LSD-41 Whidbey Island class
Dock Landing Ships support amphibious operations including landings via Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores. These ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations. In comparison to previous LSD's, the Whidbey Island Class introduces to the fleet a significant improvement in amphibious warfare. The new and improved capabilities are updated communications and combat systems, 20- and 60 ton cranes, expanded repair shop facilities, two helicopter landing spots, complete medical and dental spaces, and automated, computer based logistic support. It is the first ship built to embark and support the U.S. Navy's new Air Cushion Landing Craft (LCAC).
The mission of USS WHIDBEY ISLAND class is to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea, worldwide, in support of national policy. Designed, built and manned to carry MANEUVER WARFARE and the "over the horizonn amphibious assault, as part of an Amphibious Task Group, WHIDBEY ISLAND class can carry four (4) Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC's) in its flood-able well, serve as the Primary Control Ship during an assault and provide a boat haven with docking, repair and fueling services for landing craft and boats. In short, WHIDBEY ISLAND is ideally suited to support the Navy's foremost strike asset . . . the U.S. Marine!
The WHIDBEY ISLAND class introduces to the fleet significant improvements with updated communications, combat systems, 20 and 60 ton cranes, expanded repair ships, two helicopter landing spots, completed medical and dental facilities, automated computer-based logistic support and an impressive engineering plant that gives WHIDBEY ISLAND class an excellent capability for self sufficient operations. Equally effective in peace time as in wartime, WHIDBEY ISLAND class is well suited to carry out a variety of humanitarian missions such as evacuations and disaster relief.
With primary missions of Amphibious Warfare, Mobility, Command and Control, and Anti-Air Warfare, WHIDBEY ISLAND class is designed to support Special Warfare, Fleet Support Operations (refueling other ships), non-combatant operations, Ocean Surveillance and Electronic Warfare. Clearly a multi-mission capable ship, WHIDBEY ISLAND class crew, embarked Marines and detachments must also be, and are multitalented.
The LSD 41 is a modified version of the LSD 36 class with design efforts directed to support emerging amphibious warfare concepts. The design was originally to have been a near-repeat of the LSD 36 class adapted for diesel propulsion, but it incorporated a requirement to be able to accommodate the Navy's newest amphibious assault landing craft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion, or LCAC. WHIDBEY ISLAND further assisted in the operational and developmental testing of the LCAC from July to September 1985 and again in May and July 1986. The ships transport and launch loaded amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations. The ships feature a 440-foot well deck capable of holding four LCACs, a flight deck able to land and launch up to two CH-53E helicopters, the Navy's latest diesel propulsion and engineering technology, advanced repair facilities, complete medical and dental facilities, and troop berthing accommodations for up to 627 embarked Marines. Limited docking and repair service are provided for both conventional and air cushion craft.
The LSD 41 class ship program replaced the eight aging LSD 28 THOMASTON class ships which reached the end of their service lives during the period 1984-1990. In February 1981, the U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Shipbuilding Company of Seattle, Washington a contract to construct LSD 41, first of a new class of Dock Landing Ship. At the August 4, 1981 keel laying ceremony, the Honorable John F. Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, affixed his signature to the LSD 41 keel: the first keel of an amphibious ship to be laid in more than five years. There are two other Lockheed built ships of the Whidbey Island Class - LSD 42 and LSD 43.
The ships use a well deck which is flooded to launch and recover landing craft. Full-load displacements have climbed 580 tons in service. The ships can ballast down in 15 minutes and deballast in 30, with a total ballast water capacity of 12,860 tons (and full load displacement of 29,010 metric tons when in ballast). The docking well can accommodate 4 LCAC, 3 LCU, 10 LCM(8), 21 LCM(6), or 64 LVTP. The floodable well deck is essential to her mission accomplishment. The well deck is flooded up to 6 feet forward and 10 feet aft when embarking or launching assault craft. The ships carry one utility boat, two LCPL Mk-II, and one LCVP on deck, handled by one 20-ton and one 60-ton crane.
