Whilst we are on the subject of the Royal Navy and about to embark on the amphibious, logistics and submarine element some information on how, in an amphibious context, we get from ship to shore.
The preferred option is of course via a port, just dock and drive off but there might not be port facilities available, they might be damaged or one might simply not want to come ashore in an obvious place for tactical reasons.
Apart from helicopters and small boats like the rigid raider, offshore raiding craft, inflatables, combat support boat or small hovercraft the familiar ‘Saving Private Ryan’ style landing craft are the most widely used means of ship to shore transport for men, stores and vehicles.
The UK uses 2 types of landing craft and a floating pontoon called a Mexeflote (a number of older types remain in service but I have not included them here)
Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel LCVP Mk 5
The LCPV Mk5 is carried on davits on the assault ships (HMS Bulwark and Albion) and HMS Ocean, they can carry 35 troops, a couple of light vehicles or 6 tonnes of mixed stores. With a range of 210 nautical miles a top speed of 24 knots, they can be also used as a patrol boat. The UK has a total of 12 LCVP Mk5’s, purchased at a cost of £750k each.
Landing Craft Utility LCU Mk 10
At a cost of £3million each, the LCU Mk10 is a much larger craft designed for transporting men, stores, armoured vehicles and large plant. They have a roll on roll off design with both stern and a bow ramp so they can be easily loaded and unloaded in the well deck of the assault ships. Up to 100 troops, a Challenger main battle tank or other heavy vehicles can be carried in the 30m long craft. The LCU Mk10 can be used for the general movement of equipment and operate independently for up to a couple of weeks with its 9 man crew out to a range of 600 nautical miles. Interestingly (in light of our recent discussions), the bow ramp can be used to lift an inflatable raiding craft out of the water when operating as a mother ship for raiding parties and such.
After the assault phase, the amphibious force will need to land supplies and vehicles in bulk and the Mexeflote system is incredibly versatile, used as a powered raft, causeway between vessels, utility platform, jetties or other floating structure. Modular Z Drive propulsion units from Sykes Hyrdromaster provide the motive force when used as a powered raft and although it might not look particularly seaworthy can be used in 1.5m wave conditions. The pontoons come in three types, a bow, centre and stern that can be connected together in a number of configurations as required. The large Maxi-Mexeflote can carry nearly 2oo tonnes and are normally carried on the Bay Class Landing Ship Dock(Auxiliary). If the Bay class can get close enough to the shore the Mexeflote pontoons can be configured as a causeway so vehicles can drive directly from the ship to shore. Pontoon sections are ingeniously sized to be compatible with ISO container dimensions for ease of transport and handling.