Friday, September 20, 2013

A Better Amphibious Assault

ComNavOps just read a fascinating article on amphibious assault written by a recently retired Marine infantry officer with 29 years service and currently working as a professor at the College of Operational and Strategic Leadership of the U.S. Naval War College.  I don’t know enough to comment on the effectiveness or desirability of the specific suggestions but that’s not the point, here.  The point is that this is one of the rare articles I’ve come across that provides alternative thinking to the more-of-the-same approach that the Navy and Marines seem to have fallen into.  Regular followers of this blog know that ComNavOps is highly critical of the Navy/Marines lack of a coherent conceptual approach to amphibious assaults.  I encourage you to follow the link at the bottom of the post and read the entire article (it’s short!) and draw your own conclusions.  At the very least, the author’s credentials and experience confer an element of authority to his ideas that warrants serious consideration.

As a very brief summary, the author describes the shortcomings of today’s amphibious assault operations and offers three suggestions for quickly and economically improving our capabilities.

“First, procure Air-Supported Vessel (ASV) landing craft to conduct STSM for ground forces. Effects Ships International, a Norwegian builder, has plans for an LCU replacement that will “scream” to the beach at 50 knots, fully loaded, from hundreds of miles offshore.”

“Second, take advantage of the capabilities of the LCAC by having the Marine Corps build combat formations around the LAV-25 or similar mobile, armored combat vehicle instead of AAVs.”

“Finally, the naval services must reestablish the “vertical envelopment” capability that disappeared decades ago. The remaining two-thirds of the Corps should be equipped with vehicles that can be transported internally by the MV-22. American businesses already offer these highly capable vehicles off-the-shelf.”

This one is well worth the few minutes it takes to read. 


(1) War On The Rocks, http://warontherocks.com/2013/09/amphibious-ops-in-the-21st-century/ , David Fuquea, 17-Sep-2013

15 comments:

  1. Putting this here so you'll see it. LRASM has completed its first launch from a MK41 VLS:

    http://www.al.com/business/index.ssf/2013/09/lockheed_martins_launches_firs.html

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    1. Thanks, ats. I note that the company financed and conducted the test themself. They must see a pretty good chance that the Navy will proceed with it.

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  2. How would Col. Fuquea's perspective fit with LCU-F, recently featured in the July-issue (pp.60-64) PROCEEDINGS of the Naval Institute ?

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    1. That's a highly speculative and radical design but, conceptually, seems to fit right in with the author's suggestions.

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    2. ComNavOps:

      Have you had a chance to track the exchange between COL Fuquea and Altenburger in the PROCCEEDINGS Sept and Oct'13 ?

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    3. After all these months, still wondering what is 'speculative' and 'radical' about LCU-F ?

      If it were the articulation, as the designers stated, much more extreme cases of articulation have been routinely accepted since the first folding of fighter-wings...

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    4. TT, the design is speculative and radical in that it not only doesn't exist but is a sharp departure from previous Navy designs. However, I don't see that as a negative. Whether it's an optimum design is the question that Col. Fuquea asked and the question is valid. Regardless, the outside the box thinking is sorely needed.

      You might ponder this issue: the biggest need of an amphibious assault force is transport of heavy equipment. Does the LCU-F offer enough of this? I don't have a ready answer for that.

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  3. I liked this article a lot, ComNavOps. Even without military experience, it doesn't take much for one to see how vulnerable the blue side would be during unloading operations in an amphibious operation. One Shore-to-Ship missile could really make the Navy's day bad... hence the imperative need for Over-the-Horizon capabilities. Even if you disagree with the Colonel's assessments overall, out of the box thinking is something the military needs in an environment of sequestration and multifaceted threats.

    --Tom

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  4. http://seseu.com/
    Does provide a brief overview on the ASV technology and characteristics.
    http://seseu.com/Technology%20folder/Tech_01.pdf
    It does pay off in lower energy consumption above 30 knots speed.
    The concept looks like with some inflateable modifications it could switch into an makeshift LCAC that can cross the surf. While speed above 30 knots might not be employed much in actual use, up to 70 knots seem possible (more than most vesels can achieve in the water). The big advantage of this design is the much smoother ride, a characteristic missing in hovercraft designs.

