Monday, April 26, 2021

Light Amphibious Warships Face Survivability Questions

 via National Defense Magazine

The vessel “could carry troops and some of their gear ashore in smaller packages so that the larger amphibious warships will stay farther away,” he said. “For the Chinese, it may not be worth it to launch an anti-ship ballistic missile.” 

The ships would be harder to target and the cost exchange may not be ideal, he noted. 

“The hope is, well, maybe these small ships are not as attractive a target as a large amphibious warship so that we can stream a bunch of these in and deliver troops into the Philippines or to the southwest islands of Japan,” he said. “Then we can move them around in that environment at a lower risk, and even if the Chinese do attack a couple of them, the impact on the overall operation will be less than if we had driven that large amphibious warship close to shore.” 

Clark noted that while light amphibious warships will be important assets in future fights, one flaw is that they would have a limited ability to protect themselves if they do come under attack.  

“Because they’re not that big, they can’t carry a whole bunch of self-defense” systems, he said. “We’re going to have to ask the question: ‘Are we willing to accept the vulnerability of these ships?’ … Because the Chinese could decide, ‘Well, I’m not going to launch an anti-ship ballistic missile, but I’ll send a bunch of bombers over in that direction and I’ll attack these with cruise missiles or anti-ship missiles.” 

The Navy, which is currently mulling over the vessel’s requirements, may need to spend more money than originally anticipated to equip the ships with the necessary defensive weapons, Clark said.

The service is targeting a per unit procurement cost of $100 million to $150 million for the vessels, according to a Congressional Research Service report, “Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.” 

“It might end up being a little more expensive” than that, Clark said. “If you put the rolling airframe missile on it, for example, that might be a $10 [million] or $15 million system ... but that’s probably a pretty good price to pay.” 

Clark estimated each platform might cost around $200 million in order to equip them with the necessary self-defense systems. While they won’t be invulnerable, such weapons would create dilemmas for adversaries such as the Chinese, he noted. 

“You might have to launch four or five missiles at it to take it out,” he said. “Now you get to the point where maybe the attack becomes either too expensive or too difficult.” 

The Navy and Marine Corps are considering how they can balance affordability with survivability, as well as operational and programmatic risks, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said.  

“Those need to be balanced against each other in a decade where we’re really trying to move fast and deliver,” he said in April during a Defense Writers Group event. 

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called amphibious vessels a “Swiss army knife.” The service is eyeing somewhere between 30 to 50 light amphibious warships. That is in addition to the 10 big-deck amphibs and 20 San Antonio-class LPD-17s the service has previously identified as requirements. 


The reality?  Would it be worth it to the Chinese to launch 5 anti-ship missiles at one LAW?  My answer is yes.  Kill 5 of these ships and you've shocked the nation.  The cost?  25 missiles?  The Chinese would gladly pay that price.

This concept is bankrupt.

Add to this the fact that even upgunned these ships are underarmed AND they're operating forward and you have a recipe for disaster.  EVEN IF you toss in a destroyer for escort, the escort is gonna be fighting for its own survival not protecting its escort-ee.

This plan just don't pass the smell test.

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