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.

A Mexeflote from RFA Mounts Bay in the Carribean.

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.

Picture shows Merchant Vessel Hartland Point carrying military equipment in support of Cougar 12 in the Mediterranean Sea.

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.

Point class ship at Mare Harbour in the Falklands.

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

A Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) Landing Craft is pictured arriving at Tregantle Beach in Cornwall.

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.

LCU approaches the dock of amphibious landing ship HMS Bulwark.

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.

A Royal Marine LCAC hovercraft during Carlyon Bay Wader Exercise in Cornwall.

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.



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Timely article UKDJ and one that I think explains the current situation fully. As many of you know I am an advocate for the UK adopting a Karel Doorman style Logistic and Amphibious support ship. Having read the above I am even more convinced of this and provide the main specs of a KD below. Main Logistics and Amphib Specs. 2 Replenishment-At-Sea masts 8000 m3 of fuel 1000 m3 of helicopter fuel 450 m3 of potable water 400 tonnes of ammunition and other supplies. 2,000 lane metres 40 tons Elevator and Crane Roll on/roll off facility for vehicles Stern steel… Read more »


I am very much coming round to Pacman’s POV on the KD idea.

The all round utility and flexibility would mean much better use of the hulls over their lifetime than the current mix.

9 in class would offer the opportunity to really provide a long term backbone to a NSS.


The Karel Doorman is a terrific concept.

It cost the Dutch €400m.

So, to be built in the UK you’d probably want to quintuple that.


I dont agree with you on this Joe. I think the UK pricing we see is for Total through life costs (or at least 10 years of it) and I do think the UK could build a fleet of these at £250-300m each. We have the facilities and the workforce now and actually I believe that the Carriers have really set the industry up for the future and the T31’s has got competition going again… So to have a contract put forward for 1 Logistic vessel every 18 months (creating a fleet of 9 Tides and 9 UK Amphibious Logistic… Read more »


Id love to see it but just dont see the uk having the finances to fund it. I beleive the KD was built in Romania still still came in at €400mm.

Harry Bulpit

I do generally believe a miniature flat top is the best replacement for ocean. But the JSS is a brilliant contender to replace Argus. Even three ships would be a major game changer.


I’ve been thinking similarly. Firstly, I see this as the Solid Stores Ship from MARS whilst also replacing Ocean, Albion Class, and eventually, the Bay Class. As such that’s 9 ships, but the strength of this option is that it can likely be achieved by a 7/8 ship class due to the efficiencies of a single very capable class. Secondly, these ships do not have to be an Ocean or Albion Class equivalent, instead of in the past having three very capable amphibious warships and a stores ship in amphibious assault group, we would have 4 quite capable amphibious warships… Read more »


I think we do need the 9 as they will predominantly be supply and support vessels – add in Argus with 1 configured as a hospital ship and that brings up easily a class of 9/10 of these – although I personally would like to see 9 Tides and 9 of these. If we had such a class it is conceivable we could have 50% with a well dock and less aviation and 50% with full aviation facilities. Of course we could have the best of all worlds if we adopted S2S connectors and ran them off the stern steel… Read more »


Sorry – the Norwegians have put a hospital facility into their smaller Tide class and I think we should have done the same.

I guess the main thing here is that these are big vessels and we can and should get a bit more utility out of them.

Some of these running Atlas Mine Countermeasures or launching a company of RM’s in CB90’s and another company by Helicopter would just be Brilliant.


I’m okay with the tide class as they are. It would also be possible to increase their number relatively easily as they were bought commercially. As for the multi-purpose ships, I forgot about Argus, so 8 or 9 should do the job. I think there should be areas which can be reconfigured as needed, whether it be for command and control or more hospital facilities or accommodation. I think either the QE class or the Ford class have something similar to this. As for the 50/50 between aviation and well dock facilities in the class, I’m not sure if the… Read more »


Interesting article. The Royal Logistic Corp recently took part in an army only amphibious exercise using powered mexeflote barges to bring troops and vehicles ashore from a point class ship.
The barges are lowered by crane from the deck.
A useful added capability, although no substitute for the LPD/LSD’s.


