The UK is set to acquire two Littoral Strike Ships with the ability to launch troops and their equipment via helicopters and boats.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed that the UK will purchase the vessels:
“Take the Royal Navy. They are exerting British influence through greater forward presence. I want to capitalise on that. Investing now to develop a new Littoral Strike Ship concept. And, if successful, we will look to dramatically accelerate their delivery. These globally deployable, multi-role vessels would be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to war-fighting.
They would support our Future Commando Force. Our world-renowned Royal Marines – they’ll be forward deployed, at exceptionally high readiness, and able to respond at a moment’s notice bringing the fight from sea to land.
Our vision is for these ships to form part of 2 Littoral Strike Groups complete with escorts, support vessels and helicopters. One would be based East of Suez in the Indo-Pacific and one based West of Suez in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic. And, if we ever need them to, our two Littoral Strike Ships, our two aircraft carriers, our two amphibious assault ships Albion and Bulwark, and our three Bay Class landing ships can come together in one amphibious task force. This will give us sovereign, lethal, amphibious force. This will be one of the largest and best such forces anywhere in the world.”
Here’s how the Littoral Strike Ships could look, image via the Royal Navy. pic.twitter.com/FxC7GvTEtN
— UK Defence Journal (@UKDefJournal) February 11, 2019
Vessels like this are often called Expeditionary Transfer Dock’s (at least, by the US) and are typically a large auxiliary support ship to facilitate the ‘seabasing’ of an amphibious landing force by acting as a floating base or transfer station that can be prepositioned off the target area.
Troops, equipment, and cargo would be transferred to the vessel by large-draft ships, from where it can be moved ashore by shallower-draft vessels, landing craft like the landing craft or even helicopters.
Is this practical?
The United States already does this with the USNS Lewis B. Puller (pictured above), a floating staging base for U.S. operations in the Central Command Region, an asset that is uniquely suited to facilitate special operations missions.
The vessel has a sister ship, the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams, there are another three of this ship type planned by the US.
The vessel is a modified Alaska class oil tanker design.
The US Navy say that Puller has the third-largest flight deck in the naval services after aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships and can also launch small boats or unmanned surface vehicles from its mission deck.
In addition, vessels of this type can be configured with containers to support almost any mission.