Thursday, March 3, 2016

Operational Maneuver From The Sea

One of the serious problems with current military thought is that far too many concepts are being accepted with little rigorous examination to validate the ideas.  For example, "littoral" was accepted with no discussion - instead, discussion leaped straight to implementation.  Most recently, the third offset strategy has been christened with no rigorous analysis, simply a statement of faith that it will work.

With that in mind, let's take a look at Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) and attempt to analyze it.

Whatever the concept of Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) means to proponents today, it seems that it differs from the intent of the original concept both in theory and practice.  Let’s take a closer look at OMFTS.

The original document, authored by Gen. Krulak in 1996, is focused on a better method of conducting littoral warfare (1).  It is vital to understand that the document defines “littoral” as meaning both the water and the land as opposed to our use of littoral today which has come to mean the shallow waters near land.  OMFTS sees the land and water as one and the same – areas that are interchangeably used to conduct maneuvers aimed at a single operational objective.  This is a point of semantics, in a sense, but a key one to keep in mind when evaluating OMFTS.

The next key point to understand is that OMFTS is conceived as a means of forcible entry.  It is a method to conduct opposed landings and it is assumed that the landings will be opposed.  Too many people today believe that OMFTS is a magical means of conducting unopposed landings by going ashore where there is no enemy and the enemy has no reach.  OMFTS makes clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

“The heart of Operational Maneuver from the Sea is the maneuver of naval forces at the operational level, a bold bid for victory that aims at exploiting a significant enemy weakness in order to deal a decisive blow. Mere movement, which may lead to indecisive results or even be counterproductive, does not qualify as operational maneuver.  That is to say, operational maneuver should be directed against an enemy center of gravity—something that is essential to the enemy's ability to effectively continue the struggle.”

Thus, we see that OMFTS is directed at a significant enemy strength, a center of gravity.  By definition, that point will be heavily defended.  As the document states, merely landing forces at some far distant point just because it was safe to do so does not constitute OMFTS.  OMFTS must strike a significant target.  Of course, if forces can be landed away from enemy response and then move to the desired objective, that would be perfectly acceptable.  The problem with that is that by landing so far away the logistics tail will become enormous and vulnerable.  Further, the force will still have to fight its way to the significant objective in the face of steadily increasing enemy resistance and having given away any element of surprise by landing so far away.

Having set the stage for a description of OMFTS, the document then describes the single biggest assumption which provides the foundation for the entire concept:  OMFTS will succeed because the need for the traditional build up of a supply dump ashore will be bypassed.  This is not only the key to the concept but also its biggest weakness.

“For most of the 20th century, the usefulness of sea-based logistics was limited by the voracious appetite of modern landing forces for such items as fuel, large caliber ammunition, and aviation ordnance. As a result, the options available to landing forces were greatly reduced by the need to establish, protect, and make use of supply dumps.  Concerted efforts were delayed and opportunities for decisive action missed while the necessary supplies accumulated on shore.

In the near future, improvements in the precision of long-range weapons, greater reliance on sea-based fire support, and, quite possibly, a decrease in the fuel requirements of military land vehicles promise to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the need to establish supply facilities ashore. As a result, the logistics tail of landing forces will be smaller, ship-to-shore movement will take less time, and what were previously known as "subsequent operations ashore" will be able to start without the traditional "build up phase." In other words, landing forces will move directly from their ships to their objectives, whether those objectives are located on the shoreline or far inland.

The significant reduction of logistics infrastructure ashore will also facilitate the rapid re-embarkation of the landing force”

This is clearly the key to OMFTS – the ability to operate without shore based supply dumps.  The needed supplies are envisioned as flowing directly from the supply ships to the troops.

Of course, this is tantamount to stating that in the future we’ll eliminate the traffic congestion in cities by moving the commuters directly from their homes to their destinations without needing to use cars and roads.  The concept is good, the technology is non-existent.

How do we get the supplies directly from the ships to the troops?  The document offers no solution other than foreseeing an, apparently, hugely reduced requirement for supplies due to precision weapons, sea based fire support, and a decrease in fuel requirements of land vehicles.  This is both optimistic, bordering on fantasy, and ignorant.

The optimistic aspect is clear.  Not only have today’s land vehicles not reduced their need for fuel, the need has increased as vehicles have become larger and heavier.

The ignorant (I use the word in its clinical, not emotional, sense) aspect is that munitions make up only a small portion of the needed supplies.  Any reduction in the number of munitions due to precision guidance is swamped by the need for food, water, fuel, parts, etc.  The “dump” requirements aren’t going to be eliminated or even significantly reduced just because we need a few less munitions.  Also, the vast bulk of munitions is probably unguided bullets, bombs, and rockets.  The number of precision guided weapons employed by troops on the ground is limited.  While an argument can be made that aircraft have reduced their munitions requirement due to guided weapons, the same does not hold for ground troops.

