Huzzah! For The Humble Yet Effective Logistic Support Vessel (LSV)

By Craig Hooper
Defense Tech Naval Warfare Analyst

One of the more thankless contributors to America’s “National Fleet” is the U.S. Army’s Logistic Support Vessel (LSV). The 8 General Frank S. Besson Class LSVs are next-generation LSTs–an expendable, beach-able, plodding, “fill-with-what-you-will” vessel.

The LSV is a perfect example of defense “humbletech”–a technical asset so mundane it gets completely overlooked by the wiz-bang gadgetry of modern defense technologists.

LSVs are unexciting–they are cheap, slow, and built by VT Halter Marine–an entirely off-the-DC-radar shipbuilding company. That is probably why the national role of LSV advocate has been assumed by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael W. Carr–and not some high-profile member of Congress or a two-star Powerpoint Ranger skippering a desk in Crystal City.

CW3 Carr just sails on the thing, after all–a perfect humbletech kind of guy. But the CW3 makes some salient points in the “Professional Notes” section of the July 2010 issue of Proceedings, saying that the Army, in particular, should use the $32 million dollar LSVs to:

“regain it’s roots in amphibious operations, reinstating in its maritime-training curriculum the many valuable lessons and skills learned during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam relating to oceanography, waves, beaches, tides and currents. Increased training should be provided for worldwide amphibious operations, with a focus on Africa…”

Think what you will about that strategic goal, but, as far as the platform goes, an LSV–with its slow speed, tiny draft, mid-sized crew (a core of about 30) and long legs (5,000 miles) would be a perfect “presence” tool for Africa and the Pacific Islands. Capable of carrying the equivalent of 28 Abrams M1A tanks, the LSV can bring a lot of stuff to a lot of places. But that’s not all.

CW3 Carr appreciates the flexible “get-it-done” nature of the platform, and, in a June 2006 issue of Proceedings, he advocated for using the LSV as a Special Operations platform or an Unmanned Vehicle carrier:

“An LSV’s well deck, fitted with 70,000-pound working load cloverleaf tie-down fittings, staged at 6-foot centers, is highly flexible and adaptable. Combinations of boats, people pods, recompression chambers, and remotely operated vehicles can all be supported.

Unmanned aerial vehicles could be launched and recovered using the bow ramp. With modifications a retractable roof could be installed over the well deck and a dedicated helicopter pad added to the stern. Even as presently configured the LSV is an ideal platform for supporting special operations missions.”

That’s how to leverage cheap tech.

For low-threat presence and long-standing, watch-oriented pirate/anti-smuggler missions, the LSV is a cost-effective way to get modest capabilities to the field. But…why aren’t these cheap assets being used?

Let’s get these humble platforms out into the field, and perhaps, after giving them a chance, the experience might start getting us to think a little harder about how a handful of cheap, specialized LSVs (read up on the helicopter, semi submersible and troop carrying variants) might contribute to U.S. security.

Let’s talk stimulus. LSVs are simple–not even Northrop Grumman’s Avondale Yard could mess them up. They are cheap enough to be made in numbers, used hard, and then handed out to friends. Take the Philippines–two helicopter-ready variants are currently serving in the Philippine Navy–the BRP Dagupan City (LC-551) and BRP Bacolod City (LC-550). For regions struggling to field a navy and patrol a long coastline, U.S. built LSVs–cheap pieces of humbletech that they are–might be the right way to go.

  • Offering a good bet that the Corps goes ballistic over this. That said, shouldn’t this be a Navy vessel?

  • Gator Sailor

    It does seem strange that the Navy doesn’t own a few of these vessels. The reality is that the Army has more hulls than the Navy and most are amphib lift assets.

    I’d like to see this hull stacked up against the LCS.

  • Greg

    I think the Navy is more concerned with building hulls to survive in a high threat environment than building lots of expendable hulls.

    While cheap to build, it looks like a sitting duck for the sorts of anti-ship missiles that are becoming common along the world’s coastlines. Adding defensive systems and sensors could turn the ship into a billion dollar barge.

