Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy plans to integrate anti-ship missiles aboard its amphibious ships, it announced this month, part of a larger effort to increase ship firepower.
The Navy intends to experiment with installation of the Norwegian-designed Naval Strike Missile, part of the arsenal of future Constellation-class frigates, on a variety of vessels.
This includes placing it aboard amphibious docking ships and Freedom- and Independence-class variants of littoral combat ships, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Tracey King, chief of the Expeditionary Warfare division of the Office of Naval Affairs, said.
The Navy is considering arming as many ships as possible, notably those capable of traveling near shores and in shallow water, with missiles, to maintain a firepower advantage over the Chinese navy and other adversaries.
It chose the Naval Strike Missile, a stealth cruise missile capable of sea-skimming, with a range of about 100 miles, as a preferred armament.
"We have these magnificent, 600-foot-long, highly survivable LPD-17s [the USS San Antonio]," King, referring to the Navy's 13 amphibious transport dock ships, told reporters earlier this month. "The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship."
The current armament of LPDs includes machine guns and RAM missile launchers, but nothing capable of vertical launch of missiles, known as VLS tubes, or guns firing RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow missiles.
The ships, however, have available room for additional missiles, officials say.
King said he expects a bolt-on anti-ship missile aboard an L-class ship will be tested within one year.
"We will probably test-fire a system off of an L-class ship and let the fleet play around with it, build up the doctrine on how we will use it and to confirm or deny whether it is worth the expense, which we think it is," he said.
The additional firepower could be useful in conflict, since LPD ships typically travel in Amphibious Ready Groups with additional ships, including those with helicopter pads for landing and assault and a Dock Landing Ship.