The Amphibious Assault Hovercraft – British innovation at its best ?

We have had lots of discussion recently on politics, SDSR etc, but I have used the debate in the blogosphere about the cancelling of the USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) programme as an excuse to return to a “shiny kit” type of article !

The cancelling of EFV has had lots of impact in the USN / USMC community. There has been much discussion about whether the basic concept of operations needs to be revised, whether or not storming a beach in an armoured vehicle is even do-able against ‘near peer’ enemies, whether the LCAC is vulnerable, whether the MV22 is good enough at what its supposed to do, whether the LPD 17 class is too expensive etc.

Royal Marines Griffon 2400TD Hovercraft
Griffon 2400TD Hovercraft

You can visit Solomon’s SNAFU blog, or Information Dissemination, or take a quick peak at this USNI blog post to get the flavour of the conversation.

Remember though, the EFV was built to a set of requirements – requirements that many would say were simply too much. The conops was for USN amphibs to stay over the visual / radar horizon, and so the EFV had to be fast on the water to cover the distance to shore (25nm) fast enough to cut down the period of vulnerability. Once ashore it had to be better armed and protected than its predecessor (the venerable AAV7), include protection against big IED’s and have land mobility to allow it to keep up with M1A1 MBT’s – is there any wonder it ended up costing so much it would simply have swallowed up too much of the USMC’s budget.

Right tool for the right job

My initial thought was that it would be better to stick with horses for courses. Rapid ship to shore movement by hovercraft in the shape of LCAC (and its improved successor) or alternatives such as PASCAT and L-CAT type vessels, plus armoured vehicles that maybe amphibious, but are designed primarily for protection and land mobility. Many such armoured vehicles already exist, both wheeled and tracked, and indeed the USMC also has a requirement for a new APC.

However this leaves a requirement for a fast amphibious vehicle to get Marines ‘feet dry’ in the face of enemy fire. This is where my ‘modest proposal’ for an assault hovercraft that is a little more ‘souped up’ than the RM’s current type (the 2400TD) comes in. (By the way, why don’t these have an RWS instead of an open “freeze yer boys off” MG mount ?)

Royal Marines 2400TD Hovercraft in Norway
Royal Marines 2400TD Hovercraft in Norway


I won’t re-hash the fact that the hovercraft is an excellent British invention, or that we had the amazing Vosper Thorneycroft VT2well before the Yanks were thinking about JEFF-A and JEFF-B, I will stress though that in the shape of Griffon Hoverworks, we have probably the biggest manufacturer of hovercraft in the world (at least in terms of number of customers, if not in terms of sheer volume of vehicles delivered).

The biggest purely military craft that Griffon Hoverworkproduce is the 8100TD, which is in service with Sweden and a number of other countries. The Swedish variants have some ballistic protection (wheel house armoured against 7.62mm ball), and with a payload of 12 tonnes can carry a BVS10 type vehicle internally. It has a length of 21.3 meters by 11 meters in the beam and can do 45 knots fully loaded. See this page for more details. This is only slightly longer, but substantially broader than the LCVP Mk5 which can carry 35 Marines at up to 25 knots (15.5 m x 4.3 m).

The Modest Proposal

I would suggest an armed and armoured version of the 8100TD might make a pretty good assault hovercraft, so based on the fact that a RM Bootneck with a full Bergen and lots of kit for an “extended stay’ somewhere might tip the scales at up to 150kg, but if only tricked out in fighting order for the initial assault that might drop to 100kg each, I reckon we get between 40 to 60 troops onboard if we cut our payload to 6 tonnes.

For our 6 tonnes of additional kit, I would pick and chose from systems developed for helicopters, and systems developed for armoured vehicles. So for example helicopter style night vision compatible avionics and displays would take over in the cockpit, which might include both aluminium armour, but also lightweight boron or composite armour developed for aircraft applications. Certainly thick bullet proof glass as used in MRAP’s would be required for the windscreen and windows of the control cabin / cockpit.

Just as an example an STK dual-weapon RWS with 7.62mm MG and 40mm GMG comes in at 350 kg including ammo, and includes daylight and thermal imaging systems. If take an active protection radar sensor suite designed for armoured vehicles and add the attendant anti-missile system, we might add 50 kg in antennas and I will use the MetalStorm Redback as an example of the anti-missile launcher, as these weight 70 kg each. I can’t find any weights for a loaded AN/ALE40 chaff and flare dispenser, but I can’t see them being more thank 30kg each ?

We have used 850kg so far. Perhaps with ESM and laser warning antenna sets we might be up to a tonne, which leaves us 5 more to play with. Perhaps 500 kg might be used on the Textron TRAPS “anti-RPG air bag” system (shown below) to give a second layer of defence against incoming threats ?

So lets say conservatively we have 4 tonnes with which to provide armour protection up to 7.62mm and artillery / mortar shrapnel for the main cabin, propulsion fan shrouds and enhanced protection (12.7mm AP ?) for the wheel house.

1 – Wheel house repositioned to the center, with two hydraulic ramps, 1 either side for troop egress.

