Industry Executive: Amphibious Transport Docks Could Host Missile Defense Systems

By Jon Harper

Huntington Ingalls Industries is in discussions with defense officials about potentially putting missile defense radars and laser weapons on San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks, a company executive said Jan. 13.

“You can put a lot of additional weight on the ship and you can put … some modern technologies like ballistic missile defense radars that are very heavy,” Brian Cuccias, corporate vice president at HII and president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, told reporters on the sidelines of a Surface Navy Association symposium in Arlington, Virginia. “We think it’s a great idea.”

The vessels, which are manufactured by the company, have design features that make them well-suited to carry a large radar, he said

“You have a design life margin …. on some ships that say you can only take so much more weight before you have a stability issue or, you know, you don’t have your margins,” he said. “When you close in the well deck of the LPD ship you expand that capability to take a lot of weight, and the stability on LPD is such you can actually put weight up high” where missile defense radars would be positioned.

One of the challenges of hosting ballistic missile defense radars is the need to power them and cool them, Cuccias noted. “You need arrangeable volume for power generation. You need arrangeable volume to have cooling,” he said. “LPD allows for that. … The basic bones of the ship allow that to take place.”

Cuccias would not say which officials have discussed the idea with him. “We’re talking about it and so there is some interest, but that’s as far as I really want to go,” he said, adding that he believes interest is “growing.”

The Navy is hoping to equip some of its ships with high-powered lasers and electromagnetic railguns to enable them to shoot down enemy missiles and aircraft and attack surface targets with the emerging technologies. Cuccias said the LPD could potentially host those types of weapons.

“You can put a pretty significant power generation plant or plants on the platform and you could put pretty significant cooling capabilities on that platform,” he said. “And the platform, because of its internal volume and … because of its stability, can handle it without radical changes to the ship.”

The company has discussed this idea with Navy officials, Cuccias said.

Cuccias’ remarks came at a time when the sea services are looking to make vessels more multi-purpose and multi-mission capable. That includes potentially putting additional weapons, sensors and other capabilities on certain classes of ships.

Ingalls Shipbuilding has delivered nine San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks to the Navy. LPDs 26 and 27 are under construction and are slated for delivery this year and next year, respectively.

The Navy recently released a request for proposals for LPD 28. Huntington Ingalls is still evaluating it, Cuccias said. “I don’t want to go into the details and the specifics of the requirements, but in terms of the RFP …. there are some other modifications into the ship requirements,” he said.

Photo: LPD-17 (Navy)

Topics: Missile Defense, Shipbuilding, Surface Ships

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