It’s a little known fact that the Army has as many boats as the Navy—about
300. They perform different functions, however. The Army’s vessels provide
strategic logistics and force projection, especially intra-theater.
The lighter platforms include mechanized landing craft, utility landing craft,
logistics support vessels, the LARC LX amphibian, miscellaneous small harbor
boats (J boats) and amphibious re-supply cargo modular causeway systems.
Floating utility systems include small tugs, large tugs and pusher tugs. Other
vessels include floating machine shops, barges, cargo barges, derrick and floating
The Army also is developing a new ship, called the Theater Support Vessel.
The service already has leased a high-speed vessel, called TSV-1X Spearhead,
which deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The TSV possess more transformation potential than any other system
currently in development as it will change not only the way the Army deploys,
but will change the way the Army and the Joint Task Force fights,” said
Col. Genaro Dellarocco, Army program manager for force projection, combat service,
combat service support.
“Specifically, the TSV allows us to go into shallow areas and land almost
anywhere,” he said. “It carries its infrastructure with it, and
with the anti-access port strategies of our enemies, it is an essential tool
for the future.”
Employing the TSV is an “anti-access area denial risk mitigation”
strategy since “port denial is one of the most likely early scenarios,”
according to the Defense Department’s Mobility Requirements Study.
Dave Crum, a program official at the Combined Arms Support Command, told an
industry briefing that “the TSV mission is to rapidly self deploy to a
joint operations area and provide operational and tactical level intra-theater
sealift of forces (personnel and equipment).”
Twelve TSVs in one theater could move an entire Stryker brigade in one lift.
With six TSVs in two geographically different theaters, two brigades could be
moved in two lifts. The exact number of TSVs to be procured is yet to be determined.
The Army Requirements Oversight Council approved the TSV request in April 2003.
Not limited to major ports, the TSV will operate in austere and degraded environments
without losing effectiveness, because of its shallow draft capabilities. The
vessel can move more than 40 knots fully loaded (current logistics support vessel
speed is 10 knots). Its capacity is 1,250 short tons with a range of 4,700 nautical
miles at 40 knots with a light load. Its sea state is 7+ survivable with a wave
height up to 40 feet.
Ship operators can conduct en-route mission planning with on-board joint interoperable
command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and
While aircraft may deploy some forces and their equipment to distant theaters,
sealift will continue to be vital, since 95 percent of dry cargo and 99 percent
of liquid cargo will likely move by sea.
Some experts have observed that air movement times across the Pacific are measured
in hours, but sailing times still reflect the “tyranny of distance.”
There is another reason to consider the building and employment of the TSV.
The U.S. shipbuilding industrial base is in trouble. More than 60 shipyards
have gone out of business in the last 40 years, eliminating over 200,000 jobs.
The number of U.S. flagged cargo ships has fallen from 3,644 in 1948 to 351.
Only 128 of these are ocean-going and only three nations have fleets with an
average age older than American fleets.
The U.S. share of the world shipping market has plummeted, from 43 percent
in 1950 to 4 percent today. Foreign companies carry 97 percent of all cargo
between U.S. and foreign ports. The last U.S. flagged merchant ship was built