Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State of the Marine Corps

What the heck is going on with the Marine Corps?  This is a Navy blog and I don’t follow the Marine Corp to the same degree but recent Marine Corps news is disturbing, to say the least.  I listened to a presentation by MGen. Frank McKenzie speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and it was eye-opening.  This is a bit long but has some stunning revelations.  It's worth the time to read this.

The General opened by stating that the Corps was directed to develop a “new” Corps in response to budget pressures and the need to implement a 20% overall cut with a target of FY17.  The new Corps will have an end force of around 174,000 with a deploy:dwell of 1:2  (example, 7 months deployed and 14 months home) in order to meet demands with the available resources and will be focused on forward presence and crisis response as opposed to heavy combat.  The Corps will become lighter and more mobile.  McKenzie noted that the other services target 1:3 dwell.

He identified two programs that he views as vital to the Corps moving forward.  The Marines want to protect the JSF, at all costs, and the amphibious combat vehicle (ACV) but noted that Corps needs significant time, still, to define what that vehicle will be.  Really?  How many years have the Marines been working on AAV upgrades, the EFV, and similar options?  -and they still don’t know what they want?

He further noted that the new force will have reduced numbers of artillery and tanks and be more focused on crisis response and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR).  Huh?!!  The Corps is deemphasizing combat?  Who’s in charge of this movement?  I know Commandant Amos is unpopular in many circles but this is almost criminal.

Semper Fi?

McKenzie noted, “If we were developing a strategy driven force, we’d take a 186.8K force at 1:3 dwell.”  He went on to note that the 1:2 dwell would not be an issue for the “4 and out” portion of the Corps but represented a severe challenge for the career personnel and would have to be carefully managed going forward.

The new structure will be structured around:

3 MEBs - east coast, west coast, Okinawa
7 MEUs
2 MEFs
21 Infantry Battalions

When asked about the apparent imbalance between air, ground, and logistics as evidenced by the MV-22 and JSF garnering the vast majority of budgets for the last several years, McKenzie opined that the balance is just fine and that the air component is the number one priority in order to maintain a proper balance.  This stunned me until he offered a further comment later in the session.  Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

McKenzie stated that the Marines are not in the business of conducting opposed beach landings.  How he reconciles this statement with his characterization of the ACV as the number two acquisition priority is unclear.

Questioned about the Navy’s amphibious lift capacity, he responded that the Marines are very happy with the Navy’s amphibious force structure.  Really?  An already understrength force that’s going to continue to shrink is cause for happiness?

Questioned about the Marines role in ASB, he responded by saying that the best way the Marines could fit into the ASB would be as an “expeditionary air force operating [the JSF] from a dispersed basing structure”.  This is an eye-opening statement that assumes the enemy will allow the establishment of air bases and ignores the short range nature of the F-35B as far as potential contributions to an overall military effort.  This “plan” seems optimistic in the extreme.  He went on to suggest that the Marines would establish far more bases than an enemy could detect and deal with.  He neglected to describe how the Marines would supply the logistical support necessary to operate numerous dispersed bases requiring highly technical maintenance, parts, and support.  This statement would seem to provide the rationale behind the Marines single-minded focus on air power.  Apparently, the Marines are transitioning from an amphibious land combat force to an expeditionary air force that is merely transported by ship to their expeditionary bases.  This is an absolutely stunning change in direction for the Corps.  Either that, or I really haven’t been paying close enough attention.

Questioned in more detail about the new force structure, he stated that in order to fit within the budget limitations the decision was made to predominantly take capabilities away from the high end combat forces in favor of emphasizing presence and crisis response.  This is really disturbing.

Regarding the ACV, McKenzie stated that the Marines did not want to build the “son of EFV”.  Fair enough but if the EFV was that bad, why was it pursued in the first place?  Has something changed so drastically as to render the EFV concept so unsuited, now?  Again, this speaks to very poor leadership decisions then, now, or both.  Speaking further, he noted that the ACV would spend 90% of its life on land, driving Marines around as a sort of armored personnel carrier while still being required to fill the amphibious landing transport role.  That statement leads one to wonder if this is, perhaps, too much to ask of a single vehicle?  The moderator noted that the ACV has been three years in conceptual development with no end in sight.  Again, this bespeaks a degree of indecision uncharacteristic of Marines.

Marines have always been noted among the services for their candor, outspokenness, disregard for politics, and single-minded focus on warfighting.  This presentation exhibited none of those characteristics.  This was the kind of generic, politicized mumble that routinely comes from the other services.  What happened to the Marines?

Here’s the link if you wish to listen to the presentation.  It lasts just under an hour.


