Military


Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) MPF(F)

The Marine Corps' Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) will be the true enabler of entirely seabased operations. As this force becomes operational, its role will expand beyond providing the equipment to prepare a fly-in force for combat. MPF(F) will serve four functions not provided by the current MPF: (1) at-sea arrival and assembly of units, (2) direct support of the assault echelon of the ATF, (3) indefinite seabased sustainment of the landing force, and (4) at-sea reconstitution and redeployment of the force.

The implementation of seabasing with MPF(F) is dependent upon high-speed, reliable and survivable surface craft and aircraft able to deliver logistics support where and when needed. The HLCAC, LCU(R), and the employment of the MV-22 and other improved air assets will answer this requirement. Examples of other logistics innovations the Navy and Marine Corps are exploring include unmanned delivery systems, advanced lighterage, containerization, predictive maintenance, and standardization of equipment.

The leases on the current Maritime Prepositioning Ships begin to expire in 2009. The Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) will be the true enabler of entirely seabased operations. As this force becomes operational, its role will expand beyond providing the equipment to prepare a fly-in force for combat. MPF(F) will serve four functions not provided by the current MPF: (1) at-sea arrival and assembly of units, (2) direct support of the assault echelon of the ATF, (3) indefinite seabased sustainment of the landing force, and (4) at-sea reconstitution and redeployment of the force.

In March 2003, the Navy proposed to Congress a fleet of 375 ships, including thirty-seven amphibious ships and eighteen new MPSs capable of conducting sea-basing operations. Through 2035, this involved purchasing twelve LPD-17 San Antonio class, ten new LHA-R amphibious ships [similar to the present LHDs but carrying more aircraft], twelve dock landing ships of a new class (LSD-X), and up to twenty-one new MPF(F)s, far more capable than the current maritime prepositioning ships.

MPF(F) feasibility studies and concept designs were conducted to determine the best designs to meet new Navy requirements which can be applied to or will enable future strategic sealift, combat logistics force, and seabasing systems and to support performance specifications that will be competitively awarded. Landing Platform (LP) Technology development involved developing an external surface craft interface to reduce impact of surface craft interface on MPF(F) ship size. Automated Cargo Handling (ACH) development involved developing systems to permit containers, pallets and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) cargo to be handled at-sea to meet seabasing requirements. Skin-to Skin (STS) development will enable at-sea replenishment with continerships and other largo cargo ships.

The MPF (Future) is the cornerstone for Sea Basing. Its mission and capabilities have evolved to meet the Sea Basing requirements. The new MPF (Future) will be a lot more that a simple floating warehouse. New capabilities will include troop deployment, self-defense capabilities. The MPF (Future) will have to provide maintenance facilities for vehicles and aircraft, and the ability to efficiently conduct operations to re-supply the Sea Base and forces ashore via air or surface craft.

The following requirements list is taken from the MPF (Future) Mission Need Statement of 2002. (1) Force Closure - en route arrival and assembly of forces
(2) Troop deployment
(3) Troop accommodations
(4) Shipboard assembly and staging area
(5) Aircraft basing
(6) ATF Interoperability - rapid reinforcement of the ATF assault echelon
(7) Air and surface assault craft interface
(8) Selective cargo offload capability
(9) Conduct sea-based logistics for Naval forces
(10) Selective retrieval for cube cargo
(11) Sea Base replenishment (from CLF or commercial shipping)
(12) Air and surface re-supply of ground combat forces
(13) Allow for rapid reconstitution and redeployment
(14) Sea base replenishment (from CLF or commercial shipping)
(15) Vehicle and air maintenance facility
(16) Joint C4I to allow interoperability
(17) Medical care consistent with the mission

Each MPF(F) squadron would be capable of moving an 8,000-strong Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and supporting equipment forward. Initial plans envisioned an aviation variant with a special flight deck for aviation operations such as flying helicopters and short take-off and vertical landing-variant F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but the F-35 was deleted in 2004. They could also be a logistics and housing variant with a special well-deck that would ease moving personnel and supplies. The analysis of alternatives (AoA) study further recommended the number of ships needed, with five to six for each of the three MPF(F) squadrons expected.

Current guidance requires MPF(F) to provide the combatant commander highly flexible operational and logistics support for missions projecting power ashore from a sea base, or during independent operations. Unlike current pre-positioning ships, MPF(F) will greatly improve forces' flexibility by allowing operations that are fully interoperable with Naval and joint forces. MPF(F) represents the link between forward deployed forces and their reach-back bases both in CONUS and overseas, and will be a crucial element to Enhanced Networked Seabasing.

