So if we're actually going to move in that direction then why are we building ships that will function best in the Marine Expeditionary/Expeditionary Strike Group role?
I contend that we're building the wrong type of ships if this is the road we're gonna go down. Take for example the San Antonio Class LPD. For the Reinforced MEU that I shout about, its perfect. But for CLT's? OVERKILL.
Instead I think the Algerian "Improved San Giorgio" Kalaat Beni Abbes would seem to fit the concept much better.
Its much smaller than the San Antonio Class but still retains an impressive carry ability. via Wikipedia.
Propulsion:2 Fincantieri GMTA 420.12 diesel turbines, generating 16,800 hp
Range:7500 nm at 16 knots
Complement:150 petty officers, quartermasters and sailors; 450 marines
Armament:1 Otobreda 76mm (removed from the San Giorgio and San Marco to add a helicopter spotlight),2 x Oerlikon 20mm16-cell SYLVER A50 VLS for 16 Aster 30 missiles
Aircraft carried:3 AW-101 transport helicopters or 5 light helicoptersIf those raw numbers don't impress then check this out.
More than an LPDIn the current environment that we operate in, an amphibious assault ship that also has built in air defense (limited in comparison to a Burke but still!) capability, an outstanding rapid fire gun and even 25mm cannons to deal with small boats that get too close (in addition to Marines manning the rails with their own variety of weapons) seems like something we'd want in a ship that operates alone.
No doubt, in the end, that it is an LPD. A special LPD, in some way, since it is also provided of an elevator for 30 ton helo, with room for five helicopters under deck, and contains a hospital with 50 beds, surgery room, dental clinic. But when we go to examine the Combat System, we encounter a number of surprises. A 'normal' LPD has few small calibre machine-guns to counter small boats, a traditional Surveillance Radar and maybe some Electronic Countermeasures. This 'Landing Ship', instead, overthrows old habits, breaks ancient patterns, and takes the characteristics of a true Flagship.
First of all, the Surveillance Radar is not just the usual 2D Radar, normally installed on-board an LPD, not even a 3D Radar (which would be already unusual), but also Multifunctional, able to track the target while carrying out surveillance function, thanks to an Active Electronically Scanned Array. It is the powerful EMPAR, produced by Selex Sistemi Integrati (performing the Combat System Integration), the radar installed on-board the Horizon and FREMM Destroyers. And also the rest of the weapon suite is very close to the one of Horizon and FREMM: the Missile System is the ASTER 15, with sixteen missiles in two SYLVER Vertical Launchers. One 76/62 Super Rapid Gun of OTO Melara, with two 25 mm machine guns, constitute the gun suite, managed by the same NA 25 FCS of Selex SI as installed on board the Horizon and FREMM ships. An integrated Electronic Warfare System from Thales/Elettronica, associated to two chaff-flares launchers SCLAR-H, like in the FREMM ships, ensures full EW operation, while the Telecommunications System is from Selex Elsag.
It is clear, in the end, that this type of ship, besides its 'traditional' missions of amphibious operation and logistic support, is fully equipped for managing additional types of mission, such as air and naval defence, C4I operations for air and naval crafts, rescue and relief to civilian populations.
The ship is powered by two Diesel Engines, assuring a speed of 20 knots and a range of 6,000 miles.
The bigger point is this. If we're going to Company Landing Teams and Independent Ship Operations then we need different kinds of ships.
If this is our road then we need smaller, more capable ships....something like the improved San Giorgio...not behemoths like the San Antonio Class.