As an M1A1 Abrams tank roared across a giant aluminum ramp, atop a motion simulator that mimicked crashing waves, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) two weeks ago completed a successful demonstration of a new lightweight ramp intended for use on the U.S. Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).
The advanced ramp would provide significant improvement over the JHSV’s current ramp by allowing the loading or unloading of people and combat vehicles—in rougher ocean conditions than are currently possible—between a JHSV and another ship, pier, mobile landing platform or more.
“The knowledge we have gained in designing this ramp is going to be vital for successful future deployment of personnel and equipment,” said Dr. John Pazik, who heads ONR’s Ship Systems and Engineering division. “The Navy and Marine Corps need easy-to-use, lightweight ramps to load and unload materiel in combat or humanitarian situations.”
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, told an audience last month that he views a new ramp for the JHSV as an essential element of future JHSV capability.
While the May 1 demonstration, which included a tank and a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck crossing in simulated high-wave conditions, was successful, officials say the future for the ramp is still being decided.
“Right now we have a lot of data analysis and reporting to consider,” said Dr. Paul Hess, who manages ONR’s Interface Ramp Technologies (IRT) program. “This demonstration ramp met significant engineering challenges in connecting two ships in a simulated seaway, while also allowing a tank, truck and HUMVEE to successfully cross.
“This gets us to a place we’ve never been before, in terms of at-sea transfer of vehicles between ships.”
Navy officials will receive the results of the analysis this summer, and begin consideration on how to best utilize the knowledge gained. Options include a review of existing ramps, to see if they could be made stronger, using lessons learned from the IRT program; or using the information to pursue an entirely new ramp for the JHSV fleet.
In either case, officials said at the demonstration, ONR’s work will play a key role in whatever direction is ultimately decided for the JHSV ramp.
JHSV is a new class of all-aluminum swift ships, intended to meet requirements for shallow water deployment of personnel, combat vehicles or other supplies and equipment as needed. The vessels can transport approximately 600 tons at an average speed of 35 knots, and are designed to operate in challenging ports and waterways.
Officials will use the analysis of the ramp demonstration to help determine ramp requirements for existing JHSVs, as well as for future vessels.
The ONR ramp program was done in partnership with the Navy’s Strategic Mobility and Combat Logistics office, as well as the Strategic and Theater Sealift program office.
Press Release, May 13, 2014; Image: US Navy