Thursday, January 9, 2014

Aviation Assault Transport

The previous post about Marine assault transport problems has generated fascinating responses.  There seems to be general agreement that the Marine’s current transport capabilities are inadequate but there is less agreement about what alternatives would be better.  Various people have suggested various specific or generic platforms that might offer better performance.  However, none of the options fully address the overall problem to a satisfactory degree.  I’m not an expert in this area so I don’t have a specific solution to offer but I can see and define the problem.  Let’s look a bit closer at the transport platform itself. 

If the current transports don’t meet the needs, what would, generically?  What characteristics should a Marine transport platform have?

There are three aspects that need to be addressed:

Movement over high threat territory
Transport of troops
Transport of equipment

These aspects demand certain obvious characteristics that are not always compatible.  Let’s look at those characteristics in isolation and then we’ll try to assemble an overall requirement.

Stealth.  Almost by definition, the assault transports will operate in the heart of high threat environments and multi-faceted stealth would greatly enhance survivability.  In particular, stealth in the IR range would enhance survivability against shoulder launched SAMs.  IR countermeasures are also desirable but IR stealth should be an inherent characteristic.  Stealth in the radar ranges, while nice, is probably less of an issue for platforms that will operate at low altitudes.  Acoustic and visual stealth would also be helpful for countering manually/optically controlled gunfire.  Unfortunately, there is no stealth measure that can counteract the “wall of lead” anti-aircraft tactic.

Speed.   This one’s obvious.  The greater the transport’s speed, the less the exposure time. 

Maneuverability.  Threats will appear and will have to be evaded.  The greater the maneuverability, the better the chances of survival.  Given the speed and proximity to the ground, maneuverability might have to be automated.  The threat warning/reaction time is going to be too short for human interpretation and reaction.  Software controlled evasive maneuvers may be required.  Unfortunately, the degree of coding sophistication required to do this may be beyond our current abilities as demonstrated by the software problems plaguing so many weapon systems.

Armor.  Armored bottoms and sides of the transport would be desirable to mitigate the danger from small arms and shrapnel bursts.  Armor sufficient to counter larger caliber gunfire is desirable as well.  The use of armor on the transport would be analogous to armored humvees and whatnot.

Size.  From an efficiency point of view, the maximum load possible is preferred.  The more troops and equipment that can be carried on a platform the better in terms of efficiency.  It’s better to complete the delivery of an assault unit in one wave than in multiple waves.

Lift Capacity.  A transport must be able to transport the heaviest item the MEU uses which is the Abrams tank.  Further, it would be desirable to be able to transport multiple pieces of equipment rather than one at a time.

Internal lift of equipment is preferred over external sling so that the transport platform can perform at least some maneuvering and retain as much speed advantage as possible.  Of course, the internal lift needs to be rapidly unloadable.

So, given the preceeding characteristics, what would our ideal transport look like?  It would be a very stealthy, high speed, highly maneuverable, armored platform of large size and with enormous lift capacity.  Unfortunately, some of these characteristics are mutually incompatible.  For example, a heavily armored transport can’t also be very fast and maneuverable.  Size negates stealth.  And so on…

So where does that leave us?  We can’t have all the characteristics we’d like so we need to balance characteristics which means we have to prioritize. 

Stealth seems the most desirable characteristic and will do the most to enhance transport survivability.  This is the biggest bang for the buck and since we’re talking more about IR, acoustic, and visual stealth, as opposed to radar stealth, we ought to be able to achieve it economically.

Armor seems the next most desirable and is almost as valuable as stealth.  It does no good to deliver troops that have been decimated by shrapnel along the way.  Further, we absolutely do not want to concede cheap kills.  If a transport is killed by a direct hit from major caliber gunfire or a large SAM, that’s one thing.  However, a cheap kill by small arms, smaller caliber gunfire, or shrapnel must be avoided.

Speed and maneuverability are desirable though only marginally compatible with the need for armor.  To the extent possible, speed and maneuverability should be provided although, as pointed out, maneuverability may not be achievable to a relevant extent.

Size is the most ill defined characteristic.  On the one hand, we want the largest lift possible but on the other hand we don’t want to suffer too large a loss due to the loss of an individual transport.  As some readers pointed out, a squad size (maybe two-squad size?) transport may be the optimum.  The ability to transport 50-200 troops, while efficient, simply risks too much in a single platform.

Size is also a factor in equipment transport.  Here, there is no option.  We must be able to transport the heaviest item, the tank (or make the decision that we can’t conduct armored aviation assaults).  I have no idea what kind of transport can do that.

So, now where are we?  We seem to need a squad (maybe two-squad?) size helo that is very stealthy, armored as much as possible, and has as much speed and maneuverability as possible given the armor it carries.  A stealthy version of the Soviet/Russian Hind series might be in the general vicinity of what’s needed?

Stealthy Hind for Transport?

 As far as equipment transport, I’m seeing that we may need a second, different transport that is dedicated to equipment transport since the requirements are so different.  The main characteristics would be internal lift, stealth, speed, and rapid loading/unloading.

