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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea 3 New Ship Classes for Sea Basing BACKGROUND As discussed in Chapter 1, the goal of Sea Basing—one of the three fundamental concepts underlying Sea Power 21—is to project joint power from the sea. Sea Basing is designed to use the sea as a maneuver space, to give the Joint Task Force commander the means to achieve accelerated deployment and employment times, and to enable joint follow-on forces from a mobile platform to operate unencumbered by host-nation requirements. Analysis is ongoing to determine the correct mix of assets for the deployment of these forces to the objective. The analyses to define the ship types and classes that were reviewed for this report were focused on the sea base and the strategic and tactical connectors associated with the major nodes. As discussed in Chapter 2 (see Figure 2.1), the Sea Basing concept has four major nodes: the continental United States (CONUS), the advanced base, the sea base, and the objective or shore. A simplified illustration of the Sea Basing concept is shown in Figure 3.1. In this chapter, the committee reviews ship classes or types as methods of connecting the nodes. A discussion of joint operations is also included. CLASSES OF SHIPS Continental United States to Advanced Base Strategic air transportation is the primary means of moving troops and some equipment from CONUS to the advanced base during time-phased, force deploy-
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea FIGURE 3.1 Simplified illustration of the Sea Basing concept. NOTE: A list of acronyms is provided in Appendix C. ment. Analysis is also being conducted on a secondary means, high-speed sealift (HSS), as a method of transporting the non-self-deploying rotary wing aircraft. The concern is that the MH-53 helicopter and the subsequent CH-53X require disassembly before and reassembly and testing after transport within the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. The HSS is being investigated to address this concern, with long-range, high-speed vessels of sufficient payload capacity to carry the MH-53 or the CH-53X from CONUS to the advanced base, or to the sea base directly, without disassembly. However, in the planning stages, care must be taken to assure that the operational requirements for the HSS do not transcend what is physically realistic. Advanced Base to Sea Base The advanced base is defined as a sea and aerial port lying within 2,000 nmi of the sea base; through it the troops, equipment, and supplies will flow into the sea base. The method of transport of the troops, equipment, and supplies to the sea base is highly dependent on how far the sea base (or the Maritime Prepositioning Force; MPF) is from the advanced base. Once it is outside of the range for the non-self-deploying helicopters, surface connector technology must carry troops, equipment, and supplies and have the ability to interface with the sea base ships. Ships of the combat logistics force (CLF) may be required for transferring cargo from CONUS or the advanced base to the ships of the sea base/ Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) (MPF(F)) ships. The survivability and transfer requirements of the CLF and MPF(F) ships need to be addressed.
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea Sea Base Composition MPF(F) ships are considered to be the main platforms of the sea base, although conceptually other alternatives exist. The Navy’s Analysis of Alternatives is complete for the MPF(F), but the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps have not settled on either their own requirements or possible joint requirements for the ship. In any case, to ensure that cargo can be transferred in a Sea State 3 or 4, the MPF(F) ships will have to be larger and will need motion-control technology and self-sustaining cargo handling for both lift on/lift off (LO/LO) and roll on/roll off (RO/RO) cargo. As the MPF(F) becomes the center of gravity for the amphibious forces, issues of survivability will need to be resolved; these will relate both to the sea base protection provided by Sea Shield and to the ship survivability standards incorporated into the MPF(F) itself. Additionally, other issues will need to be investigated—for example, the number and types of surface interface points such as the integrated landing platform (ILP) or the mobile landing platform (MLP); the need to configure the MPF(F) ships with a flight deck to accommodate the heavy-lift aircraft, described in Chapter 2, with power-assisted takeoff and landing or electromagnetic catapult assists for purposes of transferring troops and high-value cargo; or the need to carry landing craft, air cushion (LCAC)- or LCAC-X (experimental LCAC)-type connectors. Lastly, the conflicting capabilities of cargo transfer in high sea states versus the aviation flight capacity needed for the air assault portion of the amphibious operation will need to be resolved in order to permit a clearer definition of the sea base platform requirements. Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) Currently, a total of 36 military cargo ships, manned by civilian crews and operated by the Military Sealift Command, store pieces of military materiel and logistical supplies for various parts of the U.S. armed forces. The Maritime Prepositioning Force, comprising 16 of these ships, carries equipment and supplies for the Marine Corps; the 10 ships carrying Army equipment are called the Combat Prepositioning Force; the remaining 10 ships carry equipment and supplies for the Air Force, the Navy, and the Defense Logistics Agency. The replacements for the ships that support the Marine Corps are called the MPF(F), and although their design is as yet undecided, the Navy has indicated that they will have the following new capabilities, not possessed by today’s MPF ships: At-sea arrival and assembly. With this capability, joint ground forces could marry up with their equipment and supplies at sea rather than relying on the availability of the friendly ports required by today’s MPF; and At-sea selective onload/offload or strike up/strike down. With these capabilities, MPF(F) ships would provide selective loading/unloading at sea of specific
