Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fight Like You Train

What’s wrong with these pictures?  Take a look at these pictures of amphibious assault training exercises.  They all have one thing in common and it’s a problem.  See it?  Look them over and then I’ll tell you what the problem is if you haven’t spotted it.

CARAT 2015


Australia Training Exercise


Philippines Exercise Balikatan


Bold Alligator 2012


Bold Alligator 2012


Bold Alligator 2012

The common characteristic is that in the backgrounds you can see the amphibious assault ships several hundred yards offshore.  Wait, what now?!  I thought Navy/Marine assault doctrine was to stand 25-50+ miles off out of fear of land based anti-ship missiles?  So why are we training with the ships several hundred yards offshore?  Don’t we train the way we intend to fight?

Well, if you’ve followed this blog for any period of time you know that the current assault doctrine is complete fiction and can’t be executed.  The Navy/Marines have no connectors capable of transporting the assault element to shore from 25-50+ miles in fighting condition.  That’s why you see the training being conducted from several hundred yards offshore – we flat out can’t do what our doctrine says we need to.

Train like you fight, fight like you train.   …..  Uh, oh.  Houston, we have a problem.

The AAV is only good for a couple of miles of swimming, according to the Marines.  Beyond that, the AAVs will be delivering seasick Marines who only want to lay down and puke until they die.

The LCAC is very limited in numbers and considered non-survivable in a contested environment.  It is envisioned as part of the follow on and sustainment effort, not as part of the initial assault.

The LCU is quite effective but considered non-survivable in the initial wave of an opposed landing.

Helos are very limited in transport capacity and a transport helo is probably the least survivable platform on the battlefield.

So, how do we get the initial assault element ashore from 25-50+ miles?  The short and brutal answer is we can’t, today.  The sad follow up to that is the fact that we’re not even seriously trying to solve this problem.  Instead, the Marines are obsessed with buying the F-35B to the exclusion of their main reason for existing – assaults.  The Navy doesn’t really care about assaults.  They do the minimum they have to in order to keep the Marines from complaining too much but their focus is carriers, submarines, and AAW/BMD.

Now, there’s a huge caveat here.  Given the likely enemies and likely combat scenarios, I just don’t see much of a need for opposed assaults.  That being the case, there’s no real need for 25-50+ mile standoffs.  Of course, that also means there’s no real need for a large amphibious assault fleet or a large Marine Corps.

Setting aside my opinion, the Marines seem to think assaults are still part of their job.  Fine.  So, why aren’t they pursuing the means to conduct an assault instead of trying to become a third air force?  Why have they screwed around for the last couple of decades trying to come up with an AAV replacement?

But wait, you say, the Marines have just announced that a new replacement AAV has finally been selected.  That will solve the problem, wont’ it?  No!  The new AAV/ACV will still be limited to a couple of miles swimming.  It can’t do the 25-50+ mile assault.

The Marines have talked about using JHSVs, LCACs, or whatever to transport AAVs to within a few miles of the beach and then letting the vehicles swim ashore the last couple of miles.  Of course, the same survivability issues exist for the JHSV/LCAC/whatever.  Guided missiles and artillery will not be kind to those vessels and won’t care about a couple of mile standoff.  Let’s assume, though, that this approach is what we’re going with.  That brings us right back around to training.  Why aren’t we training this way?  It’s because, currently, those vessels can’t discharge vehicles at sea.

No matter how you slice it, our amphibious assault doctrine is total fantasy and our training proves it.


Train like you fight, fight like you train.    ….   We’re in trouble!

51 comments:

  1. The Marines can air assault from 25-50+ nm, just not surface assault from that distance.

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    1. Oh good grief! We went over this in detail in previous posts. Yes, a handful of Marines can conduct a very minor hostage rescue. No, a MEU/MEB/MEF cannot conduct a successful major, opposed assault from the air. They don't have the initial lift, the heavy equipment lift, or the cargo capacity to sustain an assault. My goodness, we've covered this thoroughly!

      To return to the theme of the post, if all we're going to train for is unopposed, minor operations then we have to ask why we need large amphibious assault ships or even why we need the Marines. There are other military units that can conduct aviation assaults and probably better.

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    2. They can actually deliver a fair number of infantry from 25-50+nm. Of course they are just light infantry, but this capability could still be valuable in many situations.