The question we require answering is how long are HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark safe for?


Also how many lcvp’s , lcu’s and lcac’s have we?..
Anyone got an up to date figure?..
Without these the ships docks aren’t much use.

David Stephen

10 LCU and 18/19 LCVP in service. There where another 2 LCUs and 4/5 LCVPs but I don’t know if the ones withdrawn from service went in to storage or the bin but if I had to guess I would say the latter.


Thanks David, thought the numbers were around that.

Any numbers with regards the Hovercraft?



The Royal Marines have 4 hovercraft.


Thanks Jack


4 what the flip????? Looks like the treasury only wanted enough for photo shoots and recruitment adverts.

Geoffrey Roach

Only useful for a handful of ops. Good sea state needed ,flat water, flat beach, flat hinterland……

Mr Bell

Careful uk defence journal. If any johnie foreigner reads this they will think this is the sales brochure for 2nd hand , ex Royal Navy vessels, being sold off at rock bottom prices.


Very useful and informative article.

I’ve often wondered why Calmac’s fleet of ROROs weren’t and aren’t considered potential assets to swell the Point class at need – they’re owned by the Scottish Government and most are seagoing. All it would need is some regular training and exercises, and I daresay an extra few bob for the crew (and Scottish Government, kerching). An auxiliary reserve, and one with a pool of vessels.


No mention of 539 and their heavily armed ORCs? These have deployed on an LPD with great success. They are kept high and dry in the well deck and when required craned directly into the flooded dock. With high speed and on the gunboat variant heavy armament they allow the RM to deploy to shore quickly for raids or to go “up river” for riverine patrols. For an idea of what they can do look up the TV documentary involving HMS BULWARK when she deployed on a Taurus deployment as AMPHIP Flagship with HMS OCEAN to the Far east. (… Read more »


I think no one still dare mention raiding craft after that video of squaddies ( playing at being marines ) got stuck in the mud went viral!
Still on you tube I bet.


Example enough if why you need to Marines ?


* of

Daniele Mandelli

Good call.

Mr Bell

Geoff the US marines use hovercraft extensively to take the landing force up and onto the beach. As do the Russians and Chinese. As hovercraft were a British invention (as were lots of the worlds best developments in the last 100 years) It seems only right and proper that the Royal Marines do have a token hovercraft capability. I do not think hovercraft are as rubbish as you like to make out. They are after all virtually immune to mines and highly resistant to small arms fire. Against a contested beach a hovercraft would be a superior landing platform then… Read more »


The S2S connector whilst expensive do not need a well dock and seem to be very capable. They are also more useful in flood and marsh situations and do provide a solution for the UK to develop a KD Style amphibious logistic vessel at a price point similar to, but more expensive than the Tide Class. Once again its a compromise – but it means the vessels themselves are more flexible and therefore more useable. I dont know whether the following is a good idea or not – but a vessel of the above kind with the ability to launch… Read more »


Anything bigger than a UK LCU wont fit in a UK LPD without removing the center line barrier from the well dock. That is a major dockyard evolution to get done. With the barrier removed it then alters the performance of the well dock through an increases in the wash and swell characteristics experienced in there. Its difficult enough maneuvering an LCU in there as it is. The amount of smashed wooden fendering that used to float around in there, prior to its replacement by plastic fendering,was testament to that fact. The hovercraft are quick and somewhat mine resistant but… Read more »


Fair comment Gunbusters (as always) I must admit I look to these vessels as a bit of a catch all, I just dont think the RN can afford specialist vessels that are hardly used and so my plan is to have a vessel that is constantly in use as its flexible and then add in “enabling items” to bring out the specific requirements. I admit this is a compromise – but so is having ships tied up or alongside for long periods at which point the bean counters start querying why we have them. Not ideal – but perhaps this… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

This article reminds me of a more in depth effort by Think Defence years back.

