Littoral Strike Ship
On 11th February 2019 British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the concept and development phase of a new class of amphibious warfare vessel to support the Royal Marines, and by inference, Special Forces. The new vessels will operate close to enemy shores and be termed Littoral Strike Ships
If ordered, the Littoral Strike Ships (LSS) will make up the backbone of the Royal Navy’s future form the backbone of a Littoral Strike Groups, which could also include LPDs (e.g. HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion) and LSD(A)s (e.g. Bay Class), as well as escorts and smaller craft.
Royal Navy illustration of LSS.
The design owes more to USSOCOM’s camera-shy MV C Ocean Trader than the massive Expeditionary Transfer Docks
At first glance, the concept design shared by the Royal Navy has some outward similarities to the Royal Fleet Axillary's Point Class sealift ships. But more tellingly, it is very similar in both form and function to USSOCOM’s MV C Ocean Trader (ex-Cragside). The eight bays along the sides of MC V Ocean Trader can each accommodate a Combat Craft-Assault (CCA). The Royal Navy illustration appears to be a Point Class hull converted to the same configuration as MV C Ocean Trader.
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It has also been compared to the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) design, which is much bigger still and has special facilities for hovercraft. The LSS is closer in every respect to MV C Ocean Trader.
- Forth Point Class sealift ships are in service with the Royal Fleet Axillary
- MV C Ocean Trader after conversion, note the hangars (photo by David Kozdron)
- The expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B Puller.
MV C Ocean Trader (ex-Cragside) during conversion.
Although the name implies that the LSS will operate right in the face of the enemy, they will in reality carry a range of smaller boats for over-the-horizon insertion and extraction, as well as extensive aviation facilitates:
- BAE System Fast Interceptor Craft, as used by UKSF
- UKSF are purchasing the US designed SDV Mk.XI Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) to replace the SDV Mk.VIII
- The Royal Marines operate several RHIBs including the Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC) made by Hollyhead Marine, and also the Griffon Hoverwork 2400TD hovercraft.
The concept of forward operating bases is not new, but the renewed emphasis changes the fortunes of the UK’s amphibious warfare capabilities which have been continually downsized and neglected. The US and Iran also use large converted ‘civilian’ merchant ships for this purpose (see Covert Shores article on the Iranian Saviz)
- RFA Reliant, a converted merchant vessel, operating off Beruit in support of the UN mission, mid 1980s.
- One of the US forward operating bases in the Gulf during Operation EARNEST WILL; the barge Hercules.
- Iran uses the Saviz as a covert operating base in the Red Sea.
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