The Navy and Marine Corps are eyeing a 200- to 400-foot Light Amphibious Warship that would carry about 75 Marines, store as much as 8,000 square feet of kit and cost not much more than $100 million apiece, a naval official.
The official, speaking on background, said about six industry teams are working with the sea services after two industry days and industry studies over the summer, and that the services feel confident they’ll find a design that can meet their speed and survivability requirements for the right price.
The LAW is not meant to replace any of the existing amphibious ships in service today or any of the connectors, but rather would serve a new role: it would allow small units of Marines to maneuver around island chains, supporting sea control from ashore and then moving to new locations to avoid being detected.
After the program kicked off in earnest about six months ago, the services already have narrowed in on several key features of the warship.
The ship will be between 200 and 400 feet long, the official told USNI News. It will have between 4,000 and 8,000 square feet of cargo space and could displace as much as 4,000 tons. In contrast, the smallest amphibious ship class today, the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship (LSD-41/49), is 609 feet long and displaces more than 16,700 tons. LAW would not have a well deck like other amphibious ships but instead would be able to come up on the beach itself, allowing the Marines aboard to drive their trucks right off the back of the ship onto ground.
Second, the LAW would host about 75 Marines and would have accommodations for them to eat, sleep, plan missions and more onboard. Unlike a connector, it would be built for long durations on the high seas. Each ship would be commanded by an O-4 commissioned naval officer, and the ships would be organized into squadrons of about nine each.
The LAWs would be focused on maneuvering Marines around the battlespace, not engaging in blue-water combat. Still, the naval official told USNI News, the services are eyeing a 30mm Gun Weapons System as the ideal system needed as a proportional response to the most likely threat to these ships. Their primary defense would be their ability to move quickly and evade detection, but they would have the gun system to protect themselves as needed. Additionally, they would operate under the protection of a “sheepdog” – likely an amphibious transport dock (LPD) or a Littoral Combat Ship – that could maintain situational awareness of the operating area inside the adversary’s weapons engagement zone and fire upon anything threatening the LAWs.