Future Amphibious Combat Vehicles

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Why would anyone what an Amphibious Tank?

Current and Future US Marine Corps Doctrine depend on two platforms to move their heavy direct power, the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) from ship to shore. These platforms are the US Navy's LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) and LCU (R) (Landing Craft Utility, Replacement). While there is indead other landing craft available to the US Military, these two are the only two that meet the future 'over the horizon' movement requirement. Simply put, neither the US Navy, nor it's associated Marine Corps want to put their large Amphibious Ships such as the Wasp-class close to shore and therefore in harms way. Other landing craft currently available, like the LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized)and LCU (Landing Craft, Utility) series can rarely exceed 12 knot, making the trip from "over the horizon" a slow and dangerous one. While the LCAC is can exceed 40 knots, it can only carry one M1A1 at a time. This means in the time it takes a LCU-2000 to deliver five M1A1s to the beach, a LCAC can deliver two at the most. The LCAC has also been in service for some time and a SLEP (service life extention program) is needed to keep in service for the foreseeable future. The LCU (R), which can carry three M1A1s at a speed of about 30 knots has yet to begin producion. The US Navy is also looking into the feasiblity of a HLCAC (Heavy LCAC) that would be able to carry two M1A1s, however all these programs will take time and money. Even if they are available for a future conflict there is no garentee, because of there costs, enough will be available for future conflicts. It takes time to unload equipment from and LCAC, and most other landing craft, as equipment must be changed down to prevent it from moving around and damaging the craft or making the craft unstable. To unchain the equipment, the crew of the LCAC must expose themselves to potential hostle fire as the LCAC is unarmored. An Amphibious tank that could accompany AAVs (Amphibious Assault Vehicles) from ship to shore and provide the firepower needed on the beach and beyond, would free up landing craft to perform other missions. Such as bring the follow-on force.

To be a viable weapon system, any tank needs a mix of three things, mobility, protection and fire power. While the M1A1 has very good protection, very good firepower and good tactical mobility, it's weight makes it difficult deploy rapidly, reducing it's 'strategic' mobility. There is also one more type of mobility, operational. While tactical mobility is the ability to move around in a battle and strategic mobility from one theater of operations to another, operational mobility is the ability to move from place to place, battle to battle in a theater of operations. The M1A1s fuel comsumtion limits this, as does it's ability to overcome water obsticles, namely rivers. The M1A1 can neither float, nor can it cross many civilian bridges safely. The M1A1 isn't unique in this second limitation, most MBTs today suffer from it.


OMFTS and the Amphibious Tank

OMFTS stands for Operational Maneuver From The Sea and is believed to be the future of Amphibious Warfare. What the concept describes is an amphibious force moving from 'over the horizon', approximitely 25 miles off shore, onto the beach then inland in one uninterupted motion. This differs from past and current amphibious doctrine that calls for the landing, from less then 5 miles out, a built-up of forces on the beach, then a break-out from the beachhead. OMFTS calls for an aggressive penetration inland before the enemy can identify the landing zone and either counter-attack or seal the beachhead off. With current equipment this isn't possible. Even with the US Marine's future EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, formerly the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle) and fast landing craft like the LCAC and LCU (R) this will not be likely. The EFV is a very complex piece of machinery and its layout prevents it from being modified into other uses. The LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) is quickly approching the end of its service life unless an expensive service life extention program (SLEP) can be preformed. The LCU (R) will be introduced in 2006, however with defense budget cuts looming, this program probably will be scaled back, if not canceled outright. Even under the best circumstances it takes time to load and unload equipment from landing craft, meaning it won't be possible to perform OMFTS as one uninterupted movement. This is were the amphibious tank comes in. It would be able to lead the amphibious maneuver force ashore and provide it with the direct fire power to prevail while pushing inland. Such a vehicle would also need a water speed of 15 to 20 miles an hour to make the trip from ship-to-shore in a reasonable amount of time. This is indeed slower then the EFV/AAAV, however greater emphasis would be places on land performance.

Along with a new amphibious tank there would need to be a new AAV, or Amphibious Assault Vehicle, based on the same components, as well as other derivatives.


The way to get mobile combat power from ship to shore is SWIM

The way to get mobile combat power from ship to shore is SWIM

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