Sunday, March 23, 2008

High Speed Hospital Ships

In From Warrior to Lifesaver (Proceeding of the UN Naval Institute, February 2008), Commander Wayne M. Gluf, of the U.S. NavyMedical Corps, argues that Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships (LHAs) could be converted into hospital ships. Recent US hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) were built from commercial tankers. Commander Gluf argues that these ships are deficient as they can handle only one helicopter at a time and have limited loading from boats. In contrast the LHAs have ten helicopter landing spots and can land wounded from landing craft and air cushion vehicles via the stern door.

However, converting LHAs would be an expensive business and use of a converted warship would tempt its use for warfare and risk attack from combatants. The existing hospital ships look very different to a warship and so would be harder for a combatants to accidentally attack (or use the excuse they mistook it for a warship). Also the lack of facilities for mass offloading of troops would make it less likely a military commander would be tempted to misuse the hospital ships for war fighting.

An alternative might be to adopt the US Navy's Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) as the basis for a hospital ship. The JHSV program is adapting high speed, multi hull, commercial vehicle passenger ferries as military transports. Miltihull vessels have a large deck area and so can provide more space for helicopters that single hull ships. They also have a rear ramp for limited loading from landing craft at sea.

The JHSV requirements (see; "US Navy launches competition for JHSV preliminary design concept development, Richard Scott, Janie's International Defence Review, March 2008) are based on Australian designs that have been used for military transport, such as USAV Spearhead (TSV-1X): High Speed US Army Transport Ship, built by the Incat, in Tasmania and modified from a ferry and similar ships from Austal. These ships are only about 112 m long with 1,869 square metres of usable space and single spot flight deck. The design could accommodate a second helicopter spot and could be expanded for a much larger vessel.

Because of the larger deck area to displacement ratio of a catamaran, a far smaller ship than the Tarawa-class LHA could be used to provide multiple helicopter spots in a ship of far less than displacement than a LHA. The transport ships would look very different to the eye and on radar than a LHA and so less likely to be attacked accidentally. The ferries do not have floodable docks and so would be less useful for a military assault for conveying tanks and other heavy equipment, but still efficient for evacuating causalities. The large vehicle deck could be used for containerised modular medical facilities.

The JHSV Program is a result of a merger between the separate Army
Theater Support Vessel (TSV) and Navy High Speed Connector (HSC) Programs. The merge was accomplished to take advantage of inherent commonalities and to create a more flexible asset for the DoD, and to leverage the Navy’s core competency in ship acquisition.

•The Joint High Speed Vessel program is a Navy led acquisition
program. The Navy Program Office staff includes Navy, Army and Marine Corps
personnel. PEO Ships will conduct acquisition for both services, but each
service will fund its own ships.

•JHSV will provide the ability to lift medium
loads quickly without reliance on shore based infrastructure and in austere
environments over intra theater distances.


JHSV will reach speeds of 35-45 knots, have draft under 15 feet, and allow for the rapid transit and deployment of conventional or Special Forces as well as equipment and supplies.

•JHSV will include a flight deck for helicopter operations and an
off-load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive off the ship. The ramp
will be suitable for the types of austere piers and quay walls common in
developing countries.

•A mature technology base already exists, and there is
little need for further technology development to achieve required capabilities
prior to production. JHSV has very low technology risks and challenges.

•JHSV will identify a common set of requirements and parameters for the hulls.
Benefits envisioned are common hull forms, economies of scale, joint C4ISR
capabilities, and reduced life cycle costs. The goal is to have a common hull
and minimize the amount of service-unique equipment needed per ship.

... The JHSV Initial Capabilities Document was
approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council in November 2005 and the
Analysis of Alternatives was completed in December 2005. A request for proposals
was released in August 2007, and the lead ship is expected to be delivered in

From: Joint High Speed Vessel -JHSV, US Navy, 10 October 2007

No comments: