Shipbuilder Proposes New Landing Platform Dock Variant to Navy
Huntington Ingalls Industries is proposing a new Flight II variant for the next-generation ship, which is designed to facilitate expeditionary warfare. It would allow the Navy to more easily upgrade combat, sensor, and communication systems aboard the ship. The company builds the San Antonio-class LPDs (landing platform docks).
The company has invested some internal research-and-development money to design the Flight II variant, and is just beginning to float the concept to the military, said Irwin Edenzon, president of the Ingalls Shipbuilding division, during a Jan 16 briefing to reporters at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.
"We're in our initial stages of running this idea by the Navy,” he said. “We're getting some encouragement that it might be a good idea. Nobody is running out, writing us a contract or sending us money, but we are talking to people who say, 'You know this thing sounds like it might make sense to look into.'"
The company started work on Flight II with no requirements from the Navy, so executives applied the requirements for a Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship to a landing platform dock, said Mike Duthu, director of the LPD program. “We kept the lift capability for the Marines in mind, we kept survivability in mind, and we said, 'How do we bring down the cost?'"
The Flight II could accommodate 500 Marines and would have a simplified bulwark. It would be powered by two diesel engines as opposed to the four in the original LPD. It would also have one collective protection system instead of four. The plans call for eliminating one generator and simplifying its hydraulics systems, Duthu said.
It could be outfitted for ballistic missile defense missions by removing amphibious capabilities and adding X- and S-band radar and missile launchers. The BMD version also incorporates an aircraft elevator to a below-deck hanger that could fit two MV-22 Ospreys, Duthu said.
Edenzon was clear Flight II was not meant to replace the destroyers and cruisers that already do ballistic missile defense. Rather, it can free up destroyers for other missions during a prolonged conflict, he said.
The company wants to continue the LPD-17 production line for a 12th ship, which would allow the company to leverage a “hot” production line to keep its workforce in place, Edenzon said. The company is scheduled to deliver the 11th and final LPD in 2017. Some of the Flight II concepts could be applied to this proposed 12th ship.
Depending on the requirements, the company may choose to put forth the Flight II as a contender for the LX(R), which would eventually replace the LPD.
"The Navy is still in the process of looking at its AOA [analysis of alternatives] and requirements on the LX(R),” Edenzon said. “If we were to move in that direction, the Navy has put a number out on the street for what they would like to pay for that ship, and we believe we can do that or better."
Amphibious ships are doing a lot of work out in the fleet, so there could be enough demand for a 12th LPD, Edenzon said. If the Navy is interested, the company could tweak the design to help drive down costs.
"Part of what we're going to propose is we're going to take a look at all of those things … that relate to the radar cross section, that relate to the bulwark, that relate to the number of generators,” he said, “There are opportunities we would propose to the Navy, [and ask] 'Okay are these acceptable changes to you?' If they are, this is how much money we take off.”
HII would like to see a decision on a 12th ship next year, Edenzon added.
Navy and Marine officials have indicated they would be open to acquiring an LPD variant to fill that need. “Everything is on the table,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Timothy C. Hanifen, director of the Navy’s expeditionary warfare division, in a Jan. 16 speech at the symposium. “Affordability will be decision driver for these ships.”
Because Flight II’s major selling point is its adaptability, Huntington Ingalls officials talked to sensor, radar and weapons system developers in order to determine whether the ship had enough space, capability and power to accommodate various platforms.
"We have spoken to a number of the people who are incumbents that are out there that the Navy will probably rely on to outfit this ship in the future," he said. "All of the indications that we've gotten are that we can provide those kinds of capabilities," Edenzon said.
Photo Credit: Huntington Ingalls Industries