As highlighted, Bays carrying 1 LCU or 2 LCVP are no match for LPD’s with 4 of each plus C3 facilities.


Anyone know if apats or nab are still around on any forums? I miss there insights from TD on all matters naval

Daniele Mandelli

Yes Not a Boffin was a fantastic read each time.


Lets just all hope the LPDs survive 2018/2019 (with one in reserve/refit) and then with all three Bays back supporting the RMs we could see in the early 2020s some decent amphibious exercises being undertaken and perhaps some planning for the future with an existing capability and not another “gap”. The LCU’s are outdated as are the hovercraft so investment is required along with some thinking on how the RMs are going to function in the next 30 years. For me the means must change but amphibious warfare will always be relevant to an Island such as ours and whilst… Read more »


I think we should target the Marines in their original configuration of behind enemy lines disruptors. I dont think we will have a large scale contested beach landing in the future so a force of Marines being delivered by CB90’s, provides an assymetric threat that I dont believe we currently have. Add a CB90 (or 2) to our escorts and again we have a new capability for force protection and denial. I think the beauty of the RM is that they should work in small groups of 16 or so to cause as much havoc and disruption as possible. They… Read more »


I like your ideas but you cannot just write off carrying out a contested landing because you or I don’t think that will happen again. I agree with them not being used just as an infantry battalion but since the formation of the Commandos they have done both pin prick raids and acted as amphibious infantry. That in my opinion and in the recent history of the RMs is still both key capabilities. It is the means that will change. Of course the over use of the RMs in the infantry role in Afghanistan has more to do with the… Read more »


Hi SJB1968 You are right I shouldn’t discount it – and I dont, but I do think the nature of a landing is different and the UK will not be expected to do a large set-piece D-Day style landing in the future. I think the more likely scenario is for a large scale landing of RM’s – perhaps upto Brigade level would be done through a distributed force being delivered by CB90’s, Helicopters and perhaps S2S connectors. I am also a big fan of the Polaris vehicles with a GPMG on top or a mortar in the back – Fast,… Read more »


Surely it must eventually dawn on those contributors to this discussion who advocate replacement for the present amphibious landing ships that it is a non-starter. Present Government policy is to get rid of the warships, then get rid of the crews, as happened for example with the last four Type 22 frigates, HMS Ark Royal,etc etc. When HMS Oceon, Albion and Bulwawk have been sold off, 1000 sailors transferred to other ships and 1000 Royal Marines thrown out of the service it will no longer be possible to fund any sort of replacement ships and provide the crew required. I… Read more »

Sea Horse

Surprised not to see the mexefloate given equal billing alongside the smaller landing craft, and the importance of the RSP configuration when matting with stern ramps. Equally, the Army Work Boat, without which there would be no Mexeflote capability.


The RM has trialed the CB 90. The fact that we still have LCVPs says something… The big question being why get the equivalent of a Porsche Cayenne with all the extras when you only really need a Defender 110 to do the job. A CB90 cannot carry a vehicle and can only carry 18 people as opposed to a LCVP which can carry vehicles or 36 people. As a CB90 does 40 knts the passengers will need to be restrained in specialist seating that looks a lot like mine resistant seating on Army vehicles . That is not required… Read more »


As I was looking through the comments pacmans caught my eye, so in some ways I will respond to this and throw in some new ideas. I like and understand the concept of the KD very much especially as it is a very flexible platform and can resolve military as well as humanitarian requirements. Possibly they could even be paid for partially out of the International Aid Budget. However, they do no resolve the issues that the UK and the RN have, to dismiss the idea that the UK will not have to land over the beach a major force… Read more »

John Mitchell

Some good comments. All it needs is commitment from whatever Government of the day that, will probably not be that on the day they are needed.


Brilliant artical Gorge. I read your stuff frequently. Always a good read