2 – port and starboard RWS

3 – Port and starboard forward smoke grenade dischargers

4 – Port and starboard Redback 40mm weapons system as part of anti-RPG / anti-missile system.

5 – wide sliding side doors – both for troop egress or for helicopter style machine gun mounts

6 – Port and starboard AN/ALE 40 chaff and flare dispensers.

Back to the context of an alternative to a hydroplaning amphibious armoured vehicle. The 8100 Armoured Assault can deposit 60 Marines feet dry after running in from over the horizon at well over 45 knots, jinking and manoeuvring as only a hovercraft can at that speed. With full threat detection kit, it can do its best to avoid being hit on the run into the beach, flying over mines in shallow waters and on the beach.

Closer to the enemy it can put down supressing fire with 40mm grenade launchers (with air bursting munitions if required) and possibly up to 4 x 12.7mm MG’s. Active protection systems provide close in defence against RPG’s and guided anti-tank missiles. 2 such vehicles can deploy a company of 120 heavily armed Marines within minutes, clearing out enemy snipers or RPG / MG and mortar teams waiting to ambush the unprotected LCAC coming in the next wave. Such a vehicle would obviously have other littoral and riverine uses.

Of course as it has been pointed out in the USNI blog posting I linked to at the beginning of this article, hovercraft require extra wet dock space, whereas AAV7 / EFV or amphibious APC’s take up vehicle space on the cargo decks, and unfortunately the 8100TD is not that much smaller than an LCAC (26.4m x 14.3m). Having said that, lots of commentators have suggested the USN should be buying more, cheaper Schelde Enforcer type amphibs rather than gold plated LPD17’s……..

How about 6 for the RM and we could ship them to trouble zones on a hired merchant?

About The Author

Think Defence contributing author

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March 20, 2011 12:47 pm

Like the kit, but id it is the size of the US craft why not just buya and modify it for it’s greater carrying capacity?

March 20, 2011 1:15 pm


Looks a nice piece of kit very useful around the coast much like the cb-90 boats both we should be considering purchasing. Could this be carried in the bay and albion class and which of the landing they carry would it replace.

Think Defence
March 20, 2011 1:20 pm
paul g
March 20, 2011 1:26 pm

how about using the BAe tactical remote turret, specs are good weight wise. TRT-25 basic information

Description: 25mm tactical remote turret.
Height: 1.05m (driven by elevation specification).
Width: 1.32m.
Weight: 850kg (including ammunition and weapons of 400kg). Additional armoured protection can be added.
Turret elevation: -10 to +65.
Armament/Weapons: Dual-feed 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon with 2 x 130-round bins, a 7.62 mm machinegun with 1 000 rounds, and 4 x 76mm smoke grenade launchers.
note that the weight of 850kg includes weapons and ammo.
also maybe use the griffon bh130’s or 150’s with the wheelhouse at the back giving better options for loads (ie vehicles) i accept that it is 7m longer and therefore encroaching on LCAC territory but 20 tonnes over 12. Still blowing the trumpet,flying the flag etc etc griffon are partnered with an american firm (only way to sell in the states, protectism strikes again)

BAE page on the turret

paul g
March 20, 2011 1:32 pm

just seen this whilst checking my facts and figures on bh130 compared to LCAC (changed my mind, stick with TD’s proposal)! perhaps griffon are involved in some way hence the US tie up.

paul g
March 20, 2011 1:34 pm

flipping heck, note to self; read then post!!! It actually says griffon is part of one of the bidding teams!! coming with boeing, playing with the big boys!

March 20, 2011 1:41 pm

Ixion asked: “if it is the size of the US craft why not just buy and modify it for it’s greater carrying capacity?”

I guess I did not cover that off very well in the article did I.

1. LCAC IS bigger
2. It is WAY more expensive
3. This is BRITISH (which of course could be a negative for our ex-colonial cousins)
4. 8100TD is DIESEL powered, not gas turbine and thus is way cheaper to operate, maintain etc.

I really should have made a big deal about the diesel versus gas turbine issue, because it does make the Griffon Hoverworks vehicles an order of magnitude cheaper to run.

PaulG – ref the bigger BHT130/150 – the “half well deck” variant is indeed very versatile, and in UK use, I could see the RN using it as inshore MCM with other secondary littoral roles. However for the USN, its too close the LCAC in size but lacking in lift capability (although again, way cheaper to run). Nice on the BAe turret though, 2 x 25mm would give much longer range to take on the bad guys :-)

March 20, 2011 1:51 pm

If you are going for remote turrets, the CT40 might be a better solution. It’s what it was designed for, by all outwards appearances.

March 20, 2011 2:37 pm

TRAPS is nice, but I don’t think it would work on a hovercraft as it may damage the skirt, or at least interfere with the air-cushion. The down-ward blast of the TRAPS would cause a pressure wave ripping the skirt to pieces.

An alternative would be a Trophy ADS or SAAB LEDs as they fire outward away from the hovercraft.

Nice idea though.

