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UK to study fast-track plan for Littoral Strike Ships

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.”

        This computer-generated illustration released by the MoD depicts a notional Littoral Strike Ship design very similar to the US special forces mother ship MV
        Ocean Trader
        . The latter is a role-adapted conversion of a commercial ro-ro vehicle carrier design.
       (UK MoD)

        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.
       (Richard Scott/NAVYPIX)

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