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    1. Kurt, thanks for the link. Fascinating!

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  5. The problem here is that the Marines have put the cart before the horse. Designing forces around existing platforms is problematic.

    What the Corps (and Navy) need to do is look at the threat and how to deal with it. The idea that “we do not do opposed landings is ludicrous – we of course should seek to avoid assaults whenever possible, but with the rapid world-wide urbanization of coastlines, this may not be possible. If the default position is that the Navy and USMC will only conduct unopposed landings, then the reality is that the Army and Air Force can do the mission better by vertical envelopment without the investment in expensive amphibious lift. Let USAID do the humanitarian relief mission. For the Navy this means that mines and fire support needs must be addressed.

    Next, the USMC needs to figure what gear has to be put ashore to achieve the mission, and then work with the Navy to design ships and landing craft around it. the Corps needs platforms that can land forces against at least light opposition. Hint, by the end of WWII the Allies had figured out the firepower/armor/ needs pretty well. The PRC and Russians train to put armor ashore with the first wave. This bears at least some thought.

    The Corps should remain an infantry centric force, but it needs to re-organize at least some units on the mechanized infantry/armored cavalry model: this means that it needs to integrate APCs (amphibious or not) and infantry, it needs SP guns, and it badly needs a CEV and an AFV very much like an assault gun, or a tank with a howitzer to deal with fortified buildings and bunkers.

    The LCAC is an administrative logistics carrier – the marines need a modern LCT. There are plenty of examples of LCT type vessels PASCAT, L-CAT, Dyugon, etc.. There are other options for carrying infantry as well. The British LCAC(L) is a small hovercraft perfect for inserting an infantry squad – the Griffon LCAC(L). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjR5Gz7HGzU

    GAB

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    1. GAB, your comment is on the money! The unfortunate reality is that the Navy has become so risk averse that they will not willingly conduct an opposed landing (gators kept 50-100 nm offshore!!!!). The Marines have stated that they won't ever conduct a beachfront, WWII style assault ever again. You can agree or disagree but that's one of (conflicting) statements they've made. They also want an AAV/EFV which seems to contradict the no-beachfront assault notion!

      So, your comment is logical and insightful. A ComNavOps salute to you.

      Are you George, by the way?

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    2. The sea services need to have a real heart to heart on forced entry operations. The Corps has to drive this to the extent that has to clearly articulate what forces must be landed. The idea of OTH assault for the initial assault force is fine, but amphibious assualt means getting there by sea, and mperhaps most forgoten is the simple fact that you cannot move enough fuel and supplies by air: logistics must come by sea.

      The Marines have rightly focused their infantry TOE, but reliance on vertical envelopment is particularly suspect as the Corps lacks a modern light/medium-lift helicopter like the H-60 for air assault. Shockingly, the organization of amphibians (AAVs) and infantry remains unchanged by doctrine since WWII – the AAVs are a separate unit and treated as transportation, rather than integral block of the combat force. Marines do not train to fight directly from their AAVs as an army mech infantry force integrates APCs and IFVs into the infantry.

      Worse, Marines have stubbornly clung to the idea that they can operate on the 21st century battlefield without armor, and self-propelled guns – the lessons of Fallujah and Baghdad (and even the WWII Pacific islands) long forgotten

      A BMP3 weighs roughly 19 tones, imagine if the USMC had a variant of the H-53 that could carry something like a BMP3 internally, or slung tight to its belly to reduce drag over a range of 75-100 nm: that gentleman would be a game changer!

      But the bulk of forces will have to come by sea, and they do not need a high tech expensive craft for the job. 25 or 30 knot landing craft exist, and can do the job *if* the Navy can clear the waters of mines.

      GAB

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  6. “Finally, the naval services must reestablish the “vertical envelopment” capability that disappeared decades ago. The remaining two-thirds of the Corps should be equipped with vehicles that can be transported internally by the MV-22. American businesses already offer these highly capable vehicles off-the-shelf.”
    ====================================================
    The problem with this is that the MV-22 (and H-53) should have been designed to carry the vehicles, not the other way around!

    And in typical fashion, the services having gotten rid of the jeep (the M151 being the last and best version), now are looking for $100K + vehicles as replacements.

    GAB

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