Since its approval in 2005, no concept has been analyzed and discussed more than the Seabasing Joint Integrating Concept (JIC). Driving the interest in Seabasing is the increasingly difficult problem of operational access for our military forces—not only of an adversary seeking to deny access to an operating area but also of reluctant allies struggling to balance domestic sensitivities and priorities with their regional security obligations. For the Marines operating in this environment, Seabasing provides MAGTFs the capabilities needed for engagement, crisis response, and power projection across the range of military operations.
By capitalizing on technologies already in development, and through a series of new technology development initiatives, substantial progress has been made towards making Seabasing a reality.
- With the introduction of the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) into the sea base comes the ability for at-sea transfer of heavy equipment to and from amphibious and maritime prepositioning ships.
- Although not yet programmed for fleet introduction, innovative prototype crane systems were developed to quickly and safely move cargo between ships in higher sea states.
- A new ship class, the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) along with the planned recapitalization of both non-displacement and displacement landing craft (SSC, SC(X)) greatly increases the capacity and speed of forces and sustainment flowing in to, between, and from the sea base.
New technologies, coupled with new operating concepts, provide ever greater selective access and retrieval of equipment and supplies. And last but not least is the significant increase in our Seabasing capability stemming from Sailors and Marines putting the concept in to practice using today’s platforms and systems.
Even with this progress, there is still much work to do before Seabasing is more fully realized. As an example, much of the technology being fielded or under development gives the sea base a capability to operate into sea state 3 (SS-3) conditions. Those technologies need to be enhanced to provide for operations through SS-4.
The overarching goal for our Science and Technology (S&T) efforts is to ensure that the various components of the sea base are interoperable (connected), optimized to support MAGTF employment in the 2025 operating environment (including higher sea states), and operated in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Advanced Mooring System (AMS)
The Advanced Mooring System (AMS) enables quick, safe mooring at sea with minimal manpower (no line handling). When installed on the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) or other platforms it facilitates their use as a hub for transfer of materials, equipment, payloads, mission packages, and personnel.
One of the most difficult challenges for forces conducting sea-based operations is the need to bring ships, vessels, craft, and lighterage together in order to transfer personnel, equipment, and cargo from one platform to another in less than ideal weather conditions. AMS will help sea-based forces quickly and safely moor connectors and high flare container ships to the MLP in high sea states. In addition to enhancing deck crew safety, AMS significantly widens the operating envelop for force closure, arrival and assembly, employment, sustainment, and reconstitution operations.
AMS is over halfway through its five year development program by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). It completes its S&T phase in FY15 after which it starts its Research and Development (R&D) development phase under the Strategic Sealift R&D program.
Interface Ramp Technology (IRT)
The IRT project is developing technologies for future JHSV ramps. JHSV’s incorporating these technologies will offload quickly and efficiently across a wider range of operating conditions than is possible with the current JHSV ramp. IRT technologies will lead to an advanced, lightweight, cost-effective ramp system for the JHSV capable of sea state 3 (threshold) and sea state 4 (objective) transfer operations.
The JHSV is a critical surface connector, linking intermediate staging bases (ISBs), ships of the sea base, and forces operating ashore. The JHSV—as currently delivered—is limited in its ability to affect those connections in all but the lowest sea states. In order to enhance its ability to transfer personnel, equipment, and cargo within the sea base in more adverse environmental conditions the JHSV needs a more capable ramp.
ONR’s IRT effort will complete its S&T phase in late 2014 after which it delivers those technologies to PEO Ships for further R&D development and ramp design. Incorporation of IRT ramp technologies on JHSVs is an ongoing discussion within the Navy.
Environmental Ship Motion Forecasting (ESMF)
ESMF is a decision support tool forecasting wave motion and ship motion in response to wave motion. The tool helps ship captains, masters, and their deck crews determine whether it is prudent and safe to conduct ship-ship transfer of people, equipment, and cargo. ESMF’s components include wave radar and a computer distributing environmental and ship motion information to operators throughout the ship.
