Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Test of Concept

I've advocated for modularized auxiliary cruisers as a power projection platform for AFRICOM for joint forces, including special forces, to extend America's reach around the vast African continent. Special Operations Command is getting its own permanently converted merchant ship for their own missions:

With no fanfare at all the U.S. Navy completed the conversion of a cargo ship into an MSV (Maritime Support Vessel) for SOCOM (Special Operations Command). The ship to be converted had been built in 2011 for commercial service with Maersk Lines. It was quietly purchased by the U.S. Navy and in early 2014 an American shipyard began converting the 20,000 ton (displacement) RO/RO (Roll On/Roll Off) cargo ship MV Craigside to serve as a seagoing base (MSV) for SOCOM commandos and support troops. This included renaming the ship to Ocean Trader.

About $80 million was spent on the conversion which consisted of turning the deck into a landing pad for at least two helicopters and hanger in the forward part of the ship that can house three helicopters for maintenance or just to keep them out of bad weather. The ramp for RO/RO of vehicles is in the rear and remains. The Ocean Trader had a special windowless communications and planning areas built as in well as spaces for launching and recovering Scan Eagle UAVs. There was a dive locker (chamber) for U.S. Navy SEALs to quietly slip into sea as well as storage and launch facilities for RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boats) like the 11 meter (35 foot) RHIB used by SOCOM and the 12.8 meter (41 foot) CCA (Combat Craft Assault) for more difficult insertions of SEALs to a hostile shore.

The ship is crewed by 50 screened civilians and has room for 200 special forces. It has apparently been in use for two years now.

If this works out--and it should--could the Army follow suit with temporary conversion of container ships as I suggested?

And I'll note that the post says SOC had "my" basic idea back in 2004. Although I hadn't read about it when the notion was born. Initially my idea was to use modularized auxiliary cruisers for Navy missions, the way auxiliary cruisers had historically been used. Actually, my original thought was for use as a logistics support vessel to help the Dutch if needed, as one link in that post leads to. Plus I do think I fleshed out the idea quite a bit.

Anyway, would the Army want to expand on this for AFRICOM use? The Navy will never be large enough to spare the big deck amphibious ships for African waters outside of the Horn of Africa in CENTCOM or in the Mediterranean Sea while transiting between CENTCOM and America's Atlantic coast.