      They certainly have the air connectors (especially with the CH-53K) to move and sustain them. A MEB, notionally, has 32 CH-53E/Ks and 48 MV-22s. The MV-22s alone can move nearly a battalion-sized element in a single lift.

      The level of opposition is not binary (opposed or unopposed). Marines may face a wide range of situations and threat levels. Don't assume the only useful metric is an amphibious assault on Beijing

      It seems fairly clear that the are holding on to the vestiges of STOM and OMFTS, but only really (partially) realized the air portion.

      BTW, they are training like they intend to fight. They just can't implement their desired doctrine (STOM/OMFTS).

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    3. We are discussing amphibious assault doctrine. The doctrine does not differentiate between degrees of opposition. It is one doctrine that is intended for all scenarios and, in particular, for the high end, major combat, opposed landing. Yes, if the Marines are tasked with arresting a NKorean Boy Scout troop that wandered into the woods and got lost then an aviation assault will probably work. For the high end assault we are discussing, an aviation assault is not feasible. If you believe helos alone are sufficient to move the tonnage of supplies necessary to sustain a MEU/MEF/MEB engaged in major combat then you need to do the math. Oh, and don't forget to apply a generous attrition factor. Big, slow, transport helos are the least survivable platform on the battlefield.

      We've covered this in detail. I'm not going to debate this aspect further!

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    4. If, for example, the Marines were tasked with assaulting and capturing a few Iranian nuclear facilities (e.g. Arak, Fordow), they could do so with MV-22s.

      The operation would certainly be opposed. But the opposition would be quantitatively and qualitatively different than invading China, for example.

      Doctrine in the abstract can't tell the whole story.

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  2. Well we entered WWII with no production landing craft or LS classes and did all right. Why can't we just trust to History repeating itself again?

    Of course these are small expendable craft and ships so they will be cheap and easy to design and build right?

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    1. Which World War II amphibious assaults had to face accurate artillery fire that reached several miles out from shore?

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    2. Clark, I'm not sure what you're really asking. Germany had guns up to 210 mm at Normandy and sank some ships. The 210 mm had a range of around 18-20 miles, if I recall while the 150 mm size guns had a range of 10 miles or so.

      You're making a point, I think, but I'm missing it. Try again?

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  3. NAVSEA posed this question in 2003:" How would you haul 2 MBTs at 20kts over 200nm ?"

    The result - from that is known by now - has been for instance LCU-F, possibly other such heavy-lift fast LCUs.

    ONR put out an RFI to the industry on Connectors due about a year ago late November of 2014.

    Supposedly 50+ concepts were submitted. But no Report has been issued on the matter, it seems.

    Thus are we back UHAC, L-CAT, LCU-F etc. to figure out which type can fit the most units per given well-deck available to the MEU-Commander, carrying the most, at the most favorable speed versus range equation ?

    Good question ComNavOps about these images.
    Very disturbing stuff.

    Except that too many folks in too many places have gotten used to this and think it makes sense - even under EF-21 never mind CS-21.

    There are still 'planners' now at NAVSEA, N95, and even a few lost souls in some backwaters at Quantico strutting their 'expertise' by discussing with a straight face the utility of AAVs for amphibious assault, even now the exciting future under ACVs Version 6.78 etc. And then they put this in writing !! Snorting too much OVALTINE perhaps...

    Which L-ship CO will ever pose his ship like this in anything other than an HA/DR mission ??

    Dark agenda under-foot somewhere damaging both USN and USMC.

    Or flat out raging incompetence by these folks.
    Either way, it must be challenged every step of the way.

    This month's PROCEEDINGS under COMMENT & DISCUSSION on p.9 offers some sustenance on his. Hopefully the Harbinger of an increasingly serious discussion on the inseparable twin-issue of Amphibs-&-Connectors.

    Why spend mad money on an LPD-derived LSD-replacement and you can't use it without adequate Connectors and adequate numbers of Connectors ?

    Out in the market-based economy, such conceptual and thus fiscal incoherence should be a distinct career-bender if not worse - and thus (once hopefully corrected) better for the USN/USMC future that is.

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  4. I think the reason the USMC doesn't bother with starting from further out at sea is that leadership knows that politicians will never approve again an opposed assault, no way no how they want to see on CNN dead Marines hitting the beach. All these "assaults" will be unopposed or Marines will just be fancy infantry so why bother? They really are just pretending to do it to keep the money train going.