  1. I scratch my head at why it's so vital for our "Navy's Army" to have it's own Air Force. Seems like they should pay more attention to their core amphibious assault mission and let the Navy and Air Force handle the fixed wing support.

    1. Three words: "Guadalcanal" and "Fletcher's retreat". The Corps has neither forgiven nor forgotten Admiral Fletcher retreating after the Battle of Savo Island with a goodly portion of the transports still loaded and leaving the Marines on their own. That's why they have been so loath to give up the fixed wing and control of their own planes.

      It doesn't help matters the the Commandant is the first one from the aviation branch rather then the infantry.

    2. The Marines don't own the amphibs they ride on either. Should they? Or the escorts to protect them.

      We need to trust sister services more, and spend less on duplicate capability.

      Just MHO.

    3. No doubt that's part of the institutional memory of the Corps and, yet, there's been no determined push on the part of the Corps to develop a state of the art (if one considers the JSF to be such!) aviation branch since WWII. The Corps has been "content" to use leftover and hand-me-down aircraft.

      I think the difference this time is budget, pure and simple. The Marines see a threat to their slice of the pie in the upcoming Pacific Pivot and ASB so they're latching on to aviation as a way to stay relevant. However, this is unworthy of the Corps. It's far more disappointing than the games played by the other services because the Marines have historically held themselves to a higher standard. This Commandant is not measuring up to the ideals of the Corps.

    4. COMNAVOPS. You're throwing a lot of stones. What do you propose as a workable USMC strategy?

      Assuming that the US goal is to deter/defeat the PRC - the traditional USMC role of 'storming the beaches' seems like a very, very bad idea.

      Just put aside the fact that the PLA has cruise missile batteris, diesel subs, mines and strike aircraft which put our amphibs at very high risk of survival.

      They've also got an army of around 2.8 million active-duty personnel and a comparatively unlimited pool of reserves. Do you really want to go toe-to-toe with that?


    5. Matt, what, specifically do you think I said? You appear to be gearing up for an argument about something I haven't actually said!

    6. "Assuming that the US goal is to deter/defeat the PRC - the traditional USMC role of 'storming the beaches' seems like a very, very bad idea."


      What General McKenzie said was that the Corps was weighted for crisis response and forward deployed presence, and to "bridge" for the joint force (Army) for major combat operations.

      This implies a force structure set up to do non-combatant evacuation operations, low-intensity conflict, raids - in short to respond to the type of wars the nation typically fights.

      The risk he addressed was of course that a force structure optimized for forward deployment and contingency operations, is not a force that is optimized for the high end of ROMO. The loss of artillery and armor being prime examples of loss of high intensity warfare capability.

      I think COMNAVOP's point is valid: an aircraft like EM314, or OV-10 is much more appropriate for contingency operations than a $150 million dollar F35B. You do not need stealth, for CAS/interdiction, or LIC aircraft. And it makes little sense to buy "son of EFV" if you do not intend to assault defended beaches (particularly if you are shorting yourself of heavy punching units like tanks and artillery. There is a disconnect between what the USMC says are it's priorities, and what it is procuring.

      I think you could make a case for the Corps operating at any point in the ROMO, but it looks like the Corps wants to have its cake and eat it too. I do not think that the country can pay for two armies, and three air forces.


    7. So historically.
      1. The "storming of the beaches" was all based upon a concept called the "Advance Base" The Navy needed advanced bases to advance across the Pacific incase of war vs Japan or another country. Amphib assault was just a means to an end.
      2. During the development of the Advanced Base Concept, the USMC was divided between the group that viewed the small wars forces (See Small Wars Manual) as the future or the group lead by the Lejune and Ellias for the Advanced Base Concept.
      3. In the War most of the islands had Marine Garrisons that consisted of AA and coastal Arty. These BNs were later in WWII transformed into Arty or Inf units to flesh out additional INF Divisions.
      4. Just like the two concepts that were discuss in the interwar period, Marine Aviation was divided. One group was for CAS (for the Small Wars side) and the other was for Base Defense (which meant fighters, patrol aircraft, and anti-shipping aircraft)
      5 About the Guadacanal campaign. 1. The Navy lost more men than the Marines and the Army. 2, Marine Air was just part of the airpower on the island as Navy and eventually Army AF air was pushed into the area.
      6. During WWII, Marine Air did not support CAS for most of the assaults. It was primarly Navy Air until very late in 44/ early 45 for several reasons. (if you want I can fill that in also)

      I do hate that the Marines use a consistantly misinformed historical piece to support their arguements.


