The US 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group is the first continental US Navy and US Marine Corps force to deploy with the F-35B.

The US Navy say in a news release that while in the US 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theatre security cooperation and forward naval presence operations whilst deployed. The group is currently in the Middle East, reportedly near the Horn of Africa.

“As a forward-deployed force we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes,” said Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1.

“The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”

Following a six-month pre-deployment training period the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. According to the US Navy news release, the training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods which collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks to include deep air support, close air support, offensive air support and electronic warfare.

“When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.


  1. They really do have a knack for parking aircraft on these things. Good luck moving the aircraft in the middle though unless they can use a helicopter to lift them out.

  2. A mini-ARG is what the should be looking at in terms of deployment. 12 Junglies, 3 Crowsnest, clutch of Wildcat, and 12 F35b should be affordable for us at our operational tempo. All we need is a class of fast dock ship.

  3. expat – are we really still dripping about Ocean? – her flight deck wasn’t strong enough for a harrier (except in ferry mode) and certainly not for the heat spread of an F35, she’s too slow and worn out – 80mil was a decent return on a ship designed to last 15 years tops.

    • She only cost £101 million or something when new. I think both the UK and Brazil did well out of the deal. Plus Brownie points with Latin America’s largest country is worth a bit too.

      She worked hard and proved that we really needed two LHP or even perhaps LHDs built properly. Perhaps we should have built Ocean and then spec’ed the Albion’s as LHD’s, built 3 and sold Ocean on. Of course by that time the carriers were in the frame. And of course we cut the spec of the Albions with the aviation facilities chopped and one whole deck just rubbed out of the design.

      Brazil has a good sized engineering sector that produces good kit which will be good replacements for some of the less than wonderful stuff that went into Ocean in the first place. Looking at you crappy Chinese pumps………

    • My comment was really to entice discussion / debate on whether we should have something like this. Yes Ocean is history but many navies around the world see a role for this type of ship and we are pinning everything on 2 large carriers. For a start is peace time there’s the humanitarian role, are we really going to send a carrier alone? Sending a carrier group is a huge waste of money and when one is in refit and one the other side of the world delivering aid we’re exposed. Look at the tempo of strikes in Syria, take a similar scenario where we don’t a airfield to operate from, this is an ideal platform for low tempo ops.

      • We seem to be drawing down on amphibious capability just as a time everybody else is renewing their capability or getting into the business. I was expecting RM to take a hit, but 42 needs bringing back to full strength ASAP. In some ways the Spanish and Italians have a more balanced capability than we have.

  4. Conceptually, this demonstrates that smaller carries can operate the F35. Maybe a possible option for the RN to consider when planning their next assault ship?

    • I wonder if, after the F35B trials on the Queen Elizabeth the USMC will consider fitting ski-jumps and adopting the RN’s rolling-landing technique for their assault ships. It would be interesting to know how much extra munitions these allow the F35B to carry, and how doesn’t need dumping in the sea to accommodate a vertical landing.

      • The primary mission of those ships are still amphibious assault, so the USMC/Navy don’t want to lose the 1 or 2 helicopter spots a ramp would take out. They are meant to operate within helicopter range from shore so the F-35s may not carry a full load of fuel.

      • Our British ski jump design makes each jet able to carry 20% more weight, and the rolling landing also means no dumping into the ocean with munitions ect, it’s a dam good bit of British brains, after all we did invent the carrier and ski jump, and vertical takeoff, and steam catipult, and slanted runway, and now the rolling landing.

  5. the south koreans and the japanese defence force are doing the same with their helicopter carriers.OCEAN is history, lets all get over it. who says the navy want another assault ship?

  6. The carriers will be doing the Aviation side now, with pros and cons but there we are. Their lift potential is obvious.

    The key is retaining the LPDs alongside the carrier group and releasing the Bays from sitting in the gulf and Carribean so they are available for their main role.

    So even if more money was magically produced I’d nor me spending it on another LPH myself with so many other issues.

  7. A UK version of the Karen Doorman class is what we need in my opinion, this can do both Solid Stores and amphibious albeit with S2S connectors for the heavy lift.