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    1. EF-21 re-asserts USMC's traditional signature amphibious capability after a decade+ in deserts and mountains - easily misunderstood politically and fiscally as '#2 Small Army".

      The reemphasis of its unique ship-delivered skill-set and systems-combination pushes exactly in the opposite direction from your perspective.

      If USMC cannot execute amphibious assault against many potential adversaries, then it will over time fall victim to endless budget-cuts until you are down to amphibious MARSOC-size forces, Palace-Guards, actual history and myths, etc., just not a potent national 911-force. And serious Marines know that. Hence CMC Amos' emphasis on the importance of Amphibs and ample and stout Connectors. New CMC Neller looks to be of more that mind-set with his background.

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    2. I would disagree with your assessment of Amos' emphasis. While he talked about connectors and even seemed to have some interest in the LCU-F, his actions completely belie his words. His actions were totally focused on the F-35 and V-22. He never actually initiated any serious long distance, high speed connector program and even endlessly delayed the AAV replacement.

      I have not yet passed judgement on Neller but the early returns are not encouraging as he continues to pursue the F-35 to the budgetary detriment of connectors, tanks, artillery, etc.

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    3. NICO,

      Either we are playing at preparing for war, or we are preparing for war - in real war, we could see 200,000 casualties in a week (WWI was worse...).

      We continue to pin our hopes on the ability to: 1) hold huge numbers of overseas bases that are increasingly unsustainable, an 2) the myth that our diplomatic efforts will be greater than a potential advisory (this has been proven wrong even against weak opponents like Iraq).

      GAB

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  5. I believe that the Russians have the right idea here, relying on heavily armed and larger transports for landing.

    A transport should be designed to take hits and fight its way in. None of this fantasy about standing over the horizon off-shore.

    Likewise, naval gunfire support must be close enough. In WWII on D-Day, there were vessels that ran close enough to shore to risk running aground to get in. That's the level of risk that needs to be undertaken (also watch for mines too - will need more resources for that, both naval and on any beaches).

    Anything else is a fantasy, at least against a competent enemy.

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    1. So you think an LST (bigger Newport or smaller Rapucha I/II) could not be ruined by some snotty teenager with a mission on her brain seeking high-value 'phat' targets riding a manic stroker off-road bike, with the launcher on her back and a few rocket-projectile strapped to the bike ?

      There were good reasons to see all the US LSTs retired in recent decades.

      A "competent enemy" does indeed dictate considering OTH-100+ for the ARG, matching low-signature heavy-lift fast LCUs, in as many numbers as physically possible in order to insert USMC GCE in at least a dozen separate points concurrently.
      Let them try to fight that.

      In a wild scenario depositing out of the blue 12x3 M1A2s in someone's front-yard can make a distinct point.

      "Anything else is a fantasy..."

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    2. Trudy, let's be fair. The LST type vessel is not and never was an initial wave landing vessel. It was intended for the follow on waves after a beach has been somewhat secured and the "teenagers" have been cleared from the immediate vicinity. Of course, the teenager could pop up unexpectedly but that also applies to the LCU-F or any other connector as it makes landfall.

      I do not believe the perceived threat justifies the standoff but that's for another post.

      By all means, argue for your point but try to be fair and objective as you go about it.

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    3. Trudy, I hope you recognize and understand a major part of the skepticism that is generally associated with the LCU-F. LCU-F supporters seem to be almost zealous in their degree of enthusiasm, making F-35 supporters seem lukewarm! That's fine but recognize the history of developmental/acquisition programs. Without fail or exception the programs are hugely oversold, cost far more than expected, take much longer to deliver, and, most importantly, fail to deliver large portions of their promised capabilities. Consider the F-35, LCS, or whatever program you want. Therefore, while LCU-F supporters are claiming all manner of near magical capabilities, the rest of us are mentally subtracting 50% capabilities and doubling the cost. Is it any wonder, then, that LCU-F begins to look less attractive?

      Before you launch into an all out attempt to overwhelm me with promised capabilities so that I'll come around to your position, I'll repeat my personal view - I'm all for building a prototype just as I'm all for looking at any connector option.

      The simple JHSV, a powered barge in essence, failed to meet its design specs by a significant margin. Happens to every program and it would happen to the LCU-F. That doesn't mean the LCU would be a failure just that it won't be everything that's claimed.