  2. Great analysis ComNavOps! I think it is endemic to all US forces that procurement is completely broken. The requirements are jokes when your "strategy" is what ever you can squeeze under "Air Sea Battle" and you can't even name your enemy. Our leadership is top heavy with a bunch of old guys that know that when they retire, they have a nice cushy job waiting for them at LMT or at a lobby firm. Almost all recent major program are aviation related, new Hueys/Cobras, CH53K, V22 and F35B. The one previous ground program has been cancelled and the current ACV is going no where fast. You can only draw the conclusion that leadership doesn't believe we will fight another ground war ever again or all these fancy weapons will terrorize the enemy that they won't dare shoot at our antiquated AAVs.... god help our ground troops if ever we don't have air support because they sure aren't going to have any ground support.....

  3. Sure looks like it is full steam ahead and whatever money they can find will go towards the F35 program, I sure hope the leadership knows something we don't about this bird and that LMT is really delivering the goods because we are all in and damn every else our military needs....


  4. "...there's been no determined push on the part of the Corps to develop a state of the art (if one considers the JSF to be such!) Aviation branch since WWII."

    That's not quite true. USMC aviation has routinely been on the cutting edge in several key areas of aviation technology notably air assault, close air support, and all-weather attack.

    Even during the post-war era, they have a proven history of getting some of the more modern, specialized aircraft (e.g. V-22, AV-8, and F/A-18Ds).

    I'd imagine if one looks at the current age of the USMC aircraft inventory, it may even be a bit younger than the Navy and Air Force.


    “Apparently, the Marines are transitioning from an amphibious land combat force to an expeditionary air force that is merely transported by ship to their expeditionary bases. This is an absolutely stunning change in direction for the Corps.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily sell any concept short just because it’s a departure from status quo. Change and adaptation to meet the perceived future threat are perhaps the one ‘constant’ in Marine Corps history.

    - USMC was figuring out how to do messy colonial interventions in the early 20th century, when Army wanted nothing to do with the mission.

    - They pioneered the use of close air support (CAS) and dive-bombing – when the Navy wanted little to do with those missions.

    - They were figuring out how to assault fortified islands in the late 1920s, when every military strategist was saying that the entire concept of amphibious assault was dead.

    - They experimented in using helicopter to move large numbers of troops and supplies throughout the 1950s, when most of the Army wanted little to do with the contraption.

    Change and adaptation to meet the perceived future threat are perhaps the one ‘constant’ in Marine Corps history. r


    "...ignores the short range nature of the F-35B as far as potential contributions to an overall military effort."

    You seem somewhat fixated on combat radius. Yet the combat radius of the F-35B is actually quite a bit longer than the AV-8B Harrier (470 nm vs. 300 nm). And it can carry more payload (18,000 lbs vs. 13,000 lbs)

    It is true that the F-35B doesn't have the range or payload of a F/A-18 Super Hornet -- but then again we can't operate Super Hornets from unimproved forward bases.

    I am not defending JSF, as I think it is an overpriced boondoggle. But I do think you have to examine its capability objectively, and against what it is replacing.


    1. If we look at what it actually takes to operate F-35Bs from distributed, unimproved forward bases over a sustained campaign, we'll come to realize STOVL was the easy part.

    2. No argument. Logistics is usually the hardest and most expensive part!

      But doesn't the USMC have a history of operating it's aircraft forward at unimproved locations?

      Central America, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan. It's not like Marine Corps aviation hasn't done that sort of thing before.

    3. They did it with drastically different aircraft. An OV-10 is an entirely different world from an F-15-sized, stealth, STOVL F-35B.

    4. The USMC has been operating AV-8B Harriers forward for the last thirty years or so.

      I don't think anyone would put the AV-8B in same class as an OV-10. Harriers are notoriously difficult to fly, and maintenance and logistic nightmares.

      I have no idea how hard it will be to maintain F-35B stealth capability ashore. I actually wonder if it is even necessary if you're operating ashore.

      None of the aircraft in the USMC's inventory are currently stealthy. So even if they lost or could not maintain the capability, they'd be no worse off than with Harrier.

    5. In reality though, Harriers are operated from the same sorts of forward bases as F-16s, A-10s and F-18s. They still require significant infrastructure and logistics to sustain over any length of time.

      So I don't see the unique value of Marine F-35Bs (or, honestly, Marine fixed-wing air in general).

      There is a mistaken notion that, because the F-35B is STOVL, it can operate from any stretch of highway. Maybe they can take off and land there, but it takes a lot more than that to field a robust, reliable and sustainable capability.

