A new class of U.S. Navy vessel is expected to be deployed for the first time in Hawaii as part of a sweeping force redesign.
The light amphibious warship can pull onto beaches and costs between $100 million and $130 million, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The ships with lengths between 200 feet and 400 feet (61 meters and 122 meters) are part of a new U.S. Marine Corps littoral regiment, which will include troops with ship-killing missiles operating in small units from the islands dotting the western Pacific.
The light amphibious warships can carry 40 sailors and at least 75 Marines, with 4,000 to 8,000 square feet (372 to 743 square meters) of cargo area and a minimum unrefueled range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,482 kilometers), the Congressional Research Service said.
The first Marine littoral regiment is expected to be operational in three years.
Littoral refers to operations around the shore, where equipment and personnel can be shifted from water to ground and back.
The Navy plans to operate 28 to 30 of the smaller amphibious ships, which are comparatively cheaper than a new destroyer costing more than $1.5 billion.
The number of the ships to be based in Hawaii and a possible site for practice landings remain unclear. Marine littoral regiments may also operate in Guam and Japan as counterweights to China’s growing naval fleet.
III Marine Expeditionary Force will standup the first three Marine littoral regiments.
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said on Feb. 10 that a variety of assets including the new, smaller vessels will allow Marines to rapidly distribute what amounts to reinforced, platoon-size elements with a big impact.
“In the past you think, ‘Well, there’s 75 Marines in location X. They’re not a threat,’” Smith said. “If I can sink one of your $1.5 billion warships with a $1.5 million missile, I am a threat.”