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  6. Of course, the USN could always re-purpose the LCS for the job. Something that travels very fast in shallow waters is what you need for starting landings 25-50 miles off shore. Of course, it's stupidly expensive for the job, but giving money to contractors is the aim of procurement anyway,

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    1. A half a billion dollar landing craft! Higgins would come back from the dead to ask for more money.

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  7. CNO,

    I can forgive the stand-off distance, but the things that are really missing and telling in the photos:

    1) Man-made obstacles (AT ditches, hedge hogs, razor wire, PMN mines, AT mines...).
    2) Engineering vehicles to counter any residual mines (the enemy is also sure to have air and artillery delivered scatterable mine systems).
    3) Mine sweepers.
    4) Smoke - seriously, I would hope that we plan to lay down massive amounts of multi-spectral smoke to blind everything from the naked eye to image intensifiers and infrared optical systems. This is particularly true if you land in daylight…
    5) Chaff - the enemy will employ radar to include synthetic and active aperture radars –we need deal with them.
    6) Surface screen – seriously, we have no FAC or patrol craft to protect the landing force on the way into the beach, or to suppress immediate threats on the beach with mortars and rockets – really…?
    7) And what about that fire support – I favor short neutralization fires, not the 7-day pre-landing bombardments of the Pacific - even so, you need the ability to really hammer at least two linear nautical miles of beach with DPICM (the sub 1% dud rate), HE-frag, and fuel-air/thermobaric munitions.

    GAB

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    1. I think you are making my point GAB. No one on top is expecting to be asked to do this for real or they figure they will always hit a beach with no opposition. Kind of what they did in Somalia years ago when Marines hit the beach and a camera crew from CNN was facing them....As you have correctly pointed out, look at all it's missing to be realistic, it would be laughable if this wasn't training for war, war is a deadly serious business.

      I think the real question is: does the USMC need this capability and/or instead of hitting a beach, maybe they should be looking into hitting a port or airport instead? Why acquire a beach? That was useful in WWII or in Korea but is that realistic need in 2015 and future? Most of the coast line these days is highly populated, where are you going to find the empty beach you need?

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    2. GAB, on point as usual. So many aspects to cover and so little time. If it's all this obvious to us, I have to wonder what the Marine Corps leadership is spending its time doing since it isn't preparing for combat? Sad and disturbing.

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    3. "... maybe they should be looking into hitting a port or airport instead?"

      You've cut to the heart of the bigger issue. There are those who maintain that a major assault can only be supported and sustained through the use of port facilities. If that's true, the Marines should be specializing in port seizure and yet I see no effort to obtain the specialized equipment required or develop the doctrine and tactics needed.

      Great comment.

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    4. NICO,

      My main point is that any high intensity conflict against a peer competitor will be unimaginably costly in men and material.

      The proposition to use a friendly port (airports will never provide more than a few percentage points of the throughput of a sea port) is a great option right up until it isn't. Why?

      1. A peer competitor can apply the same sorts of A2/AD weapons and strategies to the ports in an adjacent country as they can to their own coasts. For Example, NK could easily conduct offensive mining of SK harbors, sea lane approaches, and beaches to blunt any effort to reinforce ROK forces.

      2. "Allies" often have their own motivations and may refuse safe passage even against a weak enemy - Turkey refused to allow the USA to launch a northern attack into Iraq through its territory in 2003 - can you imagine what their response would be if we wanted to remove the current Iranian dominated regime risking involving the Turks in a hot war with Iran?

      3. Most of our current overseas basing is fiscally unsustainable.

      GAB

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    5. For clarification, any forceable entry operation is just the *introduction* of forces; not the lion share of fighting, which will also be unimaginably costly.

      Think about what it would cost to take one or two major cities in NK or Iran, or to force a river crossing against the Russians - even in a "quiet sector."

      This is why the current disarray and wastefulness of DOD is so laughable: "middle weight" forces (whatever that means) do not need F35s to chase ignorant goat herders around.

      GAB

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    6. No land forces, middle-weight or not, need their own penny packets of fighters.

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    7. I agree. However, to play Devil's Advocate, if the Marines do not have their "own" aircraft, who will provide the aviation support they would need in a major assault? By definition, in a major assault against a peer the AF would be fully tied up trying to establish aerial control and would not have the resources available for ground support - all the more so if the A-10 is retired and CAS becomes just another low priority mission for primarily fighter aircraft.

