So how could a naval task group with coalition frigates paired with a LHD perform a number of useful roles beyond warfighting or HADR, including support for operations? How could the LHD enhance those operations?
Now while I am ex-navy I am no expert, and I may get certain ideas wrong, but the overall idea would be similar or that it is just that a LHD hasn't been used in that way before, although I doubt that...
Counter piracy or maritime security patrols, concurrently using helicopters and boarding teams to support our neighbours or CTF-151;
So with a task group say a LHD and 2 or 3 frigates on anti-pirate operations would be able to cover a larger area in a sweep. The LHD can have her helos out on the horizon patroling all round the task force. For example, few helos up in the air at once, plus the helo's from the frigates as required. 4 helo's can cover more space than 2. (however be aware this becomes an expensive operation for the NZDF tight operational budget.)
With the frigates also patrolling in a tactical formation at what distance is deemed safe for the LHD. With 3 you can have 2 on the horizon scanning making the search area larger and one on flight helo rescue operation for the LHD.
Now add in the drones.... What drones??? Yup the DCP2019 was talking drones;
Let's look at the DCP 2019 again;
70. The enhanced sealift vessel will have greater lift capacity than HMNZS Canterbury. The capability will provide a highly flexible military asset, including hospital facilities, planning spaces, and self-defence capabilities. It will also provide support for the deployment of a range of capabilities, including Special Forces, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and NH90 helicopters. The enhanced sealift capability will also improve the New Zealand Defence Force’s amphibious operations. Through the provision of a well dock, it will be able to conduct operations in a wider range of sea conditions and will have the size and capacity to carry large equipment, and sufficient aviation capacity to allow extended, long-duration operations. Its size will also provide for the transport of a larger number of personnel, allowing for the value of the increased size of the New Zealand Army to be realised.
So depending on the drone range, size, and endurance and what search equipment is available on the drone you can save on the helos and use some drones as well in the search for any pirate skiffs or vessels.
The LHD and frigates are also keeping track and listening to the civilian coms and traffic for any warning signs and signals. The LHD can then send boarding parties either from the LHD or from the frigates depending on what is closer to target. The Helo's are already in the air and can cover very quickly.
Now you can only probably keep this stance up for a shortish period of time, as fuel would become an issue after a period of time and I am not an expert on tactics on this, and I would say it would still be difficult to find the pirate skiffs.
WWII or other modern mine clearance operations in distant waters as a support vessel, we already do this on a small scale in the Pacific;
Anti mine operations and would most definitely get dive teams onboard and should be done in conjunction with the new DHV HMNZS Manawanui III as she has the dive equipment and that is technically one of her core jobs. However, how many ordnance teams can the LHD carry from NZ and our allies, and each team taken by a helo to their location island etc. Four or five teams out at once with full hospital facilities available (just in case)
The planning, communication and command systems on the LHD would also come in to play here as well. The planning spaces would obviously invaluable throughout the operation. Why? As on frigate the planning space is usually the wardroom or dining area, or bridge or ops room interfering the daily operations of the ship, if you have a dedicated planning room and or briefing room you will have the projectors already setup, you have enough room for everyone for your crew that need to be there as well as members of other ships. You are not interfering with the daily operations of the ship, ie; if you used a dinning room and some of the crew use this space to relax, well they have to move on (which to be honest is not an issue as crews are used to it) but is just an annoyance that they wouldn't have to deal with.
The planning space would most like have the computers and screen projectors set up and what every brief slide show you may or may not have (or whatever) maps and charts,
Non-combatant evacuation due to civil disorder or natural disaster or conduct social-civic missions to engage with local communities during peacetime; and
Say the LHD can carry 500 troops, well as I have stated in other articles, that's 500 beds for evacuees that can be evacuated long term, and in short term a lot more... and with the LCM's and helos, and ship RHIBS, you can quickly get them aboard, and with say, HMNZS Canterbury in on the operation, even more, can be evacuated to safety quickly. HMNZS Canterbury showed this during the Kaikoura EQ.
