Proposing A Modern High Speed Transport – The Long Range Patrol Vessel

Alternative Naval Force Structure Week

By Tom Meyer

 The U.S. Navy achieved extraordinary success in the 20th century – playing key roles in winning WWII and the Cold War. The U.S. Navy earned these accomplishments with forces structured around an exceptional fleet of technologically superior ships and aircraft. The U.S. Navy’s “ships of the line” during this era represented the height of our technological and industrial capabilities – and no expense was spared to create, construct, and operate this world-leading fleet.

As the United States and the U.S. Navy move into the 21st century, the United States faces the duel challenge of engaging in a “long war” against Islamofacism and meeting the threat of emerging “peer competitors” in a period of economic and fiscal constraints. Meeting these dichotomous challenges requires a fundamental rethink of the nature of naval forces and their roles. Is the U.S. Navy moving from an era of exceptional “ships of the line” – including LHA’s & LPD’s, FFG’s, CG’s, DDG’s, SSN’s and CVN’s – to one filled with USV’s, UAV’s, LCS’s, CV’s, SSK’s and perhaps something new – Long Range Patrol Vessels (LRPV’s)? But what in the world is an LRPV? 

The LRPV represents the 21st century version of the WWII APD – High Speed Transports. To better understand the 21st century LRPV, let’s take a look at the history and capabilities of the 20th century APDs.

Historical Connections

During WWII and the Korean War, Crosley-class APDs based on the Rudderrow class of destroyer escorts were pressed into a variety of roles and performed missions including amphibious assault, UDT operations and raids, ASW, long-range patrolling, and search and rescue– i.e. rescue of USS Indianapolis survivors.

During the Evacuation of Hungnam, 24 December 1950, USS Begor (APD-127) stands offshore, ready to embark the last UN landing craft, as demolition charges wreck Hungnam's port facilities. (U.S. National Archives)
During the Evacuation of Hungnam, 24 December 1950, USS Begor (APD-127) stands offshore, ready to embark the last UN landing craft, as demolition charges wreck Hungnam’s port facilities. (U.S. National Archives)

The ability to successfully complete these various missions resulted from the inherently flexible design of the APDs. To begin with, the designers of the Crosley class APD’s provided these ships with a strong organic armament, including one 5″/38 dual purpose gun mount, three twin 40 mm gun mounts, six single 20 mm gun mounts, and two depth charge tracks. The Crosley class APD’s were equipped to carry and support 12 officers and 150 enlisted men. Furthermore, the Crosley’s were equipped with 4 LCVPs to convey troops and equipment ashore.

Finally, the Crosley APD’s could carry a combination of the following material on board:

  • 6 x 1/4 ton trucks
  • 2 x 1 ton trucks
  • 4 x ammunition carts
  • 4 x pack howitzers
  • 6,000 cubic feet ammunition
  • 3,500 cubic feet general cargo
  • 1,000 cubic feet gasoline

The capabilities and flexibility of the APD’s are the inspiration for a new line of vessels – the Long Range Patrol Vessels (LRPVs).

The LRPV Concept

The modern LRPV would build upon and update the concept of High Speed Transport for the 21st century. The LRPV would combine new technologies, capabilities, and processes to create regionally-focused LRPV surface action groups (SAGs) supporting U.S. national and U.S. Navy strategic goals and objectives.

The modern LRPV would operate as a member of a two ship LRPV sag. The SAG would leverage recent innovative work by the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to design, create, and test a new Combat Landing Team organizational model – COLT.

The COLT organizational model creates a unique USMC amphibious landing team consisting of three infantry platoons, one weapons platoon, an enhanced scout section, and an enhanced command element.

The specific Concept of Operations (ConOps) would be two LRPVs operating together while jointly carrying one USMC COLT (or U.S. Army equivalent) and their organic vehicles while conducting extended patrols in specific geographic areas (i.e. South America, Africa or SE Asia). These patrols would provide the opportunity for these LRPVs to operate in close, sustained partnerships with local maritime forces by conducting numerous extended joint operations, exercises, and security cooperation engagements.

To meet the challenges emerging in the 21st century, LRPV SAGs would focus on specific geographic regions including South America, Africa, SE Asia, and the Middle East. Forward presence could be enhanced by conducting crew swaps in forward operating locations, including Guam, Japan, Singapore, Diego Garcia, Bahrain, Naples, Guantanamo Bay, and other locations yet to be identified.

