Add South Africa to the list of nations looking for a new amphibious ship capable of supporting aviation operations. Defensenews reports:
Three firms will likely compete if the government approves the South African National Defense Force’s proposal to buy one or more strategic support ships with an extended helicopter landing platform.
One potential bidder, France’s DCNS (formerly Amaris), recently brought its landing helicopter dock (LHD) FS Tonnerre (Thunder) to Cape Town on its maiden voyage via Canada and Brazil. The Tonnerre’s sister ship, FS Mistral, was used last year to evacuate foreigners during the crisis in Lebanon.
The other firms with “a real chance” to win the contract are Spain’s Navantia and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), which co-built South Africa’s four recently commissioned frigates, said Helmoed-Römer Heitman, a South African military analyst.
It is pretty clear the world has taken measure of the future and understands what capabilities from the sea will be required. China, Australia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Spain, France, and India are all at some stage in the construction or deployment of a new amphibious vessel that supports well deck operations, aviation operations, or a combination of both. I'm not counting nations with existing capabilities (Singapore, US, Netherlands, Russia, etc.).
This doesn't include strategic lift vessels like Canada and Germany are discussing, nor does it include the dual role capabilities being built into European frigates or the CVF for Great Britain.
Amphibious ships and submarines are, if measured in purchases, the most sought after military capabilities at sea in the 21st century, specifically because their capabilities extend so far beyond their primary function. The utilization of the submarine as an intelligence asset and the use of amphibious ships as motherships for naval operations in large areas of green, brown, or blue water during peacetime has exposed the utility of these vessels in meeting the unique dynamics of conflict emerging in the 21st century.
It is time for the US Navy to start talking about motherships. Past time.