In 1990, the American fleet was monstrously plundered and cut: over 400 warships were sent for scrapping. The process of global reduction of the Navy has affected even the holy of holies - amphibious forces. In less than a decade, the fleet lost 20 tankers of the Newport type (analogous to the Soviet BDK with a bow ramp), 5 universal landing ships of the Anchorage type, 10 amphibious transports-docks of the Austin type, and also 5 transports of amphibious forces of the Charus type »For the delivery of materials and heavy equipment to the landing area.
Watching the degradation of the first largest fleet, Pentagon strategists frantically scrolled through their mind possible solutions to the problem: is it possible to replace dozens of decommissioned ships with 10-12 highly efficient structures, thereby preserving its former power at a lower cost? The answer to the question was LSD (X) - a project of a promising airborne landing platform, created taking into account all the requirements of the new time and the most modern achievements in the field of science and technology. The concept of the new ships turned out to be close to Austin-type transport docks - unlike the European Mistral and Juan Karlosov, the main emphasis was placed on the capacity of cargo decks and the number of crew members. A capacious “ferry” for delivering expeditionary forces to the combat zone, followed by unloading using own means or landing equipment from other ships.
In addition to its main task - trans-ocean transportation - the new transport dock was to ensure the presence of the US Navy in troubled areas of the oceans, to participate in counter-terrorist operations and missions of a humanitarian nature. Among other mandatory requirements is unification with all existing and promising amphibious assault vehicles of the marines: light and heavy helicopters, convertible gliders, floating tracked conveyors, high-speed boats and amphibious assault vehicles. The ship should be able to stand up for itself in battle, but its cost should remain within 800 million dollars.
USS San Antonio (LPD-17) and USS New York (LPD-21). 6,4 tons of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center are symbolically used in the construction of the "New York" building
As a result of December 9, the 2000 of the year was laid down by the USS San Antonio, the leading ship of the same type, becoming the representative of the new generation Landing platform dock (LPD-17). The most notable feature of San Antonio was the widespread introduction of stealth technology - despite the obviously impossible task of masking the 200-meter ship against the sea surface, the Yankees used a whole range of simple and ingenious solutions that made it possible to reduce the detection range of the transport dock several times enemy radars.
Simple and clean lines of settings, piled up “inwards”, the upper part of the bead, a minimum of openings and radio contrast parts. Particular attention was paid to detail - a special anchor shape, a stealth cover for a folding crane, the widespread use of radio absorbing materials ...
Of particular interest are the unusual pyramidal masts of the Advanced Enclosed Mast / Sensor System (AEM / S) - 28-meter hexagonal structures made of composites, balsa and carbon, inside which is hidden a complex of antenna devices. In addition to a significant reduction in the ship's radar visibility, the use of AEM / S has reduced the number of mutual interference when many radio electronic devices are working, and also increases the equipment life by protecting antenna devices from the influence of adverse weather conditions.
Inside the fantastic masts, the AN / SPS-48E general detection radar, the AN / SPQ-9B two-coordinate radar for horizon tracking, satellite communications equipment, as well as the TACAN radio navigation system for driving and landing are hidden. Under the fairing in the nose is installed another navigation radar AN / SPS-73.
All ship detection tools are integrated into a single information network AN / SPQ-14 Advanced Sensor Distribution System (ASDS).
AN / USQ-119E (V) 27 - Global Command and Control System - Maritime (GCCS-M) is responsible for communication.
For logistics when disembarking / unloading personnel, equipment and gear - AN / KSQ-1 Amphibious Assault Direction System. It is a server that automatically communicates with amphibious means and calculates their current position in space.
Three-coordinate surveillance radar AN / SPS-48E - another modification of the famous radar with the HEADLIGHTS, created at the turn of 60-70. Such systems are used on aircraft carriers such as "Nimitz".
