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Navy League 2024: Amphibious ship shortfalls and potential overcapacity for carriers and subs alter US Navy shipbuilding plans

The decommissioning of amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, after the fire, shown here, in April 2021 created a shortfall for such ships in the fleet. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) is investing more in amphibious-related shipbuilding because of perceived operational shortfalls in the amphibious fleet and the extra future capacity for submarines and aircraft carriers, according to Bryan Clark, senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at Hudson Institute.

While the US Marine Corps (USMC) boasts of being the emergency response force for the US and its allies, the service could not answer that need on two recent important occasions, Clark noted on 31 March in an interview with Janes in advance of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2024 global maritime exposition starting on 8 April in National Harbor, Maryland.

“[In 2023 the] marines had to forego disaster relief for Türkiye,” Clark said. “EUCOM [European Command] asked for an amphibious assault ship for disaster relief and there was not one available.”

The marines also could not provide similar amphibious operations for Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) for South Sudan, he noted.

With the loss of amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), which was decommissioned in April 2021 after being damaged by fire, and other ships laid up for maintenance, there were no resources available, Clark said. “Those were two big opportunities they were not able to support. It was a black eye.”

At the same time, there was a growing concern that in its focus on developing the force to counter China in its ambitions, especially against Taiwan, the US had whittled too much of its other forces, according to Clark.

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