Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TACTICAL
Christopher Woody

US Army considering getting rid of boats that take troops and tanks into battle

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Ground combat is the US Army's main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.

That's why the Army's plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.

As of November 2018, the Army's fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.


"The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed," Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defense, decided the Army Reserve would divest "all watercraft systems" in preparation for the service's 2020 budget.

Esper said the Army had found $25 billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to "eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure" — nearly 80% of its force.

Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, center, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 6, 2019.

(Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support Brigade)

The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.

In early July, several Army watercraft — including former USAV SSGT Robert T. Kuroda, one of the eight Besson-class Logistics Support Vessels the government planned to sell — appeared on the General Services Administration auction website.

The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.

(US Navy/Gregg Smith)

Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army's roughly 130 watercraft were halted.

The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.

(US Navy/Gregg Smith)

Before the auction was taken down, a $1 million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost $26 million to construct.

Source: The Drive

The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.

Army mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Source: gCaptain

The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Source: Military.com

The study started in June (the auction listings were pulled because the study was ongoing, a defense official told Military.com) and is supposed to be concluded by the end of the fiscal year.

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

The 2019 fiscal year ends on September 30. Asked about the status of the Army's watercraft on September 4, McCarthy said the service was thinking long and hard about what it needed and what it would need to replace.

Army Reserve mariners return to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam aboard Army Logistic Support Vessel SSGT Robert T. Kuroda off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, June 6, 2015.

(Sgt. 1st Class Julio Nieves/US Army)

The study is being done "to ensure that we have the requirements appropriately aligned with the combatant commanders," McCarthy told reporters at the Defense News Conference in Washington, DC.

Army mariners embarked on a multiday transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

"It's multiple theaters that have requested this capability, so it's ensuring they have the right sets of equipment, but also how would that be impacted by a recapitalization schedule, because many of the assets are aging, so we'd have to replace several of them," McCarthy said.

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Powerpoint slides and accompanying notes describing the Army's plan, reported in January by Stars and Stripes, said the deactivation process was faster than usual, as units are typically identified for deactivation two to five years in advance.

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

In conducting the review, McCarthy said on Sep. 4, 2019, the Army "took a step back and said we have to make sure we get the requirements right, and then what would be the appropriate acquisition schedule to recapitalize these capabilities."

A crew member of the US Army Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross shoots a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun during range qualifications in the Persian Arabian Gulf, March 13, 2019.

(US Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.