    We could have a high utility fleet of 8-12 of these and its a game changer, whether deploying a fleet of CB90’s, or S2S connectors and LCU’s , stores or 6 Merlins or 2 chinooks off its decks (all hangered).

    I think we can improve on the KD design with the help of the Dutch, but it is far better than any amphib or SSS we have today, never mind the fact it does both jobs together.

    It is a truly remarkable platform and one the UK would be wise to adopt in large numbers.

    • I agree and I think it’s the best option we have for this time and under current financial constraints. Such a vessel could be based on the Tide-Class hull and used to replace all RFA ships and also the Albion-Class. The Albion-Class replacement vessels could have Artisan, Sea Ceptor and some form of ASW. We will be so light on frigates and destroyers in the coming years and the current Type 31 proposals appear to fall well short of replacing the capabilities of Type 23’s that are being decommissioned and the Type 26’s that were never built.

    • Write to the defence secretary with your proposals rather than wasting time dreaming on here. We are a democracy after all…aren’t we…?

      • It’s a great ship Andy no doubt, but I dont think we either want or can afford a dedicated LPD/LPH anymore.

        For me the Karel Doorman’s (an improved uk version though) is the perfect fit as we get loads of utility out of it during peacetime as a solid stores / hospital, HA / LPH / Amphib / mothership vessel and in times of need we use in the amphib role and pick up tankers from the commercial markets.

        I also would say that 4 float on /float off ships would be a brilliant asset and probably pay for themselves if managed properly. They are also amazingly inexpensive for what they offer (see article on TD).

        Lastly we can standardise on the Aegir hull and build 12 of these over the next 20 years replacing all our current large ships on a 1-2-1 basis. Nothing urgent we have a good little fleet, but needs to be thought about and acted upon strategically very soon.

        A fleet of these could put 72+ Merlins into the field or a mix of merlins and chinooks. It’s actually really impressive what options this type of vessel could generate for us. All under the RFA or RN flag

    • Not sure?

      In the Gulf of Aden

      “The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) transits the Gulf of Aden during a vertical replenishment while on a scheduled deployment of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) on Sept. 5, 2018. US Navy Photo

      The Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are participating in a two-week long Theater Counter-Mine and Maritime Security Exercise that includes an amphibious exercise off the coast of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.”

  8. I have had many conversations on this down the years and there is always loads of reasons not to go with it. But it is just so much better than anything else out there that for me its a no brainier.

    A KD full of CB90’s that lands a battalion of RM, or has 4 S2S connectors that land a load of tanks whilst simultaneously delivering a company of marines via its 6 Merlin helicopters.

    And when its not doing that it can be a hospital ship, or even a solid stores supply ship

    What is there not to like – lets have 12 of them, all built in the UK (supporting the NSS) at a rate of 1 every 2 years.

    This will replace Ocean, Argus, Albion, Bulwark, 3x Bays as well as the 5 Fort and Wave Class, would give us an excellent capability for the same number of hulls (lets not forget the RFA has been gutted in the last 10 year and is running far under a normal level).

    I really do fear that we will end up with a sub standard SSS that doesn’t do half of what a UK KD type ship could offer. Let’s hope common sense prevails – but I wont hold my breath.

    These are essentially Support ships, Helicopter Carriers, Hospital and Humanitarian vessels and amphib and mother ships all rolled into one. Truly a game changer for the RN in its current budgetary position.

    • I think KD is a viable replacement for the RFA ships, for the LPD I would want something that can keep pace with USN amphibians which are designed to do 500 plus miles per day jumps comfortably.

      I could see perhaps a version with a full length flight deck but without major hangar space (perhaps beyond two Merlin) for the hospital ship, aviation training, and solid stores (and follow on waves the trooping cabs would come from elsewhere). You can’t have too much flight deck but you don’t necessarily need hangar space. Like a super sized JMSDF Ōsumi-class. Damen offer an LHx version of Enforcer.

      • 2 chinook landing spots and hanger space for 6 marlins with more in the hull if required is plenty for me

        We cant deploy a fleet of 8-12 of these full anyway.

        • The bigger you go the more options you have.