      The Navy would be fully occupied defending the carriers and would have no aircraft available to support ground forces.

      So, where will the ground support aircraft come from and where will they be based?

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    8. So let me get this straight. The AF and Navy will only bring juuuuust enough aircraft to establish air superiority and defend the carriers, but not enough to support Marines on the ground?

      Chances are, if air superiority is that tenuous, ALL aircraft will be needed for that mission, including Marine fighters.

      As I've said before, if we don't have confidence in our ability to establish air superiority, with sufficient margin for supporting landing force, we shouldn't be launching the operation in the first place.

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    9. You've got it slightly wrong and completely right.

      The slightly wrong is that the AF and Navy won't bring just enough, they'll only have just enough (or not enough). The Navy air wings are shrinking. We're down to around 38-40 combat aircraft (that acknowledges that 4-6 Hornets are used for tanking at all times). The AF in most of the likely scenarios just doesn't have sufficient bases within range to offer much support (just enough, at best). So, the issue isn't bringing enough, it's not having enough, period.

      You're completely right that if we don't think we can establish air superiority along with adequate ground support, we shouldn't be doing the op. Unfortunately, I honestly don't think our uniformed leadership grasps that elementary fact. If they did, we wouldn't be in the numbers hurt locker that we are.

      I also truly believe that if we launched an assault and it required more aircraft than we thought (a 100% certainty, from history), aircraft would be pulled from the ground support task and the ground forces would be left on their own, hence my Devil's Advocate question - which you haven't addressed. I really believe that our uniformed leadership is that tactically and operationally incompetent. If they weren't, we'd be routinely practicing realistic assault ops, multi-carrier tactics, etc. ... and we're not. Draw your own conclusion.

      As GAB said, we can play at preparing for war or we can prepare for war. Now, we're playing.

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    10. CNO said, "I also truly believe that if we launched an assault and it required more aircraft than we thought (a 100% certainty, from history), aircraft would be pulled from the ground support task and the ground forces would be left on their own, hence my Devil's Advocate question - which you haven't addressed. "

      So your argument really isn't whether the Marines have their own aircraft or not. You're arguing the military's procurement and force level planning is broken. And that operational commanders won't bring enough to the fight.

      Those are very different arguments. I wasn't speaking to that.

      Penny packeting airpower only works if you have such overwhelming capability that the loss planning flexibility and operational effectiveness doesn't matter as much. And even then, it still causes more problems than it solves, IMHO.

      Central control, distributed execution for assets with theater-wide (or strategic) capability. It's the best way to go.

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  8. Your last sentence is really the ground truth; USN/USMC amphibious assault doctrine is fantasy because the US is not going to conduct an opposed amphibious assault ever again.

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    1. Jay, I'll quibble slightly with you over the semantics. The doctrine is fantasy because it can't be executed even if we wanted to. To your point, the doctrine is irrelevant because we won't conduct an assault again.

      To the "never again" point, I think it's highly unlikely we'll want to conduct a major amphibious assault but I do think we'll want to conduct low end assaults in the course of raids, rescues, anti-terrorism, and other low end scenarios. However, this requires a different doctrine, equipment, and force structure.

      Does that make sense?

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    2. CNO,

      I agree with the low end scenarios you've laid out as being the limits of acceptable amphibious assaults. I just think the fantasy of a modern Normandy style invasion is perpetuated because questioning the doctrine endangers the existence of the Gator Navy and by extension, the USMC.

      Delete
    3. Concur!

      Now, what role, if any, do you see for the Marines in today's world?

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    4. Honestly, the only roles I see for the USMC are as a Quick Reaction Force in less than peer conflict resolutions, security forces for Humanitarian Ops or as the collective home for all of US Special Forces.

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    5. OK. Fair enough. So, that presumably means you're suggesting that we don't need 30+ large amphibious ships? That also means that you probably don't see a need for the Marines to have tanks, artillery, and other heavy equipment? In short, if the only role you see is as a light infantry, quick reaction force for low end scenarios then the obvious conclusion is that the Marines only need to be a fraction of the size and capability that they currently are.

      Have I summed up your position correctly?

      I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing - just trying to clearly understand and lay out your position.

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    6. Even as a "national QRF", the Marines may still need armor, arty and other heavy equipment. Witness Blackhawk Down.

