Thursday, July 17, 2014

Take Away The Gators

All right …  we just read in the previous post that the Marines no longer consider themselves in the opposed amphibious assault business.  Let’s repeat that quote from Brig. Gen. Mullen.

“Our emphasis right now, in particular, especially with the, in the current fiscal environment, our Commandant’s priorities right now are crisis response at the expense of major combat operations.  If we absolutely had to do it we certainly would but it would be a stretch.  Right now, we’re focusing on crisis response.”

If the Marines are out of the amphibious assault business then why do they still claim to need 38 large hull amphibious ships?  If we’re not doing the big amphibious assaults, logic suggests that we can eliminate many of the amphibious ships.  Sure, we’d probably want to retain a handful for lower end operations.  Around 18 amphibious ships would allow us to operate two MEUs, one each in the Atlantic and Pacific.  A three ship ARG requires nine ships to keep three deployed, hence, the total of 18.  Quite a drop from 38 and quite a potential savings! 

The Marines can’t have it both ways.  If they’re out of the business then they don’t need the assets, resources, and budget.  In fact, if they’re dropping down to light aviation-based assault one could legitimately wonder if the Army’s aviation assault capabilities aren’t sufficient and superior.

The Marine Corps desperately needs to get its act together or step aside and let the Army take over their role.  Alternatively, the Army is pushing hard to operate from Navy ships and may wind up pushing the Marines aside while the Corps spends its time dithering over the AAV/ACV/EFV/whatever and blindly pursuing the F-35B.

Note:  This is not my position.  This is simply the logic of the situation that the Marines and the Navy have created.

Wake up, Marines!


  1. If the USMC (and by extension the USN) is out of the 'opposed amphibious assault business', then you are correct: The entire operating model for the USMC must be reviewed!

    Submitted by Tom Meyer on July 17 2014

    The USMC could find itself in a role similar to what it did in the 1920's & 1930's - fighting expeditionary campaigns - this time against islamic jihadist around the world with small USMC units deployed to individual countries.

    In addition, the USMC might find itself launching small raids into countries or uncontrolled regions (i.e. Somalia) using light, deployable forces (with no organic heavy armor or artillery) transported via helicopters or light SWCC-style craft (think CB-90's and CCBs).

    This then would lend itself to a wholesale re-evaluation of the specific amphibious warfare ship required. One could argue for the creation of modern APDs equipped with up to 4 troop carrying helicopters (plus armed UAVs) and 2-4 CB-90 sized 'landing craft' carried in davits (with no wet well deck required!).

    This new APD could carry a COLT and use it to conduct any raid or any operation within the littoral.

  2. To reference one of your earlier posts, is this because the USN wont come withing several hundred miles of the shore to provide cover ?

    Or is it at least built uppon a similar fear ?

    Are we really saying that the threat of shore launched anti Ship missles is THAT BAD even faced with our massive suites of AA defences we cant overcome it ?

    Maybe we are ? i dont know ? but makes you wonder how long a LCS was going to last if whole destroyers DESIGNED to combant this type of threat cant hack it ?

    I think we require a definition of "opposed". Traditionally you dont try a landing on an opposed beach until after some major naval bombardment, and we can do that so much better these days than once we did. ( in terms of fix and rotary wing bombardments )


    1. Ben, I'm not quite sure what you're asking in your first two questions. Try again?

      Yes, the Navy is flat out stating that the land launched missile threat is so bad that they won't approach within 50+ miles. Of course, the issue is that our ships have become so expensive and so few that we've become risk averse.

      How long was the LCS going to last? Not long!!

      My definition of "opposed", for what it's worth, is a landing against a peer/near peer who is willing to fight to prevent the landing. We actually have no bombardment capability (the Zumwalt notwithstanding) as we did in WWII. We do have Tomahawks but they are only good against known, fixed targets. Aviation could provide land attack but against a peer we won't have the air supremacy that will allow for an effective attack.

      Recall the Desert Storm SCUD hunts? Despite total air supremacy and hundreds of aircraft devoted exclusively to the task, we still couldn't prevent the SCUD launches (think modern day anti-ship cruise missiles, now). Thankfully, the SCUDs were completely inaccurate. The point is we couldn't prevent them and we won't prevent anti-ship cruise missile launches today.

      Bombardment is good for chewing up unprotected infantry (if they're that stupid) or destroying fixed targets like ports or airfields but it's not terribly effective at destroying mobile, hidden assets. Look at how ineffective the massive pre-invasion bombardments of the Pacific islands were in WWII. Kind of makes one want to rethink the whole preparatory phase of an invasion. Unfortunately, the Navy and Marines haven't devoted much serious thought to the needs and challenges of a modern day opposed landing.

    2. CNO,

      I think the "missile threat" is a cover - the real issue is that the Navy cannot deal with the mine threat once you cross the 100 fathom curve. In fairness, the Navy cannot deal with any mine threat, but the close, inshore mine threat is particularly serious.

      The Wonsan landings during the Korean war illustrate the problem, as have our multiple challenges in the Persian Gulf from the 1980s through the second gulf war.

      But mine sweepers are cheap, single purpose ships run by Lieutenants; while BMD cruisers are big, expensive, sexy ships commanded by Captains - which ship do you think the bureaucracy is inclined to support?



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