    A couple dozen M1A2’s sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic, a few miles off the coast of Africa, won’t help the mission.

    • Mastro

      Adding a CIWS or two will not cost $ billion-

      well- it shouldn’t anyway.

      Actually we have some left over from the Burkes- now that they are putting the new Sea Sparrow (ESSM?) on

  • Caleb

    After a lot of posts about the LCS’s troubles as well as supposed missions there are a lot of things that come to mind that these could do if well incorporated into a fleet.
    For example its said that the LCS is the answer to fighting “swarm” tactics (IRGC) but that w/o certain fire power they were really just survivable floating heli decks. Well the bacolod version of this holds at least 2 helis and are very cheap, put 10 of these in the field with 2 attack halos each and it would take a very large very fast swarm to do anything to the fleet, especially if these ships are backed by the normal escorts/cruisers/destroyers/carriers/attack subs that make up a modern American battle fleet

    am i crazy?

  • Trent Telenko

    The US Army LSV is a little shorter and wider than the WW2 US Navy LSM class landing ship, which delivered three M4 Sherman medium or five M5 Stuart light tanks.

  • msufalcon

    Wait it isn’t flashy, it gets the job done, and its cheap……… way it can be American

  • Kevin

    It would be comparable to a self propelled barge Hercules variant that was used in the 1980’s by the Army & Navy SOF gang in the Persian Gulf. Worked great and didn’t make the news.

  • Cole

    Perhaps there is room for the eight $33 million logistics support vessels (LSV) and similar numbers of $160 million Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) that carry 1/3 the payload but travel over 3 times as fast.

    If moving Strykers from Hawaii to South Korea…a distance of 4,000NM…would you rather do it with a 10 knot LSV or a 35 knot JHSV that can be escorted by a similary fast Littoral Combat Ship? 17 days versus 5 days…plus the JHSV can carry the troops with the Strykers while the LSV carries only the equipment.

    It also sounds like JSV is designed to offload cargo from slower RO/ROs. That takes time as well, while the JHSV can carry cargo from Hawaii/Alaska or even farther Washington loading points directly to shore.

  • Build more, Lisc for other builders to use, IE yacht makers IE Chris Craft. How Neat.
    Add options: Deck guns, firefighting, cranes, IR, For deep sea Sub Rescue, Disaster aid etc.
    Build More, lots more.

  • solomon1

    And “New Wars” has found a new convert.

  • Call me ignorant, but I always thought that all naval logistics vessels fell under the Navy and Sealift command.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    The Army’s secret is out, it has a Navy, Ft. Story Va. Contrary to popular myth the Marines don’t own amphibious warfare.

    It doesn’t make a whole of of sense to build a large amount of these but a few more then eight probably could be put to good use. Once a port facility is secured the JHSV of which the Army is buying ten hauls would be the obvious transport.

    As far as soldier skills are concerned amphibious assault skills like Air Assault are just part of the typical Infantry skill set be the troops Army or Marine.

    Since the last major amphibious assault was sixty years ago, keeping 30-35 amphibious assault ships with average current price tags of over a $ billion each really doesn’t make much sense. These ships the Army uses are relatively cheap, easy and quick to make and a cadre of crews would fit well into the mission of the Army Reserve. Even the 20 Amphibious Ships for the Marines the CBO projects to be built over the next thirty years is to many.

    Byron Skinner

  • kisl

    You forgot to mention ‘stopping power’

  • STemplar

    I think the article mentioned low threat environment. so talking about anti access or launchig an amphibious invasion isnt the point. The point is we arent going to have to storm any beaches in Africa, we can just sail up and off load a considerable amount of forces and equipment very inexpensively. The point with the helipad is that perhaps a series of these off the African coast would be a far more cost efficient way of suppressing pirate activity than using multi billion dollar guided missile destroyers.

  • leesea

    There are several thought threads here that can be amplified. In no particular order, the LSV are complementary to the JHSV. The former is meant for the sustainment portion of ANY Logitics over the Shore operation. The later is more for OMFTS. JHSVs are NOT inter-theather assets but intra. Both types can do Ro/Ro and carry some breakbulk cargo.