          My point is that we mustn’t hobble internal volume to provide hangar space when all we need is a good sized flight deck. There is no reason why the deck house has to be for’ard. It’s volume could be spread out for full length of the ship across an extra deck or two. As long as the bridge has a good view of the bow and can see aft, there is enough structure for sensors and comms, and the uptakes don’t hinder then there isn’t much need for anything more to be above the hull.

          KD for me is a natural buy to support QEC.

    • An built with foreign aid budget, after all why should the Defence budget shoulder the entire cost of supporting an industrial strategy? Its time for a letter to my MP asking this very question 🙂

      • Yes. And that would be just one year’s worth! It is beyond annoying isn’t it?

        Then again I spend the EU money and foreign aid about 4 times per week in all manner of different ways. And don’t get me started on HS2……….

        It is when you look how much BT have spent on fibre roll out and it is a piddling some compared to just one year of aid. For twice as much we could have the world’s best and that is what would attract business………

        For me in roughly no order at all these stipends to foreigners should be spent on ‘energy security’, internet infrastructure, defence (getting the Army on wheels for me), and STEM education.

    • Two vessels to be built to replace Ocean and the Albion-Class. Move the superstructure on the Tide-Class from the stern to the bow and then you create a large flight deck. Add Artisan and Phalanx from the Albion-Class. Add CAMM from the Type 23’s. Add stern ramps. Use COTS parts and equipment as much as possible. I think we’d get a lot for the money.

  9. Great picture, I don’t remember one for the Wasp when she was flying off F35-Bs. Might be me!

    So that’s 6 on 257 metres length, the Dokdo with 199 metres will be pushing it, without a ramp.

    Data, I need more data!

    • The USS Wasp’s hangar isn’t very large it extends for about a 3rd length of the ship and sits above the dock. In LHx USN/USMC cabs will spend a lot of time on the roof. That was the driver behind the the USS America deleting the well deck so more space could be given to the hangar and tanks for aviation fuel. The USN have reverted back to LHD configuration from hull 3 onwards for that class.

      The rule of thumb for aviation ships is 1000 tons of hull for every air frame carried. It is a rough measure because the smaller you go the more hull and internal arrangements impinge. For example if you look at pictures of the Invincibles hanger you will see a huge block of structure which the uptake and intake for the Ollies.

  10. Nice bit of PR for the F35B!

    “In the Gulf of Aden

    The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) transits the Gulf of Aden during a vertical replenishment while on a scheduled deployment of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) on Sept. 5, 2018. US Navy Photo

    The Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Martine Expeditionary Unit are participating in a two-week long Theater Counter-Mine and Maritime Security Exercise that includes an amphibious exercise off the coast of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.”

  11. I certainly agree with Pac-Man on this one, a really versatile replacement for the Bays and the LPD’s would be a major boost for capability. There are two chances of that happening, slim and none. You cannot expect any of our wonderful elected representatives to think more than a week ahead, much less ten or fifteen years. That is why we regularly get caught by surprise, see April 1982.
    That said, that is a really dense deck park, and even when flying it must be pretty busy. A bit like an Invincible with a full complement of Sea Harriers and helps, not a place for the unwary.

  12. I think the LPDH concepts are interesting but not yet proven in combat. Are they in danger of being jack of all trades but masters at none and likely to be caught out in a high intensity conflict. The only way vessels like this are survivable is via overwhelming defensive escort- Arleigh Burke’s and Tico’s and being within a carrier battle groups protective air cover.
    On their own they lack enough jets to provide CAP and air defence screen and are a poor substitute carrier.
    I think the QE class is far superior in the carrier role but less good if trying to be used for landing troops onto a hostile shoreline or insertion via air lift.
    A better solution for the Royal Navy is a 2 fleet carrier and 2 ARG set up, with enough escort warships to protect them (26+ first rate frigate or destroyers). We do need a replacement for Ocean- a future improved Invincible type hull- possibly with a stern well-dock and some limited air defence and strike capability with embarked F35B’s but if I was to choose I would rather have a 3rd QE class carrier so that in theory we could have occasions when 2 fleet carriers are available.
    The QE in essence is the superior warship. An ARG composition of a couple of bays and Albion or Bulwark with a flat deck helicopter drop off ship- like a large container ship would be fine- the helicopter drop off ship simply needs to sit off shore and lilly pad the helos and troops via Bays and Albion class.

