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Marines: January 1, 2003
   
The dreadnought, battleship, carrier and the nuclear submarine all had their days of glory in the 20th century, but amphibious assault ships may be the pivotal naval entity in the War On Terror. With the French Navy's "Foudre" (see IVORY COAST updates) landing light armor in the Ivory Coast and the USS Nassau (LHA 4) stationed off the coast of East Africa, naval strategists are seeing the need for bigger and better force projection platforms (without costing the arm-and-leg of an aircraft carrier).

The United States Marine Corps and Navy has been war-gaming the concept of an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG): a modified and more heavily armed version of the traditional amphibious ready group. Currently, an amphibious ready group consists of a flat-deck amphibious assault ship and two amphibious cargo ships (cruisers and destroyers only deploy with carrier battle groups). The proposed ESG would include amphibious ships, as well as a destroyer, cruiser, frigate, attack submarine and a P-3C Orion reconnaissance aircraft. The Navy could potentially deploy two ESGs, one from each US coast. 

The United States Navy's newest class of amphibious ship, San Antonio (LPD 17), is scheduled to replace the older LPD 4 class. Its increased vehicle and substantial cargo carrying capacity will make it a key element of 21st Century Amphibious Ready Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, or Joint task forces. The 12 ships in this class integrate the latest in shipbuilding and warfighting technologies to support current and future Marine Corps aircraft, the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAAVs) and air cushion or conventional landing craft. 

The 24,900 ton USS New York (LPD-21) is the fifth of the "San Antonio" class Amphibious Transport Dock ships and was named on 9 September 2002, in honor of those who died in 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. She may also carry scrap steel from the World Trade Center towers in her bow, since a 20-30 ton structural steel beam about 20 feet long believed to have been part of the South tower was extricated from the Staten Island Fresh Kills landfill on 27 December. This was trucked to the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, MS and if it meets specifications, will be used to build her bow. Construction of the $800 million vessel will start in mid-2003 and she should be ready for active duty in 2007. The Navy plans for her to see duty until mid-century. 

America is not the only one to see value in bigger amphibious assault ships. The French are planning to build two 20,000 ton Nouveau Transport de Chalands de Debarquement (NTCD) class amphibious assault ships, which will be able to carry up to 16 heavy helicopters (easily increased to 20) and it's flight deck will be able to accommodate up to six helicopter movements at a time. 

Some sideline experts think that the name USS New York belongs either on a new nuclear-powered fast attack submarine (SSN), fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), or the first battleship since WWII. However, this sort of thinking falls under "fighting the next war with the weapons of the last" since the San Antonio class ships will carry the sort of punch that battleships and nuclear submarines once did, albeit against far different targets.

Several US Navy capital ships have held the name New York, the most recent a battleship commissioned in 1914 that fought in both European and Pacific waters during World War II. Ironically, the keel for the battleship USS New York (BB-34) was laid on 11 September 1911 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. New York state officials needed to get special authorization from the Secretary of the Navy to name the LPD-21 after their state, since the state honor had last been held by the 18 "Ohio" class SSBN (none of which were christened New York, although the attack submarine New York City (SSN 696) served from 1979-1997). The LPD 21 will be the longest and widest ship to bear the name New York, coming within 2,000 tons of the battleship's displacement. - Adam Geibel 


Current Fleet Amphibious Ships, online at:
www.exwar.org/1200_current/n753branch/fleet_753.htm 

More on the LPD 17 "San Antonio" class, online: 
www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/ships/ship-lpd.html 

The incarnations of the USS NEW YORK, online:
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-n/bb34.htm
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-n/ca2.htm

For more information on the Landing Platform Dock Ship "Foudre" online, see:
http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/foudre/.