VESSEL REVIEW | SSG Elroy F. Wells – First unit in new landing craft series for US Army

Photo: Spreng
Photo: Spreng

US defence shipbuilder Vigor Industrial has completed construction of the first Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) (MSV(L)) ordered by the US Army. Designed in partnership with BMT, the MSV(L)s feature improved capabilities compared to the army's current LCM-8 landing craft, which was originally designed in the 1960s. Like their predecessors, the newer vessels will also be capable of operating via fixed, degraded and austere ports, inland waterways, remote and unimproved beaches, and coastlines for missions across a range of military operations.

The aluminium-hulled newbuild is named SSG Elroy F. Wells in honour of Staff Sergeant Elroy Frederick Wells, a US Army LCM-8 crewman who was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

The craft has an LOA of 117 feet (35.6 metres), a moulded beam of 28 feet (8.6 metres), a crew complement of eight, a total transport capacity of 82 tons (74 tonnes), and three 2,600hp (1,938kW) main engines that drive Marine Jet Power waterjets to deliver a speed of 21 knots at full load as well as a range of 360 nautical miles. When not laden with cargo, the vessel can easily make 30 knots.

<em>Photo: US Army</em>
Photo: US Army

The transport capacity will consist of either one combat-configured M1 Abrams main battle tank, two Stryker wheeled armoured vehicles, four Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, or multiple other payload configurations. The MSV(L)s were designed partly for handling these vehicle loads, which are impractical for transport on the LCM-8 craft due to weight limitations.

The army has also stipulated that the MSV(L) design allow for integration of commercial off-the-shelf subsystems into the new hull form to ensure greater parts commonality with existing transport assets in the army inventory. Meanwhile, the improved manoeuvrability and increased speed capability that the MSV(L) possesses will provide a more ideal watercraft for operating in inter-coastal areas, rivers and inland waterways, and in anti-access/area-denial environments.

Vigor will supply the army with 36 MSV(L)s over a 10-year period in fulfillment of a contract awarded in 2017. A low-rate initial production decision on the vessels is targeted for early 2023. SSG Elroy F. Wells is slated for delivery to the Army Mariner community headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia in early 2024.

SSG Elroy F. Wells
Type of vessel:Maneuver Support Vessel (Light)
Owner:US Army
Designer:BMT, UK
Builder:Vigor Industrial, USA
Hull construction material:Aluminium
Length overall:117 feet (35.6 metres)
Beam:28 feet (8.6 metres)
Draught:3.6 feet (1.1 metres)
Capacity:82 tons (74 tonnes)
Main engines:3 x 2,600 hp (1,938 kW)
Propulsion:Marine Jet Power waterjets
Maximum speed:30 knots
Cruising speed:21 knots
Range:360 nautical miles

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