We've been reading CRS Report RL34476 by Ronald O'Rourke on the LPD-17 program, and within pops out some interesting details regarding the current 2 MEB AE threshold for the Marines that has been agreed to by the Navy. Here we are in an Expeditionary Maritime Era, where projecting forces to shore becomes a critical strategic aspect of the era, and the Marines have to negotiate with the Navy and downsize just to meet a reduced requirement a full MEB smaller than what was recommended by the 1997 QDR. Keep in mind, the 11/11/11 figure listed is a designed goal, not actually in the Navy's current shipbuilding plan.
The Marine Corps states the 2.0 MEB AE amphibious lift goal translates into a requirement for a force of 33 amphibious ships, includingIt would be nice to start thinking LSD(X) sooner rather than later, the purpose being to improve the MEB capability of the Marine Corps sooner rather than later. We think this approach would be good for a few reasons. First, Marine Corps equipment has become larger during the current wars as they armor up. It really makes one wonder how the MRAP fits into the MEU float loading plan without major sacrifices. The LSD(X) can help relieve the pressures this problem creates.
In explaining how the requirement for 2.0 MEB AEs translates into this 33-ship requirement, the Marine Corps states the following:
- 11 LHAs/LHDs,
- 11 LSD-41/49 class ships, and
- 11 LPD-17s.
Given the lift capabilities of the Navy’s current amphibious ships, each MEB AE would require 19 operational amphibious ships to lift: 6 LHAs/LHDs, 7 LSD-41/49s, and 6 LPD-17s.
To arrive at a more fiscally constrained goal, the Marine Corps reduced the above 19-ship total to 17 operational ships: 5 LHAs/LHDs, 7 LSD-41/49s, and 5 LPD-17s. This 17-ship force requires about 11% of the MEB AE’s vehicles to be shifted to the AFOE, which creates a degree of operational risk. This 17-ship force was presented to Navy officials in mid-2007.
To arrive at a still-more fiscally constrained goal, Navy and Marine Corps officials in mid-2007 agreed to reduce the 17-ship total to 15 operational ships — 5 of each kind. This 15-ship force requires about 20% of the MEB AE’s vehicles and about 12% of its cargo to be shifted to the AFOE, which creates an additional degree of operational risk.
Second, building the LSD(X) sooner allows for the Navy to take the existing LSD force and use their mid-life upgrade to turn them into large motherships. A LSD(X) / Corvette approach between now and 2025 allows the Navy to completely replace the small surface combatant fleet, the submarine fleet, and the bulk of the expeditionary fleet just in time to free up funds for building the major surface combatant replacements.
In other words, fleet strategy would then reflect building for the current warfare requirements while planning for the future warfare requirements.