via Marine Times...
It appears that NAVAIR has been trying to turn the large deck amphibs into sea control ships for decades. This is just their latest gambit but it looks like the Marine Corps has finally awoken to the danger. Hopefully they'll be successful. The Gator Navy is the busiest, most in demand ships in the fleet. The show of sending an empty aircraft carrier to Haiti was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Only the amphibs were equipped to bring the necessary equipment and manpower to make a difference. Add to that the fact that one LPD-17 is equal to 54 C-17 flights...one roll on-roll off ship is equal to 200 C-17 flights and you begin to understand the power of the amphibs.By Philip Ewing - Staff writerMore than two years before the amphibious assault ship America enters the fleet, Marine officials have already drawn up early plans for a version of the ship that includes a major component America is missing — a well deck.
Posted : Sunday Mar 21, 2010 8:42:25 EDT
The “LHA 8 concept,” as it was called in a presentation Monday by Marine Corps Combat Development Command, would combine new aviation features the Marines want in the America class with a traditional big-deck capacity for landing craft and green gear.
Although the Navy’s most recent shipbuilding program includes no plans for such a ship, the notional drawings for a hybrid LHA 8 — America is LHA 6 — show that elements within the Corps are eager to get back to traditional amphibs as soon as possible. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said it would be prohibitively expensive to alter the designs for America or the follow-on LHA 7, so they’ll be built as planned.
America and the unnamed LHA 7 were designed without well decks to create a “Marine Corps aircraft carrier” built around the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter variant and big rotary-wing aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey and the future CH-53K Super Stallion.
The future of the ships formerly known as LHA(R) was never stable; advocates pushed for them to be warships, Military Sealift Command auxiliaries or a combination of both. As it happened, Navy officials decided the first two Americas would have gray hulls, but planners inside the Marine Corps came to quietly regret that the next big-deck amphibs won’t be able to send gear and troops ashore in traditional landing craft.