The U.S. Marine Corps is the world’s premier practitioner of amphibious warfare. But being able to use the sea as a maneuver space and basing domain requires specialized equipment, including a dedicated fleet of amphibious assault and docking ships. That fleet numbers 33 warships today (not counting prepositioned supply ships), which is the minimum number that can feasibly lift a force of two Marine brigades in wartime. However, a dozen of the ships are aging LSD’s built during the waning years of the Cold War that need to be replaced starting in the next decade. That means decisions have to be made now on what type of successor vessel to develop, since it will take at least ten years to design, develop and test a future amphib. Senior Navy and Marine Corps officials have recently signed a memorandum stating that the future vessel should be based on the same hull used in the current San Antonio-class (LPD-17) amphib. But in order to keep the industrial base warm so that the future ship will be affordable, Congress needs to find the money to fund a twelfth vessel in the San Antonio class. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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