Landing craft

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Ships with embarked troops and horses on the landing of William the Conqueror in England in 1066 - depiction on the Bayeux Tapestry
Amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard with floating tanks, 2004

A landing vehicle is a military ship that can land troops and material from the sea regardless of the port infrastructure . It differs from an amphibious vehicle in that it cannot move on land.


For the history and today's importance of amphibious operations, see also Amphibious Warfare .

German troops landing with dinghies on
Ösel in 1917

In many wars of the past, in which a participant had a certain sea ​​power , there were landing operations and specially trained troops. Already at the time of the Roman fleet there were marines who were trained for infantry combat and can be described as marine infantry .

While the rowing ships of antiquity could run directly onto the landing beach, in the time of the sailing ships landing operations were carried out with the help of their own dinghies. Barges and cutters , manned with marines and seamen, were used for small raids on land, e.g. B. used on signal stations or coastal fortifications , u. a. by the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars on the Channel Coast.

River barges were provisionally converted into landing craft and equipped with bow hatches for the “Operation Sea Lion”

Specialized ship material was only recognized and planned as necessary when concrete planning for larger invasions by sea began. For the planned invasion of England, Napoleon had hundreds of small special row boats (barges) built. These first assault boats were equipped with a heavy cannon for apron fire and a strong crew. These barges were supposed to land on the English coast, drop off the troops and hold down any possible resistance with massive fire. That plan was never carried out.

Specialized ship or boat types for amphibious operations were only systematically developed in the 20th century. The Allied forces, and in particular the Americans, carried out a large number of amphibious landings in World War II, especially in the Pacific War . At the time of the landing in Normandy ( Operation Neptune June 1944) the concept of an invasion had already been tried and tested many times (e.g. Operation Jubilee on August 19, 1942) and perfected, and a large number of specialized ships were available. German plans for an invasion of England (" Operation Sea Lion ") envisaged the transfer of troops, mainly with temporarily converted river barges.

During the Cold War , the Warsaw Pact in particular planned amphibious invasions in the Baltic Sea region and developed suitable types of ships for this purpose. This included air-cushion vehicles, which develop a very high speed regardless of the ground and can transport large quantities of material.

In contrast, NATO planned large amphibious operations to reinforce the land forces, especially in the so-called northern flank area (from the North Cape to the Elbe estuary ), which were also often practiced in large maneuvers .

In 2009, Ukraine and China signed a contract for the delivery of four very large hovercrafts (called air-cushioned landing craft (ACLC) or LCAC (landing craft, air cushioned)) and for know-how transfer (two of the four are in China built). China confirmed on May 30, 2013 that the first copy had arrived in China.

Today's meaning

The dock landing ship Boxer (in the background) during operations off Somalia, where it served the German GSG 9 as an operational platform for the later abandoned attempt to rescue hostages

After the end of the East-West confrontation , the role of landing craft has changed. While the ability to land in combat and large-scale invasions has become less important, DropShips have proven to be a suitable means of supporting operations at great distances from the country of origin of the participating armed forces. Many navies have therefore expanded their amphibious capacities.

Landing craft help clean an oil-polluted beach

In addition to their actual purpose, landing vehicles can be used for a variety of other tasks. With their ability to transport emergency services and technical equipment to regions that are difficult to access, they are particularly suitable for aid missions for humanitarian and technical support. They can also be used as a training ship or as a floating base for military units at sea and on land.

The German Navy considered - for the first time after the evacuation of German army troops from Somalia in 1994 ( Operation Southern Cross ) - to buy one or two dock landing ships; these plans have not yet been implemented (probably due to lack of funds).

Basic types of landing craft

As part of the concept of amphibious warfare , which was developed primarily by the US Navy , a number of vehicle types emerged that have since represented the basic patterns of landing vehicles. The US Navy's designation system for amphibious vehicles has become widely used as a standard by NATO, but the classification of vehicles in the scheme is not always clear. Some navies have also implemented their own concepts for landing vehicles that do not correspond to the scheme.