I don’t see any way to transport tanks without going to a cargo plane type of approach similar to the Army and that wouldn’t seem possible for a typical Marine assault.  If the Marines can’t bring tanks along then we need to re-evaluate what type of assaults can be done.  While tanks wouldn’t be absolutely necessary for raids and lower end assaults it would be foolish to conduct tank-less assaults against peers who have armored capability.  It’s possible that inland assaults can only be performed against lower end threats and that higher end threats must be attacked via beach or port assaults so that heavy equipment can be delivered.  I’m venturing out of my element at this point so I’ll leave the discussion here. 

What I’m convinced of is that the Marines/Navy are, at this moment, conflicted about what to do and how to do it.  The haphazard acquisitions that are being pursued and the contradictory statements emanating from Marine/Navy leadership are proof of that.  The Marines/Navy need to quickly settle on an approach and, hopefully, it will be based on strategy rather than budget.


  1. How about buying something smaller than the M1? You lose the communality with Army tanks but would something in the 40 to 50 tons weight be a little bit easier to deliver and hit the shore with? Maybe Marines should consider having an all wheel force and the army have all the tracked vehicles? Generally, 6 by 6 and 8 by 8 vehicles are lighter than an all track vehicle....

  2. A stealthy Hind? I like it. I understand the Soviets were working on a Hind replacement towards the end of the Cold War in addition to the Mi-28 and Ka-50/52, because they could see the merits of a heavily armed and armored assault transport that could double as a gunship. This Hind replacement would have had a Gsh-23 autocannon under the nose, a 12.7mm Gatling under the tail and four pylons for external ordnance. It would have been able to carry a couple of door guns as well. My suggestion would be to develop something along those lines, replacing the Gsh-23 with the same 30mm chain gun as the AH-64. It should be steatlhy as suggested and should be able to carry a reinforced infantry squad, perhaps 16 to 20 men. Such a helicopter could also lay down heavy suppression fire coming in and out of the LZ, which would increase the survivability of the chopper and its passengers, and would be self-escorting to a certain extent, freeing up gunships and TACAIR for other missions.

    As for heavy lift, I don’t see any realistic way to bring in tanks or even AAV-7’s by vertical lift. Even the Mi-26, which is the most powerful production heavy lift helicopter, can only lift 20 tons. So it’s back to landing craft if you want to bring in the heavy gear or even just sustain a significant beachhead. I think we should keep the LCAC’s, but should develop something along the lines of the proposed LCU-R, the Russian Dyugon class LCU or the Spanish Navy LCM-1E. We really need a 20-30 knot capable landing craft that can lift 75 to 200 tons (1 to 3 tanks or equivalent) and isn’t as fragile and conspicuous a target as the LCAC. I would also like to see something along the lines of a CB-90 but with greater personnel and cargo capacity.

    1. Enrique, you see the problem? If we're going to conduct aerial assaults many miles inland but can't get out armor to the assault location except via a beach/port, how do we conduct the inland assault? The answer isn't to do the beach assault and then link up the armor with the inland aerial assault because if we could conduct a beach assault we wouldn't need the inland assault in the first place. The stated reason for inland assaults is because beach assaults would be too difficult and costly. There's a Catch-22 at work, here!

    2. Which is why I have grave doubts about the present dogma of inland assaults. The answer is to have a robust landing capability that can deal with enemy defenses. Your proposal for a heavily armored LST would be a good starting point.

      We also need things like faster conventional landing craft and decent naval gunfire support. The LCU-R would have been capable of 25 knots with a 200 ton load, the LCM-1E can do 22 knots with a 53 ton load, the French EDA-R can do 30 knots with an 80 ton load and the Dyugon class LCU can do 35 knots while carrying a 140 ton load. The LCU-R was never developed, but the other three are in service. It’s quite possible to build an LCU or LCM (preferably both) that can make 20-35 knots with present technology.

      As for the NGFS requirement, a good start would be to resurrect the Mk-71 and the navalized MLRS/ATCMS programs. We also need to resurrect our MCM capabilities and stop trying to pretend the LCS can do the MCM mission, which it is obviously unsuited for. Without decent minesweepers and minehunters, we can’t even keep our own harbors open in the event of a major war, much less carry out an amphibious landing or operate in a hostile littoral zone.

      If we have good NGFS, tactical strike and MCM capabilities, armored LST’s, and landing craft that can get to the beach quickly and have a good chance of surviving enemy fire, then the threat from shore defenses becomes a manageable problem.

      The problem with the inland assault doctrine is that there is no practical way to get the heavy equipment and large scale logistics support ashore via rotary wing. Without those things, what you have is a bunch of light infantry with a few light vehicles and crew served weapons and inadequate logistics support. Such a force can be surrounded, cut off and reduced without too much difficulty by even a half-way decent defender, especially if they have good air defenses and can interdict subsequent waves of helicopters and interfere with friendly TACAIR. We’ve seen this movie played before, at places like Crete and Arnhem. If we need to do a major inland assault, it would be far better to use an airborne division or air assault brigade. That’s the sort of mission they were designed for. The Marines and the gator navy need to go back to the basics and re-develop their amphibious landing capabilities, which is their primary reason for existing in the first place. We need ships and landing capabilities that can do beach assaults, with inland landings as an adjunct. This would be a return to traditional amphibious warfare doctrine, but with more capable platforms geared to contemporary threats. Why is this such a hard thing to understand, when it’s so basic and logical?