March 20, 2011 2:40 pm

Interesting, though I have an idea,

What about anti-aircraft protection? Would these mounts be able to make a attacking helicopter (either normal or gunship) or attacking aircraft back off?

I know in such an operation, enemy air defence would have been taken care of as part of the first mission, but it wouldn’t take much for say a Hind or attacking jet with a 30mm cannon to help burst its airbags, so to speak. And at high speeds, hovercraft aren’t that manouverable, certainly not at sea.

Perhaps a simple AA gun type to replace the 7.62MG? Heavier firepower to take out light armour/dug in positions and good stopping power for a attacking helicopter or strafing aircraft, or could it be done by just haveing MANPADS cater for that? Javelin SAM.
Perhaps mounting starstreak as part of its weapons system… not the whole system, but 2 or 3 missiles for self defence.

Or will the allemcompassing Type45 mean that the assault marines will be under its protective umbrella?

I think this point is enhanced now that we dont have Naval/RAF fixed wing capable of joining in with the Amphid Assault to give air cover/win over air superiority like we -arguably- did in ’82 and in Iraq. Especially for ‘goining in alone’.

Just an idea, I’m not privy to hovercraft or large scale amphib assaults, not sure if thats already been catered for.

March 20, 2011 3:39 pm

TD your suggestion is making me think of gunboats for some reason.:-)

Looking at Mike’s post though, how would the skirts be protected? Is an armoured skirt an option, or can they be made to self seal like the Apache fuel tanks?

Is making the skirts cellular an option, like modern airships?

That said, I like the idea. Didn’t the RM use their hovers in a similar manner in GW2 in the Iraqi marshes?

That’s enough from me.

Cheers, Alan.

Phil Darley
March 20, 2011 5:20 pm

TD another excellent post. I agree with it whole heartedly. I am 100% with you on the 8100TDs and that all the assault craft should be armoured (at least to 7.72mm ball levels and shouldhave heavy weapons ideally housed in a RCWS or well protected cupola. I would like to see LMM included, as this is a very versatile weapon, able to attacke air and surface targets. The RM are supposed to be getting the PASCAT Now this might be seen as too close to the 8100TD. I don’t think it is but you know how the MOD works. I would also like to see CB90s, especially with a few fitted with the AMOS mortar system.

Think Defence
March 20, 2011 6:01 pm

Phil, look at the author of the post!

All the best ones seem to come from Jed

March 20, 2011 6:03 pm

The thing about RCWS is that they are expensive – you need the electro-optics and the power controls, so for many weapons a cupola might well be the cheaper option, although having said that, on a fast moving craft like a hovercraft or CB90, stabilisation would be a good thing to have.

The LMM/Starstreak on a RCWS, possibly with a machine gun as well, in the style of the US Avenger, would give you a pretty versatile weapon system for use against soft and hard targets on the surface or in the air.
With that, only the tracker/laser projector need be the only stabilised item, but the MG/launcher mount could be stabilised as well.

If LMM is used for the lightweight FASGW on Lynx, then it would be a common weapon system (and we all like commonality)

El Sid
March 20, 2011 6:31 pm

It’s a little bit off-topic and a bit out of date now but I’ve been waiting for an excuse to throw in this article which is a nice rant about the USMC’s lust for “exquisite technology”. It makes a pretty good case for the USMC being the most toxic procurement customer of all – they get some amazing gold-plated technology when it works, but when it goes wrong, it’s spectacularly bad. This gives a flavour :

The common thread linking these three programs is that they use complex, untried and expensive technologies to make the impossible, possible, which explains why they are so far behind schedule (development of the EFV began 23 years ago; that of the Osprey 24 years ago) and over budget.

The rationale for the F-35B is that the Corps (which also has its own helicopter gunships) doesn’t trust the US Navy to provide close air support; for the EFV, that it thinks a target moving at 20 knots (the EFV) will escape weapons that can destroy a target moving at 7 knots (today’s AAV); and for the MV-22, that the Corps wants a hybrid aircraft to carry a few soldiers or a small sling-load at high speeds.

Going back on-topic – I wouldn’t get too hung up on goldplating with AA weapons, it all takes up space and weight and you really shouldn’t be doing landings when the oppo have free reign in the skies. Let the hovers be great delivery systems and let other stuff do anti-air. Have your 30mm cannon or whatever, and throw some MANPADS in the boot if you’re that worried about air threats.

March 20, 2011 6:40 pm

Hi TD & Phil Darley,

Love it , no doubt about that. BTW, UK is the only nation that has suffered a defeat in the hands of “these monsters”.
– namely, the Shah had the biggest fleet in the world (from these same works) and took some key islands in the Hormuz Strait when they were still guaranteed for another three days under the UK pact with the Trucial States of then, the UAE of today.

No wonder the UAE is armed to the teeth these days: more than half a thousand IFVs from Russia, then plenty of wheeled variants (Patria AMV) with the same BMP3 turret, except some of those with a Nemo turrets fitted, as well, and then… if some of the buggers get ashore, they will be attacked from the rear with some Nemo on patrol boats; no retreat – but that must be the slogan for the Revolutionary Guards anyway?