    The Philipine Navy has shown the USN how adaptable the LSV hull is. Remember the orginal LCS(L)s of WW2 were landing craft covnerted to gunboats. Of course the LSV is not meant for amphibious assaults but the most assuredly can be used to land NSW or Marines in lower threat enviroments. But I would still add some more weapons like RWS or Mk38? NO CIWS is far over the top.

    The well deck can easily be converted to carry containerized hosptials, berthing modules, etc. With a crane RHIBs can be lifted up and over for VBSS on naval landing party ops. A UAV pad can obviously added. (Army LCMs landed helos in the Brownwater Navy)

    Most of the above goes to using LSVs as mini-motherships.

  • Oblat

    Every now and then a colonel suggests something like this and the defense industry just laughs at the naivety and returns to their monopoly profits.

  • I do like it, but can it travel half way around the world? Keeping up with a Navy fleet?
    I guess they could be forward deployed.
    And this is a Army stepping on the Navies toes…. Thank god for inner service rivalry :)
    Many people here think it is a sitting duck. But the point is, all the fire power and defensive measures are already on the carrier and destroyers. If the coast has not been bombed to shreds they would not be sending the LCACS in either.
    I do see a role for these in the Navy. You can have the fast amphibious vehicles that can take the fight inland for the first wave. To secure the beach head.
    Once that is done, these can come in and keep the materials and vehicles coming…..

  • leesea

    LSV are not about interservice rivalry or not about amphibious assault. A very long time ago, the Army was given the LOTS mission to provide sustainment cargo movement. The Navy drives LCACs for the Marines to do their amphibious assaults. A clear distinction.

    All that stuff about the Navy taking the fight inland is hype leftover from WW2. In reality the Navy does not have enough landing craft and prefers to fund equisite amphibs resulting in far too few hulls to perform a division size assault properly. Only about 80 LCACs are in USN inventory worldwide. 20+ yrs old and their replacement won’t show up for another 5 to 7 yrs.

    Meanwhile the US Army has about a dozen LSVs and many companies of LCU 2000s and scores of LCMs to deliver the beans and bullets to the beachead.

    this from a former Gator sailor

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    Early Dawn. The simple truths are that first it’s been sixty yeas since, breaking down the door through with a battalion size or larger amphibious assault has been used. Since then several generations of military tactics have come and gone and the likely hood that this costly form of entry into a hostile environment both in lives and resources operation would be used in the future is very doubtful.

    Secondly our current and most likely future enemies, terrorists organizations/groups have no desire to operate near coast lines or in countries that have accessible harbors/ports, they know and respect the power of the USN. The terrorists know that the harder they make it for the US to get someplace the better there chances of success are.

    I know its hard for the romantic few out there who only know war through the History Channel and Comic Books, but militaries are dynamic organizations that have to change and adjust to the times and enemy they are facing, not the enemy they think they would like to face. One of our major problem right now in Afghanistan is that the Us is still locked in a cold war mode and we are losing.

    We have to have F-15’s and F-18’s, Strykers, and soldiers carrying 75 lb. loads in 90 degree plus heat. The Taliban just love it. One of the problem mentioned in the fire fight at Wanat is that US troops were stumbling over their own equipment and were slowed down by the amount of weight they were carrying. The 1/17 Stryker Infantry took a terrible beating (70 KIA’s) by the Taliban from IED’s/EFP’s and RPG’s, the Taliban appear to got the Strykers number and have tactically defeated it. Even the AF when asked last Fall about the ineffectiveness of the F-15’s and F-16’s all they could say is well it’s all we got.

    Quite simply other then in the childish imaginations of a few man/boys it is hard to justify the tactical need for the Marines beyond that on a small nimble Naval Infantry force to be on call for the Navy. Historically before the second world war the Army handled amphibious operations quite well, there is no reason to believe that that this tactically obsolete form of entry to a war zone needs all the resources that the US has been and currently is putting in to it.

