High Speed Connector (HSC)
As detailed in Sea Power 21 and Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) envision 21st century Navy-Marine forces operating from a sea base, which uses the sea as maneuver space to provide an unprecedented freedom of maneuver for littoral operations. A family of connectors will be required to network the platforms of the sea base to the advanced base, as well as other platforms within the sea base and follow-on operations ashore.
The High Speed Connector, as of 2006 would be more properly regarded as a requirement construct rather than a specific piece of hardware, provides the critical intratheater, surface connector capability that will enable the Joint Force Commander to project forces and sustainment at highspeed over operational distances.
In June 2004, the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, signed an Enabling Concept for HSCs. This document provides the basis for further analysis, experimentation, and development of a critical combat capability in support of the sea-basing concept. The Enabling Concept provides a detailed vision of the role of HSCs in enabling the transformational concept of sea basing.
HSCs will fill a critical capability gap in the family of sea base connectors, by providing the intra-theater surface connector. The HSC will be capable of self-deploying to the theater of operations and, once in theater, providing a high-speed means to move forces and supplies over operational distances within a theater.
HSCs will play a crucial role in all phases of sea-based operations - from deployment through rehabilitation and reconstitution.
Capitalizing on their high speed (40-plus knots), shallow draft (less than 15 feet), and extreme maneuverability, HSCs offer new opportunities and capabilities to the Joint Force Commander.
Advanced Base to Sea Base HSCs will self-deploy from the continental United States (CONUS) or from forward basing sites. Once in theater, HSCs will play a crucial role in closing the force from advanced bases to the sea base. As forces arrive at advanced bases, they will board HSCs for rapid movement to Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) ships that are en route to the sea base echelon area or are already operating there. HSCs will enable the phased, at-sea arrival and assembly of forces at the sea base, as well as support the continuous flow of logistics to the sea base.
Within the Sea Base HSCs will support the transfer of personnel, supplies, and equipment within the sea base, and enable the distribution and redistribution of assets within the network of platforms making up the sea base. The capability of HSCs to transfer forces atsea also allows the flexibility to shift forces from the prepositioning platforms of the Sea Base to the strike platforms of the Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), providing enhanced striking capability of the force in joint forcible entry operations.
Sea Base to Shore HSCs provide the means to link the sea base to the shore and provide the flexibility needed to conduct responsive and tailored sea-based operations beyond the range of organic lighterage and assault craft. HSCs, while lacking the capability to conduct forcible entry operations, will project forces to austere or degraded ports or offload points, which are otherwise unsuitable for larger shipping. Using amphibious vehicles, HSCs will project forces within employable range from the beach and potentially to beaches in permissive and uncertain environments.
Capitalizing on the high-speed and high payload capacities of HSCs, Joint Force Commanders will have the flexibility to maneuver platforms of the Sea Base to areas providing more favorable environmental or threat conditions. Significantly, the sea base will be able to operate at greater distances from the shore, while maintaining responsive throughput rates and an employment posture that allows the sea base to react to emerging requirements ashore.
As the operational or tactical situation develops, HSCs will recover forces to the sea base where they can be reconstituted or rehabilitated in support of future missions. This capability to rapidly recover forces to the sea base gives the JFC the ability to maintain a high tempo of operations and force the enemy to react as desired.
While current maritime platforms may possess some of the attributes of HSCs - such as high speed, high payload capacity, or shallow draft - HSCs are transformational, in that they uniquely combine all of these traits into a single platform. Relying on these characteristics, HSCs will link the dispersed, mobile platforms that will constitute the Sea Base.
One of the primary attributes of HSCs is their capability to sustain high speeds over operational ranges, while carrying significant payloads. This combination provides a wide range of options and enhanced capabilities to JFC. High speed, high-payload capacity, and the ability to access littorals permits the sea base to project increased throughput at greater distances and provides the JFC a wider range of atsea offload options. For example, the HSC will enable prepositioning ships to conduct offloads at greater distances from the landing site, thereby allowing the JFC to take advantage of more favorable threat or environmental conditions. Speed is also critical in the delivery of high-priority supplies and equipment throughout the networked platforms of the Sea Base, advanced base and forces ashore.
The HSC's maneuverability and stability, combined with emerging ship-to-ship transfer technologies-such as composite fendering and motion compensating crane systems-will provide an enhanced capability to conduct at-sea transfers of personnel, equipment, and supplies. The capability to conduct at-sea transfers is critical to enabling force closure, phased at-sea arrival and assembly, and selective offload of the prepositioning ships comprising the sea base. Currently, the offload of prepositioning ships is limited by access to host nation infrastructure, specifically deep draft ports, accessible beaches, and favorable weather conditions. HSCs provide a means to mitigate these limitations by combining at-sea transfer capability with the capability to operate in minor and austere ports.
An open, reconfigurable mission deck, which is capable of transporting vehicles, cargo and other equipment, is a critical attribute of the HSC. In future highly fluid environments, JFC will require the ability to rapidly transition the HSC to support various missions in support of sea-based operations. The HSC's open mission deck will allow for the embarkation of force modules, ranging from highly capable, task-organized units to tailored sustainment packages for the sea base or forces operating ashore.
US and coalition forces will increasingly operate in anti-access environments. Access to benign deep-draft ports can no longer be relied upon for the introduction of forces into a Joint Operating Area (JOA).
HSCs provide a means to mitigate the antiaccess threat by enabling operations in small, minor, undeveloped, degraded, and austere ports. The ability to offload at sites, ranging from quay walls and undeveloped piers to possibly bare coastlines, opens a wide range of offload options for the projection, maneuver, and sustainment of forces, greatly complicates the enemy's anti-access efforts, and will allow for an increased tempo of operations.
HSCs will provide high-speed, highly maneuverable intra-theater surface connectors to the JFC, which are able to deliver tailored, scalable forces in response to a wide range of mission requirements in an increasingly anti-access environment. This has been proven through operational employment of HSV-X1 Joint Venture in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as numerous exercises such as Battle Griffin, Millennium Challenge, West Africa Training Cruise, and Joint Logistics Over The Shore.
The Navy and Marine Corps, in cooperation with the Army, are continuing to develop the concept and technologies through the lease of experimental vessels HSV-2 Swift, TSV-1X Spearhead, HSV-X1 Joint Venture, and M/V Westpac Express. These platforms, capable of long-range, openocean transits, will redefine the operational time-distance continuum, allowing rapid response throughout any theater for the Marine Corps of the 21st century.
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