Amphibious transport docks play a critical role in helping the U.S. military transport soldiers into combat zones.
Navies in the U.S., England, France, Italy and Japan operate amphibious transport docks. The ships are also known as "landing platform docks." The ships’ main role is to transport and insert troops into a war zone by sea. The ships typically land on shore in a combat area and soldiers disembark from a landing dock or ramp. However, most amphibious transport docks carry helicopters and troops can also be inserted into a war zone by air.
The U.S. Navy has adopted San Antonio class ships as its primary amphibious transport docks. The San Antonio class ships have been in service with the U.S. Navy since 2006 and are replacing previous amphibious transport docks known as the Austin, Cleveland and Trenton class of ships. As of 2010, the U.S. Navy had ordered 10 San Antonio class amphibious transport docks. The ships have large cargo areas and can carry more than 600 soldiers and 14 expeditionary fighting vehicles at a time.
Despite their primary role as a transport vessel, amphibious transport docks are also warships capable of fighting back enemy forces as they insert soldiers into a combat zone. The San Antonio class ships are heavily armed with two Bushmaster II 30 millimeter guns, two rolling airframe missile launchers, and several M2 Browning machine gun turrets. The ships can accommodate four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters or two MV-22 Osprey helicopters.
The new San Antonio class amphibious transport docks have been designed to help the U.S. Navy and Marines successfully perform expeditionary warfare missions. The ships are outfitted with state-of-the-art electronics and communications systems, modern living quarters, and classrooms for instruction and tactical planning.