Friday, August 15, 2014

Amphibious Assault Doctrine

We’ve had several recent posts on Marines and amphibious assaults.  We’ve looked at various specific issues.  What we need to look at now is the broad picture view of amphibious assaults.  We need to look at the doctrine of amphibious assaults.  This will be a longer than normal post but it’s necessary and worth the time to read.

The Marines and the Navy pretty well mastered the art of amphibious assaults by the end of WWII.  They had the equipment, the training, the experience, and, most importantly, the doctrine.  With the benefit of hindsight, can we look back and come up with some improvements that could have been implemented?  Probably, but the point is that they had developed a system that worked and worked well.

Let’s consider the doctrine of amphibious assaults.  What has changed since the end of WWII?  The answer is, remarkably little.  The doctrine is largely unchanged despite the evolution of guided missiles, better sensors, more advanced weaponry, attack helos, advanced aircraft, and so forth – and I’m talking about the enemy’s side more so than ours though all the same advances impact our side, offensively, as well.  Despite all these changes our amphibious assault doctrine remains substantially the same as it was.

Three factors stand out as significantly different from the WWII scenarios and yet are not specifically accounted for in current doctrine beyond vague, generic statements.

Weapon Ranges – The development of rockets and missiles of various types have greatly increased the effective range of the enemy’s defensive efforts.

Weapon Lethality – The development of guided munitions of various types has greatly increased the lethality and destructive efficiency of weapons.  In addition, shaped charges have conferred great lethality on small warheads;  the ubiquitous RPG being a good example.  Finally, the widespread availability of mines greatly enhances anti-access efforts.

Sensors – Sensors, including radar, IR, satellite, etc. have greatly increased  detection ranges and target classification capabilities.  Surprise is much harder to achieve.

One might also be tempted to add the development of helos, especially attack helos, to the preceding list of factors.  These highly lethal platforms offer a formidable defensive capability.  Their effectiveness is, however, countered by their vulnerability to shoulder launched SAMs.

The preceding factors have not been directly and systematically accounted for in our current doctrine.  For example, increased defensive weapon ranges have been dealt with only to the extent that the Navy has shifted the amphibious force location from the horizon to 50+ nm.  No allowance has been made for dealing with defensive weapons fired from distances well beyond the landing area.  Thus, even with outstanding suppression or destruction of landing area defenses, the landing force may still be subject to significant fires.

The existence of guided weapons grants the defender greatly enhanced combat efficiency.  A handful of troops with a supply of RPGs could wreak havoc on the armored amphibious vehicles and connectors.  Small guided anti-ship missiles (Hellfire-ish, Maverick-ish) would be a significant danger to connector craft.  Despite this, no change in doctrine has been made to provide protection for the connectors beyond the general hope that such weapons will be suppressed or destroyed in the general support fires.

Mines are a significant impediment to an amphibious assault and yet the Navy has no effective means of mine clearance and mine countermeasure forces are dwindling almost daily.  The LCS may or may not pan out as an effective MCM platform and will, in any case be far too few in number, given the curtailed buy, to be tactically effective.

Increased sensor effectiveness will greatly impact the degree of surprise that can be achieved at both the strategic and tactical levels.  The concept of exploiting gaps, in particular, as an alternative to a direct frontal assault is rendered suspect.

The combination of the above factors suggests that the doctrinal concept of the establishment of a “supply dump” on the beach may be highly suspect.  Such a lucrative target will be easily detected and long range, guided, lethal weapons may render such a setup nothing more than a spectacular pyrotechnic display.  The total lack of a doctrinal means of protecting the immediate landing area from incoming fires is a major weakness.

The guiding document for amphibious assaults is Joint Publication 3-02, “Amphibious Operations”.  Here are some interesting observations from the document.

  • No mention is made of port assaults;  only beach, despite the fact that we probably no longer have the capability and capacity to move sufficient amounts of supplies and equipment over an unimproved beach as was done at Normandy, for example.

  • Over-the-horizon (OTH) is mentioned as a less desirable option to a close assault despite the fact that it now appears to be the norm.

  • There is an emphasis on establishing aviation assets ashore despite the fact that the maintenance and operating demands of modern aircraft almost preclude this option, short of the seizure of an existing airbase.