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea equipment or cargo without having to off-load other items of unneeded equipment or cargo in order to facilitate force tailoring and sustainment of forward land operations indefinitely from the sea base. Although specific designs are still undecided, it is recognized that the future MPF would most likely feature at least two nominal classes of ship: MPF(F) vessels and the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Aviation) (MPF(A)), a ship with increased aviation capability. The MPF(F) and MPF(A) vessels would collectively be significantly more capable than today’s ships are, bringing a new Sea Basing capability to the joint force. Their costs, depending on the approach taken, could range from $1 billion for a ship designed primarily to commercial survivability standards, to more than $3 billion or $4 billion for what is described as a larger, multimission “distributed” ship built to primarily military survivability standards. The Army is considering several options for updating its current Combat Prepositioning Force fleet and intratheater shipping. The options include a new Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) capability and an assortment of high-speed intratheater surface connectors that could be built to Army specifications, built to commercial standards, or converted from existing large-displacement commercial cargo vessels. The realization of these capabilities should logically be closely linked to the larger joint sea base effort and could even include common hull forms. Regarding the MPF(F), the committee concludes the following: The presentations given before the committee indicated a lack of uniformity or consensus among the briefers regarding their organizations’ understanding of exactly what level of hostilities or spectrum of conflicts the vessels and connectors of the future Sea Basing fleet are meant to contend with. Whether these vessels are intended to operate only in low-threat or Sea Shield-protected environments or are to be capable of conducting independent operations in contested waters will have a significant impact on the standards of survivability, organic self-defense capability requirements, civilian or military manning decisions, and ultimately the cost of building such a capability. Deciding whether to build some MPF(F) ships to primarily civilian commercial standards or only to military warship standards is one of the most important decisions to be made about the future Sea Basing program options. This decision will have broad implications for the total costs of concept implementation. Additional considerations include legal issues surrounding questions of civilian or military manning and the question of whether or not there will be common standards across the other vessels being planned to support the Army and Air Force components of Sea Basing. Given the likely constraints on the Navy shipbuilding budget and future force structure, any decisions on the MPF(F) and MPF(A) vessels regarding such
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea matters as increased displacements and multimission-enhanced capabilities for aviation operations, command and control, fires integration, sea-based hospitals, organic connectors, and so on may well require some significant trade-offs with the more traditional military programs. As an alternative, the Navy may request supplemental funds, but such funding would have to be available over a long enough period to complete the acquisition of the sea base. The Navy should also consider having the private shipping industry bid on developing MPF(F) ships for lease or sale. Currently the MPF(F), Army AFSB, potential intratheater connectors—such as theater support vessel (TSV), landing craft support (LCS), and the Marine Corps heavy-lift helicopter CH-53(X)—are treated as totally independent programs with separate missions and built to independent standards. Under a joint Sea Basing concept, these programs need to be joint under common joint Sea Basing standards from their conception on so as to be not only interoperable, but also optimized to perform in a complementary manner in the future joint sea base operating environment. The characteristics of the MPF(F) cannot be defined, nor can its design be developed until the required ship capacity and cargo throughput are determined, as well as the methods of on- and off-load at the interfaces with the supply connectors and with the shore-bound connectors. Expeditionary Strike Groups Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs) are a new type of naval tactical formation composed of amphibious warfare ships, surface combatant vessels, and submarines, and supported by land-based P-3 aircraft. Prior to the creation of ESGs, the Navy’s amphibious ships were organized into 12 Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs). The Navy is now converting all of its ARGs to ESGs. The amphibious warfare ships assigned to ARGs and ESGs are built to survivability standards similar to those for other Navy battle force combatants and are manned by Navy crews with Marines as passengers. Such ships include amphibious assault ships, general purpose (LHAs); amphibious assault ships, multipurpose (LHDs); landing ships, dock (LSDs); and amphibious assault transports, dock (LPDs). The current force of 36 amphibious ships has the capability of embarking two Marine Expeditionary Brigades of approximately 13,100 Marines each; however, at any given time 15 to 20 percent of this force is in for maintenance or overhauls. Regarding ESGs, the committee concludes the following: Future decisions regarding the capabilities, numbers, and composition of the Expeditionary Strike Groups of 2015 will have a significant impact on the required capabilities, numbers, and cost of the MPF(F) ships. A complete definition of future ESG characteristics is required, along with a joint Service capability