The original Fiji coup in 1987, the NZ Government wanted to evacuate New Zealand citizens on mass but had no real way of doing it, the Herc's were in disarray of upgrades, and the Navy basically said we can but very very limited. So even HMNZS Canterbury would have been invaluable at the time, and as above would be able to quickly evacuate civilians. Hence as we know HMNZS Charles Upham and then Project Protector.
But imagine on the flip side if there was a full task group with a fully equipped LHD and troops and equipment on the stand-by and then adding in an Aussie Task group and LHD... it would have been a bit of an intimidation factor for the coup at the time... SAS securing the beachhead, first wave bolstering and relieving the SAS as they move on to the objective the Airport... All they would need to do is secure and hold the airport so more troops can land via the helo's. Then bringing the herc's and other transport aircraft with troops.
Anti-submarine patrols with naval helicopters — to augment NZDF’s P-8As — in the event submarines are a potential threat during a UN peace support mission instead of loading up with NH-90's we load the LHA with sub-hunting Helo's in conjunction with the Frigates, and P-8A's;
So a P-8 Poseidon makes a submerged contact... and the government wants more info or the commander and wants to deter it. You would still most definitely need your task group and frigate escorts on this, but using the P-8 to keep track till the task group is on station, dispatch a 2nd P-8 to harass the sub, which I might add even for the P-8 would be still difficult.
Having the extra sub-hunting helo's in the air with the ASW frigates (I talking you Type 26 ) You would most definitely want the ASW frigates in between the possible threat and the LHD. However, with say 5 or 6 sub-hunting helos in the air (and if there is a true threat, they will be armed), the P-8, plus the ASW frigate or 2, the submarine captain would be sweating a bit. But remember, the sub still has an advantage.
If deemed a real threat to the fleet and once found all five or six helos can converge dropping the torpedos in series from different directions, would make it very difficult for the sub to dodge so many torpedos... But just having that many searching for the sub should be able to keep the sub at distance from the fleet or task group.
However just by being able to support those extra sub-hunting helos in the air all at once being able to command the ASW escorts and P-8's, gives a huge advantage over a single helo and ASW frigate to actually finding the threat.
If the LHD is on a UN peacekeeping mission and supporting the troops ashore whether NZDF troops or UN troops... well, this is basically one of the core roles of what a LHD is designed to do.
Pacific Partnership gives medical aid and various other aid around some of the Pacific Island Nations in partnership with allied nations. This aid is not a standard HADR operation as usually, no disaster has happened. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Partnership
- The New Zealand Defence Force’s expanding amphibious capability
- Why do I think the Endurance 170 LHD is a good choice for the RNZN.
- How much for an enhanced sealift vessel?
- Options for the NZDF and RNZN 2nd enhanced Sealift vessel
Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments and military forces, along with humanitarian and non-government organizations.A US lead exercise, with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Japan France etc . Between 2006 and 2010, Pacific Partnership has visited 13 countries, treated more than 300,000 patients, and built over 130 engineering projects.
A LHD like the Endurance 170 with the Hospital bay and ward beds would be perfect for the Pacific Partnership Program. As health and helping the Pacific nations is its core objective of the program. So the added health of a mobile hospital would be indispensable. The LHD can carry any of the equipment and stores/goods and get them ashore via helo's and LCM's etc. The personal aboard say 500 can get ashore to help in the community the same way and the LHD would be able to support a few communities at once. Enhancing the whole operation.
HMNZS Canterbury has shown her worth in previous Pacific Partnership programs, and a full LHD, with a Hospital (possibly a dental ward) and the stores, goods, and equipment she would be able to bring to the table would be a tremendous enhancement
HMNZS Aotearoa has an ice belt and winterisation features, if the LHD had similar features, imagine what equipment and stores she could take down to Scotbase compared to HMNZS Aotearoa with only 22 containers.
I think this is one of those ideas that looks good on paper but in reality not so good;
- The cost would be way too much and I think would bust the budget of the project. HMNZS Aotearoa was $495 Million subtracting the ice belt and winterisation features would have reduced the cost of the tanker considerably.
