Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Observing the Sea Base Off Liberia

I don't know if the African Partnership Station Public Affairs office is reading the blog, but if you are we appreciate you being responsive to our request for more information, detailed information, and excellent information in covering the Sea Basing operation off Liberia. We credit Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Elizabeth Merriam for this excellent contribution to the Sea Basing discussion.

The INLS is a redesign of a floating dock system originally used during World War II. Composed of smaller component links the system pieces can lock together to create ferries, causeway piers, or roll-on, roll-off discharge facilities to transport cargo and equipment from ship to shore while leaving a minimal footprint tailored to the individual mission.

The construction began aboard container & roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat (T-AK-3016) when various commands from Naval Beach Group 2 worked together to crane the links off of the ship and combine them into their final structures...

Once the construction on the INLS components was completed the discharge facility was transported to container & roll-on/roll-off ship USNS 2nd Lt. John Bobo (T-AK-3008) where it was loaded with Marine Corps vehicles...

The vehicles were then transported to the staging deck aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) where the ship's crew and the members of Assault Craft Unit 2, piloting the roll-on, roll off discharge facility, would attempt to dock an INLS structure in a well deck for the first time...

Once the Sailors secured the discharge facility in the well deck members of the 4th Marine Logistics Group simply drove the vehicles off the platform rolling directly into the staging area.

While Fort McHenry's crew worked with the discharge facility, John Bobo moored next to the INLS causeway. As part of the exercise, Marines reloaded the platform and the discharge facility and departed Fort McHenry to rendezvous with John Bobo, again exhibiting the ability of the INLS to dock with an amphibious vessel to transport cargo from ship to ship. Once the roll-on, roll-off discharge facility and causeway ferries were attached to the causeway, High Speed Vessel 2 Swift moored next to John Bobo, where ready receive Marine vehicles were transported to ship to shore.

This is the first time INLS has been used successfully at sea to transport cargo from ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore. During the rest of WATC the INLS will be used to aid in transporting humanitarian assistance supplies to Monrovia as part of the APS contribution to the area.

I've admittedly butchered an excellent story, so I encourage people to read the story without my cut outs, particularly as I think some of the details offered in the interviews tell the 'rest of the story.' For our purposes though we remain focused on the process for now.

From our perspective, observing the news reports and admiring the photography, it appears the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) has demonstrated an amazing degree of capability for Sea Basing operations. As we previously covered, the West Africa Training Cruise (WATC) 08 will continue until April 5th, which we believe means the Sea Base built with the INLS will remain constructed for another week supporting humanitarian operations before being broken down. As some commenter's have previously noted, the port infrastructure in Monrovia is subpar, at best, and almost certainly not of a condition to support the USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat (T-AK-3016) or USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat (T-AK-3016).

This demonstration leveraging the INLS has thoroughly impressed us, bringing together the combinations of well decks, large Ro/Ro prepositioning ships, and a high speed vessel shallow draft connector has changed our perspective regarding the possibilities of Sea Basing, not only for peacetime operations but also for warfighter operations. With selective offload in the future, we see the potential to leverage amphibious assault ships for multiple assaults, simply reloading Marine Corp equipment from a secure, remote location at sea.

The interconnecting nature of the ferries, causeway piers, and roll-on, roll-off discharge facilities sparks our imagination in regards to potential. In the excellent coverage to date, we observe the only thing missing is a photo from above to get an idea regarding the size of the INLS causeway pier system constructed.

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