Marine Corps, Navy develop long-term solution to amphibious warship shortage

Marine Corps, Navy develop long-term solution to amphibious warship shortage

The sun rises over the USS Wasp (LHD-1) as it sails in the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, marine corps

WASHINGTON, DC – The Navy’s commitment to deploy 31 amphibious warships in the fiscal year 2025 budget secures the long-term future of the amphibious fleet, but the short-term problem of sending Marines to sea is still not resolved.
Maintenance issues with the Navy’s aging Wasp-class big-deck amphibious warships and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships have shortened deployments for Marine Expeditionary Forces, leaving the Navy and Marine Corps with no ideal choice for sailing MEUs. We were forced to come up with a combination of solutions that were impossible to solve. Officials from both services made the announcement this week.

To this end, the Navy and Marine Corps are nearing an agreement that will uniformly define readiness requirements for amphibious ships. This is because amphibious ships face maintenance challenges that can lead to deployment delays.

The CNO and Commander agree that the service will work toward the goal of 80% readiness for a fleet of 31 L-class ships, including 21 amphibious transport docks and 10 large deck amphibious assault ships. , Smith said on Thursday’s annual Modern.Day Marine Symposium in Washington DC

“We have a long way to go to get there. We’ve deferred maintenance,” Smith told the audience, noting that the Navy is the only one requesting extended deployment of amphibious readiness groups due to operational necessity. He pointed out that he was a combat commander.

“To get the reserve ratio to 1, we need to go back to 3. ARG/ is 3.[Marine Expeditionary Units] In a completely round boat. We have Marines. All you need is a boat,” Smith said.

Following recent guidance from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, officials are working to develop common “terms of reference” to describe readiness for amphibious flights. I’m here. The goal is to create a memorandum of understanding between the two services and put a permanent agreement in writing.

Over the past few months, amphibious warships have suffered significant maintenance delays and technical problems, necessitating delayed deployments and revised training plans.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, and Marine Corps Commander Eric Smith testify at House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2025 budget request in Rayburn. Office Building, Washington DC, May 1, navy photo

After problems in the engineering department last year, the U.S.S. boxer (LHD-4) departed for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific in early April nearly three months late, but turned back less than two weeks later due to starboard rudder and bearing failure. The ship is currently at a pier at Naval Base San Diego, California, awaiting underwater repairs by her divers due to insufficient capacity in her dry dock. She said repairs could take two months. boxer The ARG may not be redeployed until six months after its first ship departs.

Ongoing maintenance issues led to split deployments of ARG and USS. somerset (LPD-25) will depart in January on the USS harpers ferry (LSD-49) was deployed and intercepted in mid-March boxer From participating in the annual Balikatan exercise with the Philippines.

At Thursday’s meeting, several Marine Corps generals addressed amphibious readiness challenges, the aging fleet and ongoing memorandum of understanding efforts.

“Obviously the 800-pound gorilla in the room is an amphibious aircraft,” Lt. Gen. Carsten Heckle, deputy commander for Combat Development and Integration, said during a panel discussion.

“Our company has over 20 years of business experience in the Middle East. [U.S. Central Command],” he added. “We’re getting pretty strong, aren’t we? We blew the paint off the planes. We knocked the paint off the bottom of the ships. So what do we need to do? We just kept doing it without really considering it, and now we’re paying the price. And now we’re trying to do it again… It’s never easy, especially in a difficult financial environment. there is no.”

Heckle said Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro supports the three-ship ARG structure, which has been a hallmark of Marine Corps doctrine for decades.

“At least nine amphibious ships must be ready to sail at any given time to carry out ARG/MEU missions deployed around the world,” del Toro told reporters. “There are three on each coast.” Thursday.

As the Boxer ARG became difficult to maintain earlier this year, a term became popular within the Pentagon to refer to formations with fewer than three amphibious ships as “amphibious task forces.” Marine Corps officials have repeatedly insisted that the ARG must include three L-class ships.