LSD-41 was designed specifically to operate LCAC vessels, and it has the largest capacity for these landing craft (four) of any U.S. Navy amphibious platform. LCACs are assault landing craft capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots when carrying a 60-ton payload. Using this versatile craft, they are able to carry out an amphibious assault against a wider range of beaches at distances that were not operationally feasible in the past.
After departing the ship, the assault craft are directed toward the shore by the ship's Combat Information Center (CIC). To provide the continuous support the assault force requires, the ships are equipped with the Navy's latest Command and Control technology. The ships are is constantly updating communications systems and keeping on the cutting edge of modern technology. Numerous installations and upgrades took place on USS FORT MCHENRY in July and August 2000. New and advanced VHF radios were installed and the Automated Digital Network System, or ADNS, received numerous upgrades. In addition, a new Local Area Network was installed to specifically service embarked Marines.
The helicopter deck is raised above the docking well in order to provide all-around ventilation for the gas turbine-engined LCACs. There are two landing spots on the flight deck for up to CH-53-sized helicopters but no hangar facilities. The ships carry 90 tons JP-5 fuel for helicopters. Medical facilities include an operating room and 8 beds. LSD 44-48 have a collective BW/CW protection system. All have Inogen Leading Mark optical guidance system for LCAC entry to well deck.
As of October 1994, self-defense configurations for the combined LSD 41/49 class included the SPS-49 air search radar and the SLQ-32 electronic warfare system. LSD 45-on have SPS-49(V)5 air search radar. Trials of RAM, integrated into the SSDS (Ship Self-Defense System) Block 1, were conducted beginning 1993 with LSD 41, using fire-control inputs from the radar of the Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS. LSD 48 received SSDS Block 1 during 1996 to 1997 refit. Though the control function was being performed manually throughout the class, the Navy completed operational testing of an automated control system (SSDS MK I) in June 1997 aboard the USS Ashland (LSD 48). Engagement relied primarily upon Phalanx Block 0 or 1 and the Mk 36 decoy launching system. As measured by the Navy's performance assessment model, this configuration produced a performance result that was far below the threat requirements for the class.
Since October 1994, the Navy has taken several actions to enhance the LSD 41/49 class's ability to defeat cruise missiles. The Navy enhanced detection capabilities by adding a medium pulse repetition frequency upgrade to the SPS-49 radar and integrating the Phalanx radar with the control system. To improve the control function, the Navy installed SSDS MK I on four LSD 41 class ships. LSD 44 received SSDS during 1997, and all ships of the class are to have received SSDS Block 1 by 2004. In addition, to improve engagement capabilities, the Navy completed installations of the Phalanx Block 1A upgrade on six LSD 41 class ships. In addition, RAM Block 0 was installed on five LSD 41 class ships, with two Mk 49, 21-cell launchers for the RAM missile added. With these installations, the Navy more than doubled the class's ability to counter current and future missile threats since requirements were adopted in February 1996. However, additional improvements in capability are needed to meet requirements for near-, mid-, and far-term threats.
Two recent development efforts, RAM Block 1 and NULKA, are planned for future installation in the LSD 41/49 ship class. Once installed, the Navy expects that these improvements will provide these ships with a high capability against the near-term threat, moderate to high capability against the mid-term threat, but a low capability against the far term threat.
Although the Navy has made some progress in improving surface ship self-defense capabilities, most ships continue to have only limited capabilities against cruise missile threats. A Navy assessment of current surface ship self-defense capabilities conducted in 1998 concluded that only the 12 Whidbey Island and Harpers Ferry class amphibious ships have or will be equipped with defensive systems that can provide measurable improvement against near- and mid-term cruise missile threats. These 12 ships have received, or are scheduled to receive, an improved version of the SPS-49 radar, the Ship Self Defense control system, the Rolling Airframe Missile system, and the Phalanx Block 1A. The Navy estimates that these improvements, when completed, will more than double the assessed capability of these ships to defeat near- and mid-term threats. However, they will provide only low capability against far-term threats.
