Peru Looking for Newer Second-Hand LSTs
On Nov 23/09, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Peru’s formal request for the 2 Newport Class Tank Landing Ships Fresno (LST-1182, commissioned 1969) and Racine (LST-1191, commissioned 1971) from Navy storage. Technically, Newport and Charleston class ships are held in reserve status under the Amphibious Lift Enhancement Program (ALEP), as the Newport Class is one of the 4 ship classes being replaced by the LPD-17 San Antonio Class. Part of the sale process, therefore, involves a formal designation of these 2 ships as “excess defense articles.”
Peru currently operates 3 former US Navy Paita (ex-Terrebonne Parish) class LSTs, which were laid down in the mid-1950s and transferred in 1984.
The prime contractors for its proposed new purchase will be VSE Corporation of Alexandria, VA, and Fairbanks Morse of San Diego, CA. The estimated cost is $82 million, and the request will include 7m-11m rigid inflatable boats (RHIBs), plus spare and repairs parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical data, U.S. Government and contractor support services, and other related support.
If a contract is signed later, implementation of this proposed sale will require 3 years of contractor technical and logistics support, plus semi-annual program management and technical reviews thereafter. That support may be considerable, as the Newport Class’ multiple engine rooms, electro-hydraulic ramp system, and modifications tend to be manpower and maintenance intensive.
The US Navy’s maritime strategy’s hard shift away from littoral regions has been counter-balanced in recent years by its soft-power and global sharing foci, which places a high priority on versatile amphibious ships.
The rising importance of amphibious vessels is a global phenomenon, which creates demand. From Peru’s point of view, a refurbished American ship is cheaper than even Singapore’s new-build 6,600t LST/LPDs. From the American point of view, one way to ease the US Navy’s load is to depend on regional security arrangements, backed by local nations with expeditionary capabilities. Once this is accepted, and use of US Navy reserves is also accepted, the questions become: who wants, and who gets?
Navies receiving Newport Class LSTs to date include Australia (2), Brazil (1), Chile (1), Malaysia (1), Mexico (2), Spain (2, 1 still in service), and Taiwan (2). Another 3 were sunk as targets during training exercises, and 2 remain in the inactive reserve.