The largest types are landing craft, which can land with the help of means of transport such as landing craft, helicopters, vertical take-offs or amphibious vehicles . The classic landing ships are those that can go directly to a beach in order to unload troops and vehicles via a bow ramp . There are also amphibious material and personnel transporters. Landing craft are smaller boats that also call at the beach themselves and are large enough to operate independently in the coastal area and / or to serve as a means of transport for large landing craft. A separate type are the hovercraft with their special movement possibilities (some have a maximum speed of over 100 km / h) in the coastal apron and inland. There are also a number of special vehicles for amphibious operations, such as landing support ships or command ships .


Amphibious assault ships

Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard

Amphibious assault ships (Landing Helicopter, Assault - LHA and Landing Helicopter, Dock - LHD) are vehicles that use various means of transport such as helicopters, landing craft and vertical take-off vehicles to bring troops and materials to shore. The largest DropShips of this type are the ships of the Wasp class or America class of the US Navy , but also the Spanish Juan Carlos I and the Australian Canberra class derived from this , the South Korean Dokdo class and the French Mistral class belong in this category. All ships in these classes have a continuous flight deck like an aircraft carrier and a dock or well deck in which they can carry landing craft. The first two units of the America class, which were designed without a corrugated deck, because the air-laying ability was classified as more important, should be regarded as an exception. While the type ship USS America was still being built, the Flight 0 section was developed into Flight 1 , which then again includes a corrugated deck. This design change will come into effect from the third ship of this class. Amphibious attack ships can be equipped with combat and transport helicopters and vertical take-off combat and transport aircraft in order to be able to support the landing forces from the air. You have the ability to ship-to-objective maneuver (STOM) , i.e. This means that they can bring troops directly from the ship to the scene of action, even if it is inland.

Amphibious helicopter carrier

LPH HMS Ocean with stern ramp for amphibious vehicles and landing craft in davits

The amphibious helicopter carrier (Landing Platform, Helicopter - LPH) that was not equipped with a dock was also sometimes referred to by the US Navy as Amphibious Assault Ship, even if they had significantly less capabilities than the LHA and LHD. These ships carried over 20 helicopters of various types and up to over 1,000 landing forces. Most LPH also have a few landing craft that can be launched into the water. All US Navy LPH are decommissioned. The British Navy has an LPH with HMS Ocean and has planned the use of its Invincible-class aircraft carriers in an LPH role.

Dock landing ships

Ivan Rogow class dock landing ship with bow ramp

Dock landing ships also transport landing craft and soldiers, but usually only have a smaller flight deck in the aft deck area. A distinction is made between the types Landing Platform Dock (LPD) and Landing Ship Dock (LSD). The main difference is the capacity for helicopters. LPD have a hangar to carry helicopters permanently, while LSD only have a landing deck and cannot keep helicopters on board all the time.

The Soviet Ivan Rogow class represents a special type of dock landing ship , which theoretically can also run aground on a beach in order to land troops via a bow ramp. This is not possible with other dock landing ships.

Amphibious transport ships

Cambria with some of the boats carried

For the transport of large troop contingents and the associated material, amphibious transport ships were developed during the Second World War, which were similar to civilian general cargo ships .

The ships of the Amphibious / Attack Transport (APA , from 1969 LPA) type were primarily used to transport troops. They could accommodate at least one battalion of fully equipped infantry and had a large number of smaller landing craft of various types to bring the troops ashore with their material. Equipment with two to four LCM, twelve LCVP and three to four other boats was typical. The LPA supported the troops with accommodation, food, care and medical services. After a landing, the LPA stayed on site to supply the troops on land and to pick up the wounded. Ships of the type LPA are no longer in the inventory of the US Navy or other navies.

The Amphibious / Attack Cargo (AKA , from 1969 LKA) is mainly used for material transport and has only limited troop accommodation. Like the LPA, LKA transport a large number of landing craft. The US Navy still has five LKA in reserve status.

Vehicle landing ship monitor

Vehicle landing ships( Landing Ship, Vehicle - LSV ), later vehicle cargo ship (also LSV), specialize in the transport of land vehicles.