  • Rehearsal is considered a vital aspect of an assault plan.  I’m doubtful that we have the afloat resources and supplies to conduct the actual assault let alone a full dress rehearsal.  Look at the training exercises (very few!) we currently conduct and the amount of shortcuts and simulations we take during them due to lack of money and resources.

Now, here are some interesting quotes from the document.

“With no current capability to conduct OTH surface gun fire support, missions normally conducted by NSFS will initially rest with aviation assets.”

Wow!  We are formally recognizing that we have no fire support capability.  What we are failing to recognize is that against a peer defender the aviation assets will be tied up protecting the fleet and protecting themselves.  They will be only sporadically available for air support.  So, we have no naval fire support and only sporadic air support and yet this issue is not addressed in our doctrine.

“Although ships can use land attack missiles for OTH fire support, their quantities are limited.”

So much for the magic of Tomahawks.  Effective but limited.  How many thousands of rounds of naval gunfire were used in pre-invasion bombardments during WWII?  Our entire national Tomahawk inventory would be totally depleted in the first hour of the first assault.

“Fire support has a major effect on the development of the LF [Landing Force] plan for operations. Until the LF’s organic artillery is ashore, NSFS and aviation assets (fixed- and rotary-wing) are normally the only means of fire support for the LF. A portion of these assets may also be tasked to defend the AF [assault task group] as a whole, limiting their availability to the LF.”

See the logical inconsistency?  The previous statements noted that there is no naval fire support from OTH and yet this vaguely hopeful statement ignores the reality and counts on gun support.  The statement also notes that initial support will have to come from aviation assets, as well, while simultaneously noting that aviation assets will be limited.  Remember, the number one priority of aviation is to protect the carrier.  The issue is not addressed doctrinally.

“Initially, the LF is able to employ only a small fraction of its total potential power. Tactical operations are initiated by small units that are normally only supported by NSFS and attack aircraft. Before long, the preponderance of the LF is ashore and functioning as a cohesive organization exerting its maximum combat power.”

Well, there’s a bland statement that relies mainly on hope!  A previous statement from the document acknowledged that there is no gun support and yet doctrinally we’ll depend on gun support to assist the initial small unit actions!  Further, despite all the enemy’s increased weapon ranges, lethality, and sensing, we will casually move most of our combat power ashore “before long”.  We should doctrinally include sending a polite thank you note to the enemy for their cooperation in allowing us to move our combat power ashore unhindered and in a timely manner.

“As a general rule there will be one NSFS ship in direct support for each battalion and one NSFS ship in general support for each regiment.”

And that one ship has only a single 5” gun.  Yikes!  And that assumes the Navy is willing to move within range which they have stated they will not do.  So, that statement should actually read that there will be NO ships in direct support of each battalion!

Finally, here is a historical quote found within the document that recognizes the logistical aspect of an assault.

“The logistical effort required to sustain the seizure of Iwo Jima was enormous, complex, largely improvised on lessons learned in earlier . . . operations in the Pacific. . . . Clearly, no other element of the emerging art of amphibious warfare had improved so greatly by the winter of 1945. Marines may have had the heart and firepower to tackle a fortress-like Iwo Jima earlier in the war, but they would
have been crippled in the doing of it by limitations in amphibious logistical support capabilities. These concepts, procedures, organizations, and special materials took years to develop. . . .”

“From Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima, Joseph Alexander”

This is exactly the issue that we’ve discussed in some of our posts – the Navy no longer has the numbers of ships or connectors or the transport capacities to sustain the flow of material needed for a successful combat assault.  Further, as every example of combat throughout history has demonstrated, our estimates of the amount of supplies needed will be woefully insufficient, further compounding our already suspect logistics capability.

So, does the preceding sound like we have a solid doctrinal grasp of modern amphibious assauts?  No, it sounds like a re-hash of WWII doctrine updated with a few references to helos. 

Here are some of the doctrinal gaps that need to be addressed.

  • How will preparation of the landing site occur given our near total lack of naval fire support (Zumwalt notwithstanding)?

  • How will we provide counter-rocket, counter-artillery, and counter-missile protection for the initial landing wave given the Navy’s refusal to operate inshore?

  • How will we move sufficient quantities of supplies over the beach without the plethora of WWII craft and devices dedicated to just that task?

  • How will we provide sufficient air support given the decreasing number of carriers, shrinking size of airwings, likely reduced buys of F-35s, and the recognition that protection of the carrier is the top priority for aviation assets?