    3. I think you perhaps underestimate the threat from shore-based ASCM. Cheap and relatively mobile, an enemy no longer has to be right at the shoreline to threaten landing craft.

  3. You did not address the biggest limiting factor, shipboard constraints. When you look at the Osprey, the biggest single issue that caused the engineering problems was the requirement to fit on existing ships. This lead to the pivot of the wing to fit on the deck AND limited the rotor size to clear the island.

    A lesson for ALL look at the TOTAL System Engineering environment.

    Unless you think the USMC will never deploy from Ships, you have to address the ship environment and its impact on the size and shape of the Aircraft.

    1. Anon, you are correct. I intentionally did not address the shipboard requirements. I focused on the transport requirements, the "need", independent of any constraints. To look at limiting factors prior to defining needs is backwards which is a problem I've addressed in previous posts. Having determined what size/type of transport is needed, we can then begin to look at limiting factors. There's no point to designing an MV-22, for example, that can fit on a ship but can't meet the requirements for which it is needed.

      A lesson for ALL is to first define requirements.

    2. I agree with the caveat that you are looking at the operational requirements. Whereas the fit it on a ship requirements could be considered a set of 2nd Tier operational requirements or technical requirements. My point is BEFORE everyone gets all hot and bothered about a possible solution and/or technology, look at fitting it on a ship. Again the XV-15 technology looked good, until you constrained the rotor size and made the "wing" have to rotate. Likewise the F-35 VSTOL looks good UNTIL you look at not having heat resistant concrete decks on ships.

    3. As an update on this, see the article about the Amphibs having trouble with the heat from BOTH the F-35B and MV-22. Do we factor in the cost of repairing decks into the requirements and cost of the aircraft? Right now the solution is to limit the flight ops on some of the decks becuase sustained flight ops is not a requirement for the Amphibs, REALLY?

  4. I'm not a fan of trying to build a helo that can overfly heavily defended areas. That just isn't going to work. Fly around them. Land where the defenses aren't.

    But I think we need to be realistic about what capability we can have here. Air assault will deliver light infantry with a handful of unarmored or lightly armored vehicles. Certainly useful in some circumstances, but with well-known limits.

    Personally, I think the Marines are spending too much on this.

    The MEU should be scaled back to look more like the 101st DRF (battalion-sized), starting at around 1300 Marines total. 14 x MH-60S, 8 x navalized CH-47F, 8 x AH-1Z.

    No organic JSF. If they need fixed-wing airpower, call in a carrier. If we are forced to buy the F-35B, then task individual LHDs to act as escort carriers, on an as-needed basis.

    I'd plus up the DRF TOE with a tank platoon (company?), an AAV platoon, and additional logistics. LAV company? Hmm. They are handy, but I don't want to blow out the MEU size too much.

    Instead of building giant LHA/LHD/LPDs, I'd settle on a single class of 25-30k ton LHDs (e.g. Juan Carlos). Use two per MEU. Should be plenty of space. Each Juan Carlos can house 900-1000 Marines plus a 200 Marine aviation contingent. A pair of Juan Carlos could carry four LCACs, which is less than the current ARG, but my MEU is smaller, so won't need to offload as much.

    With two flight decks, all eight CH-47Fs could take off or land simultaneously. Or twelve of the fourteen H-60s.

    A single LHD could be individually tasked with a battalion(-).

    Yes, the Marines would have to shrink the MEU considerably, but in the end, we could field more of them for a similar price.

    1. B.Smitty, that's a coherent concept and a well reasoned comment. Excellent! Now, let me push your thought a bit further.

      You state that you aren't a fan of helos over defended areas. Fair enough. You then describe an aviation based mini-MEU assault force. Is there a contradiction there or do you see the mini-MEU only functioning in low threat scenarios? Or maybe you're suggesting something else entirely and I've misunderstood?

      You seem to agree that the Marines can only conduct light infantry inland assaults due to current transportation limitations. If so, can even your mini-MEU be justified in today's budget climate? That's still a lot of resources that have only a limited and marginal value.

      How would the mini-MEU function in an all out war with a peer?

      Now, here's the ultimate question ... Given that we cannot conduct heavy combat inland assaults and the Marines have all but ruled out frontal beach assaults (that's the Marine's public statement) what capability do the Marines offer that justifies their existence?

      Great comment. Keep going with the thought.

    2. ComNavOps: "How would the mini-MEU function in an all out war with a peer?"


      Answer, it wouldn't.

      In the Wake of the First Gulf War, the Corps seriously re-examined its role in advance of a projected deep RIF, and concluded it needed at least two, and preferably three, Combined Arms Regiments (CARs). The CAR was built around a Tank Battalion with 2x Light Armored Infantry Battalions - significant because the APCs/IFVs/AAVs were to be organic to the units like mechanized infantry (contrary to historic USMC practice with AAVS and LVTs), and an assigned LAV company. The CAR was designed to counter some very real threats around the globe, but never settled the APC/IFV/AAV issue, and ultimately the concept died due to a lack of amphibious lift.

      The threats projected by the Krulak board in the 1990s have become worse in the 21st century. It should be a serious cautionary note that that the Germans, Canadians, Dutch, and ultimately USMC, all have insisted upon taking MBTs to Afghanistan, and in particular, the USMC force that recently relieved the (tank-less) British Army, concluded that it had to bring M1s to achieve the mission...


