July 3, 2007:
While the Australian purchase of two vessels based off the Spanish Juan
Carlos I has placed a lot of attention on large vessels that can serve as baby
flattops or helicopter assault ships, there are other types of landing ships
being built - or recently entering service. In many cases, these landing
platform dock vessels are complements to the LHDs being built or entering
Perhaps the most modern of these vessels is the San
Antonio-class landing ships. The San Antonio-class vessels are designed to
carry a large number of vehicles like the Expeditionary fighting Vehicle,
M1-series tanks, and LCACs. Its aviation facilities are limited to about four
to six helicopters on the flight deck and the hangar. They also are loaded with
advanced command and control facilities.
The United Kingdom built two other vessels, HMS
Albion and Bulwark. These vessels displace about 18,000 tons, and can normally
carry 305 troops, along with Challenger main battle tanks, 105mm howitzers, two
Sea King or Merlin helicopters, up to 70 support vehicles, and up to four LCUs.
They have a range of 13,000 kilometers.
France also built two LPDs. The Foudre-class LPDs
displace about 11,000 tons, and can carry eight landing craft, four and four
Super Puma helicopters. The two ships of this class, in three trips, can carry
a full armored regiment.
The Spanish/Dutch Rotterdam/Galicia-class landing
platform docks are perhaps the largest European class. They carry six LCUs,
four LCVPs landing craft, or two LCACs (air cushion landing craft), 600
marines, and a variety of vehicles. For the Dutch, the Rotterdam-class can
carry up to 30 Leopard 2 main battle tanks. Spanish vessels can carry up to 33
M60A3 main battle tanks. The vehicles carried will more likely be a mix that
includes tanks, APCs, and other light armored vehicles. These vessels displace
about 11,000 tons, and carry six helicopters.
While the LHDs like the Wasp, Mistral, and Juan
Carlos I-classes are often noticed, due to the fact that they carry large air
wings and look a bit like carriers, these other, smaller, large amphibious
ships are also important. Many of these ships are often carrying the vehicles
for deployed marines on the ground - giving them the staying power until
heavier ground forces can arrive. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)