To replace its aging fleet of Vietnam-era Mike Boats, the U.S. Army awarded a massive contract — nearly $1 billion — to Oregon-based shipbuilder Vigor Works on Sept. 28, Defense News reports.
The contract is for the faster and larger Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), a 100-foot long beach landing boat capable of hauling one M1A2 Abrams tank, a pair of Stryker armored transports, or four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and their trailers.
The new boats boast a top speed of 18 knots and will replace the slower 74-foot long Landing Craft Mechanized 8, which tops out at eight knots — and has been in service since the 1950’s. With an estimated completion date of 2027, the fixed-price contract for the MSV (light) comes out to $979,794,011, reports Defense News.
The news that the Army will be dropping a dime (give or take 9.8 billion) on new landing craft is likely to catch some folks off guard — especially current and former members of the smallest branch of the armed forces, the Marines, a scrappy service routinely wracked with insecurity over its place in the Defense Department hierarchy.
As much as the news is sure to stir up some old Corps rabble-rousers, it’s important to remember that for the Army, amphibious warfare and beach landings are nothing new — after all, it was the Corps’ bigger land-dwelling brother that led the charge at Normandy on D-Day, one of the largest amphibious landings in history.
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That said, the new landing craft is likely to serve as a taxi for troops, arms, and equipment in an uncontested environment, rather than a combat ferry surfing onto a hostile beach to pour out its cargo of up-armored vehicles and heavily armed ground-pounders.
But, the news that the Army is eyeing a domain that the Marine Corps covets — at a time of increasing budget cuts, and finite resources — has faint echoes of a rivalry between the two services that dates back to World War II.
This could be good news for the Corps; after all, the Army has a history of passing along its hand-me-downs to Marines. So maybe they’ll get some “newish” Mike Boats to go with those M320 grenade launchers they just got.
Hat tip to Paul Szoldra for flagging this news on Twitter.