    3. CNO,

      I never said we couldn't conduct inland assaults. Just don't attempt to overfly heavily defended areas. Fly around them. Fly through corridors that have had the SEAD/DEAD treatment. There are exploitable gaps in virtually any air defense system, assuming air supremacy.

      I think they still have considerable value even in today's budgetary climate. They are still the only forward-deployed ground forces we can call on in many parts of the world. A battalion has enough kick to perform embassy evacuation, rescue, or reinforcement. It can be backup to SPECOP forces going after Al Qaeda affiliates. H-60s and H-47s are better suited to HA/DR missions.

      In a major theater war they can combine into MEBs or MEFs, or can operate individually to seize far flung enemy assets. All fourteen MH-60Ss can carry their LCS SuW kit (8 x Hellfire, 7.62mm MG) or MIW kit. H-47s could be adapted to tow the AQS-20A sonar, since the MH-60S doesn't have the power. So the air component by itself can contribute significantly to MIW or SuW.

      And don't give up on beach assaults. There are gaps in defenses there too. The enemy can't be everywhere.

    4. Giving up on beach assaults is the Marine's statement, not mine.

      Do you see the Marines as a light infantry force or a heavy combat force?

      I suspect your answer is both. You've described your light infantry mini-MEU and suggested that it would combine into MEB/MEFs as needed with add-on tanks and heavier equipment. Setting budget issues aside, do you believe that your mini-MEUs can receive adequate training as both light infantry and heavy combat during the course of their workups? That seems like asking a lot from limited training time. I fear the seamless integration between heavy tank, artillery, AAVs, LAVs and light infantry won't occur if it isn't practiced (and deployed!) regularly. Similarly, command and control that can't exercise as heavy units may not be good at it when the time comes.

      The Marines are at a crossroads and are conflicted about what they want to be: light infantry, heavy combat, expeditionary air force? What do you want them to be?

      If your answer is everything, then you have to come back to the budget issue.

    5. They are an infantry-centric force that can call on amphibious APCs and tanks as well as aviation, same as they are now. The Marines practice both today, so I don't see an issue.

      I want them to retain their inherent flexibility. They are not a true heavy force. Only one of the battalion's three companies can be carried via AAV/ACV. The other two are truck-bound or have to be lifted via helos. They are an amphibious, medium-weight force.

      I have addressed the budget issue by dispensing with the expensive aviation programs (MV-22, F-35B and CH-53K) and shrinking the MEU to fit on two cheaper ships.

      You can buy a CH-47F AND an MH-60S for the price of one MV-22 or CH-53K.

      I'm hopeful the new LHD would only cost $2-2.4 billion each, or only incrementally more than a single America-class LHA for both of them.

      I am also hopeful that the ITEP engine program will produce an MH-60 and AH-1 with greater range and lift capability. And that further, combined-service funding into CH-47 upgrades will do the same.

    6. B.Smitty, I suspect that the training issue is bit more problematic than you suggest. Achieving true integrated tactics between infantry and armor, especially when the infantry is not mobile infantry, is a bit more difficult than simply putting the two forces together in the same location. Further, from what little I know (not my area of expertise!), neither the Army nor the Marines train at larger levels (full regiment/battalion/division/whatever). I suspect but don't know, that most Marines wouldn't have any idea how to interact tactically with tanks.

      Regardless, there is much I like about your concept.

      The Marines, on the other hand, are moving strongly towards becoming an expeditionary air force and have stated that they will de-emphasize the heavier end of combat by cutting tanks and heavy equipment. Setting aside your concept and thoughts, now, what do you make of the Marine's apparent direction?

    7. CNO,

      The Marines currently operate with tanks as part of their core TOE. They've done so for as long as I can recall. They did so in ODS as well as OIF and Afghanistan, as well as before.

      My mix of armor and infantry is little different from the current MEU. I didn't change that part. Current Marine doctrine and training would not have to change. If my MEU didn't include LAVs, I would consider increasing the number of tanks to a full company.

      I don't know how often Army/Marine brigades run through the NTC anymore, but brigade-sized armored exercises used to be standard fare.

      I don't think the Marines are moving towards becoming an expeditionary air force. They may be divesting some tanks and heavy equipment, but they aren't (to my knowledge) divesting in all of it.

      They are spending far too much on aviation, though, and I think this is where the notion comes from that they want to be an expeditionary air force. We already have two expeditionary air forces, we don't need a third.

      We need the Marines to continue to be a sea-based medium infantry force that has enough punch to be an early entry unit, but is flexible enough to perform the other missions we ask of them.

      We still need them to maintain a port seizure capability, even in the face of opposition. This means amphibious assault.

      I am in favor of spending money on the ACV, even if it's expensive. JLTV can go. MPC can go. Tanks need to stay.

      The Marines don't need to be Stryker brigades, and they don't need to be saddled with expensive, heavy and limited JLTVs. If the mission needs some MRAPs and armored HMMWVs, add them. We have plenty already.

      A LAV replacement may still be nice. They are a handy-sized vehicle with decent punch and mobility. LAV III/Stryker-chassis vehicles should be the basis, to maintain commonality with the Army.