  • How will we utilize helo support in the face of determined shoulder launched SAMs?

  • How will we protect the connectors from small guided weapons?

  • How will we counteract the threat of mines in the landing area and how will we do so while under fire?

  • Where will we get sufficient numbers of connectors from given the limited carrying capacity aboard current amphibious ships (smaller or no well decks in newer ships)?

  • How will we stage and/or protect suppy dumps on the beach in the face of modern sensing and weapons?

  • How will we address the suppression and destruction of long range missiles, rockets, and artillery launched from well outside the landing area?

If the Marines wish to remain in the opposed landing, amphibious assault business they will need to address these doctrinal gaps.  Failure to do so will render the Corps irrelevant in the minds of our military planners.

27 comments:

  1. "Irrelevant" is a strong word. Perhaps not a good option against a peer in their back yard, but still valuable in many, many other situations.

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    1. An entire post just dripping with wisdom and discussion-worthy ideas and your take from it is that you would substitute "not a good option" for "irrelevant"?! You surprise me! You must either agree with the rest, thereby acknowledging literary and analytical brilliance, or you find it so utterly lacking in redeeming qualities as to be unworthy of further comment. Hmm ... I'll assume the former for the sake of my ego!

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    2. I acknowledge literary and analytical brilliance. ;)

      My issue is with the approach.

      Your argument is nearly a strawman. It sets up an almost unwinnable situation and asks the Marines to measure up or be "irrelevant".

      Short of fighting and winning a nuclear war, an opposed, amphibious assault against a peer opponent, in their back yard, is one of the hardest situation our military could face. It would not just a problem for the Marines. It would be a herculean problem for our military and country as a whole.

      Instead, IMHO it's more instructive to take a step back, evaluate the types of situations and threats where we may need forces "from the sea", in order of likelihood and/or relevance to our country. Then determine if our military can deliver, and at what cost.


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    3. B.Smitty, excellent! You've jumped straight to the heart of the problem: what do we want the Marines to do? Answering that will allow us to see how well their doctrine (and equipment and training) measure up to the required task. Well, setting aside what I want them to do or what you want them to do or what anyone else wants them to do, we need to start by looking at what they, themselves, want to do.

      They claim to be capable of amphibious assaults. With that firmly in hand, I then look at their own doctrine which should support that desire. My analysis is that their own doctrine comes up woefully short for a capability they claim to have and want.

      Note, the Marines have never included qualifiers. They don't claim to be able to conduct assaults as long as they aren't against China. Or, assaults only against unopposed beaches. Or, only aviation based, vertical assaults. Those are qualifiers we've attempted to place on them. Lacking qualifiers which, if they existed, should appear in the official doctrine document, we have to assume that they profess to be able to handle the entire spectrum of amphibious assault.

      So, far from setting up a strawman scenario, I'm simply evaluating the Marine's own professed capability against the backdrop of their own doctrine. That seems eminently fair.

      Finally, the question is not whether the task (assault) is difficult, the question is whether the doctrine supports the task. And, it doesn't. It falls well short.

      What do you think?

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    4. B.Smitty, regarding your final paragraph, that's completely fair and relevant. A re-evaluation of the threats we face relevant to the capabilities we have is absolutely warranted, especially as venture further into the land of tight budgets. I wish the Marines would do exactly that and then revise their doctrine accordingly.

      The result, though, I think, would reveal that we have little call for heavy, opposed amphibious assaults (a point you're alluded to, unless I've misinterpreted some of your comments). That in turn, logically suggests that we don't need anywhere near as many amphibious ships as we have (a point I know you and I disagree on).

      The overall point is that Marine doctrine needs to be revised to align with their professed capabilities. Leading the way in the process, their professed capabilities need to align with their actual capabilities or we need to enhance (or cut) the actual capabilities to match the professed capabilities.

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    5. BSmitty and ComNavOps, just as a point of interest here, the majority of the retired Navy officers and the retired Navy senior enlisted I've worked with over the last twenty years are of the opinion that a forced entry amphibious operation against a capable adversary will never occur again.

      The term "capable adversary" here refers to an opponent who is capable of inflicting serious human and material casualties upon the assaulting forces.

