We talk at great length about amphibious assaults. We discuss doctrine, our inability to execute our own doctrine, the lack of naval gunfire support, the very limited range of our ship-to-shore connectors, the complete absence of heavy weapons in the initial waves, and many other issues. We occasionally discuss new and “new” (old but relearned) Marine Corps assault concepts. We never discuss amphibious assault defense concepts – counter assault (CA).
The Marines are getting ready to conduct some exercises intended to test out several dozen new assault technologies. As a side note, you see the traditional
emphasis on technology over tactics and training? Why aren’t we testing out over a hundred new
tactics? But, I digress … These technologies will include drones, mini-drones,
unmanned amtracs and unmanned vehicles of all types, communications gear, networking,
cyber, electronic warfare, etc. (1)(2) US
Setting aside the myopic focus on technology over tactics, all of this is good. Explore technology. Find out what works and what doesn’t. But – and this is the big but – do it under realistic conditions. There’s no point “testing” technologies that have a pre-determined successful outcome because the exercise is designed to ensure success. That’s just going to generate a false confidence that
, China , Russia , and NKorea will quickly shatter when war comes. Iran
There’s another, even bigger “but” here. Why not try out counter assault (CA) technologies and tactics, as well? Let’s try to imagine what the enemy will do and see if they can stop us. Maybe that technology that succeeds against a non-existent enemy in set piece testing will fail utterly due to the enemy’s CA? Let’s find out.
Why don’t we turn this around and try to think like a peer enemy faced with the prospect of future US amphibious assaults. How would we stop them? What can we do to counter their assault?
For example, similar to the maxim that it’s easier to kill archers than arrows, it’s also easier to kill troops when they’re in the water, bunched up in slow moving, easily detected, almost defenseless Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV). Why not employ a swarm of small, cheap, suicide UAVs that would spread out over the incoming assault wave and throw themselves at the lumbering AAVs in the water. If simple explosives are insufficient to achieve kills, then shaped charge warheads similar to RPG’s can be employed. Would any AAVs even make it ashore?
Do you think this concept is unrealistic? Well, the Marines are banking on exactly this technology in reverse. Doug King, director of the Ellis Group, a Marine Corps think tank, describes friendly UAV swarms opening gaps in the enemy defenses.
““Think about it this way: I’m maneuvering ashore, potentially in a boat,” he said. “What’s flying overhead is an unmanned swarm, that as soon as somebody radiates, gives off a signature, that swarm is just going right after them.” (1)
If we can imagine using UAV swarms, so can the enemy. Let’s test the UAV CA concept and see if we can defend against it.
Let’s think up other CA measures and test them, too. The
military has a decided tendency to only examine our
own technology (under unrealistically contrived conditions) and fail to credit
the enemy with any technology or tactics.
This is a perfect example – we’re going to possibly test UAV swarms and
congratulate ourselves on developing yet another way to beat our enemies
without ever considering that they may use the same technology to beat us. US
Here’s a few other thoughts about new technology, counter assault measures that we might want to investigate.
- Mine laying artillery – long range and no need
for precision targeting makes this an appealing technology. An entire assault fleet can be paralyzed
by the mere threat of mines and the
has no viable volume MCM capability. US
- SSK’s - directed against the very few Mobile
Landing Platforms (MLP) that the Navy/Marines possess would bring an
assault to a rapid halt. Amphibious
assault ships would be another attractive target. The
lacks any effective littoral ASW capability and has little experience against SSKs since it does not operate any and only rarely exercises against allied SSKs. US
- Lingering FOD bursts – similar to chaff and delivered by artillery, cluster bombs, sub-munitions, or any other convenient means, these long lasting, drifting foreign objects (FOD) would foul LCAC turbine engines and fans.
- Bunkered, unmanned gun mounts – would provide a hard-to-kill, devastating, anti-personnel fire that would be particularly effective against the unarmored, light infantry that the initial assault wave comprises.
- Surf zone unmanned mobile mines – would utterly negate the standard tactic of attempting to clear a path immediately in front of the landing craft. The mobility of a swarm of smart, subsurface (undetectable), unmanned, mobile mines that intelligently move to intersect the path of an approaching landing craft would thwart any existing tactics or equipment for clearing a path to the beach. Slow moving AAVs would be wiped out.
I could probably think of ideas all night but you get the idea. It’s not enough just to think up our own ideas and then pat ourselves on the back. We need to think up the enemy’s ideas and figure out how to counter his counters. We’re just barely and simplistically testing our own stuff. To the best of my knowledge, we aren’t even pretending to imagine and test out possible enemy technologies.
(1)Marine Times, “New Amphibious Landing Tactics And Technology”, Jeff Schogol,
(2)Breaking Defense website, “Marines Rush 50 Technologies To Field Test In 9 Months”,
J. Freedberg Jr., Sydney 23-Mar-2017,