Reactive armour vs. active armour? The shape of the thing is so awkward that I would go for reactive armour for the key “bits”. Ref. weight considerations (+ cost, not being an accountant, I must say again!).

@Phil: What is LMM?

Think Defence
March 20, 2011 6:47 pm

ACC, have a look here for some info on LMM

March 20, 2011 6:51 pm

Jed! Sorry – good man – you are at it again.

Very good posts, not just this one (I did not notice, before TD pointed it out).

March 20, 2011 7:07 pm

Hi El Sid,

Wasn’t sure if the quote was a parody or an endorsement of the commentator’s view, so I’ll just take it at face value:
“use complex, untried and expensive technologies to make the impossible, possible, which explains why they are so far behind schedule (development of the EFV began 23 years ago; that of the Osprey 24 years ago) and over budget.

The rationale for the F-35B is that the Corps (which also has its own helicopter gunships) doesn’t trust the US Navy to provide close air support; for the EFV, that it thinks a target moving at 20 knots (the EFV)
– make the impossible, possible: the nature of all R&D (whether space, defence… whatever). One thing to remember is that between many wars the US only had a cavalry, a navy (and then an air force) but never (when not in WW1 or 2) an army.

So the USMC gets everything it wants, by default. Bob G. has put them on probation… but he himself is leaving! It takes boots (or leathernecks) to hold the ground.

All fighter programs take about a quarter of century (they begin before the previous generation is in service). So what’s different about these two, then: “development of the EFV began 23 years ago; that of the Osprey 24 years ago) and over budget.”
– an armoured surf board (and no need to wait for the surf); I’ll have one of those!
– Osprey has been well covered on these threads, so no further comment (except that it is great, but too expensive for…?)

Phil Darley
March 20, 2011 7:35 pm

TD… Sorry didn’t see that Jed was the author. Jed, bloody fine post Sir. ACC I think TD has answered your LMM question. It essence it is a development of the Stastreak, but designed to be a lot cheaper to produce. By all accounts a very fine missile. I would like to see the 7 round LMM launcher matched with the Goalkeeper and
Used as the standard CIWS. I would like to see the amATK

Phil Darley
March 20, 2011 7:43 pm

Oops pressed publish too soon. What I was trying to say was I want the LMM fitted to the ATK30/DSM30 and every ship fitted with both goalkeeper and DSM30 as they share the same ammo and makes more sense than 20mm Phalanx and 30mm ATK

March 20, 2011 7:50 pm

As some learned chap here pointed out to me this is the toy we want,

Over the last 18 months or so for me the idea of helicopter warfare has begun to lose its validity. That is moving large bodies of troops some distance to perform a task not the other zillion and one tasks helicopters are good for. And I thought EFV was the way to go; even if it cost twice or thrice the costs of an MBT but not tens (and up) times! Yet “we” are happy to spend the same on helicopter that can only lift troops to the LZ and return to mother. At least the EFV would have stayed in the fight.

I think there is question of how far marines are expected to go ashore in high end war. I would suggest anything much beyond 5 miles is too far. But that is me.

Further I think there is a need to look at amphibious ship design beyond the LPD and LSD. The USN are building some of these,

Something like that with accommodation for a commando and a vehicle deck, and a “well deck” carrying about 12 (yes twelve) of those French catamarans would be just about ideal.

Finally what ever 8×8 the British Army buys should be amphibious too; that means in my book jets and propellers not just wheels for propulsion. Not for long transits, but just so it can be certain it will get through the wash on up the beach.

March 20, 2011 7:52 pm
March 20, 2011 8:04 pm

Problem was several landing craft were hit, with one destroyed, by aircraft in ’82.

March 20, 2011 8:07 pm

Out of interest is there any way of mounting rocket artillery or NEMO on something like the 8100TD? I am thinking that we could make up for the cancellation of the 155mm gun programme for the RN, by using 8100TD with rockets or mortars to provide fire support.

March 20, 2011 8:49 pm

A Royal Marine hovercraft “crashed” in some way on the Thames the other day. It was there doing demostrations from HMS Bulwark which is visiting the Thames for a few days. I saw pix of the hovercraft’s skirt deflated and afloat just by the wall/bank of the river. The hovercraft had 3 big RM ribs providng support. I think this illustrates how hovercrafts are liable to crashes, with their maneuvrability at all speeds being limited, compared to a conventional watercraft.

Richard Stockley
March 20, 2011 9:07 pm

X, you said: “Finally what ever 8×8 the British Army buys should be amphibious too; that means in my book jets and propellers not just wheels for propulsion.”

Can we have Stalwart back instead?

March 20, 2011 9:08 pm

No, it is more an example of how Royal drives. Never ever accept an offer of a quick spin around the harbour in a Rigid Raider, your kidneys will thank you for it.

(Same goes for abseiling facing down the rock-face, you won’t feel safe. Hold this is won’t go bang, honest…… Actually anything the green lid brigade suggests!)

