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.