Marines assigned to Charlie Company, 1/5th Battalion Landing Team, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly at high speeds while firing at simulated targets during live-fire training aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD-25) in the South China Sea. Perform reload. April 10, marine corps photo

Heckle told USNI News in a March interview that his preference for MEU deployment is three ARGs, but that would be difficult.

“The ARG should be three amphibious warships, not two amphibious warships and one ESB, one amphibious warship and one LCS and one T-EPF. It’s not an ARG. For the MEU to operate properly, we need at least three amphibious warships,” Heckle told USNI News at the time.

In an interview, Heckle said the Marine Corps’ modeling plans could result in more than a six-month gap in ARG/MEU presence in 2026.

Smith noted this gap on Thursday, saying the Navy and Marine Corps are currently conducting two patrols with a forward-deployed amphibious presence from Japan and 31 to maintain a consistent three-ship ARG/MEU deployment from Japan. He advocated the need to achieve an 80 percent readiness goal with one amphibious ship. Both the east coast and the west coast.

“We believe there is a three to four month, maybe six month gap in ARG/MEU presence,” Smith told reporters.

Several Marine Corps generals have said the current mix of L-class ships is inadequate, emphasizing that the mission requires newer ships, including four ships with one large deck and three amphibious transport docks. He praised the Navy’s latest fiscal year 2025 budget outlook for purchasing amphibious assault ships. – within the next five years.

“Right now, our amphibious flight readiness is not in a good place. The Navy knows that. We know that. That’s another reason we’re trying to build new ones. You can keep spending money on old things, but it’s like keeping money on a 1974 Audi.” Smith added. You can find a mechanic to fix it, but at some point you’ll be scouring Hell’s Half Acre for parts for your 1974 Audi. And you need to buy a new Audi. That’s why we buy new things. ”

Last year, Marine Corps officials expressed frustration over a lack of ready amphibious ships to respond to a deadly earthquake in Turkey and displacement in Sudan due to the ongoing civil war. did. Heckle told reporters Thursday that he remains concerned that something like this could happen again because of the poor condition of the amphibious assault ship.

“Crisis response forces, by their very nature, have to be timely. To be timely for the Marine Corps, we have to be employed, we have to be deployed on amphibious assault ships, we have to be forward deployed. “No,” Heckle said.

“There are many examples where we have had very timely responses from amphibious vessels. We know that there would be a very significant gap where we cannot currently provide both West Coast and East Coast MEUs at the same time. ” he added.

As for the memorandum, the team working on the agreement includes the Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Plans, Policy, and Operations, the Acting Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Policy, the U.S. Fleet, and the Marine Corps staff. It is. Deputy Corps Commander for Combat Development and Integration.

Lt. Gen. James Bierman, the deputy commander for plans, policy and operations, told reporters Thursday that after recently convening the three major stars, each service will brief Franchetti and Smith on their work in mid-May. He said it will reach its climax.

USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), left, USS Cole (DDG-67), center, and USS Wasp (LHD-1), right, sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, April 14, navy pictures

“We will be centrally coordinating and reviewing how we deploy MEU to ensure that ARG/MEU capabilities are as widespread as possible while addressing maintenance challenges,” he said. said. He mentioned the MOU during a panel discussion.

Biermann, who previously commanded the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan, said the ongoing work on a common definition has involved “a lot of back and forth” between the two militaries, but is progressing smoothly. Told.

“As we move through a period where amphibious equipment is not ready, we are trying to spread peanut butter and use our available ships, ARGs, and MEUS to ensure strategic coverage as wise as possible.” I think that’s the best way to go,” Biermann told reporters.

Rear Admiral Marcus Anibale, Chief of Expeditionary Warfare in the Chief of Naval Operations Staff (OPNAV N95), said the surface community is using modeling and data to improve spare parts, much like the naval aviation community has done to improve the readiness of amphibious ships. He said he is considering parts. .

“What are partial mission compatible, full mission compatible, and non-mission compatible?” [amphib]What does that mean and to make sure our terminology is accurate,” Annibale said.

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