MLP

WASHINGTON: The Navy’s top admiral talked up cheap ships and high tech this morning, from laser weapons to a new double-decker version of the Mobile Landing Platform vessel (pictured above). Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said precious little about the rolling budget cuts called sequestration. He clearly preferred to emphasize a bold vision of the future rather than the current budget crisis that has forced the fleet to halve its aircraft carrier presence in the volatile Persian Gulf.

Indeed, speaking at a Newseum conference sponsored by McAleese & Associates and Credit Suisse [click here for full coverage], the CNO struck a remarkably optimistic note about the current fiscal misery: “If we get a bill at the end of this month, all of the carrier woes” — delays not just to deployments but to maintenance overhauls — “all go away,” Adm. Greenert said. “The money’s in place; we [just] need the authority to spend it.” Keep reading →


We attended the christening last week of the newest US Navy ship, an 80,000 ton (fully laden) vessel that is not an aircraft carrier.

Instead, the USNS Montford Point is the first of a new class of Navy ships, a Mobile Landing Platform, in essence a deployed port at sea. The ship, built at General Dynamics’s NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, adds to the ongoing revolution in what is called “seabasing,” the idea of supplying and sustaining military operations directly from ships at sea without requiring ports or staging bases on the land, a revolution which is being made possible by new ships, new aircraft, and new ways to use existing capabilities as part of the evolving seabase Keep reading →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

Greg Sanders CSIS photo

  As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… Keep reading →


SAN DIEGO: Saturday saw the formal christening of the USNS Montford Point, the first of a new class of Navy vessel, the Mobile Landing Platform, meant to revolutionize the conduct of amphibious operations. By serving as a kind of floating pier, the MLP allows an amphibious force to offload heavy combat vehicles and bulk supplies at sea, without having to capture a major seaport — which can be a bloody chokepoint in seaborne operations.

An unarmed vessel operated by civilians rather than by uniformed Navy personnel — hence the designation USNS, United States Naval Ship, rather than USS — and derived from a commercial oil tanker design, the Montford Point boasts a unique and visually striking “cut away” design: a high forecastle and aftercastle at either end with a much lower main deck between them. The ship is in fact semi-submersible, designed to take on ballast until the main deck is beneath the waves. That allows landing craft to sail right aboard for loading and unloading, principally the Navy LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) hovercraft and its successor the SSC (Ship-to-Shore Connector). In conjunction with a kind of deployable build-a-port kit called Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS), the Mobile Landing Platform is intended to enable a new kind of amphibious warfare that can put troops ashore — and sustain them — without depending on a port. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Full speed ahead and damn the drawdown — that’s the confident note that the Navy’s top admiral struck today.

“We’re not downsizing, we’re growing,” declared Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, at the National Press Club. “The ship count is going up and the number of people is going up.” Keep reading →


WASHINGTON: The defense spending bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee today keeps Block 30 Global Hawk drones flying, instead of letting them be warehoused as the Air Force had planned, a congressional source confirmed to Breaking Defense. That is arguably the final flourish on Congress’s utter rejection of the Air Force’s proposed cuts in the 2013 budget. The bill passed by a vote of 30-0.

Breaking Defense plowed through 300 pages of report language released to the press this afternoon and picked out new details about winners and losers. But all of this detail might be overtaken by events. Keep reading →

In the end, it was a near-run thing. The US-led coalition broke through to the refugee camps and began delivering aid. But their supply lines were stretched thin across land and sea, with an entire Army brigade embarked on rented cruise ships at one point. Ashore, the troops took heavy losses from local Islamic militants whom they never entirely defeated. In the end, indeed, it didn’t really end: US troops were left in the middle of a conflict that threatened to escalate to a wider regional war. It’s just that the wargamers ran out of time. Keep reading →

While the Marines are famous for amphibious landings, they depend on Army assets (shown here) for large-scale logistics.

Going back to the future ain’t easy. After a decade largely spent waging land wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Marine Corps wants to reemphasize large-scale amphibious operations, like its recent “Bold Alligator” exercise. But to do that in the face of rising threats, shrinking budgets, and limited assets, they’re going to have to rely not only on their traditional partners in the U.S. Navy but increasingly on the Army, friendly nations, and even the commercial sector for logistical support to get them ashore. Keep reading →