    8. CNO: “B.Smitty, I suspect that the training issue is bit more problematic than you suggest. Achieving true integrated tactics between infantry and armor, especially when the infantry is not mobile infantry, is a bit more difficult than simply putting the two forces together in the same location. … I suspect but don't know, that most Marines wouldn't have any idea how to interact tactically with tanks.”
      Spot on CNO!

      The Corps is a very infantry-centric force, which lacks a realized, effective doctrine on AFV employment.
      Marine infantry officers tend to view tanks as pure infantry support, sometimes individual tanks are assigned to companies commanders, or even platoons. This is a waste. Worse, the closest thing the Corps has to an APC is the AAV, which is cross attached unit. Because AAVs are not organic to the Infantry the way a CAV Troop, or Stryker brigade is organized, means that the infantry do not have the level of seamless coordination between their AFVs and infantry that *should* exist. The challenges the Corps had in its drive on Baghdad in 2003 have often been glossed over and attributed to problems with the AAV (of which there are many), but the real issue is that Marines do not employ AFVs the same way as any other ground force on the planet.
      Ironically, I agree whole heartedly with the USMC company/platoon/squad size/organization, and the USMC view on using APCs as “battle taxis” versus trying to have IFVs fight alongside tanks, but the way the Corps organizes and employs armor is questionable insane. History has shown this. The WWII trend was to up-armor. The trend post 2001 is to up-armor. This issue has been repeatedly addressed in USMC professional journals since Desert Storm, but continues to be pushed to the back burner. The closest the Corps has gotten to addressing the issue was the Krulak board and the Combined Arms Regiment of the 1990s.
      JLTV and MRAPs are a costly and generally marginal solution to moving troops. The sealift required to move MRAPS and JLTVs does not exist: which means that Marines will likely deploy without them, vulnerable to IEDs (land mines), and limited largely to the speed of foot.

      A better solution is to:
      1) Stop buying gold plated $1.7 billion dollar LPDs, and platinum plated F-35Bs: instead buy 30 knot containerships and convert them into AKRs, and buy 30 knot LCTs instead of LCACs. The discount in price for the AKR will exceed one billion dollars.
      2) Buy a robust 8x8 armored car for use as an APC, and skip all of the fancy weapons and computers (Stryker). The main job of the 8x8 is to quickly move a rifle squad from point “A” to point “B” in relative saftey from mines (IEDs), artillery fragments, heavy machine guns (14.5mm), and RPGs.
      3) Buy an upgraded LAV, and consider deploying USMC light-armored reconnaissance battalions in place of some MEUs.


    9. GAB,

      1) Agree on the LPDs.
      2) Why make the Marines into Stryker battalions? We have those already. Marines need to be amphibious or they are redundant.

    10. B.Smitty, I asked the question, what capability the Marines offer that justifies their existence/budget. You've cited the usual peacetime and low intensity raids, rescues, evacuations, HA/DR, and whatnot. In a high end conflict you stated that the mini-MEU would combine into MEB/MEFs.

      What function do you see the Marines performing in a high end conflict against a peer with their own armor, air, artillery, etc.? Sending light infantry inland against heavier units is asking for a defeat. What do you see the MEB/MEF doing? They don't have the power to seize and hold anything inland. What does that leave? A Marine force that can't "duke it out" with an enemy is left with a limited set of missions. What will the MEB/MEF do?

      I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with anything - just trying to explore your thoughts!

    11. CNO,

      This is not just a light infantry unit. A MEB can lift one battalion via ACV/AAV and has a company of tanks as well as significant aviation.

      If the MEB looked like the 101st DRB with attached AAV company and tank company, then it would have,

      14 x M-1s
      ~43 x AAV/ACVs

      20 x TOWs
      54 x Javelins
      18 x 105mm Howitzers

      up to 24 x H-47s
      up to 42 x MH-60S
      up to 21 x AH-1Zs

      Up to 63 helicopters that can carry Hellfire, each with a laser designator. That's a lot of anti-armor firepower.

    12. Smitty,

      I am not saying the Marines will become stryker batts, I said the USMC needs an 8x8 *APC*.

      The whole point of an APC is that it is not suitable for fighting alongside MBTs, but it does a reasonable job of protecting the infantry from mines (IEDs), artillery fragments, and RPGs. The infantry dismounts and moves to contact.

      The utility of IFVs is debatable, but the Army is basically using their Strykers akin to IFVs, that is the go into direct contact by intent.

      The MPC may *look* like a Striker, but I suggeuest that the Marines use MPC like an APC. This will not only save a lot of money, it avoids the doctrinal stupidty of commiting under-armored vehicles (IFVs) into direct combat alongside MBTs. The Fact that the latest generations have price tags approaching that of MBTs (SPz Puma) reallly emphasizes the stupidity.

      The option to the MPC/APC is either an MRAP/JLTV with compromised off-road capability and lack of armor, or you can for go speed altogether. It is also possible to build a heavy APC (HAPC) like the Namer or BMPT-64. HPACs are great vehicles, but the cost of deploying them by the thousands is unrealistic.

      For a lot of reasons, the 8x8 APC makes a lot of sense.


    13. B.Smitty, let me try again. The Marines can't transport tanks and other heavy gear inland so inland assaults are, by default, light infantry exercises. You've acknowledged that. Simply scaling up to a MEB/MEF does not change that fact. A MEB/MEF conducting an inland assault is still a light infantry assault.

