Austal’s light amphibious warship design is a throwback to WWII tank landing ships


Austal USA has unveiled the design of a new Light Amphibious Warship, or LAW, for the US Navy. The proposal, which is reminiscent of some of the classic tank landing ships of the past, is designed to meet a need for up to 35 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps’ pivot to distributed operations.

The Austal design was on display at the Sea Air Space 2021 maritime exhibit, which took place August 2-4 at the Gaylord National Convention Center in Md. A mock-up of the Austal LAW was displayed at the company’s stand, revealing its bow ramp and shallow draft, which would allow it to stop on the beach to quickly unload its cargo, allowing quick access to the shore independent of any dock infrastructure. The ships also have a prominent flight deck aft. Previously, the Navy had given a lot of attention to a roll-on-roll-off design with a rear ramp, although Austal appears to have gone for a more traditional landing ship design.

YouTube capture via Naval News

A model of the Austal USA Light Amphibious Warship Concept.

“The Light Amphibious Warship provides the U.S. Navy with increased flexibility for distributed operations and the deployment of U.S. Marine Corps and Special Operations units to remote and unimproved ports and beach fronts,” said the society. Naval News.

While its adaptations for the beach assault are reminiscent of WWII tank landing ships, the Austal LAW also offers a host of adaptations for modern warfare, according to the company, including full self-defenses, with barrel mounts visible on the front and rear on the model.

Austal’s LAW is designed to have a range of 4000 miles without refueling and to have good seakeeping ability to traverse long distances across open oceans. A vertical resupply will be possible, allowing the transfer of supplies by helicopter. In addition, the design is intended to accommodate drones, apparently vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) type operated from the raised rear deck.

US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Waters

A contractor operated SA330 Puma helicopter attached to the USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6), during a vertical refueling aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Gulf of Vella (CG-72) in the Persian Gulf in June 2020.

In terms of dimensions, the vessel is approximately 390 feet long, with a displacement of just under 5,000 tons. Approximately 10,500 square feet of deck space is available for vehicles and other mission cargo, according to Naval News. The dimensions of the vessel are therefore larger, but not necessarily by much, compared to the Army Logistics Support Vessel, or LSV, which is 273 feet long, with a displacement of 4,200 tons. Derivatives of LSV, called Bacolod City class, are also operated by the Philippine Navy, and include a rear helipad, as well.


One of the U.S. Army’s Logistics Support Ships, or LSVs, the USAV Lieutenant-General William B. Bunker.

US Navy

The amphibious vessel of the Republic of the Philippines BRP Bacolod City (LC-550) steaming past the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) during navy bilateral training in the South China Sea.

Of the Army’s eight LSVs, the last two, which form a separate subclass, have much more hydrodynamic stems than the first six ships. This, combined with improved engines producing approximately double the power of previous vessels, an on-board system to generate fresh water in significant quantities and enlarged living spaces, gives them increased performance on the high seas and improved performance on the high seas. maximum range of about 6,500 miles.

Interestingly, the LAW design offered by Austal has a very similar arc.

The American army

The US Army‘s eighth LSV, the USAV Major General Robert Smalls, with its clearly visible hydrodynamic bow.

Capture of US Army / YouTube via Naval News

A comparison of the bow design of the last two Army LSVs (USAV SSGT Robert T. Kuroda seen here), left, and that of Austal’s proposed LAW design, right.

The Marine Corps describes the LAW as a vessel that can “bridge the capability gap between the Navy’s large multipurpose amphibious / L-class warfare ships and small, short-range landing craft such as the Landing Craft Utility and the Landing Craft Air Cushion. “

US Navy

The first USS in its class America (LHA-6), the type of big and expensive amphibious assault ship that the Navy is now trying to get away from with its LAW concept.

“LAW must be a low signature, grounded, coastal vessel with intra-theater endurance capable of operating independently or in conjunction with other surface vessels, other LAWs, Joint Task Forces or Coalition Forces in Contested Environments in Support of Distributed Maritime Operations, Coastal Operations in a Contested Environment / Forward Expeditionary Base Operations across the spectrum of competition and conflict, ”adds the service.

“LAW, whether operating in a group or on an independent deployment, is essential to the implementation of a new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO),” added Austal. The EABO concept revolves around scenarios of potential future conflicts with China in the Western Pacific. He calls on the Marine Corps to have reinforced platoon-sized units capable of maneuvering around the theater, hopping from island to island and also taking on non-traditional tasks such as launching anti-missiles. ships and the conduct of anti-submarine warfare. With the Navy and other forces, the idea is to deny control of the sea to enemy forces. Specific details of how the EABO should work were discussed by The war zone in the past, here and here.

It should be noted that the United States Navy has operated Landing Ship Tank (LST) type vessels for decades, equipped with front-opening bows and capable of ascending to the beach. However, he disarmed the last of these ships, members of the Newport class, which were considerably larger than what the LAW Marines were interested in, in the 1990s. Other countries, including Russia and China, continue to operate LST-type ships of various sizes.

Russian Ministry of Defense

Russian navy Ropucha class landing ship Alexandre chabalin.

Russian Ministry of Defense

A Type 072A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy landing ship.

The Navy has so far awarded design contracts to five companies, including Austal USA, and plans to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the detailed design and build contract in the second quarter of fiscal 2022. The other companies involved in the design phase are Fincantieri, Bollinger, TAI Engineers and VT Halter Marine. The last of these companies was notably in charge of the construction of the LSVs of the American army and of the Bacolod City class for the Philippines.

Austal USA has its own history of supplying ships to the US Army, being the manufacturer of the US Navy Independence Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) class and Spearhead fast expeditionary class transport. There are only four left Independence under construction or to order and three more Spearheads under construction or under construction, with no clear plan for the Navy to purchase more of either type. As such, an LOI contract could be particularly important to the business.

As part of the LAW program, the Navy plans to purchase a class of 24 to 35 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, including in the implementation of the new EABO operational concept. If all goes according to plan, the first example of these new warships would be purchased in FY2023, and the FY2022 budget requests $ 13.2 million in research and development funding for the program. .

US Navy

A US Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft unloads maritime mixed light tactical vehicles on a beach. The Navy is looking for an amphibious assault craft to bridge the capacity gap between large multipurpose amphibious ships and small, short-range craft like the LCAC.

LAW ships, obviously, would play an important role in these kinds of operations and would be sized to accommodate these smaller marine units, delivering them quickly between smaller islands, or wherever they were needed. In addition to their essential utility to EABO in the minds of the Marine Corps, the LAW is also part of a larger Navy push to move away from its reliance on a relatively small fleet of ships. larger amphibious warfare weapons, which you can read more about here.

While the Navy’s current amphibious warships can also carry smaller groups of soldiers and their equipment, these ships are typically set up for larger assaults at a distance from shore, are also much more expensive to purchase and operate.

The Navy wants to spend around $ 156 million to purchase the first LAW, after which the unit price is expected to drop to around $ 130 million. The price of a brand new America Assault ship class, on the other hand, is around $ 4 billion. Additionally, while large amphibious warships require larger and specialized shipyards for their construction, LAWs could also be produced more quickly in smaller shipbuilding facilities, if the program is to be accelerated.

Whichever route the Navy takes, it appears the service is determined to introduce a whole new type of amphibious ship, and one that just might help revolutionize the way the Marine Corps goes into battle.

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