    The CBO recognizes this and that is why over the next 30 years they are budgeting for on 20 amphibious warfare ships down from the current 31. In fact two amphibious hauls were canceled a fortnight ago.

    Byron Skinner

  • roland

    If we redisign the hall to carrying 2 hydrofoil boat, redisign the front swing door to carry heavy equipment such as Tanks, Hemvees and add computerized room, redisign the top roof, the top rear roof to a stable flat roof that can carry 3 Apachi helicopters and place 2 ball like modern radars to track foreign ICBM, ballistic missiles it could convert itself to high tech logistic ship.

  • roland

    And add 2 missile and torpedo launchers so it its battle ready

  • roland

    And extend the redesign flat roof up to the nose door like a carrier look design

  • roland

    And add wing-like foils mounted on struts below the hull to increase the speed like that of hydrofoil ships.

  • roland

    On the otherhand it’s better and cheaper to build a new one than redesigning it w/ new design concept.

  • Oblat

    The problem is that the Taliban don’t care about Bill’s pension, they just blow the stryker up anyways.

    The truth is that the marines are about as relevant today as siege artillery. . And even they know it – they are desperately searching for relevance. This is being exploited by the defense industry who promises them a special place in the sun if they only buy their exotic equipment.

    Rather then the slow decline which allows the contractors to milk the system. The DoD could make huge savings by making deep and significant cuts. Cancel the marines and a whole slew of wasteful under-performing programs get instantly canned.

    And you have to love the whole RDF thing – “90 hours to get in 25 years to get out.”

  • russ

    From Global Security: “LSV characteristics and capabilities include:
    ■Length (overall): 273 feet. ■Beam (molded): 60 feet. ■Displacement (weight): 4,199 LTONs.
    ■Deck area: 10,500 square feet (21 to 24 M1 main battle tanks or 25 [50 double-stacked] 20-foot ISO containers). ■Bow ramp opening: 26 feet wide. ■Payload: 2,000 STONs (86 C-141 loads). ■Range: 8,200 nautical miles at 12.5 knots (light); 6,500 nautical miles at 11.5 knots (loaded). ■Draft: 6 feet (light); 12 feet (loaded). ■Drive-through capability (bow and stem ramps). ■Self-delivery range: 6,500 nautical miles. ■Transports heavy, outsized cargo including rolling stock, general cargo, and ISO containers.”

  • russ

    To clarify for some posters,
    The bow ramp is already capable of handling tanks.
    The Army wouldn’t need the Intra-theatre support is the Navy would provide it, but the Navy doesn’t.. It doesn’t need modification of the hull to launch RHIBs because it has both bow and stern ramps. It doesn’t get there all that fast, but it does get there, with 2000 tons of whatever you want to send. If speed is not required in but a floating, movable platform is, the LSV makes better sense than an LCS. Or, to look at it another way, do you want to put out a fire or do you want to prevent the fire in the first place?

  • Byron Skinner

    Good morning Folks,

    Odd I didn’t say a thing about the M-113, but the idiot right wing has ran out of any thing to say on this subjects so the have to start inventing their usual lies and misinformation. Oh well they can go back to their plastic models and toy soldiers.

    To Oblat. I agree with you. I might not go as far as you may in reducing the Marines, I can see the use of a Light Naval Infantry force, and the number being uses by people in the loop on the future of the Marines of about 75,000 I can’t disagree with.

    All of the information on the next reset of the Us military for a thirty year p;an included a much reduced Marine Corp. for it’s pre 9/11 levels. The Navy’s future force planning document call for only 20 amphibious warfare ships to be made over the thirty year span. I would be surprises, since tis list appears to be a zero sum deal to see the amphibious ships cut more in favor of more attack submarines, far more useful hauls then LSD’s, LPD’s, LHA’s, LHD’s etc.

