Mar 1

Rocket Ships: A Pictorial Overview

Thursday, March 1, 2018 11:43 AM

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Experience by British, American, and Allied forces during the early parts of the Second World War underscored the need for effective close fire support and beach bombardment. It soon became clear the most effective method for providing this much-needed capability was not to develop specialized platforms for the task, but to modify the ships and craft that already had the capability to get close-in to shore in medias res. The answer was landing craft.

Much as the Soviets had done with their Katyusha on land, the British Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy began modifying their existing and planned landing craft and boat designs to accommodate rapidly-evolving rocket and rocket-launching technology. By the war’s end, a number of different craft had been modified to carry and launch rockets for close-in fire support.

LCT(5)(R)-482 provides supporting fire during the Invasion of Normandy

LCT(5)(R)-482 provides supporting fire during the Invasion of Normandy, July, 1944. (Naval Institute Archive).

One of the first designs to be modified was the British Landing Craft Tank, Mk. 5, which saw use primarily in the Royal Navy but was also used by the U.S. Navy in the Mediterranean and Normandy campaigns before being transferred to the Pacific theater.

As more designs came into use during 1943-1944, other, smaller craft were modified for rocket capability, including the Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP):

Armed with rocket launchers, a U.S. Navy LCVP-R moves off shore in the Solomon Islands.

Armed with rocket launchers, a U.S. Navy LCVP(R) moves off shore in the Solomon Islands. (Naval Institute Archive).

And the Landing Craft, Mechanized (LCM):

Starboard bow view of a U.S. Navy LCM preparing to depart the U.S. East Coast, after being fitted out with rows of rocket launchers.

Starboard bow view of a U.S. Navy LCM(R) preparing to depart the U.S. East Coast, after being fitted out with rows of rocket launchers. (Naval Institute Archive)

Other designs incorporated their placement directly, including the Higgins Landing Craft Support, Small, Mark 2, which had racks placed alongside the cabin:

Port side view of the USS LCS(S)-2 lying at rest off New Orleans, Louisiana.

Port side view of an LCS(S)-2 lying at rest off New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1944. (Naval Institute Archive).

Even some PT-boats were fitted with rocket launchers for more effective close-in fire support:

Bow view of Patrol Torpedo Boat #631 (PT-631) lying at rest. Note 37mm gun, rocket launchers, and Radar Screen.

Bow view of Patrol Torpedo Boat #631 (PT-631) lying at rest. Note 37mm gun, rocket launchers, and Radar Screen.

In the Pacific Theater, where amphibious operations were an essential aspect of the war, larger craft were modified. An “interim” platform before the Landing Ship, Medium (LSM) came online was the Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI), which were used extensively in late 1944 through early 1945:

Task Force 51.15 moves to the transport area off the north end of Iwo Jima after USS LCI(R)-707 discharged rockets.

Task Force 51.15 moves to the transport area off the north end of Iwo Jima after USS LCI(R)-707 discharged its rockets. (Naval Institute Archive)

One of the last developments of the war was the Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket) (LSM(R)), three classes of which were produced.

 

LSM(R) firing rockets onto a shore position during World War II

An LSM(R)-188 class LSM(R) firing rockets onto a shore position during World War II. (Naval Institute Archive)

Later variants, decommissioned after World War II, were reactivated for the Korean War in support of amphibious operations on the peninsula.

Port bow view of the LSM(R)-512 underway at sea after reactivation in 1951.

Port bow view of the USS LSM(R)-512 underway at sea after reactivation in 1951. (Naval Institute Archive)

Many of the class were retained and served in Vietnam.

 

Resembling a fireworks display, a five-inch rocket is launched from the USS Clarion River (LSMR-409) on a night mission.

Resembling a fireworks display, a five-inch rocket is launched from the USS Clarion River (LSMR-409) on a night mission. (Naval Institute Archive)

One of the last iterations of this design was the USS Carronade (IFS-1), a specially-designed Inshore Fire Support Ship launched in 1955 to provide direct naval gunfire support to amphibious landings or operations close to shore. Like the older LSMR’s, Carronade served in “Brown Water Navy” in Vietnam until she was decommissioned in 1970.

USS Carronade (IFS-1) at sea.

USS Carronade (IFS-1) at sea. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Redesignated Amphibious Fire Support Ships (LFR’s) while in reserve, the last of the rocket ships were scrapped in the early 1970s.

Ex-USS Desplaines River (LFR-412) moored in mothballs, prior to her sale in 1973.

Ex-USS Desplaines River (LFR-412) moored in mothballs, prior to her sale in 1973. (Naval Institute Photo Archive).

 
 
 
  • Dave Shirlaw

    Author omitted plan to place MLRS on Newport Class LSTs.