“The purpose is to start framing, across a wide variety
of non-amphibious ship platforms, what’s a realistic range
of operational capabilities that we could potentially use
them for,” said James Strock, director of Seabasing Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
“There is no single holistic CONOPs [concept of operations] that is taking in every single alternative platform
that we have,” because of the wide variance in vessels
being considered, Strock told Seapower. Instead, there
are individual studies for each type of ship.
The commandant said in his guidance that a priority
would be providing alternative platforms to support
the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force
(SPMAGTF) Crisis Response-Africa and the Marine
Rotational Force for Darwin, Australia.
SPMAGTF Crisis Response-Africa, about 2,500
Marines with 12 MV- 22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and
three KC-130J tankers, is shore-based primarily in
Putting those Marines on a U.S. ship would increase
their mobility and provide more freedom of action than
they have on a foreign base, according to Dunford.
“We could quickly transition from the day-to-day security assistance cooperation, which is supported by that
host base, and again have the ability, the flexibility, to respond in the event of a crisis,” he said at Sea-Air-Space.
Two of the ships under consideration are MSC-run vessels intended
to support or augment amphibious
or expeditionary operations — the
mobile landing platform (MLP) and
the Afloat Forward Staging Base
(AFSB), which is a variant using the
The MLP was designed to allow
movement of heavy vehicles and
supplies from an MSC transport or
Maritime Prepositioning Squadron
(MPS) ship to Marines ashore without a functioning port, loading them
on landing craft air cushions
(LCACs) or helicopters.
Although the MLP can store
vehicles, fuel and water, it has no
berthing for Marines.
The AFSB variant, however, replaces the LCAC lanes with more
storage space and accommodations
for about 300 Marines. It also has a
large landing platform able to support CH-53Es and smaller helicopters to move Marines and their
Another likely alternative platform for Marine operations is the joint high-speed vessel
(JHSV), a shallow-draft catamaran originally intended to
serve as an intra-theater transport. But with seating for
300 on short-term transit, berthing for 104, extensive
space for supplies and equipment and a landing platform
able to support CH-53s, one JHSV already is supporting
a security cooperative training mission in Africa. With 10
ships planned, JHSVs are expected to perform many similar missions that would have required amphibs.
Although the expanding fleet of littoral combat ships
has transported Marines for some small-scale missions,
they are not considered prime candidates as alternative
platforms because the Navy is concentrating on using
them for their primary tasks of mine countermeasures,
anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, Strock said.
But the Alternative Platform and Payload Council is
seriously considering some other ships that are less
familiar to most people.
Prime candidates are two ships intended to support
large-scale amphibious operations as part of the prepositioning squadrons — the 50,000-ton Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off supply ships (LMSRs) and the
T-AKE 42,000-ton dry cargo transport ships.
Both have been used individually in experiments and
in major exercises, including Rim of the Pacific and Bold
Alligator, to transport equipment and supplies by helicop-
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015
A landing craft air cushion (LCAC) is launched from the Military Sealift Command mobile landing platform USNS Montford Point Oct. 24 during Pacific
Horizon 2015. The Military Sealift Command Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/
Roll-off ship USNS Dahl, at right, transferred vehicles onto Montford Point,
which were then loaded them onto the LCACs for transport to shore.