    The Stryker has become a easy target for the Taliban, it has almost zero practical use as a fighting vehicle. The Strykers utility value exist only in the minds man boys who have fantasies of being in the military but just don’t have the guts to do it, of officers and defense contractors who’s careers have a vested interest in the Stryker program, they share Sir John Falstaff’s attitude of the common soldier as expressed in Henry IV, a few GI’s getting killed, what’s the big deal soldiers are there to feed the powder anyway.

    The only way we can get the Stryker in and out of Afghanistan is on Soviet built An-124’s from Diego Garcia. The same people who now call themselves “The Russian Federation” that the people form those peculiar institutions winger tanks seem to still want to bash.

    Byron Skinner

  • William C.

    Honestly Byron, I expect you to start shouting about the great M113 any second judging from all of the misinformation your getting off of Mike Spark’s sites. Of course the Navy would rather have more submarines and fighting ships than amphibious assault craft. It is the Marine Corp’s job to make sure they do get enough.

    Once again you fail to answer my point that if you wanted the Army to have that ability to rapidly deploy from the sea, you would need to have those assets the Marine Corp has. Yet the Army already has enough on their plate and simply wouldn’t have time to train every soldier about ship-board operations and other topics related to the Marine’s traditional role.

    The Stryker is not an easy target nor does it have zero practical use. The M1126 ICV is more of a traditional “battlefield taxi” than the M2 Bradley and as such doesn’t typically slug it out with the enemy. Maybe you should educate yourself on what soldiers in Stryker brigades have to say before you bash the platform. Three Strykers can be carried by a C-17A, several will easily fit in a C-5, and if the vehicle is not too heavily loaded with additional equipment and armor, one will fit in a C-130J. It does not take the An-124 to move them.

    Cut the childish insults or at least try to defend your misinformed claims. If you did serve Byron, whatever nonsense the left-wing has been spoon feeding you has clearly impaired your judgment.

  • Oblat

    The problem with the Stryker is that it was designed for precisely the wrong problem – getting into an insurgency in 90 hours. It turns out that getting into such wars fast enough isn’t the problem. The real problem is getting out of them in less than three decades.

    But I’m sure Bill will point out that the poor performance of the Stryker with IEDs helps in that regard too.

    • William C.

      This discussion isn’t about why or how long we are going to be in Afghanistan or Iraq. Attacking the vehicle due to strategic concerns is plain idiotic, but that does seem to be your area of expertise around here. Do you criticize your car after you drive it into a ditch too?

      Poor performance against IEDs? Hardly. Find me an APC in the same weight class (16-20 tons) that has superior protection against mines and IEDs while maintaining a high degree of mobility.

  • roland

    I think we need to focus more on how to win at a shorter period of time in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Irag than focusing more on equipment and emphasize more on good planning, logistic and strategy on countering future nuclear threats from rough nation like North Korea, Iran and prossibly its allies too. Because we already have all the equipments we need, we just need good strategy and logistics.

  • leesea

    Yes LSVs can serve a mini-motherships, but they lack the full set of capabilities which the Brownwater Navy’s AGP (ex-LSTs) did in Vietnam. Those boat tenders had full boat M&R crew support plus good sized helo deck for Seawolf gunships to fly off of (something else the USN does NOT have in its fleet as yet.) And real guns and a CIC also. (yes I spent time on an AGP which supported my PBRs.)

    Now to throw in the Plan B curve ball:
    LSVs are good inexpensive ships which the Army needs for LOTS operations, but how about a USN platform as real mothership? There is NO need to take LSVs from their Army mission to standup a offshore mothership. MSC has been chartering OSVs for such missions for decades now. The Navy could quite easily charter any number of modern US built OSVs suitablly modified for the mothership role. It would not take billions nor a long time to do such. The problem is that naval leadership discounts the expedient answer to less intense missions. The KISS principle is not being applied

  • leesea

    Yes LSVs can serve a mini-motherships, but they lack the full set of capabilities which the Brownwater Navy’s AGP (ex-LSTs) did in Vietnam. Those boat tenders had full boat M&R crew support plus good sized helo deck for Seawolf gunships to fly off of (something else the USN does NOT have in its fleet as yet.) And real guns and a CIC also. (yes I spent time on an AGP which supported my PBRs.)

