A Stern Landing Vessel

A Stern Landing Vessel Courtesy Marine Corps Warfighting Labratory

Marines to Begin Testing Leased Vessel for Pier-less Operations

The service is leasing three commercial Stern Landing Vessels as it waits for the Landing Ship Medium to arrive.

The first of three commercial Stern Landing Vessels the U.S. Marine Corps is leasing for shore-to-shore operations will arrive in San Diego for testing and evaluation early this spring, while the service waits for fielding of the Landing Ship Medium to begin in 2029, officials said.

The first SLV officially undocked Feb. 13 and is undergoing final shipyard modifications pierside at Thoma-Sea Shipyard in Houma, Louisiana, Marine spokesperson Maj. Joshua Benson told Defense One in an email. Once a stern ramp is installed on the vessel, it will go through various trials and inspections before the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and Military Sealift Command accepts it in early spring for “a thorough technical evaluation period” plus experiments and exercises, Benson said.  

The Marine Corps needed a vessel that does not require a pier while it waits for the Navy to acquire LSMs—a Marine term for the ships the Navy calls Light Amphibious Warships—Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot said Wednesday at the National Defense Industrial Association expeditionary warfare conference in Arlington, Va.

“It’s pretty easy to target piers, right, if you know where they are. You can see where they are, there’s only X amount of them. And certain types of ships can only go to certain types of piers.… But if you have a shore-to-shore connector, that opens up a wide range of possibilities with your ability to move between islands,” Lightfoot said.

Leasing the Stern Landing Vessel also allows the Marine Corps to do tests and experiments that will inform how it uses LSMs when they come online, he said. Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger has said the service needs at least 35 of the LSMs.

That shore-to-shore capability is critical for the Marines, Lightfoot said, “because you can’t just drop someone off on an island somewhere and then just say, it’s all you, you’ve got this. Good luck. They have got to be supported, and those landing ship mediums are going to be a big part of that.”

The Navy’s 2023 budget proposal said of the LAW/LSM: “It is designed to fill the gap in capability between the Navy’s large, multipurpose amphibious warfare ‘L’ class ships and smaller landing vessels. This vessel will deploy tailored logistics, select power projection and strike capabilities.”

Caitlin M. Kenney contributed to this report.