Through the use of long-term forward deployments, regionally-based crew-swapping, and the strong organic capabilities of the LRPVs, the specific numeric requirements for the LRPV construction program could be limited to 30-34 individual ships to support regional LRPV squadrons. The number of ships required to support the program is based on a projected need to support at least 4 regionally-focused LRPV SAGs plus their training and maintenance requirements. In addition to carrying a USMC COLT or U.S. Army equivalent formation, the LRPV SAGs could carry a composite unit tailored to suite patrol-specific planned interactions with local national military forces. 

For example, the afloat forces for a LRPV SAG deployment to multiple countries over a 6-8 month period within the SOUTHCOM AOR could consist of:

  • 2 platoons of U.S. Army Infantry (plus their Stryker vehicles)
  • 2 platoons of U.S. Army Engineers (and their heavy equipment)
  • A contingent of U.S. Army Medical personnel
  • An air contingent of 3-4 UH-60’s plus UAV’s drawn from U.S. Army Aviation

An anti-piracy patrol off of East Africa could see the LRPV Squadron deploy with:

In addition to carrying out these types of long-duration, presence missions, the flexibility of the LRPV design would enable additional missions to be undertaken, including: short term “summer cruises” to support training missions, rapid response to humanitarian crisis, sanctions/blockade enforcement, convoy escort, and search and rescue.

LRPVs would not be amphibious warfare ships per se but are intended to sustain long-range, forward presence patrols supporting U.S. national interests. However – and when necessary, LRPV SAGs could conduct counter-terrorism or counter-proliferation raids at the direction of the NCA or could support an ESG by providing additional raiding or striking capabilities during a crisis – thereby increasing the level of difficulty confronting an adversary of the United States. By combining the right mix of technology, capabilities, organizational structures and sound processes, the LRPV would support key U.S. national interests and provide a visible expression to the concept of a “1000 ship navy” previously expressed by the U.S. Navy and the OSD.

Ship Characteristics

What specific attributes and capabilities would a LRPV have? Here are some key characteristics:

Weight: 7,000-9,000 tons

Length: 450-500ft

Beam: 50-60ft

Draft: 10-16ft

Propulsion: CODAG (minimum 4 LM-2500s or 2 LM-6000s) plus 2 diesel engines – some thought should be given to alternate propulsion systems (i.e. Podded Electric propulsion?) – commercial standards perhaps?

Speed: Max 28 knots (stretch 32 knots) – cruise speed – 14-16 knots (stretch 18-20 knots)

Range: 10,000 NM – Stretch 12,000 at cruising speed

Combat Systems: Aegis SPY-1F(V), (proposed for export-version of LCS) or even the SPY-5 proposed for lighter warships; 2 illuminators (1 fore & 1 aft); CEC-enabled; open architecture networks & C3I systems allow “plug & play” of new weapons and sensors.

ESM/ECM: SQS-32V or newer version

Sonar: Bow-mounted sonar standard; Towed Array – optional

Communications: High-bandwidth Satellite communications

Crew: 

  • 140-180 (190 is acceptable)
  • Additional berthing (permanently installed): 120 Marine (1/2 of USMC COLT insert link)
  • Additional crew considerations: SOF, humanitarian personnel, noncombatant evacuation, search and rescue.

Weapons

Guns:

Missiles:

Use of VLS enables the introduction of new missiles over the life of the LRPV.

ASW Torpedoes: 

Aircraft:

  • Landing Spots: Operation of 2 helicopters simultaneously (4 would be a stretch goal)
  • Hangar Space: 4 medium helicopters (SH-60’s specifically 2 SH-60R & 2 SH-60S). Ability to provide hangar space for 3 SH-60 size helicopters plus 2 additional Fire Scouts would be a stretch goal

Flex Deck: 

  • Square Footage: 16,800 Sq Feet per ship
  • Weight Capacity: Reinforced to support up to M1A2 tank (Up to 70 Tons)

Suggested vehicle load across two LRPVs could include a reinforced Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon (or comparable U.S. Army Stryker unit):

  • 8 LAV-25’s/M-1126 Strykers 
  • 2 LAV/R or M-1132,
  • 2 LAV-C or M-1130, 2 LAV/M or M-1129 
  • 2 LAV(TOW Launcher) or 2 M-1134 Stryker Anti-Tank Guide Missile Vehicle
  • 14 Humvees
  • 14 10 5-7 Ton FMTV’s including 2-3 Tankers
  • 3 155MM Towed Artillery Guns plus Movers (Stretch)
  • 6 Additional 40’ Containers – Supplies & Training Simulators