  • Oblat

    Well the **** just hit the fan with the release of the wikileaks documents. Americans can read about the full extent of the disaster in Afghanistan in the words of their own officials.

  • Oblat

    Well the **** just hit the fan with the release of the wikileaks documents. Americans can read about the full extent of the disaster in Afghanistan in the words of their own officials.

  • Craig Hooper

    Leesea–If you submit that LSVs are built on the same relative vein as LSTs, then surely you can accept that LSVs can be modified to AGP standards–the modification to AGP from LST didn’t take very long, even.

    If you are so worried about LOTS, we can “borrow” a few existing LSVs that are not being fully occupied, test ’em, and then build a few extra–adding in the various modifications that might make the LSV a more effective “mothership lite” platform.

    Build ’em with an intent to serve as a LCS and JHSV support/resupply vessel and/or presence craft for low-threat regions.

  • Day

    if used properly and in the right situation this could be an extremely useful platform. while it is obviously not going to be able to go up against modern AShM weapons, as far as providing a modular platform for a variety of operations in a low threat environment or in conjunction with aegis warships for force prescence type missions, it seems perfect. as stated above, it brings to mind the barge used in operation prime chance to great succuess. however any suggestion that this vessel could be used on the front line of a modern amphibious landing against a force equipped with guided long range weapons is for obvious reasons patently ridiculous, but that doesnt mean there is not a place for it in th US armys arsenal.

  • ohwilleke

    “Increased training should be provided for worldwide amphibious operations, with a focus on Africa…”

    Those words are so unusual that I’m quite curious which part of Africa is contemplated. Yemen? Somolia? A civil war in the Congo? Liberia?

    In reference to the previous common on the anti-piracy helicopter idea, while that is a good one, I wouldn’t ordinary think of that as an “amphibious operation.”

    • Day

      true, but the article does discuss the versatility of these platform outside the amphibious landing role for which it was originally intended.

  • kyle

    how bout for launching small unit special ops missions. put a landing pad on it and have RHIBs with a UAV launch and recovery. it could hold like a platoon of guys and their gear and do secret squirrel **** maybe. idk

  • Kto Tam

    Just a question, but can mobile missile systems like GLMRS, ATACMS, Patriot be fired from the deck of these ships?

  • Cónego

    Caleb wrote: “…it would take a very large very fast swarm to do anything to the fleet, especially if these ships are backed by the normal escorts/cruisers/destroyers/carriers/attack subs that make up a modern American battle fleet.
    am i crazy?”
    Well, Caleb, yes… and no. It’s true that, backed by “the normal escorts/cruisers/destroyers/carriers/attack subs” , these Army cargo haulers would probably be fine. The problem may look like inter-service rivalry, but it isn’t– it’s inter-service speed. I would guess that pretty much any good infantry unit you choose could hump fifty miles in a quarter the time a similar number of sailors could– particularly since after the fifth or sixth mile the sailors would be carrying each other on stretchers, and after the 20th, there’d no longer be much point, since one sailor can’t carry nine buddies.
    Same thing here– do you really think that the battle group has time to wait for the Army’s cargo boats? I’m sure they’re cheap, but if they can’t protect thmselves without a battle group and don’t arrive until 2 weeks after the war is over, it’s a false savings.

  • Jim Craven USN Ret

    It is true that the USN has few assets in the amphibious forces with about 40 large amphibious ships spread between the fleets. Having served over eight years aboard LST’s and two aboard an APA plus two years ashore with a major amphib command…. well, I really miss both the sight of a large formation of amphib ship ready to hit the enemies beach. Practical or not, there is a lot to be said about an ARG knocking on one’s door. If we ever had to man up and fight a war like WWII or invade a beach shch as Inchon we could not do it. Technoligy will only go so far…. it still takes boots on the ground to hold the beachhead. I do not see us landing at Normandy or Iwo Jima again…. Politics and world events will just not allow it.