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Aligning HA/DR Mission Parameters with US Navy Maritime Strategy

Naval HA/DR Topic Week

By CAPT John C. Devlin (ret.) and CDR John J. Devlin 

The US Navy has a long history of providing Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) to our partner nations. These operations are a vital part of US Navy maritime strategy by ensuring regional stability through building partner nation capacity and expanding our sphere of influence. When successful, HA/DR missions prevent atrocities and armed conflict. Admiral Mullen in his 2011 National Military Strategy said, “preventing wars is as important as winning them, and far less costly.”1 The Departments of Defense and State need complementary strategies to export America’s greatness and win the peace rather than win the war.  With the rampant expansion of barbaric totalitarian ideologies, collaboration is in America’s best interest. CNO Admiral John Richardson expressed this more succinctly at the recent Future of War Conference: “I want to be the best at not fighting Russia and China.”2

For this reason, the operational structure, manpower utilization, and assessments of impact for HA/DR missions will need to be studied and refined. Numerous articles have been written on CIMSEC and elsewhere concerning the paucity of US Navy ships and the extraordinary costs to build and maintain them. We have read about the rebalance to Asia where the Chinese are expanding along the nine-dash line and the pivot back to the Middle East where Russia, unopposed, began conducting an air campaign in Syria, followed by the Iran’s reneging on the nuclear deal before the ink was dry. America needs to grow allies rather than trying to project military might in a global full court press.

In the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility, both Russia and China strive to establish footholds of influence. Since 2005, China has invested $100 billion dollars in foreign aid to the region, while Russia has courted leadership in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.3 To counter these activities, USSOUTHCOM engages in continuous partner nation capacity building bilateral and multilateral exercises. These exercises are augmented by humanitarian and civic assistance programs. In the USSOUTHCOM AOR, the biennial Operation Continuing Promise, delivered by the USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) platform, represents the major medical-civil engagement activity.

What is the ideal platform from which to deliver the HA/DR mission package?

USNS Comfort and her sister ship Mercy (T-AH 19) are large ships with an enormous operating cost.  Both are converted San Clemente class oil tankers whose keels were laid over 40 years ago. Maintenance of the vessels is costly, their suitability debatable, and their funding is continually in jeopardy.4 Additionally, the vessels’ drafts are 33 feet, forcing them to anchor well offshore in most locations, transporting personnel by two unstable organic tenders and transporting equipment by helicopter. The Continuing Promise 2015 Directorate of Medical Services Lessons Learned identifies transportation delays as a significant negative impact on mission package delivery.5 Many feel that Comfort’s value, impact-to-operating cost ratio, is rapidly declining and this is reflected in the Navy’s 2016 budget reduction of 150 full operating status per diem days for USNS Comfort.6

Perhaps linking this mission with scheduled deployments would be more cost effective and yield greater regional impact. Global fleet stations (GFS) have been proposed by Captain Wayne Porter.  “Global fleet stations were to operate in cooperation with host nations, and would provide basing facilities for U.S. federal agencies and nongovernment organizations… as a way to shape regional security by using capabilities that would normally have been considered support functions.”1 A pilot GFS was initiated in April of 2007 using the high speed HSV 2 Swift tasked from USSOUTHCOM. The next year Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division published a paper titled:  Global Fleet Station: GFS Station Ship Concept. These global fleet stations are akin to the new Afloat Sea Basing ships. They support LCACs and other amphibious craft and aircraft. Expanding their role to scheduled humanitarian assistance tasks might be in the best interest for regional security and expansion of US sphere of influence. Other options include utilizing LHD and LHA platforms. These amphibious landing ships possess hospital bed capacity for hundreds of patients, including critical care beds, and up to four operating rooms.7 Both the GFS Ship Station concept and amphibious landing ship option utilize air-cushion landing craft (LCAC).

LCAC Delivering Disaster Relief Supplies in Sumatra after the 2005 Tsunami.
Air Cushioned Vehicles can Access 70% of the World's Shorelines even after a Disaster.
Air Cushioned Vehicles can Access 70% of the World’s Shorelines even after a disaster.

Use of the LCAC would ameliorate identified mission inefficiencies associated with the use of existing organic tenders and locally procured commercial tenders. The LCAC can operate in 70% of the earth’s littoral regions.  It does not require pier-side support. It can carry CONEX containers outfitted as mobile clinics to perform routine clinical procedures or more advanced mobile surgical suites. Using the LCAC in this role would necessarily mean a greater number of them, which could be converted to their traditional amphibious mission when necessary.

