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Army goes to sea, moves to buy ships

Feb. 20, 2014 - 05:28PM   |  
The Army is planning to buy transport ships, replacing dozens of its watercraft.
The Army is planning to buy transport ships, replacing dozens of its watercraft. (Army)
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HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — The Army is planning to buy new transport ships to replace dozens of its decades-old fleet of watercraft.

The impetus to find scant dollars in budgets that have already squeezed out once-critical programs like the Ground Combat Vehicle is, of course, Washington’s strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Army operates several varieties of watercraft and logistics ships from tugboats to large Logistics Support Vessels, but at issue are the four-decade-old Landing Craft Mechanized ships that can operate from ship to shore, carrying troops and equipment up to the weight of five Abrams tanks.

The service issued a request for information to industry for the program in early 2013 that it is calling the Maneuver Support Vessel-Light.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army conference here Feb. 19, Kevin Fahey, the Army’s combat service support chief, told reporters that over the past 12 years of war in the deserts and mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan, “We really haven’t utilized [the ships] a lot. So if you look at our fleet, it’s really old, especially as we transition to the Pacific.”

Fahey said Training and Doctrine Command is analyzing alternatives to understand what kind of maritime platform it will need to ship equipment overseas. Fahey said it’s his office’s No. 2 priority after the Humvee replacement — the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program — and wants the analysis done by summer.

Earlier in the day, Army Material Command chief Gen. Dennis Via also said the Army is working on deploying a field service brigade to the Pacific region by 2015 that will be tasked with overseeing prepositioned stocks while ensuring the resupply of rotational and regionally aligned forces the Army wants to begin rotating. The brigade would also work “to shorten the timeline if we have to deploy forces to the Pacific” to meet contingencies in the future.

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