The Landing Platform Dock (LPD) is a vital part of the modern amphibious assault operation - being able to carry all manner of man and machine to enemy shores and supporting actions well-beyond. The modern Royal Netherlands Navy (RNN) supports two such ships belonging to the Rotterdam-class, HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) herself and sister-ship HNLMS Johan de Witt (L801). The latter, the focus of this article, is a slightly improved form of the original, commissioned some ten years later and of greater displacement.
Design of de Witt was a joint-development effort between the nations of The Netherlands and long-time ship-builder Spain. The hull was constructed at Damen Shipyards Galati of Romania and outfitted at the Damen Scheide Naval Shipbuilding yard in Dutch waters. Her keel was laid down on June 18th, 2003 and she was launched to sea on May 13th, 2006. After trials and evaluations, the warship was commissioned for service on November 30th, 2007. Today (2019), she homeports out of Den Helder in North Holland and fights under the motto of "Ago Quod Ago" ("I Do What I Do").
As finalized, the vessel displaces 16,800 tons under full load, up from the Rotterdam's listed displacement of 12,750 tons. Dimensions include an overall length of 578.6 feet with a beam measuring 95.2 feet, and a draught down to 19.7 feet. Power is from a diesel-electric system involving 4 x Stork Wartsila engines developing 19,800 horsepower and a bow thruster unit for fine maneuvering. The warship can make headway at 19 knots, slower than the 20 knots reported by Rotterdam, and range out to 6,000 nautical miles.
Aboard is an operating crew of 146 and a further 555 combat-ready personnel can be housed with full support facilities. To this can be added up to 33 Main Battle Tank (MBT) tracked combat vehicles or 170 Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) as needed by operation. Onboard food stores support the ship's occupants for up to six straight weeks before requiring resupply and an onboard desalinization system provides an nearly-endless water supply. The ship is also home to 4 x Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) or LCVP assault landing craft, the latter used to bring vehicles and troops to shore. Landing craft are launched from an oversized stern-facing ramp or side stations (davits).
The profile of de Witt involves a warehouse/hangar-like hull superstructure over the forecastle/midships with the latter half taken up by the helicopter deck devoid of obstructions. Helicopters make up the air arm for de Witt with support for 4 x Boeing CH-47 Chinook tandem-rotor helicopters or 6 x NHIndustries NH90 medium-lift helicopters. A full-service hangar facility is included in de Witt's design. Two helicopters can be launched/retrieved from the surface deck at a time (two spots are available, seated inline).
The warship is defensed through 2 x "Goalkeeper" Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs) and this is backed by up to 6 x 12.7mm or 7.62mm machine guns for extreme-close-in work. Beyond this, supporting vessels provide ranged defense for the vessel.
de Witt carries SATellite COMmunications (SATCOM), protected Link 11 datalink, Thales Netherlands Variant 2D combination air-surface-search radar, Thales Netherlands "Gatekeeper" warning system, JMCIS, and Sippican Hycor SRBOC ("Super-Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures Chaff and Decoy Launching System") Mk.36 launchers (x4) while being fully compatible with allied NATO units.
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