How are personnel most effectively leveraged to accomplish the HA/DR mission?

According to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the “principle objective” of US foreign aid is “the encouragement and sustained support of the people of developing countries in their efforts to acquire the knowledge and resources essential to development, and to build the economic, political, and social institutions that will improve the quality of their lives.” This principle objective harmonizes well with the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability, essentially the consensus document which informs non-governmental humanitarian activities.8 One of the principle mechanisms by which USNS Comfort personnel contribute to partner nation capacity building is through subject matter expert exchanges.

Subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) are collaborative efforts where physicians, nurses, educators, and other healthcare domain experts meet with partner nation peers to discuss common goals, best practices, and perspectives unique to each nation. In the end, partner nations learn about technology and practices that may improve healthcare delivery in their country and US personnel learn about cultural and regional context of healthcare delivery, improving future interoperability for contingencies. Ultimately, SMEEs build partner nation capacity and, therefore, adhere to the “principle objective” for US foreign aid while fostering goodwill and facilitating Navy familiarity. SMEE participants are often leaders and decision-makers in their own right or are closely associated with their country’s leadership, thereby, quickening our sphere of influence.  

 U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Suzanne Maldarelli, right, a medical officer, conducts a subject matter expert exchange on advanced cardiac life support with Lissette Recinos, a public health nurse, at a hospital in Toledo, Belize, June 27, 2014, during Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2014. SPS is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command's area of responsibility in the Caribbean and Latin America. The exercise involves information sharing with navies, coast guards and civilian services throughout the region. MC3 Andrew Schneider.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Suzanne Maldarelli, right, a medical officer, conducts a subject matter expert exchange on advanced cardiac life support with Lissette Recinos, a public health nurse, at a hospital in Toledo, Belize, June 27, 2014, during Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2014. SPS is an annual deployment of U.S. ships to the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility in the Caribbean and Latin America. The exercise involves information sharing with navies, coast guards and civilian services throughout the region. MC3 Andrew Schneider.

Manpower to fulfill the partner-nation requested SMEEs is drawn from the same manpower pool as that which supports the medical engagement sites and surgical activities. Metrics reported up the chain of command include numbers of patients seen at medical engagement sites, number of procedures performed, number of subject matter expert exchanges occurring, and number of construction projects completed. However, these individual activities do not receive equal attention. The progression of USSOUTHCOM public affairs newsroom publications demonstrates the drift in focus away from capacity building and toward short-term successes. By the midway point of Operation Continuing Promise 2015, public affairs had stopped highlighting the number of community assistance projects and expert exchanges, showcasing only the numbers of patients seen and surgeries performed.9 At any given time, less than 10% of provider manpower was leveraged for capacity-building through subject matter expert exchange while the majority was dedicated to onboard surgical support and direct patient care ashore at medical engagement sites.  This manpower distribution is not in alignment with the principle objective of US foreign aid and sacrifices long-term impact for short-term gains. Future missions should focus on SMEEs in lieu of patients seen with the requisite manpower distribution.

How do we determine the success of HA/DR missions?

US medical-civil engagements foster collaborative solutions to mutual problems and strengthen regional partnerships. In this sense, US Department of Defense medical-civil activities are a form of battlespace-shaping. However, what performance metrics can we employ to determine success and impact in military global health engagement?

Identifying the most meaningful performance metrics has been elusive. A 2009 USAID critique of its evaluation practices found that only 9% of the 296 evaluations utilized an experimental design with randomization and control-group comparison.10 Developing metrics for Department of Defense humanitarian activities has been equally elusive. Some have suggested tracking indicators of general health such as sanitation, pediatric injury rates, and access to dental care.1,11 Unfortunately, improvements in these indicators of healthcare are difficult to attribute to an individual military operation.  

However, use of civilian marketing influence metrics may inform the military’s evaluation of humanitarian and civil engagement activities. As opposed to patients seen and procedures performed, measures of effort, defense strategists and military planners should focus on post-operation measures of impact. Social media and internet surveillance are excellent tools by which to measure success. Civilian marketing experts evaluate “brand” and “influencer” metrics to determine if resources allocated to a particular marketing campaign yield sufficient market return.12 Similarly, defense analysts and/or our host nation counterparts could partner with social media providers and other information technology professionals to determine several metrics:

  • Using IP address origins, determine how much message traffic is generated in general and to US healthcare or humanitarian agency websites specifically after a medical-civil health engagement concludes.
  • Identify if there is a surge in how many times the US is mentioned online.
  • Track how many white papers or fact sheets are downloaded from US aid agencies or healthcare websites.