LSD 45 was to be equipped with a prototype Sanders HFSWR High Frequency Surface Wave Radar, with vertical transmitting antennas in fixed structures on the sides of the superstructure and in 24 small receiving array boxes along either side of the upper deck. The system operates between 3 and 30 MHz to detect low-flying objects at over-the-horizon ranges, but funding cuts have delayed the program.
The LSD-41/49 Class Smart Gator Enabling Technologies (Enabling Technologies) upgrade replaces specified existing machinery control and monitoring systems units/consoles plus the addition of specific equipment. Overcoming component obsolescence, reducing equipment support costs, and reducing workload are key objectives in the Navy's upgrade plan. Reducing the number of different assembly types and total number of assemblies required are considered key factors in meeting this objective.
Currently, LSD-47 RUSHMORE is the test platform for the "Smart Ship" program known as Gator 17. The ship has been outfitted with several new technologies to reduce workload and manning levels. LSD 47 is being used to test systems and concepts intended for use in the LPD 17 class, including new damage control techniques, a local-area data network, integrated bridge systems, and automated maintenance systems. Information from the program aboard RUSHMORE will be used to assist the design of the LPD 17 class amphibious ships. The descriptions of Enabling Technologies follows:
- The Local Area Network (LAN) is installed as a ship wide fiber optic communications network used to interface with the Enabling Technology multi-functional workstations (MFWS), view ports and interface input/output (I/O) devices. The LAN will be installed with expansion in mind to support future additional users/technologies. The new Machinery Control System, Damage Control Quarters/Ballast Control System, Integrated Bridge System, and Integrated Condition Assessment System ships Enabling Technology network will utilize this LAN.
- The Machinery Control System (MCS) installation replaces specified existing machinery control and monitoring systems units/consoles associated with both the Main Propulsion (MP) and Electric Plant (EP) control systems. The MCS consists of software-based control system utilizing MFWS and Data Acquisition Units (DAUs) controlling the main propulsion, electric plant and selected auxiliary systems.
- The Damage Control Quarters (DCQ)/Ballast Control System (BCS) consists of several software-based LAN-resident subsystems including, but not limited to: Damage Control sensor/systems integration; firemain and ventilation/control and display, ballast system control and display. The system will replace the individual control allowing creation of a "central control station" (CCS) in what is currently Damage Control Central (DCC). The Government will provide the DCQ/BCS software, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) software and Interface Control Documents (ICDs) for DCQ/BCS.
- The Integrated Bridge System (IBS) converts legacy navigational information sources, such as; GPS, Speed Log, Gyro, Wind bird and depth sounder, into digital data formats and provides them throughout the ship via the LAN. The IBS contains a computer program that uses the navigational data and interfaces with MCS and the steering gear to provide steering and propulsion control both on the bridge and in CIC. The capabilities of the IBS shall include the traditional non-follow-up control, hand electric, auto pilot and track steering.
- The Integrated Condition Assessment System (ICAS) software products provide a computerized engineering tool to implement Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) and equipment availability management. Inputs to ICAS consist of both manually collected and on-line sensor data. ICAS shares on-line sensors with the MCS. New ICAS specific on-line sensors shall also be installed by the contractor. ICAS continuously assesses machinery performance conditions and transmits the information over the LAN to be viewed at the applicable MFWS(s). The Government will provide HMI software, PLC software, and ICDs for ICAS.
- The Wireless Internal Communications System (WICS) is an internal wireless communications system installed to provide internal communications for command and control of combat systems, damage control, security, beach guard, sea and anchor detail, administration, and integrated team training. The system shall consist of an antenna/transmission/receiving system, portable radio units, and charging stations.
The Smart Gator Enabling Technology upgrade provides for electronic technology modernization by replacing the existing rigid HMI console designs with Software Alterable Graphic Interfaced multi-functional workstations.
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