Floating Fortresses: The US Navy will convert its oil platforms into mobile military bases

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Floating Fortresses: The US Navy will convert its oil platforms into mobile military bases

NEW DELHI: The US Navy has embarked on an innovative but controversial project to transform surplus oil platforms into mobile missile defense and resupply bases in response to escalating ballistic threats in the Pacific, particularly in from China. This initiative, developed by Gibbs & Cox, a Leidos company, was unveiled at the Sea Air Space 2024 exhibition in Washington DC. The Mobile Defense/Depot Platform (MODEP) concept aims to convert oil platforms into large floating island bases that can operate independently for more than 12 months, positioned at an ideal distance from shore.

The converted platforms will potentially play a dual role in enhancing U.S. air defense capabilities or assisting in strike missions, with the capacity to hold up to 512 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells or 100 large missile launchers. This capacity is approximately five times that of an existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to Naval News.

Heruningtyas Desi Purnamasari, a US Navy official, highlighted the strategic importance of these floating bases, noting: “The platforms could eventually lead to a substantial reduction in risks and costs associated with land-based defense systems.”

The concept also includes plans for these mobile platforms to support sustainment of the US Navy’s surface combatants and nuclear submarines via an afloat forward transit base configuration, providing a cost-effective solution at just 10% of the price of a new ballistic missile defense construction. (DMO).

However, the feasibility of such floating bases has been debated. In 2018, experts José Delgado and Eviya Vitola discussed the political and security challenges of establishing semi-permanent offshore military bases, highlighting their high costs, vulnerability to missile attacks, and relative ineffectiveness compared to conventional capabilities.

More recently, Sam Tangredi of the Foreign Policy Research Institute has highlighted the strategic benefits of sea bases, including enhanced joint command capabilities and rapid strike potential. Tangredi also questioned whether new sea-based technologies could keep up with evolving anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threats, suggesting that while improvements in air and missile defenses could mitigate some risks , it is practical to invest heavily in maritime bases. remains uncertain.

This ambitious project reflects a shift in military strategy as the United States adapts to new geopolitical realities and technological advancements in warfare, aiming to effectively bridge the gap between maritime and land-based BMD capabilities.

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