Additionally, communication with USAID could determine how many new inquiries to State Department representatives in the partner nation are received and how many new medical-civil engagement projects were organized after USNS Comfort’s departure.

These metrics better indicate long-term impact of humanitarian missions, degree of influence gained after these missions, and could better inform decisions regarding how frequently a recurring mission should return to a location. Although social media metrics are limited as they only represent areas of Latin America where internet is relative accessible, the region is an emerging market and internet accessibility is predicted to expand exponentially in the near future.13


The Navy’s HA/DR missions in general and Operation Continuing Promise specifically will play a larger role in cultivating regional influence during peacetime and battlespace-shaping for future combat operations. For this reason, the operational structure, manpower utilization, and assessments of impact for HA/DR missions should be studied and refined. Use of alternative operational platforms, more flexible manpower allocation, and alternative metrics of success could improve mission accomplishment and potentially supplement task organizations in times of war.

John C. Devlin, CAPT (ret), USN, Director of Navy Programs, ISPA Technology, Inc.

John J. Devlin, MD, CDR, USN, Emergency Physician / Officer-in-Charge, Medical Engagement Sites, Operation Continuing Promise 2015.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.


  1. Haynes PD, Toward a new maritime strategy. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2015.
  2. McGrath B, “’You’re gonna need a bigger boat’: Principles for getting the US Navy right,” March 14, 2016. Available at http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/youre-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat-principles-for-getting-the-u-s-navy-right/, accessed March 20, 2016.
  3. Kelly JF, Posture Statement of General John F. Kelly, USMC, Commander, US Southern Command, March 12, 2015. Available at http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Documents/SOUTHCOM_POSTURE_STATEMENT_FINAL_2015.pdf, accessed March 20, 2016.
  4. Cahn D, “No comfort: Cuts leave hospital ship at Norfolk pier,” August 3, 2013. Available at http://pilotonline.com/news/military/no-comfort-cuts-leave-hospital-ship-at-norfolk-pier/article_00e6e9ac-dcc5-59c1-9833-14f1c49e16bb.html, accessed March 20, 2016.
  5. Continuing Promise 2015 DMS Lessons Learned document, September 21, 2015.
  6. Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Estimates, Operation and Maintenance: Justification of Estimates, February 2015. Available at http://www.secnav.navy.mil/fmc/fmb/Documents/16pres/OMN_Vol1_book.pdf, accessed March 20, 2016.
  7. http://fas.org/man/dod-101/navy/unit/dept-lhd-3.htm#MEDICAL, accessed March 20, 2016.
  8. Core Humanitarian Standard. Group URD, HAP International, People in Aid, and the Sphere Project, 2014. Available at http://www.corehumanitarianstandard.org/files/files/Core%20Humanitarian%20Standard%20-%20English.pdf, accessed March 20, 2016.
  9. http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/Continuing-Promise-2015.aspx. Accessed March 20, 2016.
  10. Trends in Development Evaluation Theory, Policies and Practices, USAID, August 17, 2009.
  11. Haims MC et al., “Developing a prototype handbook for monitoring and evaluating Department of Defense humanitarian projects.” RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 2011.
  12. Brown D, “Six Easy Metrics to Measure an Influence Marketing Campaign”, available at http://dannybrown.me/2014/06/03/six-easy-metrics-to-measure-an-influence-marketing-campaign/, accessed March 20, 2016.
  13. Americas Quarterly, “Sixty Percent of Latin Americans Will Have Internet Access in 2016,” May 8, 2015. Available at http://www.americasquarterly.org/content/sixty-percent-latin-americans-will-have-internet-access-2016, accessed 3/20/2016

Featured Image: During a five-month deployment to Southeast Asia, medical teams and crew return to hospital ship USNS Mercy via one of two utility boats following a day of providing medical care to the Zamboanga region of the Philippines. Photo by MCC Edward Martens.