      However, there are dissenting voices in their ranks. One retired Navy captain I worked with who spent part of his career doing operational planning for these kinds of eventualities told me in no uncertain terms that if a forced-entry operation has to be done, it will be done.

      His opinion is that if in some future set of circumstances, the clear and unambiguous national interest demands that a forced-entry assault be attempted -- but there aren't enough resources available of the kind most needed according to the most up-to-date thinking about amphibious warfare doctrine -- then whatever can be cobbled together to make the assault happen will be cobbled together, whether doctrinally suitable or not.

      As this dissenting viewpoint goes, never say "never" about anything, because all too many times the "it will never will happen again" opinion has been proven wrong.

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    6. Scott,

      I fully expect the later captain is right. The British didn't design their forces to retake the Falklands, yet they were able to cobble together a large enough assault force to make it happen. We would do the same thing.

      CNO,

      I don't think Marine doctrine needs to say "we can't invade China without a LOT of help". That should be obvious. The USMC only has 194,000 active Marines (soon to be less). The PLA has over 2 million active soldiers.

      USMC doctrine says they can perform amphibious assaults, and they can, but doctrine is only one part of the equation. Force sizing and supporting services will drive how big of an assault they can perform. If the USMC shrinks to 100,000 Marines, they could still perform amphibious assaults, just of smaller scale.

      These days, the number of amphibious ships is driven more by forward presence requirements than amphibious assault sizing. If we want X ARGs forward deployed, we need X times four ARGs-worth of amphibious ships. 30 amphibious ships allows for 2.5 ARGs forward deployed at any moment.

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    7. B.Smitty, I fear you're missing the key point regarding doctrine. I get the sense that you're placing doctrine after acquisition - we'll design our doctrine based on whatever equipment we can get.

      That's the reverse. Acquisition doesn't drive doctrine; doctrine drives acquisition. If we want an amphibious assault capability, then we need to develop the doctrine to accomplish it. From that, we can determine what acquisitions we need.

      If we get caught in a situation before we've been able to fully implement our doctrine-driven acquisition then, yes, we'll cobble together the best we have and hope for the best but to use "cobbling" as our doctrine is totally wrong.

      It may be that we multiple doctrines: one for "easy" assaults and one for "hard" assaults. I have no problem with that, however, I suspect that if we're prep'ed for the hard, the easy will be, well, easy and not require its own doctrine.

      Don't fall prey to the current backwards nature of our acquisition programs. We need strategy/doctrine/tactics to drive acquisition, not the other way around.

      Some day we'll have to have a discussion about forward presence requirements. I've invited you to do a post - this might be a worthwhile topic if you're interested.

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    8. Scott, as it happens, I tend to agree with the idea that sizable forced entry amphibious assaults are unlikely. The most likely scenario is an Iran war. We just have no good options other than amphibious to get troops into Iran.

      That said, I give zero credence to any opinions of Navy leadership. Their litany of failed and incorrect decisions on all manner of subjects is extensive. There is absolutely no reason to believe that despite all that, they are right on this particular subject.

      As you say, there is always the "what if" scenario. There are two problems with a "what if" approach to planning. The most obvious is that we can no longer afford the personnel and equipment required to cover all the theoretical "what ifs". The second is that, by defintion, the "what if" scenario can't be argued against. We might all agree that there is only a 0.000000001% chance of the need for a major amphibious assault over the next 30 years but, what if? Therefore, if we allow "what if" planning, there is no force structure sufficiently large to cover all "what ifs". What if the entire world, including all of our current allies, suddenly bands together and attacks us? I guess we need a lot bigger military!

      We have to plan based on what's realistic not "what if". If, down the road, our ridiculous "what if" begins to look more likely then we simply adjust our planning.

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    9. CNO,

      It's not realistic to put strategy and doctrine before acquisition. They have to be developed in concert. If there's isn't the money for the strategy and doctrine you want, it's not a realistic strategy or doctrine.

      For example, discounting Chinese nuclear weapons for a moment, invading mainland China would require nationalization of all able-bodied people in the US, as well as developing a fleet numbering in the thousands and expanding all of the services manifold. The country would have to be on a 100% wartime footing. Clearly we can't afford to do a fraction of that if we don't think it's absolutely necessary.

      OTOH, having a credible amphibious assault capability to use in concert with a ground and airborne invasion and sustained air campaign against Iran is doable with existing forces.

