British amphibious and sea-lift capability rests in the hands of specialised vessels, let’s take a look at those vessels.
The Albion class landing platform docks are HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.
Their primary function is to embark, transport, deploy and recover troops and their equipment. Each ship can host 305 troops with an overload of a further 405. The class features a vehicle deck capacity of up to six tanks and around 30 armoured all-terrain vehicles.
The Albion’s also feature a floodable well dock, with the capacity to take either four utility landing craft (each capable of carrying a Challenger 2 tank) or shelter a hovercraft landing craft.
Four smaller landing craft are positioned on port and starboard davits, each capable of carrying 35 troops. Each ship features a two-spot 64m flight deck able to take medium support helicopters and stow a third or operate a Chinook. However, the Albion design does not have a hangar.
The Bay class are operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and are officially designated as ‘Landing Ship Docks’. Each Bay class vessel is capable of carrying up to 24 Challenger tanks or 150 military trucks in 1,150 linear metres of space. The UK operates three Bay class vessels after selling the fourth to Australia.
Under normal conditions, a Bay class ship can carry 350 soldiers, but this can be doubled to 700 in overload conditions. The flight deck is capable of handling helicopters up to the size of Chinooks, as well as Merlin helicopters however while the class have no hangar, a temporary shelter can be set up to house a single helicopter. The well dock can carry one LCU Mark 10 or two LCVPs, and two Mexeflotes can be suspended from the ship’s flanks.
The Point class sealift ships are designed for the strategic transport of military cargo and vehicles. Four ships were built by the German company Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschaft and two built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast. They replaced the RFA Sea Centurion and Sea Crusader in service.
The full six-ship service was only to be required for major operations and exercises which prompted the MoD to pursue a contract for their long term service under the Private Finance Initiative.
Under the contract the provider can make ships available for commercial service with other companies at times when they are not needed by MoD, two of the ships however have been let go from this arrangement leaving the MoD with only four should they be required.
The vessels have 2,650 linear metres of space for vehicles which is able to house 130 armoured vehicles and 60 trucks and ammunition or 8,000 tonnes of vehicles.
The Landing Craft
The primary role of the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) mentioned above is to transfer personnel, vehicles, and equipment onto the shores from their host vessels.
The LCU Mk.10 is capable of carrying 120 troops as well as vehicles and equipment. They are capable of operating for up to 14 days with a range of 600 nautical miles.
The primary role of the LCAC is a fully amphibious craft capable of the high speed movement of 16 fully equipped troops and a crew of 2 over water, ice, mud, marshland and beach.