- I believe fuel is the main thing going to be transported down to the ice, with goods and personal next (Though I admit I am not sure on this)
- I don't see the advantage of having the extra helos down there or see that much equipment to be transported and if a new van is needed then the new C-130J-30 Super Hercules would be able to get it there... but on average it will be just spare parts, food, and fuel
If we did go down this path, the LHD would be possibly one of the few that could operate in those conditions. But as I stated above I don't actually see any advantage.
However, if it was for actual patrols in the southern ocean becomes a different story as the resources of this area are one of the reasons China on the move... and is probably going to be a bit of a hot spot in the years to come as China expands and needs more resources. What China would most likely do is strip fish for food, strip mine and it would not be sustainable on the environment and resources. The Southern Ocean has I high chance of being the next oil pocket as well and everyone (and I mean everyone) will be wanting in on that game as well.
- Fresh clean water
These are most likely the resources that will be fought over. China already has access to our freshwater. And I don't know why we gave them that. Fishing for food and as I said there is a very good chance oil is there. The saving grace for the oil at the moment is how deep the Southern Ocean is and that the weather can turn vicious in a matter of hours.
How could a LHD help with counter-terrorism operations via the UN in some peacekeeping operation somewhere in the world the NZ has said ok we can help.
It would depend on what type of counter-terrorism operations are required and how much of a hard hand the NZG and NZDF a willing to give. Ok, so I assume multiple NZSAS counter-terrorism teams with the "Ready Reaction Force" and extraction teams on board and we have LAV's and the LOV replacements on board like the Bushmaster. The LHD can support multiple teams ashore or support a FOB or forward operating base. Having a few LAV's at the ready and Bushmaster vehicles. The LHD giving surveillance with the drones and helo as well as support for the extraction of a team if needed...
SAS can go ashore and do the things that SAS units do knowing that they have support from the LHD if needed. They can have the LAV or Bushmaster if they want. They can have the limited (as it is) air cover if needed. But see my article Why do I think the Endurance 170 LHD is a good choice for the RNZN. and why to have the full options you should have attack helo's and this is one of the operations I am talking about.
Again the hospital features and ward beds come in to play for any wounded troops, or civilians caught up in any firefight that may have happened. The planning and briefing area, as well as the communications and command systems, would all be integral to the operation.
She would not go into an area like this without her escort weather be ours or allied escorts who would be able to have shore bombardment options. Like I said ... It depends on what type of counter-terrorism operations are required and how much of a hard hand the NZG and NZDF a willing to give. The escort would also keep an eye on all vessels in the area and intercept any if the get to close to LHD or spot a fast-moving target approaching the LHD. Of course the LHD will be weapons ready here an see any fast-moving closing vessel as a threat in this scenario.
Peacekeeping missions for when there is an uneasy peace, supporting of the peacekeepers on the ground both NZDF and any ally with whatever is needed, basically again the core role of a LHD, from extraction to insertion, medical care, supplies, a safe place for both sides can negotiate their peace, supporting the communities from the terrorist as much as possible. This is Exercise Southern Katipo's core mission in training. I am sure there would be other things I have not even thought of.
Actual peaceful missions of showing the flag around the world would show the world that "hey the Kiwi's are actually truly stepping up their game and are serious about security in the region." A LHD is perfect for collectively, all these scenarios and the enhancements will significantly increase our ability to respond to humanitarian and security events in the Pacific region.
If we used today's numbers, + plus RNZN LHD and all vessels are used and deemed ready (Though in reality this never the case), The ANZAC taskgroup could consist of;
x3 LHD - with all helos, equipment and troops. 2500 troops (if classed as short term all can carry more troops) Short term is usually for a couple of days at the most as it becomes a strain on the ship systems, water, sewage, cooking meals, sleeping arrangements, etc
x1 LSD - All equipment and 700 troops.
x1 MRV - All equipment and 250 troops.
x1-2 Anti Air Destroyer
x5-6 ANZAC Frigates (up to 10 as I said if all are deemed ready)
P-8A's + upgraded P-3k2's patroling
That's a total 3,450 troops landed by sea in the initial force projection, to secure the airport, then come the C-130's and C-17's with more troops and equipment.