      They may still have to fight their way to the objective, and then again back out.

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    7. Smitty, and therein lies the problem (or one of them!). In the Blackhawk incident, the Marines had armor but never used it. To be fair, I don't know whether they actually had any available, on site. My point is that it does no good to have armor and not use it. That incident, and so many others during Iraq/Afg have been marked by absolutely incompetent planning and tactics. All the capability in the world does no good if it isn't used properly.

      Anyway, that said, if the Marines are to be a light infantry QRF then they don't need armor/arty. What they need is sufficient intel to not get into a situation that needs armor/arty. This also reveals the severe limitations that a light infantry force operates under.

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    8. CNO,

      Unless the Rangers were moved to the Corps you have essentially captured my position. In my QRF USMC they wouldn't operate anything bigger than a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, but would have access to whatever transport helos (in particular Skycranes) needed for quick ingress/egress. They would either deploy from converted Group III Merchant ships or CVN's landing at seaports, airports or office parks. Size wise this force wouldn't be larger than 3 MEF's

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    9. The Marines weren't involved in the Battle of Mogadishu.

      It was 10th Mountain, Rangers and Delta. All light infantry organizations.

      They had to beg the Pakistanis and Malaysians for armor for the rescue force.

      The military had asked for armor well before the battle, but it was denied.

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    10. Oops! My bad about the Marines.

      "The military had asked for armor well before the battle, but it was denied."

      This goes to something we've discussed before. The proposition has been put forth that if we don't have aerial supremacy we won't do an assault - or, more broadly, if we don't have xxx, we won't do yyy, whatever those may be. I've maintained that, yes, we will still attempt the operation and there are plenty of historical examples of attempting operations with insufficient forces - this being merely one example. This is why I'm examining our doctrine and asking questions rather than simply hand waving and falling back on "if we don't have, we won't do".

      People should have been fired and court martialed all up and down the chain of command over the Blackhawk incident and yet none were, as far as I know.

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    11. The decision to deny support was made at the SecDef or above level, IIRC.

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/ambush/interviews/montgomery.html#tanks


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    12. IMHO,

      The current Marine MEU organization is fairly well set up for the "National QRF" mission. It has a wide range of capabilities, including armor, amphibious lift, air assault/air logistics, limited strike and ISR, manpower, and so on.

      It's a large, Swiss Army knife organization. Not great at anything, but useful in a wide variety of circumstances.

      Unfortunately, its ACE and the ships it sails around in are insanely expensive.

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    13. Smitty, I quite disagree. It hasn't got the transport capability to get ashore in an opposed landing, it hasn't got the supplies to sustain itself long enough to be useful, it hasn't got the combat power to fight its way out of trouble, and so on as I've documented. The MEU is not well set up for anything other than the very low end, non-combat operations. Now, if that's your definition of QRF then I might agree. However, if non-combat or very low end operations are the reason we have a MEU then I have to ask, as you've alluded to, is this the best and cheapest way to provide that low end capability? Would the rapid response Army units be a better choice? I can't definitively answer that because I don't know the Army situation well enough but I suspect the savings from not needing 30+ large amphibious ships and crews would mean the Army is a better option.

      Lately, we've had a single MEU/ARG deployed at a time. Is that even a viable QRF? I guess so if the incident just happens to occur near the ARG but a single ARG can only cover a very limited portion of the world's potential hot spots.

      I also note that the Navy/Marines have taken to disbanding the ARG and sending the individual ships on widely separated independent cruises. Thus, the "well set up" MEU is not even able to operate as a combined unit on a quick reaction basis. Depending where the individual ships are, it could take days or weeks to combine them and act. Again, I have to wonder if the Army units aren't a better option for the low end ops.

      I think the variety of circumstances in which the MEU is useful is shrinking steadily as we continue to shed armor, artillery, and personnel and disaggregate the ARG.

      Delete
    14. What do you expect a MEU to be able to do? The GCE is a battalion-ish sized organization. It's not meant to perform heavily opposed amphibious assaults. That's the domain of the MEB and MEF.

      It's meant to handle what a company to battalion of Marines can handle. So rescuing Task Force Ranger would be a very viable mission for the MEU. They could land a company of Marines in AAVs and a platoon of tanks ashore in a single lift. Or they could air assault a company-plus in a single lift via V-22 or CH-53. The tanks and AAVs would've been perfect to make the push through Mogadishu to the downed Rangers and Delta.