Reconfiguring Air Cushioned Vehicles to Enhance Distributed Lethality

Distributed Lethality Topic Week

By John Devlin

With the continuing buildup of Chinese and Russian navies, as well as increasingly capable regional actors, the task of leveraging a 300 ship US Navy using distributed lethality (DL) as a force multiplier in response remains a formidable task. It is reminiscent of another period in our history when our scientists and engineers had to conjure a way to prolong a life sustaining air supply while constrained to only limited resources available to a stricken space craft. Most of us are familiar with the story of Apollo 13 astronauts using duct tape and plastic bags to adapt parts never intended to work together in order to return safely back to earth. Those scientists and engineers toiled feverishly with various configurations before agreeing on a workable course of action. The birth of distributed lethality is similarly constrained, but with a much larger mission and far-reaching consequences.

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BRAVO ZULU to the tacticians and engineers who adapted the SM-6 surface-to-air missile (SAM) to a surface-to-surface missile (SSM) to rapidly extend the stand-off range for our surface action groups (SAG).  It is encouraging that these innovators were not dissuaded from their pursuit by the arguments against using an air warhead against a surface target or the $4M cost per unit or the command and control implications of shooting at a target so many miles over the horizon potentially dispersed among friendly vessels. This is an innovative first step to demonstrate the capability.  The necessary refinements will follow as the value of this new weapon becomes accepted and integrated into battle group tactics.

Figure 1. Air Cushioned Vehicle easily maneuvers over a rocky beach.

Let’s examine the advantages of the SM-6 in the SSM mode and why this adaptation is a smart and innovative use of existing ships and munitions. The missile dimensions are the same as the SM-6 in the SAM mode which allows the use of existing launchers and platforms. Crews are in place. As mentioned previously, the stand-off range is substantially improved. The kill probably of a continuous rod or fragmentation warhead against hardened ship targets is unlikely; however, a soft kill of the target’s sensors and communications antennae, at least initially, is almost as good as sinking it. It will likely blind the enemy’s fire control systems. The allocation of missiles in the ship’s missile magazines for SSM versus SAM targets is an old discussion and is only appropriate when discussed relative to the expected opposing force. Another potential negative is the $4M cost of these missiles. But nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction and is in alignment with distributed lethality.

Where else can the US Navy apply this type of innovative thinking to further increase lethality? How do we out gun, out run, and out maneuver opposing forces using the current inventory of platforms, weapons systems, C2, and manning? Why not reconfigure the 1st generation Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) into shooting platforms? The VLS Hellfire missiles can be mounted in the cargo deck. Pedestal-mounted APKWS missiles could be similarly mounted. Chain guns such as the M61 Vulcan 20mm Cannon or the Mk38 25mm machinegun can all be mounted in the cargo deck for line-of-sight targeting. This craft has demonstrated 100 knots speeds.  Its ability to maneuver in shallow water, reef zones, shifting sand bars, riverine, and beach zones gives it the maneuverability of no other afloat vehicle. This tactical advantage of speed and maneuver cannot be matched. It travels at near-helicopter speeds, can carry 10 times the helicopter’s payload, with four times the on-station time. It could be configured with an AEGIS Ashore Missile Payload and positioned at many improved and unimproved sites.

Initially, targeting can be line-of-sight with over-the-horizon targeting when DL integration development progresses. We have seen enemy fighters using mosques and urban

Figure 2. Air Cushioned Vehicle maneuvers from an obscure beach.
Figure 2. Air Cushioned Vehicle maneuvers from an obscure beach.

areas to shield them from incoming fire. We can expect enemy maritime forces to use fishing, merchant vessels, and fleeing refugees as defensive shields. Engagement criteria, for at least the initial engagement skirmishes, will be line of sight positive identification via manned observation or remote observation. Clear Rules of Engagement (ROE) will need to be developed and practiced. Greater forward force autonomy should be anticipated to ensure engagement success.

The air cushioned vehicles will be positioned forward of the battle group in picket roles in archipelagic regions or in strategic straits such as the Strait of Hormuz where the shifting sandbars are not an obstacle to maneuvering for these vehicles. Their maneuverability will allow them to cut the escape routes of marauding high speed conventional craft who traverse narrow channels with impunity because they know the potential of grounding a chasing naval vessel is an unacceptable risk to the USN.  Submarine based threats and mined areas are also of limited concern for a vessel that has no draft. 

