The Newport-class Tank Landing Ships are larger and faster than earlier LSTs, and represent a complete departure from the previous concept of Amphibious Tank Landing Ships. The traditional bow doors, which have characterized LST's construction since the first vessels of this type were built during World War II, were replaced by a 40-ton bow ramp supported by two distinctive derrick arms. The hull form necessary for the attainment of the 20-knot speeds of contemporary amphibious squadrons would not permit bow doors. The conventional flat bottom hull was redesigned to include a destroyer-type bow enabling the ships to attain speeds in excess of 20 knots. This feature enables her to operate with modern high-speed amphibious forces. A stern gate also makes possible off-loading amphibious vehicles directly into the water.
The Tank Landing Ship (LST) mission is to load and transport cargo, vehicles of all types, and troops to a combat area. These ships can launch amphibious vehicles via a stern gate as well as land vehicles to a beach or causeway over a bowramp. Troops and equipment can also be transported via helicopter. Two ten-ton booms offload cargo to boats or a pier. Frederick's lift capacity includes 29 tanks and over 350 troops and their equipment.
In addition to its vehicular square capacity, the LST is the only assault platform capable of employing the Amphibious Assault Bulk Fuel System (AABFS). The delivery of fuel ashore is a critical aspect of an amphibious operation, which makes the capability of the LST unique.
The USS FREDERICK was part of the 13 ship amphibious task force that departed on 1 December 1990 for the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield. Upon arriving in the Gulf of Oman, the Frederick along with various amphibious ships from the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets conducted amphibious exercises in preparation for an amphibious landing, if needed, in Kuwait. Upon commencement of Operation Desert Storm, USS FREDERICK and various elements of COMPHIBGRU TWO and COMPHIBGRU THREE headed into the Persian Gulf and conducted one of the greatest mock amphibious invasions in modern warfare. That operation pinned down 15 Iraqi Divisions, thus ensuring a quick and decisive victory for the allied forces. The Frederick was also involved in the only actual amphibious landing of the Gulf War. In 1994, Frederick deployed to Somalia in support of humanitary aid operations.
In 1993, as part of its Bottom-Up Review, the Department of Defense examined the amount of amphibious lift that would be required to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts. It concluded that the Navy should maintain enough lift to transport the personnel, aircraft, landing ships, vehicles, and supplies for 2.5 marine expeditionary brigades or MEB's.
In a legislative proposal dated April 15, 1994, the administration proposed the transfer of 15 Newport-class tank landing ships to a number of foreign countries. Two LST's would be sold to Australia; one LST would be provided on a grant basis to Morocco; two LST's would be leased to Spain; two LST's would be leased to Chile; one LST would be leased to Argentina; one LST would be leased to Brazil; two LST's would be leased to Venezuela; one LST would be leased to Malaysia; and three LST's would be leased to Taiwan.
The 15 LST's in the administration proposal were among a total of 20 that were commissioned between 1969 and 1972. These ships constituted a significant part of the US amphibious shipping fleet as they transport tanks, other heavy vehicles, engineering equipment, and supplies. The LST's were relatively young in terms of their age and have impressive capabilities, as demonstrated by the interest of foreign navies in them. The administration's proposal to transfer 15 LST's to foreign countries would have reduced the amount of lift available to transport vehicles to only 73 percent of the 2.5 MEB goal in fiscal year 1994.
In response to the Congressional concern, the Navy proposed a new concept for maintaining 2.5 MEB's worth of vehicle space in the amphibious shipping fleet. In this concept two LST's were retained in a reserve status that would enable them to be available for active service in a few days. Four more LST's were stored in a nesting arrangement in which several months could be required to make them available for an emergency. The Navy's plan for these six LST's was intended to maintain the necessary amphibious lift capability. Subsequently the Congress in July 1994 authorized the five most pressing LST transfers for Australia, Brazil, Morocco, and Spain. In these cases, foreign crews were already training in the United States.
The two remaining ships of this class, USS Frederick (LST-1184) and USS La Moure County (LST-1194) were assigned to the Naval Reserve Forces as the only remaining ships of this 20-ship class. Naval Reserve Force Active (NRFA) ships have a reduced or skeletonized crew of active duty personnel assigned to provide training of assigned reservists for limited operations and maintenance. Under mobilization reservists assigned to a particular ship are activated, complementing the active duty personnel. These ships were to serve with the Reserve until about 2004, when sufficient numbers of new LPD 17-class multi-purpose amphibious ships would be available bringing the Active forces back up to a 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigade lift capability.
The Frederick was transferred to the Naval Reserve Force in January 1995 and changed homeport to Pearl Harbor, HI. As the only amphibious ship in Pearl Harbor, she conducts bilateral exercises with South East Asian armed forces, continuous training exercises with the United States Marine Corps's and is on standby to conduct humanitarian assistance / disaster relief missions, throughout the Pacific.
The LaMoure County was participating in an annual maritime exercise called UNITAS -- Spanish for Unity -- when it grounded on rocks 12 September 2000, sustaining irreparable damage. The ship was maneuvering in a pre-dawn fog, preparing to off-load some of the 240 troops aboard, when the accident happened. The ship's hull scraped along a rocky bottom, opening up three forward compartments where fuel and Marines are housed. One hole measured 45 feet long. The Atlantic Fleet commander recommended that the ship be decommissioned, rather than repaired or towed back to the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base. The ship was sunk during a gunnery exercise in 2001 during the annual UNITAS exercise.
When the last Navy tank landing ship, USS Frederick (LST 1184), decommissioned in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, not only did it mark the end of a long and distinguished career for Frederick extending back to the Vietnam era, but it also signaled a milestone in the transformation of amphibious warfare. Frederick was moved to a temporary location with other inactive ships in Pearl Harbor immediately following the ship's decommissioning ceremony. After 33 years of service to the U.S. Navy, Fast Freddie may be sold to the Mexican navy.
The first LST was commissioned Oct. 27, 1942. Nicknamed "Large Slow Targets," LSTs saw action in every theater of World War II and performed multiple missions. The ships displayed flexibility throughout the war in ways the designers never intended. Some of the uses included miniature aircraft carrier, medical ships and motor torpedo boat tenders. This mission flexibility remains a hallmark of amphibious ships today.
The new San Antonio (LPD 17) class will replace many of the LST's functions, retaining mission flexibility while being able to operate from over the horizon. LPD 17 will fully support the expeditionary warfare triad of landing craft air cushion, the modern way to transport tanks; Marine Corps' new advanced amphibious assault vehicle; the full inventory of Marine helicopters; and the new vertical take off and landing aircraft, the Osprey. San Antonio along with all amphibs to come after, will continue to live up to the tradition set by "Fast Freddie, always ready!"
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