March 20, 2011 9:18 pm

@ Richard S

Yes as long as you pay the fuel bill. The engine in the Stalwart though is a delight.

Amphibious vehicles is another one of those whackdoodle areas I get hung up over. For what it takes to add a couple of jets onto something that is essentially a big steel box I think it is silly not to do so. I know the engineers can deploy those bridges darn quick, but if you are spending 2million on a go anywhere vehicle, well why not have a go anywhere vehicle?

March 20, 2011 9:20 pm

Hello all

Just to respond to some of the comments, not in any particular order, and you already know if its addressed in response to your own comment:

1. Active defense – I did not make it clear I suppose, it’s actually a while since I sent this to Admin, and he may have edited it a bit, but I think I originally had links to articles describing the recent operational ‘baptism’ of Israel’s Iron Fist (?) active protection or anti-ATGW system. The availability of such active defence systems is what makes this craft viable in my opinion, allowing it to defend against RPG and ATGW, which it otherwise could not survive (it could never have enough armour). I did mention the MetalStorm Redback as the Anti-missile launcher, but I probably did not make it clear. I also mentioned the TRAPS system, and to me this is a second layer, and as it would be along the top edge of the troop cabin, it would fire down towards the decking and thus I don’t think Marcase would need to worry about it damaging the skirt.

2. Action damage to the skirt. Hey, its all about compromises :-) The skirt is the most vulnerable part of a hovercraft, but lots of bullet holes are probably not going to loose your cushion / lift. I am not suggesting this vehicle as a hover-tank for some sci-fi (Halo type) universe. Similarly I am not sure we need the weight of auto-cannon, but if it doesn’t push us over the weight budget I am ok with ‘bigger guns”

3. Anti-air: I am suggesting this vehicle for USN / USMC instead of EFV, and U.S. doctrine generally is to not engage in any ops with out local air superiority / air dominance. However I think sticking 2 x Stinger, or 2 x LMM on each of the RWS would be do-able.

4. Crashing and Maneuvering. Joe88 any craft can be crashed. I have seen RN coxswain head into shallows at a great rate of knots and rip the bottom out of his RHIB. I actually disagree and don’t see hovercraft as being less maneuverable than conventional watercraft, and it would certainly be more maneuverable in any given sea state than an EFV.

5. Fire support. I would suggest a version of the “half well deck” variant of BHT130/150 would be better. Using some of the 22 tonnes payload weight to again armour the pilot house and the main cabin, the front cargo deck could mount various roll on roll of weapons modules, or just a light armoured vehicle with a NEMO turret for example.

Thanks for all the comments, I would argue with TD ref who’s articles are better :-) After all, if it were not for TD, where would I publish this stuff !

March 20, 2011 9:30 pm

“Something like that with accommodation for a commando and a vehicle deck, and a “well deck” carrying about 12 (yes twelve) of those French catamarans would be just about ideal.”

Would be huge!

That isn’t intended as an amphibious assault ship and couldn’t carry out the same tasks. It’s part of a system (with other ships) for administrative landings in benign and secure environments. If we had ambitions to move/land forces of the size that the USMC does, I’m sure it would be worth looking at. However as our ambitions are now reduced to a commando group… :-(

Peter Arundel
March 20, 2011 11:47 pm

@X – I disagree with everything you have said about amphibious vehicles. Basically, with the exception of some pretty specialist roles, they’re pointless. It sounds like a good idea; don’t wait for engineers to bridge the river, just swim your vehicle across, but in reality it doesn’t work because even if you can get your vehicle in, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get it back out again. Take a look at the banks of your local river and you’ll notice that entry and exit points suitable for tracked vehicles let alone wheeled ones are conspicuous by their absence. The theoretical operational advantages aren’t worth the compromises in armour and hull size – just look at a PT-76 compared to, for example, a Scorpion to see what has been sacrificed for amphibious capabilities.

El Sid
March 21, 2011 12:09 am

@ACC 7:07
I suppose I sympathise with the general thrust of the piece, but I quoted the most flowery bit because it was more entertaining rather than the most accurate!

The obvious question is – why should the EFV take as long to develop as a fighter plane? It’s a pretty arbitrary metric – why not a landing craft, or the next Ford Fiesta?

I understand all too well how delays are the nature of the bleeding edge, on the other hand if you let programmes run on for too long then you never get anything, the costs spiral and in the meantime your requirements may change out of all recongition. The thing about IED vulnerability is a case in point.

The US forces have a particular problem with their aversion to not-invented-here, and the USMC is probably most vulnerable to that as the smallest of their armed forces. They’ve got the same problem we have only worse, being big enough to have developed their own kit in the past, but adapting only slowly to the idea that modern R&D is so expensive you’ve got to partner and/or make more use of the existing parts bin.

