I have long thought the Army’s little Navy had the potential to drive some innovation–unencumbered by the Navy’s biases and relatively unfamiliar with the traditional way of waging influence at sea, the Army’s fleet has a chance to generate some creative tension by stealing a march or two on the Navy and Marine Corps. Fabrication of the Army’s new littoral tool, “Spearhead,” the first JHSV, got underway this week.

But I’m not talking about the shiny new ship–I’m cheering the doughty old Littoral Support Vessel, a platform we already have.

If you read the July 2010 Proceedings–all the way through–you might have found a little technical note detailing one of the more thankless contributors to America’s “National Fleet”, the U.S. Army’s Logistic Support Vessel (LSV).

It’s a great note–The 8 General Frank S. Besson Class LSVs are next-generation LSTs–expendable, beach-able, plodding, “fill-with-what-you-will” vessels (the picture is one of the Philippine Navy’s 2 helicopter-ready LSV’s working in Balikatan 2010). They are long-legged, lightly-manned utility infielders–perfect for experimentation, maintenance support, logistics aid or, well, almost anything but “high-threat” stuff.

I write about it over at defensetech, but, I’ll say it here too–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. (The LSV is also a small-yard project, so it doesn’t have a big lobby like the oddly named “American Shipbuilding Associationwriting editorials in favor of the platform, either.)

We should be putting these platforms to work in the field. For low-threat regions, the $32 million dollar LSV is a great platform. We should be using it for presence missions, and planning to see how it could support influence squadrons or work in support of a JHSV or LCS. They are simple to make, so we should be handing out contracts to make variants of these things, get ’em into the fleet and then hand ’em out to our friends. They’d be perfect for Africa and the South Pacific–but we’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, head over to defensetech, read the post, and take a moment to cheer USNI contributor Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael W. Carr for taking on the thankless task of popularizing this low-profile and under-appreciated platform! (As some of us in the USNI crowd might say, “HUZZAH!”)


Posted by Defense Springboard in Army, Foreign Policy, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy, Soft Power

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  • The Dutch are using smaller landing craft from their De Witt mothership for chasing pirates.Here’s one that can self-deploy and do other missions, all for a fraction the cost of a LCS. For the type of enemy the Navy/Marines have been facing lately, such a craft would be more than adequate.

    The thing about these smaller, low cost motherships, they often perform functions far in excess of the investment, while our giant, gold-plate wonder warships too often fail in their expectations, used in functions far below their potential. We should buy more these.

  • Chuck Hill

    Looking at the Philippine versions


    These types of ships can serve as mobile bases for both patrol boats and Helicopters, much like the LSTs did during “Game Warden” in Vietnam

  • 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.)

    LSVs are good inexpensive ships which the Army needs for LOTS operations, but how about a USN platform as real mothership. No LCS need apply!

  • Spade

    I wonder how hard it would be to add on the stuff Leesea mentioned. Add a bigger helo deck than the PI ones have, make a CIC type thing out of some containers and strap it on, and slap some 25mms and the like on there.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You keep it up, adding all those things you mention, and you are going to wind up with some of these!


    Not transformational at all!!!!

  • Michael Antoniewicz II

    Build a HC/TC mix variant sub-class, name the *first* one the Pvt. Roger Young, stick a Platoon of US MSOT in her, and watch 1/2 to 3/4’s of the World’s military’s take a dump without making it to the head. 😉

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    “Shines the name, shines the name, shines the name of Roger Young”

    Young, Roger W., Private, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Div (Ohio Buckeyes) born Tiffin, Ohio, 28 April 1918; died 31 July 1943, on the island of New Georgia, the Solmons, South Pacific while singlehandedly attacking and destroying an enemy machine-gun pillbox with rifle fire and hand grenades. Wounded twice while so doing, he closed on the pill box, attacked and destroyed it, while receiving a third, fatal, wound.
    His actions prevented loss to his team mates. Medal of Honor (posthumous).(H/t: Robert A. Heinlein)

    Lest we forget.

  • One of the most useful ships I ever was involved in building was the LSM. Diesel-powered and capable of deep ocean travel, they were used for almost any work. From carrying tanks and troops to beach landings to carting nearly everything from island to island.
    They had reliable engines,shallow draft for the littoral,were quickly built, and a few quickly sunk, but certainly a good basic design for today’s needs. In this situation, they would satisfy a lot of our problems, with some attractive costs I should think, if they would not be layered over with fancy modern stuff.

  • Thomas Arno

    I believe that WW2 LST’s were known as “Large Slow Targets”.

  • “…if they would not be layered over with fancy modern stuff.”