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea (interdependence) analysis, in order to conduct the capability gap analysis to clearly define required MPF(F) capabilities. Absent any national commitment to building a larger Navy or increasing the Ship Construction, Navy (SCN) budget above current levels to achieve a more capable fleet, future investment in traditional amphibious ships is likely to be impacted by an increased investment in achieving a new joint Sea Basing capability. Connectors After the decisions are made regarding the future ESG composition and the capabilities required of the MPF(F), the next challenge can be addressed: that of providing the appropriate mix of self-deploying and organic surface and air connectors for sustaining the sea base and successfully projecting a significant joint ground force to the objective from the sea base and sustaining this force indefinitely. Although there appear to be some interesting achievable technology alternatives such as the landing craft support, TSV, beachable high-speed connector (B-HSC), and some emerging heavy-lift vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) technologies, the committee found that the individual Services are mostly planning to pursue improved models of existing or planned models of LCAC, heavylift helicopter (CH-53X), and tilt-rotor aircraft (V-22). Two critical decisions that will have a strong influence on the design of the high-speed connector (HSC) must be made: Will the shore-bound HSC be beachable, or will it be an LCAC shuttle, carrying loaded LCACs close to the beach? The latter approach provides amphibious capability so that cargo can be off-loaded ashore above the high-water mark or even further inland. This ability is a major advantage. The decision on this issue will have a major impact on the shore-bound HSC size and hull configuration. Should the shore-bound HSCs and the advanced-base-to-sea-base HSCs have a common design or be entirely different classes? A common design would likely have cost advantages if it proved to be possible. Both of these decisions, along with many others, should be the subjects of trade-off studies (cost, performance, risk) before decisions are made. Regarding connectors, the committee concludes the following: To date, the individual Services have exhibited little progress in pushing the technology envelope to seek new, improved designs of heavy-lift aircraft and high-speed surface connectors. Instead they have focused their work on updated versions of legacy programs. This fact has resulted in a divergence of approaches and little progress in achieving consensus on a joint sea base concept.
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea The Services appear to have dismissed any consideration of more revolutionary technology for unmanned connectors and have not conducted any significant analysis to support decisions regarding a best mix of self-deploying or MPF(F)-carried or organic connectors and the consequences of either choice on closely related programs. The Services need to consider unmanned connectors and to provide a transition path to unmanned connectors if they are to be recommended. Sea Base to Objective A number of factors will have an effect upon the sea-base-to-objective connector class. These include— The type and number of surface interface points for the MPF(F) ship, The distance of the sea base from the shore, and The need to beach the connector to have it go farther over the beach. Each of these factors will affect whether the emphasis is placed on ships such as the beachable high-speed connector or an experimental air-cushioned vehicle, the LCAC-X, or whether the emphasis remains on legacy connectors. A beachable transit connector imposes some challenging constraints on the design. However, it appears that certain connectors need to be beachable. Given that the purpose of the sea base is to be just that, the design of the open-ocean, high-speed connectors is greatly simplified if the beaching capability is provided between the sea base and the shore (LCACs, landing craft, utility (LCUs), and so on). Joint Operations The committee was briefed on the Afloat Forward Staging Base concept by Maersk, Inc.; the AFSB could be used by the Army as an adjunct to the Navy’s Sea Basing concept. As discussed in Chapter 1, the Sea Basing concept has limitations and at its maximum capability, Level Four—Full Joint Integration, it would be used as the naval contribution to joint operations. Under Level Three—Joint Force Enabler, joint operations under a Joint Task Force commander conducted from the sea base would likely require the Army to be supported by an AFSB concept. Surface Connector Node Map Figure 3.2 maps out the Marine Corps vision for the Sea Basing connector classes that need to be investigated in order to take full advantage of the Sea Basing concept. The figure indicates the main nodes of the path from CONUS, advanced base, Maritime Prepositioning Squadron (Future) (MPSRON(F)) as the
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea FIGURE 3.2 Marine Corps vision for the Sea Basing connector classes. NOTE: A list of acronyms is provided in Appendix C. SOURCE: Maj Scott Kish, USMC, N703M, “Analyses of Sea Basing Connectors,” presentation to the committee, September 9, 2004, Washington, D.C.