History is always good, but another part of the problem may be more recent – the corporate belief that they won the Cold War by Reagan outspending the Russians (in fact it was the other side of the balance sheet, the Saudis crashing the Russians’ oil income) and that mentality continuing long after the wall came down. The influence of the defence companies over senators addicted to porkbarrelling doesn’t help either. The US might have done better to follow the example of the RN post-Trafalgar which was so dominant that it could afford an “anti-arms-race” – why spend more money to build ships that can kill your enemy 20 times when you can already kill them 10 times? So compared to the commercial sector they were quite slow to adopt new technologies across the fleet, but kept their hand in with short production runs of what were in effect technology demonstrators. Steam power is a good example – they didn’t really go for it until the French built the Napoleon in 1850 or so, and it sparked something of an arms race in the 1850s.

El Sid
March 21, 2011 12:10 am

Apparently the Bulwark is scheduled to leave Greenwich on Monday – funny how the Navy is much keener on PR opportunities these days. Here’s a video with them showing off their toys, and some pics of the LCAC that crashed :

Willy Dribble
March 21, 2011 2:36 am
Willy Dribble
March 21, 2011 2:37 am

Erm sorry

Willy Dribble
March 21, 2011 3:09 am

Ok I composed a massive comment on non host nation/forced entry operations(mmmm strategic raiding mmmm)…but its kinda of disappeared into the ether(I think some UAV over Libya received it by accident)…I’ll gather my thoughts in the morning since i’m not at work.

March 21, 2011 5:07 am


I was fine with the first clip, myself; you had me at HMS Watford. (And what full services are we offering?) And if you’re doing something on non-FHO forced entry, yes please. I think we ought to get a bunch of us who take an interest in that together and take a load off TD’s hands. Coincidentally I’m off tomorrow too, will look for it w/ interest.

El Sid,

More great stuff, esp. the potted description of the early-mid Victorian navy (and they were at it again, the technology-demonstrator bit, with the first runs of pre-dreadnoughts, really.) The USMC seems a Jekyll-and-Hyde organisation, much of the time and for much of their history they’ve made do and mended with the other services’ leftovers, but that’s made them obsessively keen (shades of Hyacinth Bucket?) on having just a few marine-specialized items that make “gold-plated” look like something from an Asda remainders bin. The beginning of your last graf is critical too, I can tell you from several contacts with people who are or were in the Americans’ military-industrial complex that this is still very much the view (failure to notice the important thing about the Carter Doctrine pre-Bush Sr., getting the Saudis to open the taps.)

But for the whole scope of the post and thread — nice one, Jed. And as a big Griffon Hovercraft fan, yes, this is absolutely the way forward. It’s a hell of a niche, but being one of the last nations that could, if it had the mind to, hone and maintain the ability to put an opposed marine brigade ashore where and when necessary (my bet is it will become more so even if just because of the irony value when military establishments the world over are willing themselves the opposite way) would be strategically valuable, for national “insurance” and as a contribution to alliances. So you need the best tools for the job, to allow the most flexible and survivable tactics, to which end good hovercraft are a hell of a help.

March 21, 2011 5:09 am

Agh — “non-FHN,” me no tpye gud, not at this hour anyway (not as late as it is for most here, but late enough.)

March 21, 2011 5:18 am

I think the proposal has merit with a few big question marks.

IF? one needs a combination troop and vehicle fast landing craft which is fully amphibious, then this certainly fits the bill. BUT not all cargo going ashore needs to be feet dry, so conventional craft would be more cost effective to buy.

In the US most troops are flown over the beach by helos & V22, so this craft may not be so desired on this side? ElSid is quite right. And the USN (who drives the LCACs) suffer from that.

The biggest problem with ALL landing craft is finding landing pads aka “spots” for each and every one. The wet well docks of US amphib basically limit the landing craft size. A restriction which I don’t believe should be accepted with the thought that is the way we’ve done it since WW2.

The solution is of course using clear deck Flo/Flo ships to transport landing craft and lighterage along with the amphibs. I could easily see the hovercraft’s cargo/troops loading up at an amphib stern ramp OR onboard the semi-submersible. As I have posted here before, the MLP is a ship designed by committee. Its deck is so chopped up as to be unusable. There are only spots for 4 LCAC nee SSC on that huge expensive monstrosity. At around $900 mil each, it should be cancelled.

The one major improved design feature missing from this and SSC is rotable ducted thrusters which would give much more directional control and allow side loading.

And BTW all landing craft need an RWS of some sort for accuracy and crew protection

March 21, 2011 10:11 am

Hi El Sid,

RE “why should the EFV take as long to develop as a fighter plane? It’s a pretty arbitrary metric – why not a landing craft, or the next Ford Fiesta?”
– transformational use of technology (nothing of that sort in an LC or a Fiesta?)

“I understand all too well how delays are the nature of the bleeding edge…”
– all agreed, but also if you don’t ever try you will also get nothing?