    6. B.Smitty makes a great point. As far as I can recall, the Marines have never operated combat aircraft from roads or landing areas hacked out of the jungle as the popular conception of the Harrier leads one to believe. Even "austere" bases have seldom or never been used. Off-hand I can't think of an example of operating from an austere base without allowing a very loose definition of austere. The Marines combat aircraft, of late, have been the Hornet, Harrier, and Intruder - all of which require pretty sophisticated support and well developed bases. Someone give me an example of an actual austere base operation. The situation only gets worse for the extremely high tech F-35B. That will never be operated from an austere base, meaning a landing clearing and a hut.

    7. Matt, read what I actually wrote. The Marines have never attempted to establish a state of the art aviation branch. I did not say that they didn't fly some current aircraft. I said that they have never attempted to become another air force with a focus on state of the art aviation. This is a new direction for them. Even the modern aircraft they've flown have been obtained largely as second-hand aircraft transferred from the Navy or supplied years later after the Navy needs were met. Regardless of the age of the aircraft or time of attainment, the Marines focus and, therefore, need for aircraft has been to support their ground efforts. They've never before attempted to operate a mini-air force as an air force.

      Adaptation is wonderful if it's logical and useful. Marines operating F-35Bs from dispersed bases (setting aside the fact that it can't work logistically, technically, or defensively) makes no operational sense in the framework of ASB and offers no useful capability.

      This is all geared around the Chinese (Pacific Pivot) scenario and the 1000+ nm A2/AD issue. An F-35B with a useful combat load has no useful range. An F-35B has more range than a Harrier??? What does that have to do with anything?

    8. Your statement regarding use of conventional runways is certainly true in Afghanistan. But bear in mind that the Soviet’s had already built a fairly extensive network of long runways before we’d arrived – and we’ve had 10+ years to improve and expand them.

      I’d say a better example of the benefits of VSTOL would be Desert Storm. Harriers were stationed in the desert a mere dozen or so miles behind the forward lines. It isn’t that the Harrier was or is a better strike aircraft than an F-15, F-16 or F/A-18. But because it can be stationed at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) right behind the front lines, it can generate a lot more sorties per day.

      I’d also look at the Falklands War. The British bombed and cratered the heck out of the runway at Port Stanley. If I recall correctly from CDR ‘Sharkey’ Ward’s book, Harriers were operating out of that field almost as soon as it was seized. It took weeks to lengthen and repair for use by the RAF Phantoms.

      Note: The British had actually planned to set up a Harrier FOB on the island itself –and likely would have done so on D+2 if they hadn’t lost most of the runway matting on the ATLANTIC CONVEYOR. That would’ve been a huge boost to the Harrier's on-station and sortie generation rate.

    9. A second point often cited in favor of STOVL is sortie generation. The Marine Corps saw that as a major Harrier plus in Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. The metric for sortie generation is a complex one, however. High sortie generation depends on three variables: basing in proximity to the fight, sortie duration, and aircraft reliability. Capitalizing on those factors does not necessarily require STOVL capabilities, say experts.

      In Desert Storm, for example, F-16s no less than Harriers made use of forward bases for quick-turn rearming and refueling. In Iraqi Freedom, A-10s quickly deployed forward to capture Tallil Air Base in Iraq. The most important metric was the flow of aircraft into land component sectors or to the CAS stacks over Baghdad. The Harriers enjoyed no particular edge over conventional aircraft.


    10. No doubt that those tradeoffs should be examined where they exist. However, I think runway length and availability is a bigger issue than you think.

      I would look at the Falklands War as an example of what we might be facing in the Pacific.


      1. The airfield at Port Stanley was/is 4,100 ft long.

      2. An F-16 requires minimum runway of 6,000 ft.

      3. The closest runway that could potentially support F-16 was/is apparently in Argentina. (Not an option!)

      4. The next closest ruwway in friendly (UK) hands is Ascension Island - about 3,000 nm away.

      The capability of F-16 or any short-legged STOL aircraft to participte in this scenario is zero.

      Even if you had the tanking, your sortie generation rate from 3,000 nm would be very, very low.

      Whereas with a V/STOL aircraft, one could bring along aircraft on ship to bear to help seize the airfield -- and then operate aircraft ashore in support.

    11. The RAF operated Phantoms and Typhoons out of Port Stanley after the war, admittedly with some runway expansion.

      The the USAF brass may mandate a 6000ft runway for the F-16 but it can take off and land in less. It's just riskier.

      I'm still not convinced that there is enough of a potential need to park a handful of fighters on a barren island, to be worth the expense of the STOVL F-35B.

