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25 Apr, 2024 18:05

US considers ‘mobile bases’ for Pacific war

Civilian oil platforms could be modified into supply depots and missile launchers
US considers ‘mobile bases’ for Pacific war

An American military contractor wants to repurpose unused oil rigs as mobile bases that would help resupply US Navy vessels in the Pacific and host missile launchers.

Gibbs & Cox, a naval architecture subsidiary of Leidos, presented the Mobile Defense/Depot Platform (MODEP) concept at the Sea Air Space 2024 exhibit in Washington, DC earlier this month.

“Our target here is to find a solution to help the challenging problem of having capacity issues in the Western Pacific. For not enough cells, not enough missiles, not enough of being able to keep those ships in the forward station,” Dave Zook, a solutions architect and combat systems department manager at Gibbs & Cox, told Naval News.

The MODEP concept refers to “a large floating island base” capable of positioning itself “at an ideal distance from shore” and independently operating for almost six months. It would be configured for either a supply function or missile launching.

The US Navy currently lacks the capability to reload its missile launchers at sea. The supply MODEP would solve this by having two cranes capable of lifting 100 tons each.

The missile base version could hold up to 512 Vertical Launch System (VLS) missile cells, or up to 100 new Large Missile Launchers (LML). The concept also “reduces risks and costs associated with land-based defense systems,” Leidos and Gibbs & Cox also said. Japan has considered using converted oil rigs as an alternative to its canceled Aegis Ashore missile defense program.

Both variants could travel at speeds of 5-8 knots to cover about 200 nautical miles a day and maintain stability even in waves up to 60 feet (20 meters) tall.

The concept calls for the MODEP to have a range of 4,000 nautical miles without refueling, generate between 6-20 megawatts of power, hold up to 2.3 million gallons (8.7 million liters) of fuel and host a maintenance and repair shop for warships.

The best part, according to Gibbs & Cox, is that there are up to six commercial oil rigs that could be converted to military use at a relatively low cost due to an “oversupply in the oil market.” The platforms could be ready within as little as two years, the company said.

Neither the Pentagon nor the Navy have officially commented on the proposal.