ESMF significantly increases the safety of inter- and intra-ship operations while also extending the operating environment for various missions. ESMF’s ability to predict ship motions will significantly increase the safety of operations between two vessels conducting cargo transfer at sea (LMSR/MLP, MLP/LCAC, etc.). It extends the operational environment for various missions by predicting time periods or ship headings where cargo movement may be conducted despite sea states normally beyond safe operating limits.
ONR completes its ESMF S&T phase in 2015, after which PEO Ships continues development and testing. Decisions on which ships will benefit from ESMF have been deferred until the technology is tested and validated.
Flexible Sea-based Force Projection (FSFP)
ONR’s FSFP effort develops inflatable structure technologies to facilitate cargo transfer operations, surface connector interfaces, and amphibious vehicle launch and recovery in the sea base by mitigating local sea states and increasing the functionality of existing platforms.
FSFP is unique in its approach of reducing local sea states (vice engineering ever stronger interfaces). Inflatable, fillable rigid structures deploy as wave barriers that reduce sea states in and around ships, vessels, craft, and platforms from SS-4 to SS-3 or from SS-3 to SS-1. An added benefit of the FSFP is its use of the same inflatable structure technologies to enable launch and recovery of amphibious vehicles from other than amphibious ships.
FSFP’s payoff is increased access to ships and their equipment across the sea base, better at-sea transfer operations in higher sea states, and potential launch & recovery interfaces for amphibious vehicles.
ONR begins its multi-year FSFP development effort in FY-17.
Ultra Heavy-lift Amphibious Connector (UHAC)
UHAC is an ONR initiative to mature and refine technologies for use in future watercraft development programs. A displacement craft with buoyancy and propulsion provided by an innovative captive air-cell technology, a future full scale UHAC would have up to three times the payload of the Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) and approximately the payload of a 1600-series Landing Craft Utility (LCU). It would have the same well deck footprint as an SSC with speeds twice that of an LCU. The captive air cell technology also yields a low ground pressure footprint (less than 2 psi) giving it the ability to traverse mud flats or climb over obstacles in excess of 10 feet. With a projected range of over 200 miles, UHAC could deliver forces and sustainment from well over a horizon.
Future surface connectors with UHAC’s speed, payload, range, and ability to operate to and through a beach gives MAGTF commanders a significant advantage in projecting force ashore. ONR has successfully demonstrated UHAC’s potential with fifth- and half-scale demonstrators. Testing and technology development continue through a variety of funding sources. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is sponsoring a half-scale UHAC demonstration during their 2014 Advanced Warfighting Experiment (in conjunction with RIMPAC 2014). ONR product managers are currently working with a number of DOD agencies to secure funding for future product development. Development of a full-scale technology demonstrator is a possibility.
Large Vessel Interface Lift On/Lift Off (LVI LO/LO)
LVI LO/LO is an advanced, motion-compensated, at-sea cargo transfer system enabling transfer of fully-loaded cargo containers between ships and vessels in up to sea state 4. Once the technology is fully developed, it will give the warfighter the ability to move containerized logistics through the sea base without having to secure a deep water port for container ship off-loading. This capability greatly increases potential throughput of the sea base and provides a key logistical enabler for support of a joint forces operating ashore.
The Dense Pack Access Retrieval and Transit (DPART) is a 30 month, FY13 Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) co-sponsored by PACOM and TRANSCOM with the Marine Corps as the lead service. This JCTD consists of two systems: the Container-Lift and Maneuver System (C-LMS) and the Autonomous Naval Transport-Large Wheeled Vehicle (ANT-LWV).
The C-LMS is specifically designed to lift and maneuver 20 foot ISO Containers in confined spaces not accessible by traditional material handling equipment (MHE). The ANT-LWV is designed to lift and maneuver 3-axle vehicles within the MTVR family of vehicles. Both the C-LMS and the ANT-LWV will improve the ability to dense pack prepositioning vessels while still allowing for selective access and retrieval of those containerized supplies.
DPART gives geographic combatant commanders the flexibility to reconfigure loads en route to an operating area. Additionally, these capabilities have a wide array of applications at bases, stations, and depots in the movement of deadlined or non-operational vehicles. The JCTD commenced in Aug 2013 and is scheduled to transition to the General Services Administration (GSA) in FY16.