Stringham , a
WWI destroyer converted into a fast transporter

For operations by special forces on enemy coasts, some older destroyers and later also new escort destroyers were converted into fast amphibious transporters of the High-speed Transport (APD) type . They could take up to one company and land with the help of landing craft. Although the original artillery armament was reduced during the conversion, the ships still had some artillery pieces to support the troops on land with fire.

Armored landing ships

LST 1 unloads troops over pontoons during a landing operation in Italy in 1943. To the right of the pontoons the bow ramp of one of the LCVPs can be seen.

The Landing Ship (Tank - LST) is the largest conventional type of landing craft designed to land troops directly on the coast. The design of the first LST comes from the Royal Navy , which handed it over to the US Navy in 1941 for the purpose of mass production. In order to be able to run aground in front of the beach, LSTs have a very wide and flat hull in the bow area. They are designed to transport the heaviest vehicles, including heavy battle tanks. The loading and accommodation capacity is sufficient for a company, but considerably more soldiers can be carried for a short time.

The shape of the bow of the Russian LST Kaliningrad ( Project 775 ) shows the increased top speed compared to older LSTs

Unloading takes place via a bow ramp. Many LSTs also carried smaller landing craft such as LCVPs with them in order to land as many troops as possible in parallel, while heavy vehicles in particular are unloaded via the bow ramp. With an unfavorable gradient , LST cannot drive so close to the beach that the bow ramp reaches dry. In order to avoid soldiers and material having to wade too deep through the lake water, pontoons can be laid out in front of the bow ramp, some of which the LST itself carries with them.

Due to their construction and especially the bow ramp construction, the older LSTs only reached a low top speed of around 11 knots. Modern LSTs with a further developed bow design achieve higher speeds of up to around 20 kn.

Medium DropShips

A tank leaves an LSM via the bow hatch

The medium landing ship (LSM) was created in the USA as a vehicle on the order of magnitude between the larger LST and the smaller LCT. The US Navy built 498 LSM-1 class LSMs during World War II . Their payload is roughly equivalent to a reinforced platoon of up to half a company. Other nations have also built LSM, although the demarcation to the LST cannot be clearly defined and depends on the classification practice of individual countries. For example, Germany was planning a type LSM Class 502 , the export version of which in Nigeria was called LST. The landing ships of the frog class of the Volksmarine were officially classified as medium landing ships.

Landing craft

Infantry Landing Boats (LCI) land troops at the Battle of Morotai in September 1944

A number of different types of the relatively small landing craft have emerged in many countries, depending on local conditions, of which only the most widespread can be considered here. Land forces also have landing craft for overcoming water obstacles.

Multi-purpose landing craft

Multipurpose landing craft flounder , salmon and sturgeon of the German Navy, 1966

Multi-purpose landing craft (MZL) have been developed as the largest type of landing craft to be carried in a dock landing ship under the original designation Landing Craft, Tank ( LCT ). The name was later changed to Landing Craft, Utility ( LCU ). MZL are 40 m long, 9.8 m wide, have a draft of approx. 1.2 m in the front and approx. 2.4 m in the aft. Engine rooms, steering gear, storage bunkers for water and fuel, lounges and bedrooms are located under the loading deck. This results in the shape of a "lying wedge" for the trunk. MZL can have a flap in the bow as well as aft, which makes it possible to join several MZL together. This design also makes it easier to set down mines. The mine loading capacity of an MZL is naturally very high. Superstructures on deck are attached to the side or alternatively above the loading area. These structures contain control, radar, radio and navigation systems and the weapon platforms. MZL are restrictedly suitable for the high seas and have crews of 12 to 20 men ( MZL of the Federal Navy : 17). The displacement of MZL is around 500 t, the load capacity is 140 t and enables the transport of several tanks or trucks and the associated soldiers.

Medium landing craft

An LCM type Mannheim of the German army

The most common type of medium-sized landing craft is the Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) , which was used by the army and navy in the German armed forces . LCM can be carried by larger landing craft as deck cargo or in the well deck. Depending on the design, the boats have a load capacity of up to 70 t and can transport a larger vehicle such as a battle tank and a number of soldiers in an open hold. They have a bow ramp for loading and unloading. There are no accommodations for the crew and the embarked troops.