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea connector moves toward the sea base, the sea base itself, and finally, the shore. The figure is further broken down as to the distance that the connector must traverse. For the MPSRON(F), this would include the vicinity of the advanced base (where short-range connectors such as the landing craft, utility, or the British partial air cushion supported catamaran (PASCAT) could be used. An example of using the figure would be that the means of connecting the advanced base to the MPSRON(F) would be MV-22 tilt rotor or the CH-53 helicopter if the MPSRON(F) was within the vicinity of the advanced base or within 350 nmi if conducting at-sea arrival and assembly. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The committee concludes the following: Requirements. There appears to be a desire to push the limit on requirements beyond what engineering can accomplish, given the real limits of physics. For example, seaborne connector speeds of 40 knots or more may be achievable in low sea states, but at great cost and risk. Similar issues exist for cargo transfer at sea and the beaching capability of larger seaborne connectors. Sea base air capability. Until recently, little consideration appears to have been given to providing capability for the launch and recovery of an aircraft that can carry the load capacity of a C-130J within the sea base; initiatives are currently underway in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to address the heavylift aircraft alternatives.1 The MPF(F) ships have missions independent of a sea base that make their configuration incompatible with incorporating takeoff and landing capability for such aircraft. Coordination. Despite great similarities in the objectives of various Services, there appears to be a lack of coordination on related programs even within the Department of the Navy. Because of the significant warfighting implications of a sea base, coordination among all Services should be enhanced. Ship motions and cargo transfer. The physical realities of wave-induced ship motions on all types of ships indicate that only very large ships may even hope to yield successful platforms for effective cargo transfer at sea in Sea State 3 or 4. The committee believes that unless a large testbed (possibly an LMSR (large, medium-speed roll on/roll off)-size ship) is made available to test engineering designs for improved high-sea-state cargo-handling concepts, new cargo-handling capabilities are unlikely to be fielded by the Navy within the next 10 to 20 years. Development. MPF(F) ships must be designed in concert with the vertical-take-off-and-landing/short-take-off-and-landing/super-short-takeoff-and-vertical- 1 These initiatives include the Joint Vertical Aircraft Task Force and the Army-led Team on Heavy-Lift Aircraft for Seabasing.
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea landing technology capability for the MPF(F)’s initial operational capability date. It would be premature to push ahead with the MPF(F) design and procurement until certain critical decisions are made. These decisions are dependent upon a total systems analysis from which the required MPF(F) cargo capacity and cargo-transfer throughput can be derived. The MPF(F) ship design will be driven by the cargo-transfer techniques adopted for it and by the number of transfer stations required to meet the required cargo-transfer rate. The high-speed surface connector designs will also be driven by the required cargo flow rates and the cargo-transfer techniques adopted for the MPF(F). There are strong interdependencies between the HSC and the MPF(F) designs; these critical system elements are linked by the required cargo flow rates and the selected cargo-transfer techniques. These ship types must not be developed independently. Key issues that will drive overall system cost and performance as well as the designs of the HSC and the MPF(F) are the development and approval of the concept of operations for the sea-base-to-objective connectors as they fit within the context of the larger, Sea Basing concept of operations. A systems analysis of the sea base, as a node, to the objective, as another node, should define the designs. The committee recommends the following: Recommendation: A comprehensive systems analysis of Sea Basing ships and connectors needs to be undertaken on a macro level to validate what the requirements (range, speed, and capacity for cargo and personnel) should be. This is especially true of the speed requirements for the various connectors between the Sea Basing nodes. Consideration should be given to using a separate aircraft capable ship for operations of a fixed-wing, vertical-take-off-and-landing, super-short-takeoff-and-landing, or short-take-off-and-vertical-landing aircraft of C-130J size. This capacity should be considered as a separate part of the systems analysis. If this air capability is needed, the Air Force must be part of the development team because of its experience in acquiring and fielding aircraft of this size and capability. Recommendation: Future developments and analyses of Sea Basing ships and connectors should be conducted under the leadership of a flag-level joint analysis team, which may eventually become a joint program office. Separate stovepipe Service programs should be rolled, as applicable, into this joint program. Owing to its proven capability in ship procurement, the Navy should have the lead in the
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Sea Basing: Ensuring Joint Force Access from the Sea acquisition of the final ship and connector designs for Sea Basing, which ultimately should be common for all Services. Recommendation: The Department of the Navy should identify one large vessel to be used as a testbed for resolving the known problems, including those related to connectors and internal cargo handling, involved in at-sea cargo transfer at Sea States 3 and 4, or two such vessels if required for an integral flight deck in order to explore issues associated with potential future heavy-lift aircraft. The Department of the Navy should pursue private industry proposals for the acquisition of larger commercial vessels for such testbeds. The Department of the Navy could use an existing large ship—a large, medium-speed roll on/roll off or an existing Maritime Prepositioning Force-type reserve ship in a reduced operating status, such as an SL-7/T-AKR Fast Sealift Ship—as a test platform to test advanced engineering development models aimed at the effective sea transfer of cargo in Sea State 3 or 4. It may be necessary to activate a reserve carrier or an equivalent ship for experimentation with heavy-lift aircraft at sea.
Representative terms from entire chapter: