Mobile Landing Platform - Background
The MLP (Mobile Landing Platform) concept uses a heavy lift ship as a supplement/ replacement to the Integrated Landing Platform (ILP). CARDEROCK Center for Innovative Ship Design (CISD) developed a similar effort called the Intermediate Transfer Station (ITS). Mobile Landing Platforms, or MLPs, are being developed to facilitate at-sea cargo transfers. A platform that partially submerges in water and allows cargo to float on and off of it, the MLP is essentially a "beach" that links a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship to small, barge-like watercraft that can deliver the equipment from the sea base ashore.
The Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) is a 34,544 MT displacement carrier for LCACs [Landing Craft Air Cushion]. It would also function as a staging position for doing some of the assembly of forces. The MLP would be a troop carrier, carrying 1,112 Marines, and a place where forces could be matched with their equipment before being transported ashore on LCACs or via aviation assets. The ships would be about 800 feet (250 meters) long and built to commercial standards, with a maximum speed of about 20 knots.
They would have the ability to "pump up and pump down" to ease taking on cargo which requires dry towing across open water. This is similar to ships such as the 225-meter MV American Cormorant, a float-on/float-off heavy lift semisubmersible vessel. The semi-submersible MLP would be designed specially for float on / float off transport of LCACs. The self-contained ballast system allows accurate control the entire sumbersion and lifting process from the safety of the control room. Unobstructed decks and high deadweight capacity give flexibility in placement.
Float-on/float-off ships are unique. In order to load or float on cargo, these ships lower into the water by filling their ballast tanks with water. Lowering submerges the cargo deck of the ship. While the deck is submerged, the cargo is floated above it. When the float-on/float-off ship empties its ballast tanks and raises in the water, the cargo is landed on the cargo deck. The cargo is then secured to the flo-flo ship, and the ship is ready to sail. Just the opposite happens at the discharge location. The cargo is prepared for discharge (the securings are cut), the flo/flo ship ballasts down and the cargo is discharged or floated off.
In September 2005, the US Navy's Program Executive Office for Ships, Support Ships, Boats and Craft office sponsored a four-week MLP concept demonstration in Puget Sound, Wash., and San Diego to test the platform concept. Since both MPF(F) ships and MLPs are in the early development stages, the demonstration used MSC-chartered heavy lift ship MV Mighty Servant I as the at-sea platform. MV Mighty Servant I, a float-on/float-off ship designed to submerge in the water, is used to transport large, unwieldy cargo like drydocks, vessels and oil rigs. The ship's open deck made it an ideal landing platform for this demonstration. The 950-foot large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Watkins stood-in as the MPF(F) seabasing cargo ship.
The demonstration had two phases. First, Mighty Servant I and Watkins moored together side-by-side while at anchor in the calm, protected waters of Puget Sound. There, the Support Ships, Boats and Craft office's research and development team demonstrated transferring cargo from the ship to the platform and back, using Watkins' side ramp. Next, the two ships sailed to San Diego to transfer cargo yet again. This time, however, equipment was transferred from the cargo ship to the platform, where it was loaded onto high-speed amphibious landing craft, called Landing Craft Air Cushions, for transport ashore.
These craft hover over water and land to carry equipment, personnel, tanks and Humvees from ship-to-shore and across the beach at speeds of more than 40 knots. An LCAC's air cushion allows it to operate across more than 70 percent of the world's coastline. During the demonstration, the LCACs 'flew' aboard the flat deck of Mighty Servant I so that trucks and other equipment could be driven aboard the vessel and transported to shore.
During the demonstration, Watkins and MV Mighty Servant I were able to moor together side-by-side at anchor in calm water and in 3-foot high seas, and conduct LCAC operations. It was important to demonstrate that this process could be completed safely. Test administrators were also able to demonstrate how equipment can safely and effectively be transferred from a cargo ship to a MLP, and then transferred to an LCAC while underway.
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