The Marine Corps is considering adding containerized missiles to the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) to help better deter opponents, Commandant Gen. David Berger said in written testimony to the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee last week.

“Some critics of our Force Design 2030 suggest that non-stealthy platforms such as the LAW, LPD-17 class amphibious ship, and the current Group 5 [Unmanned Aircraft Systems] are operationally unsuitable for high-end warfighting,” Berger wrote on April 29.

He said this criticism assumes current stealth technology or military-standard naval architecture “will be overcome with technological countermeasures and that stealth technologies will become affordable enough to proliferate the operating environment in large quantities.”

Therefore, under those conditions survivability is more dependent on “quantity, dispersion, signature management, and distributed lethality than of being able to avoid technical detection or defend against all threats,” he wrote.

However, Berger argued the Navy and Marine Corps must view survivability in terms of the entire system being able to last long enough to accomplish the mission, not individual platforms. So, the expeditionary system of platforms Marines use and the networks they operate on must be able to compete and deter both below the level of armed conflict and fight at the high-end “to reassure our partners and allies as well as demonstrate a credible capability to a would-be adversary” he continued.

“For example, while not a part of the currently envisioned program, LAWs operating in plain sight with containerized missiles could effectively compete and deter,” Berger said.

However, Berger noted this kind of addition could involve higher costs “so we will have to study the benefits and make resource informed decisions about tradeoffs in capabilities and capacity.”

The LAW is intended to support the Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) by transporting up to 75 Marines at a time up to 3,000-4,000 miles while also holding extra cargo and fuel. The Navy plans for system to be 200 to 400 feet long with some speed, draft, and beachability requirements.

In February, Vice Adm. James Kilby,  deputy Chief of Naval Operation for Warfighting Requirements & Capabilities (OPNAV N9) talked about how closely the Navy and Marine Corps have worked on the program and that they do not want the vessel to be so expensive they do not buy enough to service the MLRs (Defense Daily, Feb. 5).

At the time, Kilby said the LAW team was working through the second revision to the top level requirements and modifying them. 

“The things we have to work on I think are making sure that we don’t allow our appetite to exceed our stomach size and that’ll drive the price in a direction that is not helpful,” Kilby said.

In January, Marine Maj. Gen. Tracy King, Director, Expeditionary Warfare (OPNAV N95) said the services were hoping to begin research, development, test and evaluation in one year and buy the first LAW by late fiscal year 2022, allowing time to begin exercises. The second LAW is aimed for the following year (Defense Daily, Jan. 14).

King also noted the services are trying to arm other amphibious vessels with anti-ship missiles, particularly the San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks (LPD-17). While he did not favor any particular missile, he saw the Kongsberg and Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Naval Strike Missile as a strong option.