    • The QEC has been designed with ‘assault passageways’ and is laid out to support an EMF. The Invincibles’ secondary role was as an LPH, but as anybody who has quite literally climbed from bottom to top inside them (never mind pushing Bergens up through hatches) they weren’t built for the role.

      QEC are a hybrid aviation support ship. They are just as much overgrown LPH as they are ‘strike carrier lite’; though the latter I only see as a ‘me too’ / keep up with the French capability, therefore show more than use. In terms of a UK only operation I think there will be more likelihood of them being used for a good sized landing of 3Cdo (if we still have such after more cuts in the future) than them being used to bomb somebody (especially a peer somebody).

      It would be nice to have a pool of fleet carriers, a pool of big fast amphibs, and heck while we are at it a pool of CVS for ASW in the Atlantic and Norwegian Sea but we don’t have the money. If we thought it necessary to up the operational tempo of QEC because of a peer threat I would rather have a third QEC and three big fast dock ships.

  13. Interesting arguments for the Dokdo type vessel in the RN and I agree with most of them, I have written to my MP on several occasions and giving evidence on why we need the RM with the Albion class vessels. Thankfully kept.
    However in a few years these useful ships will need replacing, The RN requires a future Royal Marine carrier of some description, international aid or disaster relief platforms are a requirement, a hospital ship is desperately needed extra, fleet anti submarine capabilities is a must, a future maintenance vessel a requirement especially if the T31s are to be forward deployed and the forgotten role of the escort carrier is a useful requirement and don’t forget that a future requirement would be a drone command mother ship to launch and control air and underwater drones.
    To achieve all of this in a single hull is difficult but not impossible, we did it before so why not again, I like the concept of the Dokdo class but for world wide operations she might be a bit tight with 700+ RMs on board so possibly the Canberra class could be a better fit or something in the middle. Equipped with a deck capable for the F35B, ski jump Chinook size helicopters and landing craft. With containers on the well deck/hanger deck she could then be easily converted into a hospital or maintenance ship. The cost is the main factor but I think if there was an order for twelve vessels to replace the Albion’s, Bay’s etc then it could be kept down to about 4 billion for all twelve, the Dokdo’s cost 250 million each. Some of the costs should be covered by the international aid budget. Containerisation for towed array sonar, hospital, maintenance and self defence systems should mean that the vessels are adaptable at 72 hour notice and the containers could be flown out to the nearest feasible point of the vessel.
    However the big issue would be manning, but this is also surmountable, the hospital configuration would draw on medical staff from the NHS, International aid helicopter pilots could be drawn from the North Sea rig pool, crews could be brought in from the RNR, University squadron, Merchant navy training schools. So there are ways around it if people would think outside the box.
    What it will do is it releases the QEs to do there primary task as a fleet carrier strike and we would not need one constantly at sea.
    Is it possible to do this, over a ten year period yes, do we have the building capacity, I don’t know, should we do it again yes this type of vessel would give the RN a greater flexibility than it has now but will the government do it probably not. These vessels could or would become the general combat vessel of the fleet. But if we could in a surge all twelve in the assault role then we could land over the beach a complete armored division, supported with 144 helicopters and 96 F35s plus the landing craft, back by a carrier strike group, would that not be good to have in an emergency. But the complete British armed forces could be redesigned around the capability.
    Wishful thinking I know!

    • Ron

      I think this is the way to go, but would say we need to do this over 25 years and then roll it forward.

      For me the Karen Doorman is the standard we need to beat, and I am happy to compromise and spread the load through the whole fleet – instead of landing craft I think a large fleet of CB90’s and some Ships to Shore connectors.

      I also would like us to have some float on float off assets – perhaps through a PPI initiative.

      But you are right – its about people

      When doing foreign aid work – we should hand it over to the Red Cross or NHS, its about have a reserve capability as well as doing what’s right


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