That concept complicates how you return the vehicles to the ship, with having to recover the components or ride a LCU back. But it avoids the Transformer-esque machine that the EFV became.


Craig Hooper April 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Great comments everybody. Thanks for providing them! I’ll be back to comment sometime tomorrow, after I’ve mulled all your arguments!


Noah Buddy April 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm

By my amateur understanding, the EFV was designed to scoot Marines ashore over choppy waves much faster than the current AAV-7s, and this speed was important to counter to new, precision-guided land-to-sea missiles (e.g. Hellfire-style) that could destroy/deter amphibious vehicles from distances greater than 5 miles out to sea. So… if our budget says we can’t build a faster AAV-7 (i.e. the EFV), why can’t we just counter the threat with plug’n’play components already in the fleet? Think with me on this: an amphibious AAV-7-like or ACV1.1-like analogy to the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger or M163 VADS… but instead of Stinger missiles or a Vulcan rotary cannon, you just plunk a big ole Phalanx CIWS system right in the middle of the ACV1.1 chassis. Let’s say for every 4-6 infantry ACV1.1 vehicles going ashore, you send 1-2 of the Phalanx-equipped versions with the grouping to counter precision-guided missile threats. Yes, the Phalanx is super heavy, but that’s why we have engineers — shrink that puppy til it weighs the same as ~12 infantry, and make the whole thing seaworthy. Your assault is still slower than an EFV “planing” assault, but you’ve countered the threat so slow cruising is less risky. And, once you hit the beach, you’re still protected (sorta) against RPGs and whatever else a land-based Phalanx CIWS would deflect — whereas the EFV “planing” speed advantage disappears on dry land. On open seas, the new frankenphib would look like an odd duckling in a white top hat around in circles… but would it not meet the mission on time & on cost? (or, if not, just tell me it’s a dumb idea)


Mark April 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

As a former LVTP-7 (and 7A1) crewchief/commander, I have to chuckle at the ongoing debate both inside DOD halls and the public domain. The existing P-7 is both antiquated and indispensable at the same time. Lightly armed, aluminum armored, flat hull invites IEDs, big target, and just nine knots in the water. Yet it’s an amphibious utility workhorse: carries 25 grunts (not “threshold 10, objective 13), fully tracked, bobs through any sea state, self deploys and self recovers. Meanwhile we rib HQ even though global partners and adversaries have yet to produce anything better without compromising somewhere.

What doomed the EFV was more than cost. Iraq and Afghanistan exposed all flat-bottomed vehicles like EFV as just IED targets (P-7 and M2 included). Also this amtracker took one look at all the moving parts of the EFVs presto-change-o planing features and retractable suspension and immediately recognized it was “not Marine-proof.” Forget the enemy, we the Marines would cripple it ourselves with our “hey watch this” driving habits.

The biggest mistake the pundits and blogosphere are making is to believe the answer is a ground-centric machine with limited swimming ability and to rely on connecting craft for a ‘surf zone dump job.’ This ignores how vital those connectors are (LCU, LCAC) to landing the bulk of the sea-delivered landing force. Consider: The core deployable force is still the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of 1,500 Marines (infantry, armor, artillery, helos, jump jets) delivered by 3-5 amphib ships with 7-10 LCAC/LCUs embarked. AAVs (P-7s) are Wave-1, tanks in Wave-2, critical combat support in Wave-3, all within minutes of each other. And those 2nd and 3rd waves maximize use of the LCACs and LCUs which must return to the ships for more hardware.

Problem: If those connectors instead deliver a dozen futuristic armored personnel carriers, THERE WOULD BE NO CONNECTORS LEFT OVER TO DELIVER TANKS AND REINFORCEMENTS FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR, MAYBE TWO!!! The amphib fleet does not spit out an infinite number of connectors. So the first wave is exposed without fire support from tanks and other ground assets. This is why a MPC must be self deploying right out of the well deck and not occupying the connector fleet. This recalls the phrase: “Lieutenants think tactics, generals think logistics.” A dog-paddling MPC literally shuts down or delays the sea surface logistics supply line. MPCs are then alone and exposed without ground fire support. The air group must then prioritize the beach for close air support instead of supporting the helo-borne troops so critical to maneuver warfare. So a connector-delivered MPC cripples the landing force, “in the air, on land and sea.”


B.Smitty April 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Dr Hooper,

The wheeled vehicle candidates may be able to do both already. I don’t know. I’m just wondering if either is a requirement.

I can see value for “swim on” in amphibious raids where you want to get in and get out relatively quickly. Evacuating US citizens from a combat zone could be hairy. The connectors will be busy moving people while the MPCs cover the withdrawal. Ideally the MPCs wouldn’t have to wait for connectors to return to leave.

Not having this capability may not be a show-stopper though.


S O April 26, 2014 at 7:52 am

The USMC has been developing a large amphibious APC/IFV in successive programs since 1973, almost since the current in-service vehicle was introduced. It’s a history of 40 years of development and procurement incompetence.

The switch to wheels is but one of many mutations in this neverending embarrassment.

1972: AAV-7 enters service
1973: Landing Vehicle, Assault (LVA)
then LVT(X)
then AAAV
renamed EFV
now ACV


admin April 25, 2014 at 4:16 pm


Good questions. Taking your last question first. In an ideal world, I’d love to have a means to for USMC tanks to crawl back aboard the craft they originally departed from. But then again, why do you need that capability?

How many times have the USMC, in an actual operation, retreated without access to some sort of modest port/departure facility? Having the capability to retreat to an offshore refuge is convenient, sure, but when (and where) do you really, really need it (outside of exercises)? And then I’m fairly sure something can be worked out to facilitate recovery via, oh, some sort of barge/JLOTSish type of solution. My sense is that we’ve sort of accepted the WWII-era idea that we must recover at sea, when in fact, modern-day OMFTS doctrine basically says you don’t. You spit ’em out, and they charge off, inland. At that point, the well deck mission is kinda done.

Where might you need this sort of capability? Well, probably if you’re landing on an unpopulated, unimproved island or killing off somebody’s reef-based, military-manned “fisherman’s refuge” somewhere in Asia. Then an ability to swim back aboard would be useful.

Going to your first question, I’d love to have tracks, just for mobility purposes. But I’ll take a wheeled vehicle as an interim step, sure. But again, we’re assuming that the current 8 by 8 vehicles can’t handle reefs. Truth be told, I don’t know if they can or not. But I am assuming the ability of wheeled vehicles to tackle such obstacles has improved dramatically since the World War II era.

Now, do we really need a reef-crawler? I dunno. A lot has changed since the days of Tarawa…there’s a lot more cuts in reefs and a lot more channels available these days that are ripe for exploiting. Are channels chokepoints? Yeah, sure, but I don’t think we’re going to face a fully-prepped coastal defense setup anytime in the near-to-mid terms.


B.Smitty April 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Additional questions:

– Should the ACV/MPC be able to crawl over reefs? (one of the main rationales for the original, tracked, amphibious tractors)
– Should the ACV/MPC be able to swim back on to an amphib or connector too? (or just swim off)


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