    Ahh, but that would require an acceptance of some risk. Can’t have that. Nope. Too dangerous, you know. For the Navy.


  • Haole Jon

    Wouldn’t adding UAV and supported hardware (data links, consoles, “CIC”) increase the price, defeating the low cost, as well as making them less expendable? And the Navy is concerned with high threat, not low threat (they already have LCACs, Helos, PC’s that can cover that arena).

    Sure, this platform does extremely well for the Army and its designated mission, and could augment a Navy Amphibious Assault as well, but for the Navy’s Littoral focus, it could not do what LCS is already capable of doing (even with all the hiccups) or current FFGs. It could not survive the threat environment these other platforms are capable of, and “too dangerous” means “Sailors die.” I wouldn’t put 10 of these vessels up against one Iranian small boat (or look at the tactics used by the Tamil Tigers against India).

    So, LSV, great for the Army, but I wouldn’t cry “Damn the Torpedoes” from its helm.

  • I wouldn’t either, but as I say above,

    “For low-threat regions, the $32 million dollar LSV is a great platform.”

    Low threat is just that. In certain low threat areas, it’s OK to assume a little more risk than we currently stand. It’s not like there are Iranian small boat swarms around every corner, waiting to ambush us…

  • Haole Jon

    I concur, LSV would work in a low threat environment. But, for today’s naval mission, were is that?

    Maybe HOA, where the pirates may have RPG at most, or oil platform defense in the North Arabian Gulf (with access to air and surface support), but that’s about it.

    Counter narcotics in South America? I believe it would be too slow for direct operations. Yes, it could act as a mothership for UAV’s, but is that enough to justify procurement when what we have now is doing a good job down there already?

    Again, in an amphibious assault, or Non-Combatant Evacuation mission, LSV’s could make a significant addition, but I don’t see that they could replace what the Navy already has for that (in fact LCS could carry as many, if not more people for that mission with only a two days to configure its load out, and do it at 4 or 5 times its speed, but I know everyone here hates LCS, so I digress).

    So, I agree what was said in the original post it could “support influence squadrons or work in support of a JHSV or LCS,” however I don’t see what else it could do that the Navy already has that would be worth procurement. So maybe there are low-threat areas I’m not familiar with that the Navy needs to either begin operations in, or they already are, but are wasting DDGs and CGs on (again, HOA comes up), but I personally don’t see a great need for it.

  • Michael Antoniewicz II

    Flanking movements, maintenance & logistic toeholds, get the FRACK out of Dodge lifts, dispersed re-supply, dispersed transport…. 😉

    Right now, the Navy’s landing craft can only reach from their transport ships while the LSV’s are ocean going. Also, LSV’s, unlike transports, don’t require *any* kind of port facilities to off/on load. And on the Gripping Hand, presently all an Enemy has to do is get lucky *once* when they shoot at us in the Logistics Tail and we’re stuck so far up the creek we’re already in but now without a paddle. 🙁

    Build more because eight certainly isn’t enough. 😉

  • Alan Minyard

    The Navy’s history with low cost platforms has shown that such ships (FF,FFG, PHM,etc.) cannot perform even their limited missions in an acceptable manner. There is muck truth in the old saying that “you get what you pay for”.

  • Ahh, but Alan, were those low-cost platforms used the wrong way?

  • John Carraway

    Hell, the Navy had plenty of cruisers and destroyers that could have been allotted to the Army after WWII. They were all scrapped by the “arm-chair admirals” in Congress. Building storage facilities for those ships after the war would have been a wiser investment than scrapping and building new ships to replace them. Scores of dry docks should have been built. The cost to rebuild and upgrade old armored ships may be the same as building new ones, but the new ones would not have near as much armor as the old ones, due to the cost of steel today. Today’s ships cannot take a hit and keep on fighting, they’re out of action with one missile. The old WWII ships were built when steel was plentiful and cheap. We cannot afford to build them that strong today, so more’s the loss. Especially wasteful was the scrapping of the two Alaska-class cruisers, which were brand new. They could have been upgraded to nuclear power with all the latest electronics (only 12″ guns). Removal of the rear turret would have allowed the installation of missile silos and a helo pad. Reagan understood the “armor-advantage factor” when he upgraded the Iowa’s. Nuclear power is affordable if the ship can survive in combat: none of our battleships were sunk in WWII against the Japanese Navy in all-out combat. The finest BB’s in the world were built by the U.S., and the best candidates for conversion were the New Mexico and Tennessee classes with their (12)14″ guns (two turrets could be removed from the aft). Actually, today’s Navy is under-gunned with the standard 5″ gun, and should be upgraded to the 8″ for better use of sub-munitions and greater range.