The Italian Navy is planning the purchase of new ships to increase its onboard accommodation capacity for amphibious landing forces personnel and troops to 1,700, official sources have reported.
Three new 16,500-tonne ships will replace smaller ones and will be combined with the new Trieste landing helicopter dock to improve Italy’s ability to transport combat forces from the ship to shore, according to officials.
This will provide us with the amphibious task force we need to combine with a carrier strike group, submarines and special forces to complete the so-called ‘trident’ of expeditionary forces,” said Rear Admiral Marco Tomassetti, who leads the capabilities development department of the surface of the General Staff of the Navy.
Italy’s amphibious forces made up of the Navy’s San Marco brigade and the Army’s Serenissima regiment, based in Venice, currently rely on three 8,500-tonne ships, the San Marco, San Giorgio and San Giusto, which are about to retire.
Funds worth €1.2 billion have been allocated for the first two of the three planned replacements, with a commissioning date of 2028-30 for the first two, followed by the third in 2031.
Powered by diesel, with a maximum speed of about 20 knots and a range of 7,000 nautical miles, the new ships will be about 160 meters long and 29 meters wide, with Space for 200 crew members and a landing force of 300 men.
“They’ll be called ‘LXD,’ with the X for ‘whatever,’ because we don’t want to limit the role they play,” Tomassetti said.
They will join the 38,000-tonne LHD Trieste, which enters service next year and is the largest ship built by the Italian navy after World War II. All the vessels are being built by the Italian Fincantieri shipyard.
Together, the new ships will accommodate some 1,700 personnel and troops.
“Together, the four ships will carry two maneuver units from the San Marco and the Serenissima to create a national amphibious task force,” Tomassetti said.
Unlike the ships they replace, which have a flight deck that runs almost the full length of the ship, the new LXDs will only have a rear section of the upper deck to accommodate two helicopters, typically the NH-90 and the EH-101.
The design, similar to that of the Dutch Rotterdam class, implies less Space on the flight deck for the transport of material and vehicles but more Space below deck in the garage and dock for vehicles -up to about 70 tons in total-, with Space for about 480 meters of vehicles lined up, compared to about 200 meters for the former San Giorgio class.
“Keeping all vehicles below deck means we avoid using the flight deck simultaneously to fly and transport material and vehicles,” Tomassetti said.
Below decks, various cargo configurations are possible, including one allowing for the shipment of some 20 new amphibious wheeled vehicles that Italy signed to buy this year from local company Iveco.
Italy first requested a new amphibious vehicle more than a decade ago, prompting Iveco to develop its 8X8 SUPERAV, which has meanwhile become the basis for the US Marines’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicles. Iveco retained design authority for the Marine rides, while BAE Systems took over the prime contractor role.
The new Italian ships will also house on their floodable deck two LC-23 landing craft, built by the Italian company Vittoria, which can carry about 70 tons and 20 meters of vehicles lined up on each one. The new vessels, which will carry four, were initially designed for the Trieste.
The LXDs will house the same Kronos Power Shield L-band radar fitted to the Trieste and a 30mm melee defense cannon. Tomassetti said the final price for the vessels had not yet been set, commenting: “Recent international events have caused a general increase in prices, especially for raw materials, making any price forecast valid only for very little time.”