Sea based fire support is another aspect that has proven problematic.  The Navy’s doctrine is to stand 50+ miles offshore – well beyond the range of any naval gun.  Further, the explosive effects of 5” guns are minimal even if the Navy were willing to stand inshore.  Finally, the number of 5” guns in the fleet is woefully inadequate for the task of fire support.  Consider the number of naval guns used in a WWII amphibious assault.  A single Fletcher class destroyer had almost as many guns as an entire modern amphibious assault force would have!

The net result of this ambitious concept is that the enemy will be stunned into inactivity.

“When combined with a command and control system oriented towards rapid decision-making at all levels of command, the additional speed and flexibility offered by these new techniques translates into a high tempo of operations. Vulnerabilities can be exploited before they are reduced, opportunities seized before  they vanish, and traps sprung before they are discovered. In short, we will be able to act so quickly that the enemy will not be able to react effectively until it is too late.”

Again, this is an example of the type of one-sided thinking that pervades military thought today.  Everything we do will work flawlessly and nothing the enemy does will have any effect on us.  With that assumption, every concept sounds good!

One final shortcoming in this concept is that it ignores the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of the enemy.  The assumption in the concept is that we will have complete freedom of maneuver throughout the littoral waters.  Admittedly, this is a document geared towards land combat and the author can be forgiven, to a slight degree, for leaving the naval and A2/AD issues to the Navy.  However, the author recognizes that the land and sea issues are linked as a fundamental pillar of OMFTS and yet fails to address it.

Today, OMFTS has morphed into some kind of aviation assault concept accepted as utterly valid by its proponents without any critical examination – examination which reveals foundational flaws!

OMFTS has some aspects that are worth further contemplation but the foundations of the concept are flawed.  The reduction in logistical supply necessary to realize the concept is unattainable, bordering on fantasy.  The ability to instantaneously transport those supplies that are needed directly into the laps of the ground troops is glossed over.  The shortcomings created by assuming away ground based fire support are hand wavingly reduced to a Navy issue that is not recognized for the problem it is.  The lack of acknowledgement of the enemy’s capabilities is stunning.

As a preliminary concept, all of these flaws are acceptable.  The concept can be exercised and shortcomings solved – or the concept can be found to be unrealistic and dropped.  The problem is that OMFTS has been seized by proponents as proven gospel despite the lack of any rigorous examination. 

The real danger from this is that implementation of the concept leads to an assault force that is woefully inadequate for the task if the concept proves flawed in practice.  Implementation will hamstring our proven (though currently badly lacking) assault capability for the promise of a fantasy operation.

(1)“Operational Maneuver From The Sea”, General Charles Krulak, Commandant of the Marine Corps,


  1. I'm more and more in the camp that amphibious assaults against heavily defended targets aren't feasible under our current technological environment.

    Suppose we wanted to invade even one of the 'islands' the Chinese are building in the East China Sea. Our forces would have to do it while constantly fighting anti ship missiles on shore, air assault from the Chinese, submarines...

    I just don't see a feasible solution.

    Now, a WWII style island hopping campaign might be more realistic, because the enemy is projecting power to the island as well as you. You have a better chance to isolate the opposing force and take some of those things out of the equation. But a D-Day or even Inchon type assault against a modern major power? I don't think its doable.

    1. Jim, you're looking at amphibious assault in isolation while overlooking the strategic necessity or lack thereof. Forget, for the moment, whether we do or don't have the ability. Where is there any reasonable strategic necessity for an assault (ignoring low end, peacetime, anti-terrorist kinds of stuff - just high end combat against a peer)?

      Iran? Possible given our potentially limited overland access.

      N.Korea? Highly unlikely given the unfettered overland access from S. Korea along a broad front. Just no need.

      Russia? That would be a purely land offensive from Europe. No need.

      China? Unless we're stupid enough to invade mainland China, they don't own any islands or land worth assaulting. The tiny artificial islands can be simply blown out of existence and do not offer any real strategic advantage to possess. They're important to China but not to us. So, no need.

      Invading a seized Taiwan is a theoretical possibility but highly unlikely. If China ever seizes Taiwan, it will be a fait accompli and we will not contest it.

      So, before you evaluate our capability, ask what our need is. I see little likely need for major amphibious assaults. Of course, that leads to the question, what purpose does the Marine Corp serve? That's a topic for another time.

      If there's no need for major amphib assaults then the capability, or lack thereof, is irrelevant. That being the case, you may be reasonaby asking why I spend so much blog post time examining the amphib assault capability. I do so because the Marines claim to have the capability. I examine all claimed capabilities.

