Breaking Defense website had an article with a title that stated (paraphrased), Marines won’t attack head-on but will find gaps. I won’t bother citing the article because I’m not going to quote anything or even reference any information from it. The phrase “find the gaps” is the only relevant item, for my purposes.
The Marines will find the gaps.
That seems reasonable. Why attack the enemy’s strength when you can find the gaps? There’s only one problem with that concept: gaps usually exist because there’s nothing worth defending, or, conversely, worth attacking there. A gap exists because the enemy doesn’t care about it.
Well, sure, the gap doesn’t contain anything worthwhile but exploiting it allows us to get our forces ashore and then they can advance to the actual objective.
That seems reasonable. Only, there’s a few problems with that concept. First, given the long range of modern artillery, rockets, helos, cruise and ballistic missiles, and whatnot, the gap will probably be a very long way from the actual objective. That means that we’ll have to travel/fight on land for a very long distance to get where we really want to be. Traveling and fighting for long distances requires a very robust logistics tail. As we’ve discussed, our current ability to supply such an endeavor is suspect, at best. How will we get huge amounts of supplies over the beach and then transport them long distances to the advancing force? That’s a challenge that I don’t think we’re currently equipped for or doctrinally/tactically prepared for.
Second, while exploiting the gap may allow us to bypass the enemy’s initial resistance, once we arrive at the actual objective it will, presumably, be heavily defended and we’re right back to attacking the enemy’s strength only now it will be at the end of a very long and shaky logistics trail. Yes, we will have gotten the bulk of our forces ashore but they will be in a precarious position logistically and will be “fought out” to a degree, just having had to fight through a long distance of enemy territory to get to the objective.
The concept of a gap is almost a leftover from the days of line-of-sight combat. If the enemy soldiers and tanks couldn’t directly see you, they couldn’t engage. Yes, there were mortars and artillery but they still required line-of-sight contact for targeting. In other words, the gaps were already close to the objective – just beyond line-of-sight. Today, if you have to move fifty or a hundred miles away from the objective to find a gap, that leaves the attacking force a very long way from its actual objective, as described above.
Certainly, for smaller, less important objectives I’m sure there will be exploitable gaps that aren’t too far away but for any major objective the concept of exploiting gaps may be far more problematic than anticipated.
One last point about gaps … An implicit assumption about gaps and logistics is that we will be able to freely move troops, equipment, and supplies about the battlefield with helos and MV-22s. That, in turn, contains the implicit assumption that we have aerial supremacy. Against any peer enemy we will find that we do not have air superiority. At best, we’ll be lucky to achieve a no-man’s land in the sky. Our ability to move men, equipment, and supplies through the air will be severely constrained. Remember, we’ll be fighting on enemy soil where the enemy can make use of thousands of man-portable SAMs, an established air defense network, the entire weight of the region’s air forces disbursed and operating from multiple bases, and likely against superior enemy numbers. In contrast, we’ll be at the end of a very long logistics trail (we’ll be fighting in China, Iran, N.Korea, or somewhere far from friendly bases) with very limited and sporadic Air Force support due to lack of bases in theatre and naval aviation that will probably be fully occupied defending the fleet. Yes, we will attack enemy bases and defense networks but the point is that our assumption of freedom of movement in the skies is invalid.
Who’s gaming this out? Has anyone tried an exercise simulating a contested march across a hundred miles to test the logistics of this? ComNavOps is not a land combat expert by any means but so much of the Marine assault concept seems disjointed and poorly thought out. Perhaps all of this has been carefully conceived, planned, exercised, and proven but nothing I’ve seen indicates that is so.
Gaps? Let’s exercise this concept before we commit to it.