But these air cushioned vehicles are not suitable to plow through high seas. How can we get them to theater and provide operating support?  Platform Supply Vessels (PSV) have been performing this type of role in the off-shore oil industry for three decades. They have transported the heavy equipment and operating supplies that allow oil rigs to operate at sea for long periods. These vessels are designed to carry a tremendous volume of drill mud, fresh water, and fuel needed for use in off-shore oil drilling. The drill mud storage tanks can be used to ballast down the stern and allow self-propelled access to air cushioned vehicles. They are rugged vessels and are built to withstand the rigors of high seas.  In the

Figure 33. PSVs can carry Air Cushioned Vehicles to theater on this wide open deck.
Figure 33. PSVs can carry Air Cushioned Vehicles to theater on this wide open deck.

post-Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil industry, they have reduced the high insurance costs of hoteling crews on the rigs by providing hotel services on the PSVs. As a consequence of the shale oil revolution and low world oil prices, new PSVs are tied to their piers because operating them is no longer profitable. They are available for lease, purchase, or contracted services.

As the new LCAC 100 comes into service, the old LCACs are headed to the scrap pile.  Why not reconfigure them with modular weapons to give the US Navy a combatant craft that can out gun, out run, and out maneuver opposing forces?

John Devlin is Director of Navy Programs with ISPA Technology and a retired US Navy Captain.  He was a Tactical Action Officer (TAO) in carrier battle groups as a Surface Warfare Officer and has experience in littoral operations as a Special Operations Officer.

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Weaponized Hovercraft for Distributed Lethality

This post was submitted by guest author John Salak for CIMSEC’s Distributed Lethality week. 

Distributed Lethality is a concept that offers the Navy an opportunity to transform our force structure to both enhance and expand mission capabilities to meet our national military objectives. It takes our contemporary carrier-strike group model centered around the striking power of the carrier – and re-distributes that offensive power across an up-armed fleet, and across the battlefield in distributed SAGs. Transforming that concept into reality may call for a little out-of-the-box thinking on how the Navy can achieve a larger footprint that is both scalable to a conflict and adaptable to a variety of missions. Better yet, in an era of significant budget constraints, it would be achieving those capabilities by utilizing existing technologies and assets in platforms, weapons, communications, and sensors in a new combinations that significantly transform tactical employment.

One of those out-of-the-box ideas started out as a way of indirectly enhancing LCS mission capability by utilizing off-board systems to increase the defensive and offensive perimeter with remote weapons platforms. Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), a foundation block for distributed lethality, is one of those key technologies for extending the reach of LCS off-board defensive and offensive weapons. Utilizing off-board weapons platforms at a significant distance from the ship effectively buys time in the kill chain for early engagements in a defensive mode, and quicker strike in an offensive mode. As an example, selection of the Vertical Launch capable Hellfire Longbow for LCS opened up the potential to outfit smaller off-board craft with the same weapon and forward deploy those craft to extend the LCS weapons radius. Another foundation block of distributed lethality, the battle space sensor network, eliminates the need for local sensor capabilities on the off-board platform to develop threat and targeting data. CEC provides the communications mechanism to integrate the off-board weapons and fire control with C2 assets to select and engage with the appropriate asset. While the idea was initially applied to enhancing LCS capability, the same concept and capability can be extended to any Navy capital ship with the C2 assets to control an engagement.

The LCS is a pretty fast ship, so off-board weapons platforms have to be not only as fast, but preferably much faster in order to maintain that extended footprint as the LCS force maneuvers. Helicopters (manned or unmanned) are the obvious answer, but they come with their own set of limitations for payload capability, time on-station, and a host of other resource limitations.

So what is the best solution for this high speed, large payload, and high endurance off-board craft? If we look at the Navy’s LCAC hovercraft/air cushion vehicle (ACV), the answer to this providing this new, unique capability becomes apparent. The LCAC is designed to carry payloads up to 70 tons at design speed. Like any ship or aircraft, high speed and high payload usually require significant amounts of propulsion power. In the case of LCAC, what if that power was diverted from payload capacity to increased speed with the end result being a craft capable of near helicopter speeds with 10 times the weapons payload of a helicopter and 4 to 5 times the mission endurance?  We call this modified craft the Fast Air Cushion Expeditionary Craft (FACEC), with a speed capability in the 85-100 knot range and weapon payloads up to 35-45 tons. This high speed craft would use its open cargo deck to provide the capability for utilizing reconfigurable strap-down modular weapons loads, much like an aircraft, matched to specific mission needs.

