2013-05-14 By Robbin Laird
When I last visited the USS Arlington it was for its christening. I visited the ship with my colleague Ed Timperlake and we were able to participate in the ceremony honoring those who died on 9/11 at the Pentagon.
I was at the Pentagon on that fateful day, and the plane, which hit the building, flew over my house in Arlington. This is a day I certainly will never forget.
It was also a pleasure to visit the ship when it was a good point in the process of building the San Antonio fleet. As is often the case, the amount of print on the early problems or teething efforts, far exceeds what the operators have to say when they get their hands on a ship and make it work for the USN-USMC team.
When we visited, we had a chance to talk with one of the key shipbuilders for the ship, who indicated that, indeed, the ship was doing well and production was making significant improvements in the ship.
As the shipbuilder commented:
Unfortunately, we’re getting into that sweet spot now with these ships where we’ve ironed out a lot of the issues.
We’re on a good learning curve.
If we could keep going on these things, there’s no telling where we could take these ships relative to reductions in vessel labor, and overall improvements in operational excellence.
Hence, it was a real pleasure to see the LPD-24 dockside as it was participating in the Bold Alligator 2013 and to get a briefing from some senior members of the crew and to walk the ship.
The crew highlights the capabilities of the ship and reminds us why ships should be built with the evolution of aviation capabilities in mind.
The first interview was with the executive officer of the USS Arlington, Lieutenant Commander Eric H. Lull. The XO highlighted the evolution of the amphibious fleet from simply carrying troops to becoming key combat assets for multi-mission efforts.
According to Lull, “we are certainly able to do the transport task better, for we have more space. But we also bring new aviation capabilities, which have not been seen before, on small deck amphibs. We can land the MV-22; we can land Harriers. In the past, we have not been able to do that on the smaller amphibs. Because we have good helo hanger space, we have the ability to do more effective maintenance on them as well. We can fit the MV-22 inside the hangers, for example.
We have as I said earlier, enormous amounts of storage space; we’ve also got a very advanced medical treatment facility onboard so that we can provide our own medical support for Marine landings. We can bring combat casualties back out here, and we’ll take you through that in a few minutes, but we’ve got a six-bed intensive care unit, 24-bed ward, we can expand that out to about 70 or 80 long-term patient care.
We’ve got improved self-defense capabilities over the other small decks because we have two 30-millimeter Bushmaster guns built into the ship.
Our radar signature is reduced by the way the various systems have been consolidated onboard. We don’t have a lot of the radar reflective issues that some of the older ships have, which also makes us—even though we’re 684 feet long, 24,000 tons worth of ship — a lot better at hiding than the previous amphibs had been.
SLD: What is the status of the ship currently?
Lull: We are in a period of completing our shakedown cruise. We are working to finish the construction phase and will then do our final contract trials this Fall. We will then begin the official training cycle for the ship.
The Combat Cargo Officer
Next up was a discussion with the combat cargo officer. Captain Darren Flint discussed how the cargo space and its configuration affected his job.
SLD: How would you describe your job?
Flint: I am the liaison onboard with the ship’s company and I am responsible to make sure the equipment is loaded correctly onboard and prepare to offload the equipment as they disembark. We work closely with modern IT systems to make sure that we know where are equipment is located on the ship and get the right supplies to the Marines moving ashore.
The ship is more user friendly than ships on which I served before. The ship grades cargo space for vehicles space. We have added more than 20,000 square feet of vehicle space compared to earlier ships. We can bring more trucks, more Humvees, more tanks, more AVs.
The Aviation Fuels Officer
Finally, there was a discussion with the aviation fuels officer, Lt. Scott Marsh. The aviation fuels officer does what the title suggests, managing the jet fuel aboard the ship.
SLD: How does this ship affect your job compared to your experience on previous ships?
Marsh: As far as my job is concerned, we have a tremendous flight deck and support for that flight deck. We have fueling stations, we have electricity that we can supply to the flight deck that can start the aircraft, plus have forklifts and tow bars that we can use to tow aircraft around and bring them in the hangar, out of the hangar.
And the communication systems that we have set up overlooking the flight deck allows us to talk to anybody on the ship internally as well as a couple of radios outside the ship as well.
So as far as our ability to do our job on the ship, this is a pretty sweet set up aboard the ship.
- The first photo shows the memorial plaque aboard the ship.
- The second photo shows three of the persons interviewed, the executive officer, the cargo officer and the fuel officer, aboard the ship.
- The third photo shows the cargo bay where the LCACs would operate.
- The fourth photo shows the flight deck.
- The fifth and sixth photos show the consolidated radar tower.
- The final two photos show signs donated by Arlington County to be onboard the ship.
To visit the USS Arlington Facebook Page:
For earlier pieces on the LPD-17 class and the LPD-24