      Retaking islands in the Pacific seized by Chinese is also within the realm of possibility with what we have now.

      All three situations would involve opposed amphibious assaults, but of vastly different magnitudes.

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    10. B.Smitty, I could not disagree more. I guess we'll have to leave it at that.

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    11. Curious. I don't see how strategy and doctrine can be divorced from fiscal realities.

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    12. B.Smitty has expressed what my own opinions are about the probabilities concerning when and where an amphibious assault against a capable adversary might eventually be conducted.

      Over on Commander Salamander, UltimaRatioRegis makes the point that War in the Pacific will be War in the Pacific, at least to the extent of possibly having to retake Chinese occupied islands in the first or second island chains.

      A war with China would necessarily end in an armistice, with each side spending billions of dollars afterwards paying various think tanks to determine how it was that such a stupid thing could possibly have happened.

      As far as the alignment of amphibious doctrine with resources and with tactical considerations are concerned, we can only guess that if General Eisenhower had expected all his resources to be in extraordinarily close alignment with his written doctrine and with his extant tactical opportunity as it existed in early June 1944, he would have found some number of excuses not to proceed with D Day.

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    13. B.Smitty, I said I would let this end but I'll offer an additional thought. Doctrine is not divorced from fiscal reality but neither is it driven by it. Doctrine comes first and then suitable adjustments are made for fiscal realities, if necessary. For example, if our doctrine (for whatever) calls for 1000 B-2 bombers and we simply can't afford them then we need to re-examine our strategy and doctrine. Of course, rather than simply say we can't afford them, we may find that we simply need to reprogram our acquisitions by cutting less needed programs - but, I digress. Alternatively, we may find a way to accomplish the doctrinal task using some other platform or combination thereof.

      Consider the LCS. It was purchased based solely on being affordable and acceptable to Congress. Even the Navy admits there was no comprehensive analysis of alternatives or concept of operations to validate or justify the acquisition. In your mind, we simply adjust our doctrine to fit the LCS. In my mind, we establish the doctrine and then acquire whatever is needed to implement it. If that includes the LCS, fine. If not, then we shouldn't have acquired it.

      In my world, doctrine drives acquisitions. That way, whatever we acquire actually has a purpose unlike the LCS or, arguably, the F-35.

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    14. Scott, regarding your comment about Eisenhower and alignment of doctrine and resources, you'll recall that amphibious assault was extensively studied pre-war and then practiced and refined throughout the war leading up to Normandy. Eishenhower did, indeed, align resources with doctrine to the maximum extent possible. Months (arguably years) went into developing and building the assets needed to fulfill the assault doctrine (Hobart's Funnies, as one example among many specialized pieces of equipment - artificial harbors being another) Eisenhower intended to implement.

      So, yes, the Allies had an assault doctrine, they developed and acquired the assets to support that doctrine, and then they acted. While the alignment may not have been perfect, it was substantially in line, unlike today where our assets don't even remotely support our doctrine.

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    15. "Doctrine drives acquisitions." And doctrinally, no one is looking at a total-war-against-a-capable-adversary scenario right now. Because even if such a world war came about, America is still so far ahead of the pack that it is highly unlikely that it will be defeated. The USN has ten times more supercarriers than either of its likely opponents. Twenty times if the amphibious assault ships can be turned into F35B bases. Heck, the next largest bunch of 'good guys' (defined as those who have no intent of starting a war and are mostly aligned with humanitarian ethics) i.e. the European Union are quite probably able to trounce the 'bad guy' i.e. Russia by themselves if need be.

      Doctrinally the USN is still building towards a 'world police' fleet. Expeditionary forces. Amphibious assault carriers. LCS - it was and is a good idea, a good package of ideas, implementation has just been massively flawed. Yet there is still funding for the 10 supercarriers and the ABMs and the nuclear tripod and the fleet submarines - all the stuff needed to theoretically fend off a capable adversary, temporarily buffer the nation, while the USA gears for total war. And I repeat, the 'temporary buffers' already outgun the postulated enemy ten to one.

      Because yes, the Allies had an amphibious assault doctrine, but that came after the fall of France, the Dieppe debacle and the Tehran conference where the Allies' strategy and doctrine was laid out, and Op Overlord was given the go-ahead. Then it geared up for a massive amphibious landing capability it didn't have before the war.