When the MPF(F) becomes operational, the maritime prepositioning role will expand far beyond its current capability to provide the combat equipment for a fly-in force. MPF(F) will serve four functions that the current MPF cannot: (1) at-sea arrival and assembly of units; (2) direct support of the assault echelon of the Amphibious Task Force; (3) long-term, sea-based sustainment of thelanding force; and (4) at-sea reconstitution and redeployment of the force.

In addition to the 30 operationally available amphibious ships needed to employ a MEF during a forcible entry operation, the Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) (MPF(F)) is the key enabler for Seabasing, providing support and sustainment for early entry Marine Expeditionary Brigade. MPF(F) enables five new capabilities not provided by the current MPF:

(1) at-sea arrival and assembly of the Sea Base echelon (of the MEB);

(2) projection of one surface and one vertical battalion landing team in one 8-10 hour period of darkness;

(3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) Interoperability

(4) long-term, sea-based sustainment of Expeditionary Forces; and

(5) at-sea reconstitution and redeployment of the Expeditionary Force.

These capabilities will be invaluable in supporting joint forcible entry operations, forward engagement, presence, and relationship building operations with allies and potential coalition partners by forward deployed forces, as well as support of disaster relief and humanitarian operations. Additionally, this flexible asset can remain in support of post-conflict activities and forces ashore from a relatively secure location at sea.

These future Maritime Prepositioning Ships will serve a broader operational function than current prepositioning ships, creating greatly expanded operational flexibility and effectiveness. The Navy envisioned a force that will enhance the responsiveness of the joint team by the at-sea assembly of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade that arrives by high-speed airlift or sealift from the United States or forward operating locations or bases. The MPF(F) squadrons will be capable of the "selective offload" of equipment and supplies, which will permit our force commanders to tailor mission packages to satisfy specific mission requirements. As a part of the Sea Base, MPF(F) will provide the ability to accomplish force closure and move equipment and troops ashore as a rapid response asset, interoperate with other ships in the Sea Base, provide sustainment to expeditionary forces ashore, and permit recovery and reconstitution of forces and equipment atsea.

As shipbuilding programs and technology further matures, thorough experimentation is essential in order to provide informed decisions prior to long term commitments in the development of the MPF(F). Examples of planned experimentation include: interaction with MPF Maintenance Cycle (MMC) to develop selective offload capability, at sea Large Medium-Speed Roll-On/Roll-Off (LMSR) ship equipment off-load/on-load, and Research & Development Teams to continue to explore safe and efficient ways for at-sea cargo and passenger transfers by testing fendering (skin-to-skin) technologies, motion compensating cranes and ship to ship interface systems.

One analysis prepeared in early 2006 concluded that "To help pay for this new sea-basing squadron, the current thirty-five-ship amphibious force will fall to thirty-one ships, with a combined lift capability of no more than 1.9 MEBs. Under the best of circumstances, then, it appears that the total number of Marine expeditionary brigade equivalents that the Navy will be able to lift in the future will be less than it can today: the current Sea-Based Transport Force can lift 4.9 MEBs (1.9 brigades on amphibious ships plus three brigades on MPF ships), whereas the planned future force will lift no more than 3.9 MEBs (1.9 brigades on amphibious ships, 1.0 on MPF[F] ships, and 1.0 on legacy MPF ships). Moreover, it is important to note that today's force lifts less than the long-stated requirement of six brigade equivalents (3.0 brigades on amphibious ships and 3.0 brigades on MPF ships), or even the "fiscally constrained" lift goal of 5.5 MEBs. In other words, the total amount of fleet maneuver lift will be reduced by between 20 and 33 percent, depending on the perspective - and this in an era where sea-based maneuver capabilities seem certain to be more important than at any other time in nearly five decades. What does the fleet get in exchange for its substantial reduction in sea-based maneuver lift? Not much.With the exception of being able to claim faster closure times and an expanded selective cargo discharge capability, a new MPF(F) squadron offers no great improvement over the capabilities of the current Amphibious Landing Fleet in forcible-entry operations."

In a June 2005 report to the Congress, the Navy outlined the future of the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Under this plan, the MPF(F) squadron would consist of 12 ships, mostly based on designs of existing amphibious or support ships. The proposed squadron would include two LHA-6s; an LHD; three modified Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/roll-off Ships; three modified-design T-AKE support ships; three Mobile Landing Platforms (large flow-on/flow-off ships to carry the squadron's landing craft); and two existing ships from Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons.

However, the Navy's FY2008 shipbuilding plan appeared to forgo a modified T-AKE design. Instead, the Navy would build the same versions that were under construction, reducing their cost by about $200 million per ship relative to the June 2005 estimates. The Navy also intended to use an existing LHD in the MPF(F) squadron, rather than building a new vessel. With those changes in 2007, the Navy planned to buy one such squadron at a total estimated cost of about $12 billion.



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