While the skeptics maybe already firing up their keyboards to mention the problems with Patrol Hydrofoils (PHM) and numerous other past attempts at very high speed naval craft, this is a varied approach. The key difference in this case, and why LCAC has been successful, is the craft was not designed as a ship, it was designed as an aircraft that flies 3m above the water. With all ship based designs, one literally brings along the kitchen sink as part of the weight/speed/power trade, and that has consequences in mission endurance/range, speed, and weapons payloads. With LCAC the kitchen sink, along with everything else not essential to mission performance, gets left behind to the benefit of speed, payload and endurance.  The trade is LCAC requires a host carrier ship for long range transport, crew accommodations, maintenance, fuel, and weapons.

The FACEC conversion of an LCAC would be optimized for high speed by significantly reducing that 70 ton payload capability to a range sufficient for any weapons modules that would fit on the deck. The envisioned weapon payload modules, such as a 24 cell LCS VL-Hellfire, 4 cell Naval Strike Missiles, Harpoon, APKWS, and even MK-41 VLS modules can be combined or swapped out to meet specific mission tasking. Layered weapons capabilities would include remote control guns and self-defense systems. The ability to shoot from the LCAC platform has been demonstrated in the past with efforts such as the GAU-5 based Gun Ship Air Cushion and rocket launched systems such as DET/SABER and the MK-58 lane clearance system.

greek hovercraft with weapons

The utilization of a very high-speed air cushion craft as forward deployed weapons platform/picket in a CEC network provides some interesting engagement scenarios for an opposing force. The speed capability makes rapid deployment and maneuver 50 to 100 miles forward of the main force a practical reality. The off-board weapons capability cannot be ignored in any attempt to engage the main force if the FACEC are deployed in sufficient numbers. The opposing force must either concentrate on taking out small, relatively low value assets or risk being attacked or neutralized by those same assets if they engage the main force directly.

Being an ACV, the FACEC is not restricted by any shallow water maneuvers, which opens up large operating areas that make the A2AD much more difficult for opposing forces. The speed and maneuver capability of FACEC would make it nearly impossible for any surface based vessel like a corvette or fast patrol boat to outrun or hide in an engagement. Being an ACV, the FACEC could hide anywhere there is enough space to park it, including on land, for fire and evade scenarios. In areas of the world where restricted maneuverability is a constraint, FACEC enables the weapons systems to venture into those areas while safely leaving the command ship behind.  Need an AEGIS ashore battery?  Send a FACEC loaded with a pod of SM-x equipped MK-41 VLS on an erectable base and park it anywhere you have a clearing.  Running a mission against a large force of small craft? Send a FACEC with 48 VL Hellfire Longbows and a remote control 25mm gun. Need something to reach and touch the enemy at 100 miles? Send a FACEC with NSMs and/or Harpoons.


The astute observer might be wondering about that host ship carrier mentioned earlier. The USMC is already looking for more lift capability and more Lxx type host ships that carry LCAC are not in budget. The additional lift problem is addressed by utilizing a type of commercial off-shore platform support vessel capable of ballasting down to launch and recover the FACEC craft. A 105m craft has been identified that would be an ideal support platform for two embarked FACEC, while providing crew accommodations, maintenance, fueling and most importantly the ability to store and swap out the modular weapon systems. The ballast down capability allows FACEC operations similar to those currently conducted by LCAC and MLP ships. There are also potential alternate missions once the FACEC are launched, such as USMC AAV transport in support of expeditionary operations. In an era of shipbuilding budget pressures, these commercial PSVs are envisioned as another component of the MPS force, and eventual resale as commercial ships once their mission need ends. The FACEC/PSV combination makes a great hunter/killer combination with quick reaction capability.

With the commencement of LCAC-100 production, the U.S. Navy will have eventually have a significant fleet of legacy LCAC available for FACEC conversion. By utilizing existing assets and modifying them for high speed operations, adding CEC comms, along with repackaging some existing weapons to make modular swap outs possible, the Navy has an opportunity to transform force utilization in the littorals. If you want distributed lethality at its best, here is your express pass to get it.      

Mr. Salak is employed by BAE Systems. His background includes 28 years of LCAC engineering support, development of LCS off-board systems for mine warfare, C4N systems for the ONR T-Craft, and 12 years as a USN P-3 crew member. 

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