If war occurs between the U.S. and China, the Marine Corps plans to operate in the Chinese littoral–in other words, within range of Beijing’s weapons. In order to do that successfully, the Corps has defined a requirement for 35 Light Amphibious Warships, or LAWs. The vessels will enable platoon-size units to maneuver among local islands, establishing forward bases from which to attack Chinese shipping. But the Marine Corps and Navy can’t seem to agree on the specifications for the ships. The Navy wants more survivability features than the Marine Corps thinks are affordable. The real problem here is that steel monohulls are not suited to surviving in hostile waters unless they are armed and armored. Textron has an alternative–an aluminum catamaran that can transport 500 tons of cargo and personnel at over 55 mph. It’s called SECAT, and seems much better suited to Marine needs in the Chinese littoral than a monohull ever could be. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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