The Mk.1 Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) self-defense complex, in addition to the above detection tools, includes:
- 2 self-defense SAM system Mk.31 RAM - 21-charging launchers with melee missiles;
- 2 automatic guns Mk.46 30 mm caliber with remote guidance;
- system for shooting passive interference Mk.36 SBROC;
- EW system AN / SLQ-32 (V) 2.
In addition, there is a Nixi towed anti-torpedo trap rattle on board, and another Mk.53 NULKA dipole reflector shooting system.
To participate in serious conflicts in the nose of the LPD, it is possible to install an 16 DPS Mk.41 with an 64 ammunition load of ESSM anti-aircraft missiles, but at the moment neither of them from ships of this class carries such weapons.
In general, despite the abundance of beautiful names and abbreviations, the San Antonio self-defense complex is not able to protect the ship from modern means of attack. All hope is only on the destroyers that are part of his escort.
Transport and amphibious capabilities
As noted above, the “San Antonio” has a different purpose than the European UDC - a solid flight deck and helicopter hangar were sacrificed to the cargo decks and marine corps.
According to official statements, the interior of the LPD-17 provides unprecedented spaciousness and level of comfort for personnel. The ship was designed with the current trends of the US Navy - special attention was paid to the placement of persons of both sexes: there are separate female and male quarters and latrines on board. A great achievement of the designers is the increased interlayer distance between the paratroopers' beds, the presence of its own ventilation system at each berth. The beds have folding tables / cup holders, in each cabin there is WiFi Internet. There is a gym on board, as well as special rooms for relaxing and holding briefings ...
Despite such a “glaring” level of comfort that does not allow feeling all the deprivation of military service on board the San Antonio, we managed to provide space for 396 crew members and 700 marines (with the possibility of increasing the landing force group by using additional rooms). For comparison, the estimated capacity of the Mistral is 450 paratroopers.
Also on board the amphibious transport dock are available:
- three cargo decks for trucks and armored vehicles with an area of 2229 square. meters;
- two cargo holds volume 963 cubic. m;
- fuel tanks (kerosene JP-5) cube 1190 volume. m;
- tank with diz. fuel volume 38 cc. meters
The amphibious capabilities of the LPD-17, on the contrary, are poorly expressed. The stern dock chamber capacity is two hovercraft (LCAC). Aviation the hangar allows you to place on board just one heavy helicopter (CH-53E) or V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. Or two medium-sized helicopters CH-46 SiNight. Or the three lungs of the Iroquois.
The flight deck in the aft part of the "San Antonio" allows you to prepare for the departure at the same time two tevertoplanov or up to four light helicopters.
There is a side crane for launching / lifting from the water amphibious boats and semi-rigid boats RHIB.
Finally, the issue price.
During the construction and retrofitting of the ship with additional systems, its cost exceeded the calculated figure by half - by now the average cost of the San Antonio type LPD is 1,6 billion. The cost of the last ships of the series has already exceeded 2 billion. Because of the inability of Northrop Grumman to keep the cost of work within the agreed schedule a series of transport docks was limited to 11 units. To date, the United States Navy has 8 LPD of this type, and three more docks are in the process of completion.
For comparison, the Russian Mistrals cost the treasury at the price of 800 million dollars for each ship (the total value of the contract for the construction of two UDCs is 1,2 billion euros). Such a great difference in the cost of the European and American amphibious ships is explained by the dramatic differences in their design and construction.
In comparison with the Mistral, the American transport dock has more chances to survive in the combat zone. Unlike the "European", which was designed according to the standards of civil shipbuilding, the San Antonio was created as a real combat ship, which is why it is able to withstand a powerful hydrodynamic strike, more durable and tenacious. Three knots higher speed. More sophisticated means of detection and self-defense. Stealth - with other things being equal, the enemy will detect the Mistral earlier.