Notes on Flex Deck:

  • Flight deck access would be ideal with either ramp or elevator (Ramp is preferred due to simplicity)
  • Ability to load LCM or LCVP via 30 ton crane is required
  • Ro/Ro capability is required (via a ramp or a mexeflote style ramp at stern and ramp to port or starboard) – with 100 ton carrying capacity
  • Flex deck must support the installation of habitability containers to support additional troops or temporary medical facilities
  • Flex deck must provide electrical and communication network interfaces across entire flex deck floor space – both high-speed direct connectivity and wireless connection

Small boat capabilities:

  • 2 x LCM-6s – LCM would be able to carry 25 tonnes (30 tonnes stretch goal) – this will enable carriage of LAVs or Strykers
  • 2 x LCVPs or 2 x DOCKSTAVARVET AB CB90Hs – Carried in separate davits from LCM-6s

Note: The LCVPs must be capable of carrying Uparmored Humvees, an example of a possible LCVP which could be used is the Royal Navy LCVP Mk5. The Mk5 is 15.5 meters long and 4.4 meters wide and capable of carrying a company of 30 fully equipped troops or vehicles such as: BV206, JCB410, ATV’s and towed artillery. The Mk5 can travel up to 25 knots and has a range of over 210 nautical miles. 

Note: LCM davits must be flexible enough to support LCVPs, RHIBs, CB 90Hs, CSSCs or USCG small craft. LCVP davits must be flexible enough to accommodate RIB’s, CH 90Hs, CSSCs or USCG small craft.

  • 2 x RHIBsStandard ship’s complement – separate from landing craft listed above.

Additional  capabilities:

  • Excess fresh water production capacity
  • Strong organic, on-board medical facilities
  • Excess toilet and showering facilities to support combined baseline ship complement, USMC/U.S. Army/other additional complement plus additional personnel house in habability containers on flex deck
  • Onboard synthetic training facilities for COLT team members including infantry & tankers (Perhaps 2×20 or 40 foot containers configured to provide simulation facilities on Flex Deck)

With a lifelong interest in aviation, naval and all manner of military affairs, Tom graduated from Florida State University with BA in Political Science & International Relations plus a MS in Political Science.  He spent over a decade with Top 3 US Airline working in Ops, Technology, the Low Cost Carrier unit and Employee Relations. Tom has now worked almost 10 years for a major Telecommunications company in various roles.  Home is Atlanta, GA. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @tkmeyer0524.

Featured Image: USS Crosley (APD-87) at anchor (Navsource)

14 thoughts on “Proposing A Modern High Speed Transport – The Long Range Patrol Vessel”

  1. There are a few ship proposals that come close to this.

    Most obviously, the Danish Absalon embodies a similar combination of combatant and mild-amphibiousness.

    The Damen Crossover series follows the same line of thinking.

    Moving up the size scale, in the November, 2014 issue of the Proceedings, Lieutenant Colonel J. Noel Williams (USMC Ret.) lays out a similar case for developing a ship with frigate-like and amphibious ship qualities. He calls it a “Frigate Helicopter Dock”.

    I started a thread over on Warships1 to discuss this concept, however I prefer “Frigate Platform Dock”, since this concept is closer to the merging of a frigate with an LPD than with an LHD.

    http://warships1discussionboards.yuku.com/topic/27597/Frigate-Helicopter-Dock

    Personally, I would add a well deck that could support at least one LCAC/SSC. It could house a pair of LCMs instead, if needed. Also, I suggest adding the ability to launch and recover AAV/ACVs. It opens up the possibility of using the LRPV/FPD to deliver initial amphibious assault waves.

  2. Also, I would suggest looking at the smaller versions of the Navy’s new AMDR radar. The 6-foot variant promises SPY-1D(V)-equivalent sensitivity at a far lower price than the full 14-foot SPY-6.

    1. BSmitty,

      Excellent feedback. Thank You!

      I agree on the Absalon, DAMEN Crossover design and I am familiar with proposed Frigate Helicopter Dock. This article actually was conceived as far back as 2010 – hence the references to the original COLT concept before it morph’ed into ECO.

      The use of cradles with LCVPs and perhaps a ramp located aft which would allow vehicles to drive onto a LCVP ramp might mitigate the need for a full welldeck,

      Thank You for the suggestion on the smaller version of the new AMDR radar.