Small landing craft


Into the Jaws of Death : View from an LCVP on D-Day , American soldiers land on Omaha Beach

The most common type of small landing craft is the Landing Craft Vehicle / Personnel (LCVP), also known as the Higgins boat . The transport capacity is up to about 30 t; the loading area (e.g. 9 m × 3 m) is sufficient for a platoon of soldiers or a medium-sized vehicle. The engine and control stand are located at the rear of the LCVP, and a bow ramp at the front allows personnel and material to be unloaded quickly. The crew usually consists of a boat helmsman, an engine attendant and one or two other seamen.

LCVPs can be carried in davits on larger dropships and quickly lowered into the water. During World War II, LST carried two to six LCVPs, while amphibious transporters were equipped with up to fifteen LCVPs.

The British equivalent of the LCVP was the Landing Craft Assault (LCA), which had similar performance parameters. The German Navy received 10 LCA from British stocks in 1958, but never owned LCVP.

Assault boat

German assault boat in Russia 1942

Assault boats are part of the equipment of pioneer troops of the land forces. They are equipped with outboard motors and are used to quickly negotiate inland waters. Assault boats can be transported on trucks and brought to their place of use. They can carry soldiers in troop or group strength, but not vehicles.


An LCAC airboat heads for the open well deck of a dock landing ship (LPD)
A Pomornik-class vehicle with the nose hatch open and the rocket launcher

Hovercraft are able to cross obstacles in coastal waters that conventional landing vehicles cannot pass, such as mud flats , reefs or artificial underwater obstacles . In addition, they are only endangered by those sea mines that are equipped with special sensors against hovercraft. If the ground is suitable, hovercraft can also drive overland and thus transport their cargo inland.

Because of these abilities and their high speed, they are particularly suitable for the tactics of Ship-to-Objective maneuver . Most hovercraft are therefore intended for use from amphibious assault ships. Larger hovercraft can also be used for autonomous landing operations. This is especially true for tall guys like the Soviet-Russian Pomornik class .

Special vehicles to support amphibious operations

Landing support ships

German landing craft of the Siebelfehre type converted into an artillery carrier with an 8.8 cm gun

Landing support ships are used to provide fire support during amphibious landings. The US Navy developed two classes of landing support ships during World War II. These vehicles were designed to assist combat ships such as battleships , cruisers, and destroyers in shelling landing beaches.

Landing support ship, of the US type LSM (R) -401 with artillery and missile armament clearly visible

Landing craft can be provisionally prepared for fire support by placing artillery or tanks on their open cargo deck. Sieve ferries and marine ferry frames were used for this in the Navy . In the British and American navy, landing craft of the type LCT were converted for this and designated as Landing Craft Tank, Artillery [ (LCT (A) ].

Amphibious command ships

The amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney LCC-20 serves as the flagship for various senior naval agencies

Large amphibious operations are among the most complex military operations because land, air, and sea warfare must be coordinated. This requires relatively large mixed staffs that require their own management platform. During World War II, the US Navy built command ships based on merchant hulls, which were initially classified as Amphibious Force Command Ship ( AGC ). In 1969 the classification of still active ships was changed to LCC . In 1970, two new Blue Ridge class LCCs were put into service and one each was assigned to the Atlantic and Pacific fleets . The hulls correspond to those of the amphibious helicopter carrier of the Iwo Jima class (LPH-2). These ships are now used for general command duties.

Crane landing ships

During the Second World War, the British Royal Navy converted several tankers into large crane landing ships ( Landing Ship Gantry ), the main task of which was to transport large numbers of landing craft and to launch them in the landing zone using large cranes.

Web links

Commons : Landing Vehicles  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: landing craft  - explanations of meanings, origin of words, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ( Memento from November 2, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). See also  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (e.g. photos) @1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  2. Navsource to APA / LPA
  3. Navsource to AKA / LKA
  4. ^ Navsource
  5. See for example RFA Dewdale (A151)