      You're answering me by describing equipment rather than missions. What can a MEB/MEF do that's within their capability in the context of a high end conflict?

    14. GAB,

      The Stryker IS an 8x8 APC. It is NOT an IFV. It is mean't to move infantry close before they dismount, exactly as you describe. It only has a .50 cal or 40mm AGL for self defense and very limited fire support.

      Where do they put these MPCs? Do they displace AAVs in the ARG? Trucks? How do they pay for them along with paying for the ACV?

    15. CNO,

      You use infantry air assaults for the same missions as the 101st. Seize and hold key terrain, attack enemy forces with air mobile infantry and anti-armor, support other forces as mobile reserves.

      They could gain limited land mobility and vehicular firepower by lifting HMMWVs or trucks. Two troop-transport HMMWVs can be slung or carried internally per H-47. Two H-47 sorties to give a platoon vehicular mobility. Slung armament-carrier HMMWVs can bring TOWs, .50 cal and 40mm AGLs for fire support.

      But air assault is just one mission. The MEB can also land a battalion amphibiously with ACV/AAVs and tank support. This armored battalion can be used to do a lot more of the heavy lifting.

      We have two real forced-entry formations in the military right now, airborne and amphibious. Neither requires significant local land basing. Airborne units are used to take airfields for follow on forces, but possess VERY little vehicular mobility or combat power.

      On the other hand, amphibious units possess considerably more combat power and mobility with their armored vehicles and helicopters.

      We need both, IMHO.

      I still see port seizure as a prime Marine mission. This may be necessary to enable follow on forces. It may be opposed.

      A MEB could approach this as follows:

      1. Air assault one battalion to key locations, cutting off reinforcements.
      2. Amphibious assault a battalion and the tank company ashore near the port, but in a less defended area, and then assault the objectives on land.
      3. Keep the 3rd battalion at sea as an air mobile reserve.
      4. Use its considerable attack helo aviation to support troops ashore, when necessary.

      Obviously, this may require carriers or land based air power to soften up defenses and suppress fires from shore, but given the right circumstances, it's still doable.

    16. Smitty:"The Stryker IS an 8x8 APC. It is NOT an IFV. It is mean't to move infantry close before they dismount, exactly as you describe. It only has a .50 cal or 40mm AGL for self defense and very limited fire support."



      Strykers have very much been used like IFVs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fielding of the Stryker M1128 Mobile Gun System and integration into the SBCT puts paid to the idea of "limited fire support."

      From FM 3-21 .21


      The battalion achieves decisive action using combined arms at the company level. It focuses on dismounted assault supported by direct fires from the mobile gun system (MGS) and, when possible, the Stryker."

      "Direct fires" require the the vehicles to manuever with the dismounted infantry, that is very much an "IFV like" mission, although by doctrine the SBCT is not a mechanized infantry brigade.


    17. The Stryker ICV carries a full squad. It's armed as well as a Vietnam-era M113 APC.

      The Stryker MGS does not carry troops. It is not an APC or IFV. It's a dedicated fire support vehicle.

      Note, your quote says, "requires the vehicles to maneuver with the DISMOUNTED infantry" and it's speaking primarily of the MGS. It also says "where possible, the Stryker (ICV)". So the ICVs aren't primarily meant to support the infantry. It is a secondary duty.

      M113s also maneuvered with and supported their dismounted infantry, does that make them IFVs?

      The difference between an IFV and an APC is the relative importance placed on dismounts vs vehicular armament.

      The Stryker ICV has light, self-defense armament (one MG/AGL) and a full squad.

      The Bradley IFV has a two-man turret with 25mm, TOW and MG and a small, 6-7 man dismount section.

      I think both styles have their place. The tank/Bradley team has shown itself to be very capable in Iraq (both ODS and OIF). The Bradley's firepower and optics help make up for its lack of dismounts. If anything, the pure APC Strykers have been less impressive. They don't have the protection or firepower needed for intense city combat.

    18. Smitty,
      Your arguments are starting to contradict themselves, and do not stand up to U.S. Army doctrine (FM 3-21 .21), or the actual employment of Stryker vehicles in the GWOT.
      SBCTs were designed specifically to fill a gap between mechanized infantry and light infantry. The devil is in the details, but SBCTs are designed around the idea that the dismounted infantry will receive direct fires from Stryker family vehicles in combat. This is expected at the company, and even at the platoon level. It is codified in US Army field manuals like FM 3-21 .21
      The M1128 Mobile Gun System is a *Stryker variant* and it is designed specifically to deliver direct fires at the company level in support of dismounts. This parallels the definition of an IFV which is designed to also provide fire support to its dismounts.
      Like it, hate it: it is reality.
      The USMC does not intend to employ the MPC as the way the Stryker Brigades are employed. A USMC rifle company with MPCs attached would not be organized, supported, or fight the same way as a USA Stryker company.

    19. B.Smitty, you stated,

      "I still see port seizure as a prime Marine mission."

      Fair enough. You seem to be saying that the Marines have two very broad missions: inland assaults in a low intensity scenario (since they're limited to light infantry in the inland airborne assault) and heavy combat assaults against ports (and beaches?).

      The former mission can be done with a fraction of the manpower, equipment, and ships currently in the Marine inventory.