RE “The thing about IED vulnerability is a case in point”
– I think this was the factor that put the nail into the coffin
– with regard to cost, with rapid, over-the-horizon entry they are now back to helicopters only (so that should be the cost benchmark)

March 21, 2011 10:26 am

“with rapid, over-the-horizon entry they are now back to helicopters only (so that should be the cost benchmark)”
– having read the rest of the posts, I feel generous now (not having made it a V22)

March 21, 2011 1:13 pm

@ X

cheers, didn’t know the french had made such awesome vehicles:
However, they are too wide to fit in our amphibs, and do they provide anything that PASCAT won’t?

@ Jed

Awesome article, i really do love Griffin, but if we were to look at the 8100TD (and we should), I prefer the one with the side-mounted wheelhouse that can disembark vehicles from a forward ramp…….

March 21, 2011 1:14 pm

Hovercraft (and other landing craft) can’t perform the EFV/AAV mission. They can only do half. Hovercraft can get troops to shore quickly, but leave them unarmored and on foot. Also, as others have said, they take up a lot of deck/dock space.

What about building a two-stage system? Build a new AAV with only modest improvements over the existing one (no planing hull & retractable tracks). Carry it somewhat close to shore with another vessel.

This other vessel has to be cheaper and more numerous, and/or more survivable than existing amphibious ships. High speed is also preferable (though not mandatory). JHSV is one candidate, but it lacks any degree of survivability. LCS may be somewhat better (at least it has RAM/SeaRAM and a 57mm), but I’m not convinced we’ll have the numbers necessary to land enough AAVs. Plus they will have other jobs (MIW).

If I had a clean sheet of paper, I might consider a stealthy SES hull, like an enlarged Skjold. It would have to be large enough to self-deploy (i.e. not take up a well dock spot), and carry at least 4-6 AAVs. It would deploy empty and could either mate up with an MLP for loading, or have AAVs swim over to it from their amphib.

At 50+kts, it could minimize the time spent within visual range. Stealth shaping, CIWS and countermeasures (hopefully) make it less susceptible to ASCMs. On the flip side, its lightweight construction would make it more susceptible to other fires (e.g. HMG, cannon, indirect, ATGMs).

Another benefit of an SES hull is very shallow draft (on cushion). While they can’t go feet-dry like a hovercraft, they can still get in much closer to shore than other hull types.

When not in use in this role, it could supplement the JHSV, or be configured with modules for patrol MIW, or ASW.

Now one has to ask if the cost to build both a new AAV and an SES AAV carrier is more or less than just pushing forward with the EFV.

Another option might be to just build more numerous, better armed, more survivable amphibious ships. Instead of three ships per ARG, maybe we need six or more. Keep one LHA/D over the horizon. However instead of two LSD/LPDs per ARG, split the landing force amongst four or six smaller vessels. Maybe something like the Absalon. Add a large cargo vessel (LKA) to make up for the shortfall in tonnage.

Absalons have significant self-defense capabilities, and some low observable shaping. They also carry a 5″ for NGFS.

March 21, 2011 1:24 pm

Hello all – back again…..

In reverse order:

B.Smitty – I know the hovercraft can’t do the EFV mission, that is the whole point – “horses for courses” the modest proposal above is the first wave to secure a beach head and the LCAC bring in the armour. Multiple parts, but not of them highly compromised and ridiculously expensive; really I am just examining doing it a different way.

Jedibeeftrix – in this proposal it does not need to carry vehicles. In USMC use that is what the LCAC is for. In UK use that would be PASCSAT derivative.

Leesea – I admit, finding ‘landing spots’ for all these hovercraft is the by far the biggest problem ! By I like that your being positive and thinking of solutions, and not problems…. :-)

I think what we have here is a vehcile that would easily cost far less than a LCAC or a MV22, that could carry less troops but more internal fuel for use as a littoral / riverine patrol craft etc

Gareth Jones
March 21, 2011 1:28 pm

I thought I’d throw this concept in to the debate; it emphasises speed over range, its purpose to get stuff from the “Sea Base” to shore.

Gareth Jones
March 21, 2011 1:38 pm

Hovercraft were used in Vietnam for Riverine/littoral operations. Although very successful they were expensive compared to the River Patrol Boats and harder to maintain, so their numbers were limited.

However, with a diesel power plant, maintenance might be easier, and if you own enough a training programme gets easier/more cost effective…

March 21, 2011 2:23 pm

Appologies Jed, I must read the title blocks.

March 21, 2011 3:06 pm


IMHO, adding an extra phase to put infantry ashore to secure the beachhead is taking a step backwards. Even light opposition can cause major casualties.

Amphibious tractors can not only land, but can deal with small-scale, local opposition, and then immediately push inland. No waiting for a follow-up landing of armor.

If you do want to go the hovercraft route, why not use the smaller 2400TD? You can almost fit four in the same deck area as one 8100TD. The aren’t as fast, but four times as many targets is much harder to stop. And if one is destroyed, you lose fewer marines.

March 21, 2011 3:21 pm

B.Smitty – I totally understand what your saying, however the effort to produce an “amphibious tractor” that can zoom in at reasonable speed from over the horizon, trundle up the beach, and then engage in some maneuver warfare before running out of gas ended up with a vehicle even USMC prodigious budgets could not afford.

