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US Navy awards HII Advance Procurement Contract for Amphibious Assault Ship LHA 9

The US Marine Corps is rethinking some of its core operations, anchored by amphibious assault ships. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) a contract modification for USD113.6 million to enable long-lead-time material and advance procurement activities for amphibious assault ship LHA 9.

This modification brings the total advance funding for LHA 9 to USD651 million.

Ingalls is the sole builder of the USN's large-deck amphibious ships, considered to be the centrepiece of the navy amphibious ready groups (ARGs) and the US Marine Corps (USMC) air-ground task forces.

The warships also offer mobile maintenance and logistics facilities and medical facilities with full operating suites and triage capabilities.

However, the reliance on the ARG concept is in a state of flux and uncertainty with recent USCM plans to revamp its operational concepts.

“The marine corps radically changed its plans for amphibious operations,” Mark Cancian, a retired USMC colonel and senior adviser with the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), wrote in a CSIS report about the fiscal year 2022 outlook for the USMC.

“For many years, the navy and marine corps' goal was 38 large [amphibious] ships,” he noted. “Driving this goal was the need to launch an amphibious operation of two marine expeditionary brigades [17 ships each] plus a 10% margin for maintenance.”

However, he pointed out, “Marine Commandant General David Berger rejected this methodology in his initial commandant's guidance. He argued that large amphibious ships were vulnerable in a great power conflict and that the ability of the navy and marine corps to execute a classic landing in the high-threat environment foreseen by the NDS [National Defense Strategy] seemed doubtful.”

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