      The latter mission would seem to be the Marine's core mission (my words, now, not yours). If that's the case, why are the Marines reducing their high end weaponry (tanks and other heavy equipment), pursuing the JSF whose function can be easily provided by the Air Force and carrier aviation since, by definition, the assault would be a major joint operation, and not pursuing port assault equipment, whatever that might be?

      How do we square port (beach?) assault as a primary mission with the Marine's stated position that frontal assaults are a thing of the past?

      Public statements, procurement, divestiture of heavy equipment, and reorganization trends all point to a Corps that is remaking itself as a light infantry and expeditionary air force.

      Your thoughts?

    20. GAB,

      The major doctrinal difference is that MPCs may not be integral to a Marine company the way Strykers are integral to an SBCT company (i'm not sure about this). They may just be attached the same way AAVs are attached. A Marine company might "hitch a ride" with an MPC platoon, but the vehicles are not organic to the company.

      So, if that is your point, then I agree.

      The MPC will carry some form of armament, and Marines will receive direct fire support from them, guaranteed. Just like they will receive direct fire support from tanks, AAVs, or even armed HMMWVs, or any other armed Army or Marine vehicle nearby. That's just the nature of combined arms.

      I still state that an MPC-equipped Marine unit starts to look a lot like a Stryker unit. I would rather the Marines focus on being an amphibious force than duplicate Army capabilities. So I'd rather buy more ACVs and no MPCs.

    21. CNO,

      I'm looking for reports that state the Marines are out of the opposed landing business. Can you point me to them?

      Last I checked, Amos said the ACV is still the service's highest priority. Even higher than the JSF. The ACV is definitely not meant for a light infantry Marine Corps.

      Take a look at the stated functions of the Marine Corps,

      "c. The Functions of the Marine Corps. In addition to the common military service functions listed in paragraphs 2.a. through 2.n. of this enclosure, and pursuant to section 5063 of Reference (e), the Marine Corps, within the Department of the Navy, shall develop concepts, doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures and organize, train, equip, and provide forces, normally employed as combined arms air ground task forces, to serve as an expeditionary force-in-readiness, and perform the following specific functions:
      (1) Seize and defend advanced naval bases or lodgments to facilitate subsequent joint operations.
      (2) Provide close air support for ground forces.
      (3) Conduct land and air operations essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign or as directed.
      (4) Conduct complex expeditionary operations in the urban littorals and other challenging environments.
      (5) Conduct amphibious operations, including engagement, crisis response, and power projection operations to assure access. The Marine Corps has primary responsibility for the development of amphibious doctrine, tactics, techniques, and equipment.
      (6) Conduct security and stability operations and assist with the initial establishment of a military government pending transfer of this responsibility to other authority.
      (7) Provide security detachments and units for service on armed vessels of the Navy, provide protection of naval property at naval stations and bases, provide security at designated U.S. embassies and consulates, and perform other such duties as the President or the Secretary of Defense may direct. These additional duties may not detract from or interfere with the operations for which the Marine Corps is primarily organized."

      So mission #1 is "seize and defend advanced naval bases and lodgements".

    22. B.Smitty, there are numerous Proceedings articles, interviews, and the like in which Marine leadership makes the statement that the Marines are out of the frontal assault business. I've repeatedly quoted and sourced these statements in past posts. For example, reread State of the Marine Corps from the Oct 2013 blog archive. The post provides a link to the video recording of MGen. McKenzie making that statement and providing a bit of a state of the Corps address.

      Similarly, JSF has been repeatedly stated to be the Corps' highest aquistion priority. AAV has been categorized as second but has been lingering in limbo for several years now - clearly not a high priority.

    23. MGen. McKenzie states clearly in the comments section of that video that the "nation needs a joint forcible entry capability, a major portion of which is a capability to enter from the sea..." and " the final analysis, you do need the capability to go across a defended beach."

      Fast forward to 30:00 minutes to listen to his remarks on the subject.

    24. Smitty:"The major doctrinal difference is that MPCs may not be integral to a Marine company the way Strykers are integral to an SBCT company (i'm not sure about this). They may just be attached the same way AAVs are attached. A Marine company might "hitch a ride" with an MPC platoon, but the vehicles are not organic to the company."


      You are missing the point; each Stryker company is organized to fight as a “combined arms team” with 3x infantry platoons, a platoon of M1128 Mobile Gun System providing direct support, and 120mm mortars for indirect fire. Marines do not fight this way, even if they were given Striker ICVs.

      The MPC is on hold, but the concept was more or less identical to the AAV company assets attached to the rifle company *purely for transport.* The USMC rifle company would still fight as light infantry once they dismounted.

      Regardless, the MPC would offer far better mobility and protection than either the MRAP/JLTV or the AAAV/EFV/ACV. It will be extremely difficult to provide amphibians with adequate protection from land mines (IEDs), not to mention good sea and land performance. The insistence on having a single vehicle do all things is likely to result in a serious compromise to performance as well as high cost. This is what killed the EFV.

      Realistically, the USMC needs to look at moderately fast landing craft that lands a simple, rugged, but well protected vehicle that can move the Marines inland to their objectives. None of this is rocket science, and an 8x8 based on the Patria, Boxer, Stryker, etc. would work just fine.