      So if there is a need foreseen for a massive amphib operation, then why yes the USN will build the capability for such. But if there isn't, there are plenty of other fires to put out, with the understanding that the 'buffers' i.e. the carriers, SSGNX, etc. are also kept up.

      With regards to the document, I think you may over-criticise the wording of the document, at least where it references NSFS. I feel the author is trying to develop doctrine with an eye to future assets (i.e. Zumwalt) without directly saying so. The author's initial acknowledgement that there are no real NSFS capabilities available is not an error but a disclaimer. So I feel. Of course this turns the criticism into one of "why is the author playing fantasy fleets then?" which is perfectly valid. But the author basically says all when stating that current support is all aviation based.

      Regards,
      S2

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    16. S2, nice comment. I disagree with most of it but I still recognize and enjoy a well written piece!

      Simply adding up numbers of ships and aircraft and tanks and proclaiming that the US is well ahead and, therefore, will win any war misses several key issues.

      For example, our numbers are credible as a deterrent only if we are willing to use them and the willingness to use them depends on having doctrine that enables victory at an affordable cost. Victory alone is not sufficient. For that, all we need is one more soldier standing at the end than the enemy but wars of pure attrition are not the way the US fights. We want overwhelming force so that we can achieve victory at an acceptable price.

      Your numbers need updating. China has more soldiers and aircraft than we do and, I think, more ships. What we have, for the moment, is higher quality and greater technology (at least, that's what we tell ourselves!). Unfortunately, the trends are not encouraging. In ten years, China will not only outnumber us in almost every category but will be on a near equal footing in technology.

      Regarding the NSFS issue, the document is what it is and says what it says. I quoted. I didn't make anything up. To credit the author(s) with some nebulous, future, disclaiming, free pass is just rationalizing a poor document. You say as much in your comment about fantasy fleets (love that one!).

      The wording says, explicitly, that there will be one surface ship providing NSFS for each unit. Even allowing for the existence of three Zumwalts and assuming that they will approach within support range that's still a woefully insufficient amount of NSFS.

      Your comment about buffer ships and the role they would play is interesting. I've not heard that theory before. Have you considered how long it would take to "gear up" a modern war production capability versus the amount of time the buffer ships would survive? That's a major problem.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    17. Buffers. The only power that can challenge America is a sea power. America is comparable with the British Empire at its height, only better, because America is unified, mashed together like a Pangean supercontinent compared to the Empire's far-flung unwieldiness. In those days Britannia ruled the waves; now the New World does. And anybody wishing to take the fight to America doesn't just have to cross the Channel, they have to cross either the Pacific or the Atlantic, in the face of the full power of the US Navy and Air Force. The seas are America's buffers, and her ships rule it.

      Lets look at the American fleet versus China. America has 10 supercarriers to China's 1. At least 480 carrierborne fighters versus 16. 9 LHAs also capable of carrying 15 Harriers each in sea-control config versus China's 3 LPDs with helipads (no hangars). 22 Tico cruisers and 62 Burke destroyers versus 67 assorted destroyers and frigates. 53 nuclear SSNs, 688i or better, versus 8 SSNs and 51 assorted SSKs. 14 SSBNs and 4 SSGNs versus 6 SSBNs. China's LPDs and LSTs can ferry its 2 Marine brigades totalling 13,000 men and two hundred-odd PT-72 light tanks and BMP-1 derivatives - no aircraft and little artillery, unlike a USMC MAGTF.

      I understand numbers mean little. But as you can see, here the numbers by themselves are staggering. Taken together with what can reasonably be assumed to be a qualitative advantage on almost all fronts, do you really think China stands a chance? How overwhelming a force do you want to have then to prepare for a war that will in all likelihood never come?

      NSFS/NGFS: I think you may overlook the increased effectiveness of precision munitions. A landing is not going to need a squadron of battlewagons to prep. These days it usually takes just 1 missile or guided bomb to take out 1 target, and technology is just getting better. I don't know the latest in US missile tech but surely it can't be far behind the British Storm Shadow and Brimstone 2 which are both truly impressive. It feels to me that trying to assemble more arty tubes for NGFS - as opposed to pursuing better targeting and more cost-effective precision systems - would be akin to having the infantry form line and fire battalion volley.