    12. The issue is not what size runway the F-35B can operate from or even how developed the base must be. The real issue is what can the aircraft accomplish. Remember, we're talking about the Marine's plan to establish many dispersed bases, each operating a few F-35Bs within the ASB, A2/AD scenario. Presumably, this means bases scattered amongst the island chains around a thousand miles or so from China. Given the vast distances to worthwhile targets and the F-35Bs short range (the actual combat loaded radius with a useful loiter/combat time will be much shorter than advertised - to be fair, that's true of any aircraft), the F-35B will be essentially limited to short range base defense. That's the self-licking ice cream cone concept. The F-35 and base exist to defend the F-35 base.

      In order to serve a useful purpose within the ASB concept, the F-35 would have to have the range to escort attacking aircraft on their way to targets that are probably several hundreds or thousands of miles away, be able to range out to support naval operations, strike targets and perform CAS within a few to several hundred mile radius, provide BMD over ranges of hundreds of miles, or establish air superiority over ranges of hundreds of miles. The F-35B just doesn't have that capability. Combine that with the impact of having a "few" to a "handful" of aircraft at any given base and one begins to realize that the Marine concept offers a very limited impact on the ASB, A2/AD scenario.

      So, the runway size or base issue, while relevant, is the least of the issue.

      This really sounds like a Marine Corps budget grab ploy rather than a viable ASB strategy.

    13. Your assumption of 1000nm is where you are not hearing what the General is saying. The Corps is saying we can operate inside the 400nm ring with these expeditionary bases and thus the Marine F-35B will be able to affect the fight while the Air Force F-35A will be 1000nm away and thus out of range.

      Now will it work?

    14. USMC, if you believe that the F-35B, loaded for combat, doing fuel gulping short take offs, and flying realistic combat flight profiles will have a 400 nm combat radius with usable loiter/combat time then you're not separating manufacturer's brochure claims from reality. An F-35 will be lucky to achieve a useful 100 nm combat radius.

      As I said, add to that the fact that each base would only have a few aircraft (very limited sortie rates or area coverage) and the effectiveness of the concept becomes highly questionable.

      To answer your question, now will it work? No.

      Let me ask you... If you think the concept will work, what specific missions do you see the F-35 filling that would be useful in the ASB scenario where our main target is thousands of miles away? I'm not ripping on you, I'm genuinely curious. Maybe you see something I'm missing?

    15. USMC, as far as hearing what the General or the Marines or the manufacturer is saying, I would caution you to carefully evaluate their statements for yourself. I listen and then I independently assess what I'm hearing. For example, I heard what the Navy has been saying about the LCS but none of it has turned out to be true. I could go on with an endless list of similar examples about the difference between claims and reality but you get the idea. The whole idea behind this blog is to analyze claims and see which ones hold up and which ones don't. Sadly, most of the military's claims do not stand up to scrutiny. But hey, that's why I'm here!

    16. Matt, the F-35B capabilities are a bit more limited than you're suggesting. The LM website spec list for the F-35B lists the standard internal weapons load as 2 AIM-120 and 2-1000 lb JDAM. That's a far cry from 18,000 lb. It gives a weapons payload, which I assume is internal plus external, as 15,000 lb rather than 18,000. The caveat in this is if stealth is not needed, meaning external weapons, than the F-35 is not needed, since any modern aircraft can easily duplicate or exceed it's performance. Further, if the full load is carried, the combat radius is greatly reduced although we have no actual figures on that, as far as I know. On the other hand, if we do need stealth then the weapons load is quite limited. It's almost a Catch-22 situation.

      The combat radius is listed as 450 nm, however, I assume that's with a minimal, internal weapons load and flying an optimum flight profile. It also fails to address loiter/combat time. It's far more likely that the actual effective combat radius is more like 100-200 nm. To be fair, that's true of any aircraft. The manufacturer is obviously going to provide the most optimistic figure possible. Reality will be substantially less.

      You note that we can't operate Hornets from unimproved bases. However, there's absolutely no evidence that we can operate F-35Bs from an unimproved base. Take off and land once? - maybe. Operate on a sustained basis? -highly unlikely. The F-35B is a highly technical, very sophisticated aircraft that will need extensive, high tech maintenance. It will be no different in that regard than a Hornet. No, I take that back. It will probably need more, and more sophisticated maintenance due to the stealth issues.

    17. I agree CNO. That big lift fan and complex drive train doesn't come maintenance-free either.

      At least you don't have to take the entire aircraft apart to remove the engine, like the Harrier.

      On the flip side, range can be extended through air refueling, and I do think there could be a use for even a relatively small number of fighters on a strategically located island, say 6-8 at minimum. But they would at least need Hesco or concrete revetments, or preferably fully hardened shelters, as well has fuel, spares, and munition storage, and maintenance facilities.