Therefore as the technology to do ‘everything’ exists, but not at a reasonable price, then perhaps you have to change the CONOPS / doctrine. However as you know there is far, far wider debate as to whether opposed landings against peer / near-peer adversaries are even feasible anymore, with or without amphibious armour.

On the other hand this type of craft can do things the AAV7 / EFV could not, running deep up an enemy river estuary in the deep dark of a moonless night, crossing over sandbanks and marshes to discharge troops in the enemies rear etc – yes I know the helicopters and MV22’s can do that too – just let me have a little fun…. :-)

March 21, 2011 3:31 pm


I’m not advocating a return to the EFV (though it may end up looking cheap once all these mind-changing and program reset costs are factored in). I agree that to reduce risk, we have to get rid of the OTH capability.

What we can do is build a new AAV with modest gains in water performance, but better protection, armament, and land mobility.

Couple it with a more survivable means of approaching shore, outside HMG, cannon, and ATGM range. Then let the amtrack go the rest of the way.

March 21, 2011 4:00 pm

Hi Jed,

RE “crossing over sandbanks and marshes to discharge troops in the enemies rear etc – yes I know the helicopters and MV22′s can do that too ”
– when we were in the littoral (LOG) discussion, I proposed fitting these things out with GMLRS or AMOS (helos and close relatives no can do…that)
– of course once you do that, you need a couple more to carry the troops/ do the patrolling
– someone shot down the GMLRS idea (the Germans had tried and failed to navalise it, so this would be one step more ambitious…)
– so no 70 km range, but the AMOS 10-12 km is good enough, especially when a 2 minute burst corresponds to a salvo of a whole 155mm battery
– so light and fast patrols, and lots of fire power if you can bait anyone out of the hiding?

March 21, 2011 6:15 pm

@ Anixtu

Yes it would be huge!!! But the sea is big so……..
I only said 12 because I knew somebody would bite. ;-)

No 8 would be more sensible I grant you and yes big. But if you look at vessel such as the MV Blue Marlin,

and compare it to something like the USS Wasp Class,

you will find the latter is longer by 106 feet.

The Marlin is very broad beamed I grant you but it is only 23ft wider than Emma Maersk. And that is the real limiter and that is what would bring about the need to reduce the number of LCAT’s carried to something more sensible like 8 or 9. Saying that there is space on the MV Blue Marlin for 12 or so LCACs or LCATs. As I said all that is needed is an accommodation/vehicle deck over the free deck and Bob’s your aunty. Or not.

March 21, 2011 6:43 pm

@ Jedibeeftrix

I know they won’t fit. But I am sure those nice Korean chaps will make us something they will fit in the time it takes BAE to select the director for the corporate video for next GB public mega-project.

@ Pete A

Funnily enough as somebody who has driven Land Rovers up and down rivers I do know what you are on about! Finding somewhere for even 7.50 directional tyre to get purchase is hard. And then is the depth problem. A yard of water is an awful lot to extricate yourself from. But I also know as somebody who has driven large 4×4 tractors once you have diff-locks, a diesel engine over 5ltrs, and some very low gearing things don’t look so insurmountable. I don’t think all rivers can be crossed, but a good number could be.

As for armour protection well all “army vehicles” are designed to balance armour against firepower against mobility to meet the goals of their intended purpose. Most of the modern 8×8 type vehicles that meet or nearly meet the FRES specs are amphibious so light armour has already been dialled. Of course the army could do away with FRES and just buy a super armoured IFV like the Bradley. Oh yes forgot the Bradley is amphibious…. (Cheating actually it isn’t a vehicle I would like to take for a swim.)

My main concern is speeding ship-to-shore movement. Speeding the offload of landing craft.

But no I do take you points and I agree with you.

March 21, 2011 10:56 pm

@ x

I’m still not certain what you intend to employ this hypothetical semi-sub amphib for. In place of LHD/LPD/LSDs? What sea states can it launch landing craft in? Does it have to anchor when docking down and launching landing craft? How long does it take to dock down? What weather conditions can it handle with landing craft as deck cargo?

Call me conservative, but why is it better than an LHD/LPD/LSD with a very big dock?

March 22, 2011 8:23 pm

@ Anixtu

I see it as a replacement for the LPD/LSD; for a while I haven’t been too sure about helicopter warfare (moving troops tactically by air.) I think marines should stick to the littoral and what is needed is more better landing craft not a few expensive helicopters.

This picture from Global Security is close to what I envisage,

Ships like MV Blue Marlin take hours to flood when lifting ships and drilling rigs,

But to take aboard shoal draft craft like LCAC or LCATs would only take a fraction of that time. I don’t see why a ship couldn’t flood down whilst moving in moderate seas. Of course
amphibious operations close to shore are suspended in conditions above Sea State 3. I suppose the ship could be anchored or use dynamic positioning.

The French LCAT are supposedly cheaper to operate and more sea kindly than LCACs.

It simply makes more sense to me to get more bodies and kit to the shore as quickly as possible. Helicopters and conventional landing craft can’t do this.