“The LSD was kind of designed to be the truck that
goes with that ARG,” Walsh said. “It carries a lot of cargo,
a lot of vehicles. It’s not designed to do command and
control. It’s not designed to have an aviation capability. It’s
not the top design to disaggregate and go independently.”
Another aide, CDR Brett Hershman, added that with-
out an air department, “the same people who run the flight
deck run the well deck, nearly simultaneously. So if you
have a mission that requires boats and aircraft, you gener-
ally don’t have the manning as robustly as you need.”
The LSD’s limitations have influenced the decisions
on what capabilities to build into the LX(R) amphibi-
ous ship that will replace it, Walsh said.
“That gets back into our lane, as we get into developing a new ship, like the LX,” Walsh said, referring to
the Expeditionary Operations office.
Although the program started out as the LSD(R),
officials realized “with all this stuff going on, we don’t
think we can have a replacement for the LSD. We need
something that can do more than the truck did. That’s
when we came up with LX.”
The office went through a detailed analysis of alter-
natives “to figure out what X needed to be,” he said.
“And in that process we came up with the LPD 17
derivative, for a lot of reasons. But part of it was this
disaggregated, independent ops capability that we
knew the LPD 17 inherently had.”
The analysts knew they “could design a ship from
the ground up that would do that. But we’ve got a ship
right now that can do that. The fleet likes it. The Navy
likes it. The Marine Corps likes it,” Walsh said. “But it’s
too costly right now to afford it as the LX.”
So they conducted a cost-reduction analysis in
which they stripped the LPD 17 hull form “down to
the bare bones, took everything off it that we could
take off the ship” to determine what that would cost.
They then “built that ship back up to the cost cap,
adding in a prioritized list of capabilities,” that came
from the fleet operators and the Marines, he said.
“One of the things we drove to them, and they also
wanted, was the independent and disaggregate ops capa-
There was “some top-down direction” from
Dunford and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) ADM
Jonathan W. Greenert, who said they wanted it “to
have an aviation capability, to have the C2 capability
that could do independent [operations]. So as we built
it back up, those were the things we made sure we
added in,” Walsh noted.
Another key element, Cotton said, was medical
“If you’re putting combat Marines ashore and you’re
out there by yourself, you really need someplace to
bring them back to,” he said. So the LX would need to
have “much more robust trauma and triage capability.”
It also would need better survivability to operate
alone in a contested environment, Cotton said. So they
had to ensure it had the strong construction features
and the self-defense systems that the LPDs have.
The CNO and the commandant also insisted on
that, Walsh said.
“When you start putting this out [alone], then it’s got
to have some inherent capability to survive,” he said.
But because they could not afford to give the LX all the
combat systems that an Aegis cruiser
has, he added, they had to look at
what kind of missions the ship
would be doing, ranging from
uncontested humanitarian assistance to a noncombatant evacuation,
where there could be opposition.
The LX(R) will have survivability to match the LPD’s, which would
be “much more capability than the
ship it’s replacing,” Cotton said.
With LX(R), they will have an
ARG/MEU with an LHA or LHD,
an LPD 17 and LPD 17 derivative,
“all very capable,” Walsh said.
But because the first LX(R) will
not be in the fleet until 2026, the
Navy has allocated future funds to
improve the LSDs’ C2 systems “to
ensure that they’re more capable in
conducting those operations that are
disaggregated,” Walsh said. ;
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 14 SEAPOWER / SEPTEMBER 2015
Private 1st Class Garry Stafford Jr., a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st
Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, fires his M249 squad automatic weapon to
provide cover fire for another Marine while conducting a counterattack, as the
opposing force, on Marines trying to seize the airfield during a training mission
at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., May 15. The exercise was
part of the battalion’s preparation for a deployment with Special Purpose
Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response during which it was going to be
disaggregated across Europe and Africa.