      Such aircraft could perform local air superiority as well as ASuW. Of course they would be highly vulnerable to attrition.

      But honestly, a much larger base 1000nm away, with multiple fighter squadrons, bombers, AWACS, and tankers could perform the same mission.

    18. B.Smitty, the only problem with refueling is that if you can safely get a tanker into the operating area, you could also get a tanker plus F-15/22s or whatever other aircraft you wanted and the F-35 wouldn't be needed.

      I'm really struggling to imagine what mission(s) a handful of remote F-35Bs would perform that would be worth the effort. Local air superiority? The only need for air superiority would be to protect the F-35 base - the base exists to protect the base. ASuW? I guess, for the odd target of opportunity. Again, a lot of effort for the odd target of opportunity. Well, maybe the base is in a key strategic location and there would be lots of targets: land, sea, and air? If the location were that important, we'd have carriers, AF tankers and F-15/22s, and whatever else. Again, a handful of F-35Bs would be useless by comparison and the base wouldn't last long because the enemy would care enough to attack it - again, the base would exist to defend the base.

      6-8 aircraft at any base, under any circumstance, are hard pressed to do anything useful in terms of sorties and total weight of ordnance or continual airborne presence. With a high tech beast like the F-35B, I'd be surprised if 6-8 aircraft could generate two sorties a day on a sustained basis. Factor in attrition, as you point out, and the effectiveness drops to near zero in short order. Doesn't seem worth the effort. As I said, I'm really struggling to see why the Marines want to do this other than as a budget maneuver.

    19. CNO,

      Not exactly. Tankers can come from far away and their crews can handle long sorties. Fighter pilots are endurance limited to 6-8 hours in the seat. So F-15/22s will be pilot endurance limited at the end of a long transit.

      Sortie rates are another potential benefit of close basing, but again, much depends on your ability to support the aircraft at the forward base. You could get 3-4 sorties per day per aircraft, if they are supported well. But therein lies the rub.

      Using this field as a divert base for other aircraft is another benefit.

      All that being said, I agree 6-8 aircraft at a base is of limited value, will be hard to support, and, most likely, could be done by F-16s or F-18s, given the logistics requirements.

    20. I've toyed around with the idea of a small STOL UCAV for these roles too. I'm thinking something X-45A-sized (~8klbs empty), but with the afterburning F125 instead of the non-afterburning F124.

      Given some structural upgrades and perhaps a twin tail, maybe it could even perform in an A2A role. It could carry a pair of AMRAAMs or perhaps as many as eight of the LM CUDA missiles.

      I envision it being controlled/directed from the ground, or from AWACS or other command and control aircraft.

      In this mode, it would operate as a reusable, loitering SAM.

      Of course it could also carry SDBs or a pair of 1000lb JDAMs for ASuW or CAS.

    21. On a personal note i do not think the concept will ever work. I am just trying to let you know what the concept is. What is comes down to is this: Marine F-35Bs will fly off of several hard to locate expeditionary airfields inside of the threat rings. The planes will land and refuel and arm at these expeditionary bases then go forward into the fight leaving LHA's out of range of enemy missiles. This is the concept. The expeditionary bases inside of the threat rings will be survivable by constantly relocating them. Mayba a LPD-17 could carry around the expedionary bases, maybe not. The mention of a MPF ship being needed to carry the expedionary bases leaves me completely cold to the concept.

    22. USMC,

      I agree, the concept will never work. Might make for a good PPT though.

    23. Oh it makes and awesome PPT. I am sure it would make an even cooler History channel computer generated future battle of J-10s being shot down and TBMs blowing up empty graded dirt.

  5. ComNavOps. Your views do not appear to be coming from a position of knowledge. I believe you admitted as much in your own posting, so please do not take offense if I attempt to educate you.

    During WW1, the USMC deployed anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol aircraft to the Azores. They also deployed an entire night bombing group to the Western Front. Neither effort was connected to the 4th Marine Brigade. Marine aircraft never supported Marine ground forces during WW1.

    During WW2 in the Pacifc, the USMC operated ENTIRE air groups that were in no way connected to their ground divisions. They equipped night-fighter squadrons and escort carriers throughout the Pacific. Anecdotally, I seem to remember reading that about 1 in 3 Marines were connected to aviation.

    Look at MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines in December 1944. There were absolutely no Marine infantry involved in the invasion. But there were hundreds of Marine aircraft -- including highly sophisticated, radar-equipped night fighters which the USAAF did not possess. And Marine aircraft of MAG-12 were literally the first aircraft to operate ashore.

    During Vietnam War, the USMC routinely participated in strike packages over North Vietnam. There were no USMC ground forces in the North.