      Tom Meyer

  3. Mr. Meyer,

    I would caution that the list of capabilities desired is not going to fit in a 9000t hull; probably more like a 20,000t LPD-lite with added firepower and a commensurate pricetag.

    On the other hand, I fully endorse the idea of regional patrol flotillas of 2-3000t frigates and variant craft like APDs, but they would need to be supported by larger auxiliaries as tenders, supply ships, and mobile bases.

    A real paradigm shift for the US Navy would be bringing back the multitude of tenders that were decomissioned during the Cold War, because without those tenders, deployment requirements add significant size and cost to ships that aren’t adding combat value.

  4. Eric,

    Good Morning!

    Looking at the offerings available today in the form of the Danish Absalon, DAMEN Crossover and the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock – all of which weigh in at less than 10K tons, I am confident a design could be developed.

    Keep in mind, I am not proposing the addition of a well deck for the LRPV, The addition of a well deck – and the associated equipment to support flooding the well deck plus the impact on the actual hull form of a ship – adds complexity to a ship plus negatively impacts the speed of a warship. A stern ramp (essentially dry and available to launch RHIBs and convey vehicles across the ramp to a LCVP) would provide the ability to launch (initially) limited # of vehicles in a early stages of an operation. Bear in mind the LRPV SAG would only be configured to conduct small raids (i.s. in support of the GWOT or in support of a larger amphibious operation) with minimal footprint on the ground – geographically or in time on the ground.

    In regards to the availability of Tenders, I agree the forward deployment of Tenders during the Cold War provided the USN with a tremendous ‘force multiplier’. In lieu of tenders, the deployment scheme for LRPV SAGs envisioned their forward deployment to regional bases, i.e. Diego Garcia, Singapore, Rota, Jacksonville/Key West and other regional bases. Forward deployment would provide support, resupply and repair facilities for the LRPVs. This model is one the USN appears to support but I agree Tenders are incredible resources for the USN.

    Perhaps a follow-up post focusing on USN support infrastructure – including tenders and regional facilities might be an excellent exercise,

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Tom

  5. Chuck,

    Good Morning!

    Follow your blog closely and enjoy all your posts!

    Not sure about the applicability of the recently contracted USCG OPC but I appreciate the suggestion. Wonder if the baseline hull could be stretched to accommodate additional capabilities but I am leery of any efforts to lengthen hulls especially based on the USCG’s experience recently.

    VERY much appreciate your look at the different weapons configurations available to the OPC. Your post gave me a lot to think about in regards to the possible configurations for the LRPV. Thank You!

    I am not sure about the draft for the LRPV. My proposed Draft was just that Proposed. A seasoned naval engineer would need to provide a more detailed estimate.

    Thanks again for your feedback and keep up the GREAT work at your blog.

    Tom

    1. Tom, thanks for the kind words.

      The problem with the lengthened WPBs was a miscalculation of the beam strength required. If calculations are done correctly, should be no would probably permit problem with lengthening the OPC. As it stands, it is a little cubby, stretching it to an 8-to-1 length to beam ratio would yield a length of 432 feet, 72 feet longer than current plan. Including replacing the existing davits, that would probably permit three sets of davits for 11 meter craft an either side. If the davits were capable of stacking two boat like the ones on the APD, then you could have 12 boats. The extra length could allow installation of a gas turbine and accommodations for the troops.

      Would definitely include a 5″/62.

  6. Couple more thoughts,

    1. Designing the SAG to only carry 2 platoons of Strykers or Marines, instead of a full company would severely limit command and control of these units. A full company-plus attachments would be preferable, IMHO. There are 21 Strykers and a few HMMWV’s and trucks in a full Stryker company, IIRC.

    2. How many LCM-6s are actually still in the inventory? There are foreign LCM designs that could supplement here, though a full-sized LCM that could carry an M1 would be nice. There are many situations, especially in cities, where even a few tanks are invaluable (e.g. Task Force Ranger). I’m still a fan of a full well deck. I’m confident that the performance and complexity implications could be overcome. A problem with just using LCMs with Strykers and LAVs is the length of time needed to put them ashore. You better not be in a hurry! 😉

    3. Damen also has a variety of Enforcer LPD designs of various sizes, for reference https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=damen+LPD

    4. If you assume the cost of the LRPV to be +/- $1 billion (random guess), and a service life 30 years, thirty LRPVs would cost a constant billion dollars per year of the SCN budget (out of $14-16 billion/year average).

    That’s around as much as we’d spend on a fully buy of 52 LCS’s (~$520 million each, 25 year service life), or as much as 12 LHD/As (~$3.9 billion each, 45 year service life).