      The MEU GCE only has three companies to begin with, so it doesn't make sense for it to have that much more lift.

      Once ashore, the one or two companies can be supported by the 4-6 AH-1Zs and F-35s plus a battery of artillery. This is pretty impressive firepower for a battalion-sized organization.

      The MEU can support itself for 15 days, IIRC. This is plenty of time for the majority of QRF missions.

      Rapid response Army units can only para drop or air land to a friendly airfield. This greatly limits their utility as a QRF.

      We normally have two MEU/ARGs deployed at a time, IIRC. Is this enough? I don't know. Clearly more is better, but fielding just one MEU/ARG with all the bells and whistles is extremely expensive.

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    15. Your contention that the MEU is well equipped and well suited for a variety of missions is belied by history. Consider the Task Force Ranger battle. We sent a company of Rangers, 16+ helos, 9 Humvees, and assorted other helos and vehicles to arrest two men. Despite all that firepower, that force was overwhelmed. Side note: this should be a classic example of why light infantry forces and dependence on light "jeeps" is a very poor idea on the battlefield. Unless a MEU could get its entire force ashore and assembled (so much for surprise!), they would have suffered the same fate.

      As far as a MEU rescuing Task Force Ranger, you again make my point. Unless the MEU just happened to be sitting immediately offshore at that exact moment they could not have acted in time. Even if they were offshore at the exact moment, they most likely could not have gotten their fighting force ashore in time to act. They would have had to attempt a light infantry action with little or no supporting vehicles and no armor or artillery. In those circumstances, fixed wing and MV-22 air support would have been useless. Helos would have helped to the same degree they did.

      A MEU could have done nothing that wasn't actually done and probably less because they wouldn't have been in the field. It is not possible to go from a cold start to a completely fielded force with armor and artillery in the couple of hours lead time they would have had.

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    16. The Rangers and Delta were light infantry. They clearly needed armor. The MEU has enough AAV/ACVs to transport a company, a LAV platoon and a tank platoon. In short, it is exactly what was needed to reach Task Force Ranger.

      It would have needed to use a significant portion of this force, yes. But that's why it exists.

      For the MEU to have been the QRF for Task Force Ranger, it would've had to ether have been ready to go, with Marines on alert and ships positioned during the assault, or had an armored task force pre-positioned ashore. Can't be the Q in QRF, if you aren't ready to go.

      Yes, a MEU that wasn't nearby could've still been called upon to act as a QRF, but it would've been much more limited.

      MEUs have actually been used in a wide variety of missions, so I'm not sure what you meant when said my statement was "belied by history".

      The 15th MEU actually did come ashore during the early days of Op Restore Hope to help stabilize the situation on the ground and enable relief efforts. This is the unit that secured the airport and port for follow on forces.

      http://www.history.army.mil/html/documents/somalia/SomaliaAAR.pdf

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  9. I have noticed that there has been talk about a port seizure.

    That's a lot harder than it sounds. Look up the Dieppe Raid for an example of a port seizure that did not go as planned. In some ways, seizing a port is a lot harder than a beach. Actually, the Dieppe Raid taught many valuable lessons that were later used on D-Day.

    A VERY costly way to learn, but I can see why it happened in WWII. Modern armies should take heed as well.

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    1. I don't think anyone believes it would be easy but the thought among those who think it's the way to go, is that we no longer have the capability to transport the necessary volume of supplies over the beach to sustain a major assault/invasion. If we don't, then that only leaves port seizure as the means to transfer the supplies.

      With all due respect (none) to the Navy, the concept of an MLP/sea base is idiotic.

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    2. The problem is that a port is also a very defensible position for a defender as well.

      1. It's predictable (D-Day for example had the element of surprise)

      2. That leaves the defender the option to mine it and set other traps

      3. The defender will likely be able to use the terrain and have defensive structures (more than in an open beach)

      4. Also easier for the defender to keep supplied on their end too

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    3. There are a lot of other problems, too. It becomes a cost/benefit exercise. If the benefit of seizing a port is worth the price to be paid then you do it. If not, you don't. However, if we permanently rule out port seizure, we also severely limit our options and make the defender's job easier.

      The point is that if the Marines think amphibious assaults (whether beach or port) are valid options then we need to start seriously preparing for them rather than the laughable training we do now.

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