    The meme that the Marines only get 'cast-offs' from the Navy simply has not been true – probably since December '41.

    I think you might be confused by the fact that NAVAIR manages the R&D, acquisition and procurement of all naval aircraft. There are Marine folks in NAVAIR and on the OPNAV staff, and they ensure that the Marines get the aircraft that they want and need.

    Marines were operating the Corsair, Phantom, Hornet, and Intruder and numeroud other T/M/S at the same time as the Navy. They operated the Prowler electronic warfare aircraft BEFORE the Navy. They were operating the F/A-18D (all-weather) in large numbers BEFORE the Navy. And they currently operate the AH-1Z Super Cobra -- a very sophisticated attack helicopter, and the envy of the Navy helo community.

    An F-35B having more range than a Harrier is important because that is the aircraft it is replacing, along with some of the F/A-18s. I don't know how to state that in a more straightforward fashion. And I don't know where you are coming up with the 1,000 nm+ threat.


    1. How does the Marines operating occasional squadrons of aircraft throughout history have any relevance to today's single-minded focus on building a mini-air force to the detriment of amphibious capability, high end combat power, and numbers of tanks and artillery? That was my point - that the Marines have never before exhibited this focus (obsession) on aviation. History is quite clear on that.

      Read up on the various aspect of ASB and A2/AD and you'll see the relevance of the F-35Bs lack of range. That it has more range than the aircraft it is replacing is irrelevant. That it has insufficient range for the task the Marines are envisioning (operating in the ASB,A2/AD scenario) is relevant. I don't know how to state that in a more straightforward fashion.

      Read the original ASB document and you'll understand the 1000nm threat.

    2. The bigger point is why do you need a $150 million dollar stealth aircraft to support contingency operations? I guess Delta Force will soon be clamoring for F22s!

      The USMC taking over USAF A-10s makes infinitely more sense than buying F35Bs.


    3. Marine Corsairs of WWII is perfect example of the USMC recieving Navy castoffs. The Corsair lost the competition to the Hellcat and was adopted by the USMC as a Fighter/Bomber, because it could still land on a carrier if it had to, the armoring to make it a better dog fighter was a bonus in surviving CAS, the 2700hp radial engine was both durable and powerful enough to allow it to carry bombs and rockets. The Marines took a rejected Navy fighter and turned it into a classic of WWII.

      Harrier was adopted after the brits had it in production, the F-4, A-4, F-18 and so on were all similar stories as the corsair.

      What we always managed to do and what made congress love us so much was to take someone's else stuff repurpose it on the cheap and employ it too great effect. I would argue the AV-8B was a break from this tradition and was one of the worst moves that we made, leaving our aviation community enamored with STOVL for little benefit compared to conventional aircraft.

    4. Not quite correct on the F4U. The Navy didn't reject the Corsair - they just had teething problems in figuring out how to operate it from the carrier. Some other facts:

      F-4 entered USN operational service in July '61. It entered USMC operational service in June '62. Less than a year’s difference.

      A-4 entered USN and USMC operational service in the exact same year: 1956.

      F/A-18A entered USMC operational service in same year: 1983. The first Marine squadron (VMFA-314) actually stood up in January, while the first Navy squadron (VFA-25) wasn't until March.

      The AV-8A initially acquired by the USMC was fairly state of the art in the early 1970s. And the AV-8B II Harrier eventually developed for the USMC was/is a very different aircraft from Royal Navy Sea Harrier or RAF Harriers. Far from a cast-off.

      I will agree that the Marine Corps does a good job of SELLING Congress on the meme that it is stuck with Navy castoffs. Unfortunately the truth is a bit different.

    5. Except that in all those cases the USN was the lead agency in specing the air craft. We followed along and made the best of it. The A-4 was designed as a throwaway nuclear bomber and the USMC turned it into a ground attack aircraft.

      There is nothing wrong with this and i fully support the idea of the USMC not having unique planes.

  6. You all caught the quote in the post about, “If we were developing a strategy driven force, ...", didn't you? I opted not to elaborate on it in the post because it was already long enough. Consider the magnitude of that statement, though. A Marine general is stating that the Corps structure, size, and capabilities is not going to be based on strategic needs. Instead, it will be based on budget. I don't know about you but that's staggeringly disappointing.

    Yes, budget limtiations are a reality and will determine the overall resources available but the force structure should still be strategy driven while being bounded by budget constraints. Even then, the Marines should have loudly let it be known that the sub-optimal, strategy driven force was insufficient for the required missions and roles. Instead, the Marines appear to be meekly and quietly going along with the political agenda from the civilian side. I can't convey how disturbing and disappointing this is. The Marines appear to have become every bit as politicized as the other services. Semper Fi? Not anymore.