    So how does the LRPV fit in to our overall fleet architecture? What do we give up for this capacity? LCS’s are an obvious possibility but then LRPV also needs to have a MIW capability.

  7. Bsmitty,

    Thanks for your continued thoughts!

    Understand the concern about # of LAV/Strykers and even with just two platoons (reinforced) you can have a total of 14 LAV/Strykers. I agree that the two Platoons would need some reinforcement, i.e. the Stryker-based MGS which proved popular with US forces in Iraq for its’ ability to support infantry in built-up areas.

    The LRPV CONOPS encourages plug & play of capabilities to conform to planned exercises (while on a long-term patrol) or in preparation for a specific raid/mission. For example, ahead of a mission, could a set of MGS be flown to a forward base (i.e. Diego Garcia or other) and swapped for other LAV/Strykers by simply driving to the local port and driving onto the LRPV via the onboard ramp?

    I am not sure of the number of LCM-6s still in the USN inventory. Yes, there are several foreign LCM designs which could incorporated into a LRPV design. A full-size LCM (or rather a LCU) would be too large.
    I remain concerned about the addition of a well-deck to a design and the inherent challenges associated with this.

    I am very mindful of the experience of Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu. A LRPV SAG would not conduct sustained operations.
    Any sustained on-shore operations should inherently be supported by larger, heavier forces including Abrams & Bradleys.

    Yes, the Enforcer LPD design is an excellent family of amphibious warships. I will note; that, the Enforcer family of amphibious warships range in size from 7,000t up to 20,000t.

    In fact, the LCVP cradles used on several of the members of the DAMEN Enforcer of amphibious warships are excellent examples of the styles of cradles which could be used on LRPVs.

    The inherent, organic capabilities of the LRPV lend themselves to use in the role previously filled by FFGs. If the USN truly intends to modify the current LCS design to a more robust FFG’esque design, then an even more robust Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) should consider all possible options including (perhaps) the previously referenced Frigate Helicopter Dock, Absalon CCS, foreign FFG designs and perhaps a LRPV.

    The line items within the SCN budget for the LCS buy could fund a more robust, capable design.

    Operating a LPRV without onboard COLT/ECO elements would free up space for additional aviation assets (i.e. UAVs) or other capabilities would enable a LRPV to conduct operations previously conducted by FFGs including CVBG escort, convoy escort, littoral operations (i.e. Persian Gulf) and presence missions around the world (actually would excel at the presence mission by engaging broader local military forces when carrying the COLT/ECO elements).

  8. Tom, Historically, something close to what you suggest would be HMS Queen Emma and HMS Beatrix. They started life as highspeed ferries, but were converted to transports. They carried eight landing craft (six LCA/LCS(M) and two LCM and 372 to 396 troops. With a speed of at least 22 knots they were faster than most transports and were commonly used for Commando raids.

    This seems to have the best pictures. http://www.saskatchewanmilitarymuseum.ca/SSR/soldiers/lee/hmsprincessbeatrix.html

  9. Chuck,

    Excellent Information! I had seen only a very little on both ships.

    My one strong desire is for any LRPV to be able to sustain higher speeds to allow for operations with CVBGs or for other missions.

    Thank you for the link and the information. Fascinating ships!

    Tom

  10. Besides the comments offered by BSmitty above, I would note two large oversights: The WW2 were cost effective conversions precisely because they used existing warship hull that were excess at the point in the point or could be modified on their building ways. That puts your LRPV Concept in a totally different context. New built warships today are far too expensive and time consuming to become Another small combatant.

    AND there already exists a fast transport in the USN i.e. the Spearhead class EPF aka JHSV which lifts a battalion minus number of troops and some of the needed tactyical equipment. That is Far more payload than the WW2 APD could do and is much faster. Of course it is a naval auxiliary. An Armed navalized version of JHSV could perform the basic amphibious LIFT mission as well as several others you suggest at a fraction of the cost of the LRPV.

    In point of fact, a couple of JSHVs carrying Force Adaptive Packages hae ALREADY performed the lift missions you suggest to SOUTHCOM. Those were not used for assault obviously.

    A MUCH better platform for combination lift and support missions as has been suggested is a version of the Dutch designed Enforcer or the the RFA Bay class LSD(A) both of which are in service at lesser costs.

    Basically the concept suffers greatly because you are mixing ship types. Two distinct misson sets in one hull doesn’t oftten work as we have seen in the LCS.

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