But it is in theory. In practice, the advantage of an American is not so obvious - indeed, San Antonio is more likely to avoid serious consequences when it explodes on a ground mine, but the missile attack may become equally fatal for both ships. Ultimately, the safety and security of any UDC or transport dock is determined by the capabilities of their escort. So was it worth it to invest an extra billion in a slightly more durable case and stealth technology? From the point of view of the US Navy with their dimensionless budget - it was worth it. After all, they can afford it.
It is noteworthy that the LPD "San Antonio" - the first large ship of the US Navy, whose design was conducted in the metric system (instead of the traditional American feet / pounds / inch)
Big money is not always a guarantee of success. For example, the head USS San Antonio (LPD-17) “became famous” for a large number of technical faults.
A year after the ship’s entry into service, the ship went to Post Shakedown Availability (short repairs and upgrades after the first months of service, fixing all the deficiencies identified). The standard procedure for ships of the US Navy unexpectedly dragged on - in July 2007, the office of Northrop Grumman received an annoyed letter from the Pentagon, signed by Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter: ship. "
Repairs completed by the end of the year, but the trouble did not end there.
In August, the San Antonio 2008 was not able to go on a campaign in time because of the breakdown of the drive of the stern wall of the docking chamber. Two months later, being in a position in the Persian Gulf, LSD-17 again needed urgent repairs in Bahrain (a problem with fuel lines). In February, 2009, when passing through the Suez Canal, one of the engines suddenly switched to the reverse mode - as a result, the newest ship was nearly broken on the bottom and walls of the channel.
The process of entry into "San Antonio" was accompanied by a two-year series of repairs at the Norfolk shipyards, scandals with the dismissal of responsible persons and the breaks in contracts with unscrupulous suppliers.
In principle, a typical situation for any of the fleets when testing new equipment. The US Navy is no exception. Money is important, but even they are not able to solve all the problems.
The very fact of the appearance of the amphibious transport dock-type "San Antonio" indicates a simple and obvious situation: despite all the colorful descriptions of the tactics of the use of amphibious groups, the US Navy does not plan to conduct amphibious landing operations. All the stories about the “over-the-horizon landing” are nothing more than tales for impressionable inhabitants. Landing from the sea will at best be a distraction or turn into a “point” attack of a special forces group. Using San Antonio in a large-scale war is pure suicide. But why do the Yankees continue to build such ships? The Pentagon is well aware of the purpose of “San Antonio” - if you call a spade a spade, then LPD-17 should be called a “comfortable ship”.
All major wars of our time are conducted according to a single scenario - the Yankees for several months unload equipment, soldiers and equipment in the port of a nearby state, and then, breaking through the land border, proudly enter the territory of the chosen victim. This is much simpler, safer and more useful than sailing on a flimsy boat, fearing a crazy projectile, and then crawling knee-deep in water to the shore, covered with thorns under enemy fire tanks and machine guns. Without cover with their heavy armored vehicles. With multiple numerical superiority of the enemy. This is madness.
Americans act differently.
The tanks, the necessary materials and fuel will be delivered to the nearest port by transports of the Shipping Command. But how to be in this case with the staff? American contract servicemen will flee, having learned that they have to spend a month in the stuffy hold of the ship. For these cases, there is just a “San Antonio” - a comfortable motor ship, which will deliver to the other end of the Earth a couple of battalions of marines, with personal weapons, equipment and heavy machinery. Cheap, convenient, efficient. And then go to the next flight on the route Norfolk - Persian Gulf.
That is why there is only one helicopter on board and a clear disregard of landing craft. Why does “San Antonio” carry dozens of helicopters if he plans to unload onto the pier using a ramp? And if necessary, help helicopters that arrive from the nearest coastal base.
But these are plans for the future ... In the meantime, the 2 billion-dollar ships chase the feluci of Somali pirates and provide the US naval presence in the most troubled corners of the world.
A couple of shots of the interior of "San Antonio"
LPD 17 on the Shipbuilding Frontier: Integrated Product & Process Development. Association of Scientists and Engineers, 35th Annual Technical Symposium - 17 April 1998