    2. I'd agree that against a well armed opponent, it would be very difficult to pull off and likely impossible.

      The defender has quite a few advantages:
      - Mines
      - Shorter supply lines
      - Numbers
      - The ability to mount a massive counter attack

      Achieving a surprise attack too (which happened on DDay) will be much more difficult.

  2. Firstly, you are currently correct, and pretty much for the reasons you state, OMFTS was grabbed as a buzzword to justify already laid plans.
    Its abused form is wrong (which you critique masterfully), OMFTS itself is not such an easy beast to slay.

    I just want to get that out of the way

    "Of course, if forces can be landed away from enemy response and then move to the desired objective, that would be perfectly acceptable. The problem with that is that by landing so far away the logistics tail will become enormous and vulnerable."
    Land at safe beach, yep
    Move overland enemy fortress, yep
    Land supplies at safe beach, nope

    Why not?
    On the way to enemy fortress, clear tripwire forces and secure new beaches for supplies to be landed at.
    Supply lines remain ship, shore, forces throughout the campaign.

    Impossible for the US now, yeah probably, but not particularly difficult if a bit of work and procurement is put its way.

    "Further, the force will still have to fight its way to the significant objective in the face of steadily increasing enemy resistance and having given away any element of surprise by landing so far away."
    Historically the problem the US has faced has been getting the enemy to do something as suicidal as actually trying to stop the rampaging juggernaut that is the US Army.
    Redeploying 50miles under USAF/USNAF bombardment to engage a landed Army/Marine force that can run away or at you depending on whether they fancy their chances.

    Again, overstating todays capabilities, but not tomorrows possibilities.

    "OMFTS will succeed because the need for the traditional build up of a supply dump ashore will be bypassed. This is not only the key to the concept but also its biggest weakness."

    Right answer, wrong reason.
    A modern armoured BCT likely uses the same volume of stores as WW2 armoured division!
    Supply dumps were a function of fixed supply capabilities and flexible supply needs, if you could land x supplies per day, and needed 3x supplies per day of advance, you either advanced every third day, or ten days in every thirty.
    Thats still true of course, but Mulberry, that almost unimaginable feat of civil/military engineering, comes down to 190 STSC/LCAC trips per day.

    I'm pretty sure my maths is right on that, astounding as it is.
    Added to that, is modern communications, think less estimated supply tables, more amazon one click ordering.

    "Sea based fire support is another aspect that has proven problematic."
    True, but an identified and solvable weakness.

    "One final shortcoming in this concept is that it ignores the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of the enemy. The assumption in the concept is that we will have complete freedom of maneuver throughout the littoral waters"

    An issue to be solved first, AA/AD weapons are rare, the vast malority will be fired or destroyed in the opening day(s), the few remaining, acceptable risk/loss
    "Swarms" of small boats wont survive a few coastal sweeps.

    1. "On the way to enemy fortress, clear tripwire forces and secure new beaches for supplies to be landed at."

      No. If safe secure new beaches were available all the way to the ultimate objective, our forces would have simply landed there to begin with. On the other hand, if you're suggesting that we conduct new amphibious assaults to secure each new supply beach, we'd have to conduct several(?) fairly major assaults in addition to the major assault. Where would all these forces come from since we, arguably, don't have enough to conduct even one major assault?

      Finally, these "secure" beaches would represent major vulnerabilities. Enemies would hit those spots with cruise/ballistic missiles, artillery, etc. Again, we'd have to commit major forces to defending the supply beach every step of the way.

      Almost by definition, if the assault force has to land "x" miles away from the objective to find a "safe" landing point, there won't be any "safe" supply beach points along the route of advance to the ultimate objective.

    2. "... actually trying to stop the rampaging juggernaut that is the US Army."

      Wow! That is some seriously one-sided thinking. What about a rampaging Russian or Chinese force since, arguably, they currently have heavier armored forces and heavier artillery than we do.

      Today, it is not necessary to even be physically present to battle someone. An advancing US force can be met by a continual stream of artillery, cruise/ballistic missiles, and air attacks. It's tough to advance through non-stop bombardment.

      "Rampaging juggernaut"? That is some top notch optimism!

    3. "An issue to be solved first, AA/AD weapons are rare, the vast malority will be fired or destroyed in the opening day(s), the few remaining, acceptable risk/loss"

      We may not be considering the same kinds of A2/AD weapons. I'm thinking of dozens of diesel subs, hundreds of aircraft, hundreds of cruise/ballistic missiles, and many dozens of missile boats.

