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LSD-49 Harpers Ferry class

The primary mission of the Harpers Ferry (Cargo Variant) ship is to dock, transport and launch the Navy's Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels and other amphibious craft and vehicles with crews and Marines into potential trouble spots around the world. The ship also has the capability to act as primary control ship during an Amphibious Assault.

The ships were designed as a minimum modification variant of the LSD 41 Whidbey Island Class and contains the same lines and propulsion plant as the first eight ships. The major difference is that the well deck has been shortened to accommodate added vehicle stowage and cargo storage areas, reducing the number of LCAC's carried from four to two.

Dock Landing Ships support amphibious operations including landings via Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft and helicopters, onto hostile shores. These ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel in amphibious assault operations. The ships combat load, transport and launch amphibious craft, or vehicles, together with their crews and embarked personnel, and render limited docking and repair services to small ships and craft.

Wheeled vehicles can be embarked/debarked via three methods: pier crane, ship's crane, or the well deck. The well deck will accommodate one (1) LCU or two (2) LCACs. Vehicles may be onloaded/offloaded via the well deck by either landing craft while the ship is ballast down or by dropping the stern gate and backing up to a quay wall. The ships are equipped with a hydraulically-operated stern gate. This system has a watertight hinged closure located at the stern which swings out and down to permit entry of landing craft and vehicles into the well deck. The port and starboard hydraulic rams raise or lower the gate in approximately (5) minutes and provide positive control of the gate during travel. The stern gate can support the weight of two (2) AAVP7A1 Amphibian Vehicles, an M60A1 or M1A1 Main Battle Tank, or two (2) M923 5 ton trucks simultaneously.

Loaded LCAC's can be launched while underway on their own power. The ship needs to be ballasted at 0 - 6 inches at the sill. Loaded conventional landing craft (such as LCU, LCM-8, or LCM-6) are launched under their own power with the ship ballasted down sufficiently to float the craft. Amphibious vehicles (such as LVT and LARC-V) are launched under their own power with the ship ballasted just below the sill. The practice of carrying AAVP7s and conventional landing craft in the same well should be avoided for safety reasons. It does not provide a dry well for an AAVP7 in trouble to return due to the ballasting for the launch of the landing craft. In addition, if AAVP7s are stowed alongside a LCU in the well deck there is not enough room to fully shore up the LCU, thus creating a safety hazard in heavy weather.

Lighting, visual landing aides, and flight deck facilities are provided to allow launching / landing, and VERTREP/hover under minimum conditions of day and night VFR. The two landing spots allow for operation of aircraft as large as the CH-53E.

When the Department of the Navy lift study was completed in May 1983, the authors realized the most critical shortfall not addressed up to that time was in cargo lift capability. Thus the follow-on to the LSD 41 class was born. At first it was to be a new class of ship; however, as the process of design approval continued, the Navy realized that considerable time and money could be saved by modifying the LSD 41 class, for the LSD 49 and beyond. In the forward half of the LSD 41 well deck, in the area allocated for two LCAC, Naval Sea Systems Command designed a covered ramp with cargo space beneath. Other changes were necessary in various parts of the ship to compensate for the added weight, but essentially, the changes amount only to a broad modification of the baseline ship.

The class was called LSD 41 Cargo Variant class (or LSD 41(CV). In 1987, the Navy requested $324.2 million to fund one LSD-41 (Cargo Variant). USS HARPERS FERRY (LSD 49) was built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was commissioned on January 7, 1995, the first of the United States Navy's four new cargo variants of the Whidbey Island Class (LSD 41) of Landing Dock Ships.

To achieve force level objectives, there were to be at least six LSD 41(CV) ships in addition to the mix of LHDs, LSD 41s, and other amphibious ships. Beyond that, the Navy expected to keep building the LSD 41(CV)s to sustain the lift capability as older ships retired. As of 1989 estimates were that 12 LSD 41(CV)s might eventually be delivered. Procurement plans provided for the Navy to request one LSD-41(CV) per year through 2000 in order to continue to meet the amphibious lift requirement. In 1991 Navy requested $245,134,000 for the LSD -41 Cargo Variant, but the appropriations conferees provide no funds for the program. Due to cost growth in the program, in 1992 the House appropriated addition money for the LSD-41 cargo variant program, in the amount of $27,000,000 for 1992, $31,000,000 for 1994, and $30,000,000 for 1995. The Senate appropriated a total of $300,000,000 for the LSD-41 cargo variant ship program, in addition to the House figures for cost growth on the prior years program. Although no funds were requested for the program the following year, $300,000,000 was appropriated at the initiative of the House.


Length Overall Length: 610 ft
Waterline Length: 580 ft
Beam Extreme Beam: 84 ft
Waterline Beam: 84 ft
Height 177 ft., 2 in
Draft Maximum Navigational Draft: 20 ft
Draft Limit: 21 ft
ballasted - 21.48 ft FWD / 34 ft AFT [No Cargo
ballasted - 22.76 ft FWD / 36.11 ft AFT [w/Cargo]
Displacement Light Displacement: 11547 tons
Full Displacement: 16400 tons
Dead Weight: 4853 tons
Compartments/ Spaces 733
Propulsion 4, 16 cylinder Colt-Pielstick Diesel Engines
33,000 combined shaft Horsepower at 520 rpm
Propellers 2, 13.5 ft. controllable pitch blades
Speed 20+ knots
Well Deck Capacity: 2 Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC), or
1 Landing Craft, Utility (LCU), or
4 LCM-8 Landing Craft, Mechanized (LCM), or
9 LCM-6 Landing Craft, Mechanized (LCM), or
15 AAV Amphibious Assault Vehicle
Weapons 6 - MK36 Super Rapid Blooming Outboard Chaff (SRBOC)
6 - .50 Caliber Machines Guns
2 - MK 38 25MM Machine Guns
2 - MK 15 MOD 12 BK 1 Close-In Weapons Systems Mounts
Complement Ship's force 24 officers, 328 enlisted
Landing force 504 Marines (incl. 102 surge troops)
Unit Operating Cost
Annual Average
$20,000,000 [source: [FY1996 VAMOSC]


Name Number Builder Cost Homeport Ordered Commissioned Decommissioned
Harpers Ferry LSD 49 Avondale$157 MSan Diego17 Jun 198801 Nov 1994~ 2024
Carter Hall LSD-50 Avondale$128 MLittle Creek22 Dec 198930 Sep 1995~ 2025
Oak Hill LSD-51Avondale$135 M Little Creek 27 Mar 199108 Jun 1996~ 2026
Pearl Harbor LSD-52Avondale$258 MSan Diego 12 Oct 199330 May 1998~ 2028
CANCELLED LSD-53Avondale 1993
CANCELLED LSD-54Avondale 1994
CANCELLEDLSD-55Avondale 1995
CANCELLED LSD-56Avondale 1996
CANCELLED LSD-57Avondale 1997
CANCELLED LSD-58Avondale 1998
CANCELLED LSD-59Avondale 1999
CANCELLED LSD-60Avondale 2000

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Thursday, March 04, 1999 6:39:39 AM