      Personally I feel the answer to the question of opposed landings, lies in developing improved C-RAM rather than massed tube artillery. Imagine if you will Trophy ADS mounted on Amtracks.

      The doctrine document: I'm not giving the author a free pass. I'm merely putting forward what I think was the author's train of thought, i.e. "Bearing in mind that right now all we have are carrier jets, we ought to have naval artillery as well as jets and drones supporting an amphib op."

      S2

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  2. I really wish some one would run a simulation to sea if our current Marine Corp could take Iwo Jima, and by this I mean the original Japanese defenses with no modern upgrades, as it was in the original assault. It shouldn't be that difficult as I am sure there is a massive amount of archival materials on the defenses and conditions.

    Randall Rapp

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    1. Randall, your idea for evaluating our modern capabilities against an historical and challenging objective is intriguing. Remember, though, that the actual landing was, essentially, unimpeded. The subsequent land battle was the challenge. Possibly, a better historical objective for your thought exercise might be Normandy.

      Could our modern MEU/MEB/MEF gain entry and sustain a fighting capability long enough to secure the entry point? Do we have enough logistic capacity to then supply a massive overland campaign?

      Good thought!

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    2. Really almost any of the Pacific Island assaults would do, just as a wakeup call.

      Randall Rapp

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    3. Also remember that current doctrine is to "find the gap" and assumes that the initial beach landing would be basically unopposed.

      Randall Rapp

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  3. A big part of the logistics problem was the near total cancellation of the MPF(F) ships. In the original configuration it would have had a modified LHA just for logistics support (heavy lift helicopters, LCU, LCAC). Currently these have to be diverted from the unit's supporting craft.

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    1. Anon, that's a fascinating insight. Please, expand on your thought. What has been the specific impact? What capability would the ships grant versus what we now have?

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    2. Almost none of the current MPF ships have any intregal helicopter capacity, typically only having a landing pad. This mean if the units need supplies from these ships, they have to provide the helos from their own assets, instead of being used for troop transport or dustoffs. The MPF(F) dedicated LHA's helicopters would be specifically designated for logistics support of the Sea Base.

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    3. Anon,

      The MPF (F) is a hugely useful asset, but also represents an absolutely juicy and massively undefended target. The ability to destroy the equipment and ammunition for an entire USAF wing, or Army/USMC division is just too good a target for the enemy to pass up. Anyone with any sense will sink every MPF asset in theater as part of their first strike. Do not assume that we will ever get another Saddam Hussein to wait passively for us to build up forces for months prior to hostilities.

      The nail in the coffin of amphibious logistics was the loss of the LST 1179 class and with it an enormous amount of fuel storage, and more importantly, the ability to offload fuel and water over the beach via pipeline.

      Of greater concern for the Navy is the disappearance of the combat logistics force (another juicy, high value target set), and our foolish inability to provide basic defensive armament and convoy protection for our AOs and AOEs.

      GAB

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  4. CNO,

    Another great article!

    I believe that an amphibious invasion will look differently in the future, but reject the idea that we will never conduct an opposed landing as fantasy.

    Any combat against a peer or major regional power will be a nasty affair. And even an administrative landing in an adjacent friendly nation, could become a blood bath if the enemy chooses to mine the sea lanes, beaches, and harbors of our allies. This is incredibly easy to do with ships, artillery, and aircraft.

    Observations in no particular order:
    1. The key to any successful ground campaign is logistics, and movement of material is (should be) a major strength of naval forces. Shockingly, we have removed the ability to pump water and fuel in bulk quantities from the operational fleet and have nothing equivalent today.
    2. The original landing vehicle tracked (LVT) was a logistics vehicle and retained that capability to transport a 105mm howitzer and jeep, and ammunition, in all configurations except the last howitzer variant. All descendents of the LVT (e.g. the LVT-5) up to the LVTP-7 (AAV) were designed to move cargo and ammunition: we have nothing equivalent today.
    3. The first and only USMC amphibious tracked mine clearance vehicle was the LVTE-1 (an LVT-5 variant). We have nothing equivalent today.
    4. A Battalion Landing Team without significant reinforcement, cannot assault even a token defense (a mined beach with a few well sited heavy machine guns).
    5. Ken Estes book: Marines Under Armor reveals that even in 1949, the USMC knew it needed tanks (and fast landing craft) to land armor in the first or second wave.

    GAB

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