  7. Just one point, after forty years of the Marines buying equipment that they claim will enable them to land were they are un opposed, why would any one think the US Marines are in the business of making landing against fortified position. The problem of course is that you don't always get to chose the battlefield. That why the Marines place so much stock in air support, it the one thing that can provide them a real edge anywhere they go.

  8. "6-8 aircraft at any base, under any circumstance, are hard pressed to do anything useful in terms of sorties and total weight of ordnance or continual airborne presence. With a high tech beast like the F-35B, I'd be surprised if 6-8 aircraft could generate two sorties a day on a sustained basis. Factor in attrition, as you point out, and the effectiveness drops to near zero in short order. Doesn't seem worth the effort. As I said, I'm really struggling to see why the Marines want to do this other than as a budget maneuver."


    I fear your hatred for the JSF is clouding your judgement. I don't think anyone has said anything about continual airborne presence. Fighters don't do that very well anyways (that's why we have BAMS!)

    If you want to see what a relatively small number of aggressively handled aircraft can do to a surface fleet there are plenty of historical examples:

    - Wake Island (1941)
    - Guadalcanal (1942)
    - Bismarck Sea (1943)
    - Falklands (1982)

    Amphibs, transports, and patrol vessels are especially vulnerable to air attack -- particularly when operating beyond friendly air cover and/or close to shore.

    A couple of squadrons of F-35Bs well-placed on a few islands in the Pacific could make enemy vessel movement very difficult.

    1. A key feature of A2/AD is that friendly airbases in the Middle East and Asia will be subject to intense bombardment from ballistic missiles (possibly chemical) at the onset of hostilities: I do not follow how dispersing F35B squadrons to unimproved runways/bases does much other than weaken the force and expose it to defeat in detail.

      Those F35Bs will be leaving mobile, well supplied "floating airbases" (LHDs/LHAs/CVNs) for islands where they will be with out airborne C2, tanker support, aerial delivered spare parts, fuel, bombs,intelligence personnel, communications personnel, etc..

      - How much fuel does an F35 squadron use, and how does it get to these south Pacific islands if not via ship? (the USAAF attempt to run strategic bombing from airfields in China during WWII is a model...)

      - How do the F35B squadrons get their ordinance if not by ship?

      - Given there are no bunkers, where will munitions be stored?

      - Where will the aircraft support vehicles come from (fuel trucks, tractors, cranes)?
      - How are the airfields going to be defended?

      It seems to me that unless you are trying to establish a new air base and using the F35Bs for initial operations as the runways are being built up, the shear logistics of this are daunting. Keep in mind that it takes the USAF a surprising amount of time to redeploy a squadron to an airbase where it is not already operating. The planes can move quickly, but everything else needed for operations takes a surprising amount of time to move.


    2. GAB, your points are pertinent and well taken. You didn't explicitly say so, but the tone and implication of your comment is that you don't agree with the Marines view of how to contribute to ASB. Assuming I'm not misrepresenting your view, now, did a bit deeper. Why do you see the issue differently than the entire Marine leadership or, conversely, why can't the Marine leadership see the issues you do? If dispersed bases of a few aircraft are not the answer, how do you see the Marines fitting into the ASB concept? What, if anything, does this suggest about the usefulness of the F-35B as related to ASB? If the key to dispersed bases is logistics and the Marines/Navy are determined to implement this approach, what does that suggest about the Navy's logistic support requirements versus actual capabilities? I can go on but you get the idea. There are deeper themes, here, waiting to be explored. Take a shot!

  9. "How does the Marines operating occasional squadrons of aircraft throughout history have any relevance to today's single-minded focus on building a mini-air force to the detriment of amphibious capability..."


    The US Marine Corps has not conducted an opposed amphibous landing in over 60 years. And it seems increasingly unlikely they will be able to do so in an A2/AD environment.

    You may not realize this, but fortunately a lot of really smart guys in digital camouflage apparently do. And they are figuring out new ways to do things.

    You're saying that a stealthy JSF can't possibly survive within 1,000 nm of the enemy threat ring because it's too short ranged.

    Yet a 25,000 ton amphibious vessel - which must park 10 nm off an an enemy coast to delivery its tanks and heavy artillery - can somehow pull this off?

    1. "You're saying that a stealthy JSF can't possibly survive within 1,000 nm of the enemy threat ring because it's too short ranged."

      Where did I say that?

      "Yet a 25,000 ton amphibious vessel - which must park 10 nm off an an enemy coast to delivery its tanks and heavy artillery - can somehow pull this off?"

      Again, where did I say this?


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