Two of the U.S. Navy's newest seabasing platforms will be located near Japan and South Korea, the secretary of the Navy revealed this week.
Speaking before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Tuesday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus reaffirmed the Marine Corps' need for a minimum of 34 amphibious ships, ideally 38, up from today's total of 30. But new classes of seabasing ships based on civilian ship designs were coming online to relieve some of the demand on traditional amphibs, he said.
"While they don't replace in any sense amphibious ships, we've got some other classes of ships that can assist in amphibious operations," Mabus said. "They're not built to survivability standards, they're not supposed to be, but they can help ease a little bit of the burden as we can put them places that today we're having to use amphibs. The amphibs are probably too much of a ship there."
Among these platforms is the expeditionary transfer dock, formerly known as the mobile landing platform. Designed to serve as floating bases, to aid in prepositioning, and to assist with the transfer of landing craft from larger ships, two expeditionary transfer docks have now been built: the Montford Point and the John Glenn.
Mabus confirmed that these ships will find long-term homes in the Pacific as the Navy continues a shift to base 60 percent of all assets in that theater by 2020.
"We're planning on hubbing the expeditionary transfer docks in the Pacific around Japan and Korea," he said. "And we're planning on hubbing the expeditionary fast transports around Japan and Singapore."
Expeditionary fast transports, formerly known as joint high-speed vessels, are designed to move troops or gear payloads rapidly between two locations. The Marine Corps has used the platform in South and Central America and elsewhere to transport troops and has expressed interest in making ramp alterations that would allow it to carry the Corps' future amphibious combat vehicles, which are still under development.
There are six expeditionary fast transports, with five more under construction or in planning.
Mabus did not specify where near Japan and Korea the Montford Point and the John Glenn would be permanently located. But the Montford Point is currently operating near South Korea to participate in the joint SSang Yong and Freedom Banner exercises, highlighting the concept of joint seabasing. During the exercise, the roll-on/roll-off cargo ship GYSGT Fred W. Stockham will moor itself to the Montford Point to create a larger floating base from which to launch operations. It's the first time the concept has been tested during an exercise.
The final platform in the Navy's trio of seabasing ships, the expeditionary staging base, includes a flight deck and is expected to be used by the Marines for non-combat missions including humanitarian aid and disaster assistance, embassy security, and noncombatant evacuations. The class now includes two ships: the Lewis B. Puller and the Herschel "Woody" Williams, both delivered to the Navy last June. While Navy and Marine Corps officials have said the Puller is due to replace the amphibious transport dock Ponce in the Persian Gulf late this year or early next, no basing location has been announced for the Williams to date. "It will remain for the [geographic combatant commanders] to state their case but we do expect demand to continue as the ships prove their utility," Expeditionary Warfare Division Commander Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens told Military.com in January.