When Gen Rick Hillier was Chief of Defence Staff, he enthusiastically supported
adopting amphibious warfare ships called LPDs (Landing Platform Docks (LPD). In General Hiller's inimitable style,
the LPD became known as a 'Big Honking Ship'. Maritime
planners would have seen LPDs as a threat to their long-delayed Joint Support Ship. As planned, JSS would replace aging Protecteur class AORs (or fleet
replenishment tankers) while also being command ships. It is important is to know what LPDs are not. An LPD is
not an AOR replenishment ship (left) nor is it a Roll-On/Roll-Off transport (right).
LPDs have flight decks but aren't the mini-carriers dreamt of by pundits nor amphibious assault ships (LST left or
LHA) of any kind. Instead, LPDs are the large end of 'landing ship docks'
LSDs include the USS Gunston Hall used by the CF for amphibious exercises in November 2006). Larger LPDs
serve as bases for landings carrying troops, supplies and landing craft with modest air support.
In the past, the US Navy's San Antonio class LPDs have garnered much interest. But those vessels have been much
delayed and face a litany of problems (earlier pages on the San Antonios have been removed ). With the
retirement of General Hillier, the 'Big Honking Ships' lost their main advocate. In turn, JSS has received a
shot in the arm. The suggestion that JSS can perform some amphibious warfare roles (albeit in the most limited ways)
increases its 'jack-of-all-trades' appeal with politicians. As it happens, one of the LPD classes reviewed is
part of a modular family – Damen Schelde's Enforcer – which includes the Dutch
version of JSS.