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US Navy: From oil rigs to military fortresses: US Navy’s innovative defence solution

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The US Navy has revealed an ambitious project aimed at converting surplus oil rigs into mobile missile defense and resupply bases, responding to escalating missile threats in the Pacific region, notably from China. This innovative initiative, unveiled at the Sea Air Space 2024 expo in Washington DC, is part of a broader effort to enhance US military capabilities in the region.
Transforming Surplus Oil Rigs
The project, developed by Gibbs & Cox, a Leidos company, aims to transform surplus oil platforms into large floating island bases capable of operating independently for over 12 months. Known as the Mobile Defense/Depot Platform (MODEP) concept, these converted platforms will be positioned at an ideal distance from shore, serving as mobile missile defense and resupply bases.Enhancing US Air Defense Capabilities
The converted platforms are expected to play a crucial role in enhancing US air defense capabilities and aiding in strike missions. With the capacity to hold up to 512 vertical launch system (VLS) cells or 100 large missile launchers, these platforms offer a significant increase in capabilities compared to existing naval vessels.

Strategic Importance and Cost-Effectiveness
Heruningtyas Desi Purnamasari, an official at the US Navy, highlighted the strategic importance of these floating bases, emphasizing their potential to substantially reduce risks and costs associated with land-based defense systems. Additionally, the project offers a cost-effective solution, with the converted platforms estimated to cost only 10% of a new build Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system.

Debate Over Feasibility and Effectiveness
Despite the potential benefits, the feasibility and effectiveness of these floating bases have been subjects of debate among experts. Some experts have raised concerns about the high costs, vulnerability to missile attacks, and relative ineffectiveness compared to conventional capabilities of these semi-permanent offshore military bases.Adapting to New Geopolitical Realities
The US Navy’s ambitious project reflects a broader shift in military strategy as the US adapts to new geopolitical realities and technological advancements in warfare. The project aims to bridge the gap between sea and land-based BMD capabilities effectively, highlighting the US military’s commitment to maintaining its strategic advantage in the region.

(With inputs from TOI)

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