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UK to study fast-track plan for Littoral Strike Ships

12 February 2019
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The expeditionary sea base USS Lewis B Puller. The UK’s Littoral Strike Ship concept is broadly similar, being conceived as a forward-deployed, aviation-capable afloat staging base for the Royal Marines and special forces. Source: Richard Scott/NAVYPIX

Key Points

  • The UK MoD is studying an accelerated acquisition of Littoral Strike Ships
  • Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the vessels could be used for missions ranging from crisis support to warfighting

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to explore the accelerated acquisition of two new multirole support vessels that would serve as forward-deployed sea bases for the Royal Marines and special forces elements.

Announcing the move in a speech on 11 February, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the new vessels – termed Littoral Strike Ships – are intended to increase the ability of the United Kingdom to maintain a global presence in areas of strategic interest. Early concept and development work is being funded through the MoD’s ‘Transformation Fund’.

The Littoral Strike Ship is one of a number of proposals emerging from the MoD’s Modernising Defence Programme. The concept shares many similarities with the US Navy’s new Expeditionary Sea Base ships (a purpose-built adaptation of a commercial tanker design) and the special forces mother ship MV Ocean Trader (a converted roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ship operated by the US Military Sealift Command as a special warfare support vessel).

Williamson told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, “[We are] investing now to develop new Littoral Strike Ships and, if successful, we will look to dramatically accelerate their delivery.

“These globally deployable multirole vessels will be able to conduct a wide range of operations, from crisis support to warfighting. They would support our future Commando Force … they’ll be forward deployed at exceptionally high readiness and able to respond at a moment’s notice, bringing the fight from sea to land.”

According to Williamson, the MoD envisages the Littoral Strike Ships being permanently deployed away from the UK. “Our vision is for these ships to form part of two littoral strike groups, complete with escorts, support vessels, and helicopters,” he said.

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