      Finally, cares if Corps uses the same weapons and vehicles as the Army (in many cases the services already do)? The difference is that the units are tailored to their services missions. Frankly, Army light infantry units should look more like USMC squads, platoons, and companies. Army units are seriously undersized in peacetime, and will be dangerously understrength after taking inevitable casualties in a major war. The Corps pretty much perfected the organization of the rifle squad/platoon/company and have not mucked about with them since 1945.


    25. B.Smitty, MGen. McKenzie states, "No Marine thinks of Iwo Jima when we think about an amphibious landing." at the 30:40 mark. He repeats this theme once or twice more as the discussion continues. He also says, "We would choose to go where the enemy is not." McKenzie's term "forcible entry" refers to movement of troops across an undended or lightly defended beach. He is clearly ruling out full frontal amphibious assaults.

      Here's another example. Read the May 2012 post, "Littoral Warfare - Is There Such a Thing?" which contains a quote from MGen. Jenkins stating that "... World War II amphibious frontal assaults are remote possibilities in today's modern warfare." The post contains the source reference. Sorry, I'm having trouble inserting the link so you'll have to go the archived posts.

      I can list dozens of similar quotes all of which espouse the central theme that the Marines are out of the amphibious assault business if there is any significant opposition. The conundrum, here, is that the Marines are pursuing a new AAV which would not be needed if they were truly not in the amphibious assault business anymore. The Marines are conflicted. Add to that the Navy's reluctance to get closer than 50 miles (certainly no closer than 25 miles) to an enemy shore and the difficulty in conducting an assault skyrockets. It's little wonder that the Marines are publicly disavowing frontal beach assaults.

      Remember, my point is not that the Marines should or should not conduct frontal beach assaults but, rather, that they are conflicted about what they want to be and how they want to do it. They need to establish, first in their own minds, what they want to do and then set about acquiring the equipment needed to do it. For instance, if they really want to have the capability to conduct frontal beach assaults they shouldn't be cutting tanks and artillery.

    26. GAB,

      What is going to carry your moderately fast landing craft? All of the well deck spots we have are occupied with LCACs and LCUs. Maybe we need to reinstate the APD with fast LCMs on davits?

      Your model of landing craft carrying MPC places limits on the number of vehicles you can surge ashore in the initial assault. Landing craft are also limited in the types of beaches they can use. They can't pass offshore reefs or sand bars like AAV/ACVs.

      I disagree on the Marine vs Army squad/platoon/company. Army company-and-below organizations have worked just fine in all of our recent conflicts. The one semi-exception is the desire to have more dismounts in heavy units. But they addressed this by going from 2 x 9 dismount sections to 3 x 9 in Bradleys. Still split awkwardly across four vehicles, but that can't be helped.

    27. CNO,

      MGen. McKenzie speaks at length on this in the video you posted. He states the force size is driven by budget, not strategy. They don't want to cut the high end forces, but are forced to due to budgetary constraints. The Marines still will have a considerable high end capability, but the cuts are coming predominantly from the high end.

      He sounds like he has a clear picture of what he wants the Marines to be. Firstly a forward presence force. Secondly, a high-end warfighting force (with forcible entry capability). He seems to believe the Marines can be both, but the leaning will be towards the former if choices have to be made.

      So it doesn't sound like they are conflicted.

  5. "In a statement, an AFRICOM official wrote that three CV-22 Ospreys—which are the US Air Force Special Operations variant—“were fired on by small arms fire by unknown forces” while approaching the town. “All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement. Four service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.”


  6. What is going to carry your moderately fast landing craft? All of the well deck spots we have are occupied with LCACs and LCUs. Maybe we need to reinstate the APD with fast LCMs on davits?"


    Friedman's book on Amphibs has some good ideas on AKRs that if adressed using modern fast containerships could work. Also the fast catamaran LST.
    The old guys had the answers decades ago, they just were not funded due to politics, and in the case of the catamaran, a lack of quantitative tools. We have the computational power to validate these designs today, the politics remain the issue.


  7. The heavy equipment delivery requirement goes hand in hand with the need for a heavy long range lifter to bring in supplies and troops to the sea-base at strategic distances. I see 2 possible solutions: Heavy lift airships, and a heavy lift seaplane about the size of a C-17.

  8. i dont know ComNavOps, Stealh Heli still face the same problem as other helos.. what if the enemy fully equipped with AAA and MANPADS ? the notion of heliborne air assault is only useful in a situation where enemy have no effective air defence , otherwise it will be suicidal tactics..

    in a fight against modern enemy , helo assault , helo medevac or helo gunship or UAV will be restricted .. just looked at how easily the barely equipped eastern ukrainian rebels downed ukraine's jets and helos and transport planes.. imagine facing a heavily equipped soldiers from near-peer nation and it will be back to driving to the front lines instead of flying lol

    1. "b", don't make the mistake of considering a weapon or platform in isolation: in this case, a helo versus a MANPADS. That type of evaluation will lead to flawed conclusion. Instead, consider the platform in the context of the overall military and missions it is intended to perform. In this case, consider the value, if any, of a helo operating with air support, ground attack air support to suppress MANPADs, ECM, perhaps Tomahawk or naval gun support, gunships, and just plain good planning and surprise. The job would be to clear a corridor, get in quickly, unload, and get out. With all that in mind, you can then ask whether the helo is effective.

      Did that make sense to you?


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