Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Is the AFRICOM Queen Already Sailing?

I suppose the Navy has actually adopted my AFRICOM Queen modularized auxiliary cruiser suggestion in Military Review, but with purpose-built ships built to project land power. But will they be reserved for higher priority missions than supporting AFRICOM?

It's interesting that the Navy is building non-amphibious warfare platforms for power projection missions:

In mid-2019 the United States Navy ordered two more ESB (Expeditionary Mobile Base) type amphibious support ships, with the option for a third. These ships will enter service by 2023 and if all three are built the navy would have eight ESB type ships.

I didn't realize there were that many planned.

The concept has been tested:

This was not a new concept as in 2006 an Austin class amphibious ship was sent to the Indian Ocean without the normal complement of marines. That ship was instead used as a floating base for UAVs and SOF (special operations forces). A similar task was assigned a navy carrier in 2002, to support SOF operations in Afghanistan. In 2006, it was believed that the amphibious ship was also supporting SOF operations ashore in Somalia or Iran.

I recall the 2002 Afghanistan mission. I was not familiar with the others (unless I have forgotten them). I'll add that in the 1990s a Haiti operation against opposition would have put Army air mobile infantry and special forces on a couple carriers. If memory serves me just one was used for a permissive landing after negotiations. And I do recall the Ponce modifications.

Still, AFRICOM (whose unofficial motto is probably "Thank God for SOUTHCOM.") is low on the priority list and a renewed focus on China and Russia does nothing to improve its ranking in the regional unified command standings. Will any make it to African waters to support our friends there and hunt our enemies?

And even if enough ESB-type vessels are built to give AFRICOM access to these ships on a regular basis, my original purpose for the vessels to expand the Navy rapidly is still valid.