Marines: The Others


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 service.

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 (


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