The US Army is thinking real hard about getting rid of these boats that take troops and tanks into battle

US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. LimonUSAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.
  • Earlier this year, the Army moved to get rid of the majority of the boats used to transport troops and material.
  • There was immediate backlash to the plan, as there is a continued need for the boats and no apparent replacements.
  • Eventually Congress got involved, and the Army is now conducting a mandatory review of its watercraft requirements.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ground combat is the US Army’s main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.

That’s why the Army’s plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanised Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbours, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.

“The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defence, decided the Army Reserve would divest “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget.

Esper said the Army had found $US25 billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.


The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure” — nearly 80% of its force.

Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support BrigadeLt. Col. Curtis Perkins, centre, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, August 6, 2019.

The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.


In early July, several Army watercraft — including former USAV SSGT Robert T. Kuroda, one of the eight Besson-class Logistics Support Vessels the government planned to sell — appeared on the General Services Administration auction website.

US Navy/Gregg SmithThe 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.

Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army’s roughly 130 watercraft were halted.

US Navy/Gregg SmithThe 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
Before the auction was taken down, a $US1 million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost $US26 million to construct.

Source: The Drive


The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.

US Army/Sgt. Aaron EllermanArmy mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, January 19, 2017.

Source: gCaptain


The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.

US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel SauretUS Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

Source: Military.com


The study started in June (the auction listings were pulled because the study was ongoing, a defence official told Military.com) and is supposed to be concluded by the end of the fiscal year.

US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. LimonA Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

The 2019 fiscal year ends on September 30. Asked about the status of the Army’s watercraft on September 4, McCarthy said the service was thinking long and hard about what it needed and what it would need to replace.

Sgt. 1st Class Julio Nieves/US ArmyArmy Reserve mariners return to Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam aboard Army Logistic Support Vessel SSGT Robert T. Kuroda off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, June 6, 2015.

The study is being done “to ensure that we have the requirements appropriately aligned with the combatant commanders,” McCarthy told reporters at the Defence News Conference in Washington, DC.

US Army/Sgt. Aaron EllermanArmy mariners embarked on a multiday transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, January 19, 2017.

“It’s multiple theatres that have requested this capability, so it’s ensuring they have the right sets of equipment, but also how would that be impacted by a recapitalization schedule, because many of the assets are ageing, so we’d have to replace several of them,” McCarthy said.

US Army/Staff Sgt. Charlotte ReavisUS Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

Powerpoint slides and accompanying notes describing the Army’s plan, reported in January by Stars and Stripes, said the deactivation process was faster than usual, as units are typically identified for deactivation two to five years in advance.

US Army/Staff Sgt. Armando R. LimonA Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

All the military branches have tried to find areas in which to save money. But the rapid and drastic nature of the Army’s watercraft divestment alarmed lawmakers and experts who worried about the service’s ability to deploy in the future, particularly in light of doubts about sealift capacity.

US Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabbA crew member of the US Army Logistics Support Vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross shoots a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun during range qualifications in the Persian Arabian Gulf, March 13, 2019.

In conducting the review, McCarthy said on Wednesday, the Army “took a step back and said we have to make sure we get the requirements right, and then what would be the appropriate acquisition schedule to recapitalize these capabilities.”

US Army/Sgt. Aaron EllermanUS Army Mariners aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross in the Persian Gulf, January 2017.

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