After taking a year off due to an ongoing Congressional budget fight, Fleet Week is back in New York, with the USS Oak Hill leading the way.
The Oak Hill is a Harper’s Ferry-class vessel, a type of amphibious warfare-focused ship that would be near the frontlines of any sea-based invasion. While the ship is equipped with a variety of missiles, guns, and other counter-measures, the real power is what the ship houses on the inside. The Oak Hill has a well-dock, where it can load and unload boats, amphibious vehicles, troops, and landing craft.
If a D-Day-type landing happened in this day and age, the Oak Hill would be one of the ships launching troop transports and vehicles onto the beachhead.
Business Insider recently got a tour of the ship, while it’s in dock at midtown Manhattan’s Pier 92, to see what makes the ship battle-ready for an amphibious invasion.
The USS Oak Hill is a dock-landing ship that modified to transport Marines, their vehicles, and their equipment. At 609-feet long and 16,400 tons, this ship is big.
The Oak Hill is loaded with defence weapons. The ship is outfitted with two MK-38 machine guns for hitting high speed targets, two Phalanx CIWS 'Gatling guns,' six .50 cal machine guns, and two surface-to-air RAM missile mounts.
Boarding the ship isn't too intimidating. There's a team of sailors to guide us along. The Oak Hill is manned by 22 officers and 340 total sailors.
To start, we get a demonstration of everything the Office Of Naval Research's TechSolutions is working on. This Navy officer showed us the military's new 'Fast-Tint Eyewear.' The technology is used by Navy Seals to accommodate to different light levels. With the touch of a button, Seals can switch the tint on the glasses instantaneously.
TechSolutions is a program where Marines and sailors identify technical challenges and TechSolutions creates prototypes within a year. This side-mounted Red Dot sight is another TechSolutions innovation. Prior to the sight's invention, shooting grenades from the launcher on assault rifles was a matter of trial and error. The sight eliminates all the guesswork.
After the tech demonstration, we head further into the ship to see the prizes aboard -- the vehicles and weapons equipment.
First, we get a demonstration of the different machine guns that the Marines and Navy sailors have onboard. The Mark-19 is an automatic grenade launcher mounted on a tripod. It has been in service since the Vietnam War.
The M240G machine gun is a medium machine gun used extensively by the Marines. It can shoot between 650-950 rounds per minute.
The M240G is often mounted on tanks and light-armoured vehicles like the ones that the Oak Hill has in its well-deck.
This is the well-dock of the Oak Hill, where they load and unload all the vehicles for assaults. The well-dock is located at the waterline and can be flooded so that vehicles can shoot right out to sea.
The deck can typically hold up to 16 vehicles, depending on the needs of the mission. It's usually a lot more crowded than this.
Vehicles are loaded in and out of the ship via the Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC) vehicle, a high-tech hovercraft. The LCAC can be configured to hold tanks, trucks, 180 troops, or anti-tank vehicles depending on the mission.
The LCAC floats like an air hockey puck on water and land, and is powered by two giant propellers. The hovercraft travels at a speedy 50 knots regardless of the weight of its payload. The vehicles currently on-board the Oak Hill were loaded using the hovercraft.
During an assault, the LCAC will speed into the target area and drop off the marines, equipment, and vehicles, before speeding back to the ship. 'We're a high-speed ferry service for the marines,' one Marine Craftmaster (or captain of the hovercraft) told Business Insider. 'No one can catch us.'
One of the most common vehicles on board is the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR), an all-terrain vehicle used by the U.S. Marines for troop, fuel, water, and weapons transport. According to one marine, the truck is known as 'The Truck Destroyer' and 'The Pink Mist' because it can literally drive through anything (and turn it into 'pink mist').
The MTVRs are used more commonly than Humvees now, because they are far more suited to the military's current needs. MTVRs are specifically built to withstand landmine and IED explosions.
This is a light armoured vehicle (LAV-25), specifically designed to carry troops on long reconnaissance missions. There are numerous versions of the vehicle, but this one is built around supporting the M242 Bushmaster chain gun.
A typical recon mission carried out from the Oak Hill might see a squad of 4 LAVs and one anti-tank vehicle ferried to their destination by hovercraft. All LAVs are amphibious and can ford rivers and waterways.
This is the anti-tank light armoured vehicle. The LAV-AT is equipped with a guided missile launcher to protect against tanks. The LAV-AT's main function is to protect the LAVs from more distant threats. Its weapons systems have more range than typical LAVs.
This Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) is the Marines' primary troop transport for amphibious assaults. The AAV was used extensively during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Here's what it looks like on the inside. The AAV-7 can go directly from ship to shore, with no assistance from the hovercraft. If the Marines are executing an amphibious invasion, the AAV-7 will be heading out from the Oak Hill.
After the navigating the well-deck, we headed upstairs to the flight deck. The Oak Hill can carry two helicopters. Today, there is a V-22 Osprey, the largest aircraft that the Oak Hill supports.
The MV-22 Osprey combines the versatility and functionality of a helicopter with the long-range and high-speed performance of an aircraft. The Osprey takes off vertically, before its turbines rotate 90 degrees and it begins to operate like a more conventional plane.
This is what it looks like inside the cockpit. Ospreys are used for a variety of complex missions, including high-altitude parachuting and combat rescue.
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