      Of course, the ultimate A2/AD weapon is the lowly mine. China is credited with 100,000+ mines. Iran and NK are also known to have tens of thousands. Against that, we have 11 Avenger MCM ships that are barely seaworthy, two dozen MH-53E helos that are at the end of their lives, and the promise of the miraculous LCS - all with clearance rates measured in dozens of mines per day. Mines, alone, are almost an unbeatable deterrent for us due to the atrophy of our MCM forces.

    4. Land at an empty (or lightest defended) beach
      Move over land and mount rear attack on enemy forces who are defending other beaches, secure beach and land supplies, move on.

      The point is that there simply aren't fixed supply dumps that can be hit by things like csrbm

      A beach that would be an utter nightmare to assault from the sea could be a walk in the park if assaulted from the land

    5. Overlord attacked the 'easy' beaches to allow the hard ports to be taken from the landward side...

    6. D-Day was not operational maneuver from the sea. In fact, it was the farthest thing from it! The whole point of seizing the beaches was to allow the creation of the largest supply dump ever seen and to create a logistics tail that support the subsequent maneuvers. OMFTS, on the other hand, supposes the elimination of supply dumps. Supplies go directly from the ship to the soldiers. The overall Normandy operation used maneuver, certainly, but not OMFTS - almost the exact opposite!

    7. well let's assume that we attack any of the islands. We now have another angle to worry about. The DF-21 actually covers most of the islands.

      Think about attack and within 60-120 minutes of making your presence known these missiles come raining down. I would guess targeting wouldn't have to be to precise at that point for the missile to scare the navy

      Our need to reevaluate our strategy is now more imperative

      Well we now have a good idea what those DF-21's are for. You can light then off without starting a nuclear war because of their limited range

    8. I forgot to add those missiles now limit our ability to maneuver in that theater of operations regardless of island hopping out not

    9. D day was not omfts, but d day was hampered by a lack of better logistical landing capabilities.
      It was however an attack on weakly defended beach to allow land attacks on harder beaches.

      Omfts bypasses the 1 in 3 advance rule (I picked arbitrary numbers) by tripling the volume of supplies landed per day (again, arbitrary)

      If you don't have the stsc/lcacs to land a divisions supply wants per day, and land the entire divisions teeth in a single drop, you aren't doing omfts, no matter how often you say it.

  3. From the Bible:

    "In addition, unarmed minesweepers are vulnerable if they try to clear lanes near shore without destroyer escorts and no one has explained why large unarmored LCACs (below) will not be sunk trying to shuttle material ashore from ships safely at sea. Another problem is moving fuel, which accounts for more than half the cargo needed ashore. In past invasions, hoses were run from ships just off the beach and fuel pumped to bladders ashore. Running a hose 20 miles offshore is impossible, but this problem is ignored. (The simple solution are Bunker Barges.) Finally, despite the communications revolution, marines ashore still rely on small radios with ranges too limited to reliably communicate with Navy ships "over-the-horizon."

    Several studies have proven over-the-horizon invasions impractical, including one from the Naval War College: "Logistical Implications of Operational Maneuver From the Sea," which concludes: "...the Navy and the Marine Corps need to keep the laws of logistics in mind if they are to distinguish campaign plans from fanciful wishes." An Amphibious Probe or Amphibious Demonstration can be launched from over-the-horizon elsewhere to confuse an enemy. Over-the-horizon landings can work for a small Amphibious Seizure, but will prove disastrous for an Amphibious Invasion.

    The objective in an Amphibious Invasion is to RAPIDLY seize a port for larger follow-on forces before the enemy can react to the surprise. This requires that mines be removed beforehand and coastal threats silenced quickly. Over-the-horizon operations are excellent for raids and useful for the initial landing of marines as part of an Amphibious Invasion to identify and destroy most coastal gun and missile batteries. However, once that has been accomplished ships must move close to shore to off-load the landing force quickly while warships instantly engage surprise threats with direct naval gunfire and provide indirect fire support for marines attacking inland.

    Navy surface combatants must approach the shore and FIGHT emerging threats. There is no guarantee that all mines have been removed or that all missile and gun batteries have been destroyed after the first wave of marines land from over-the-horizon and search for threats. In some cases, lightly armed marines are unable to destroy all coastal threats and destroyers must come to the rescue and engage enemy coastal weaponry directly. Small enemy boats or submarines may appear from nowhere to attack approaching ships. Before the vulnerable amphibious ships, fuel tankers, and cargo transports approach shore, the Navy must send escorts "in harm's way," just as they have done in every Amphibious Invasion, which last occurred in 1950."

  4. Use this ship and survive.
    The Shark Class submersible Destroyer is a hybrid Destroyer sub designed for complete independent operation, flexible multi-role duties and long term survivability. The ship will achieve these goals by using speed, stealth, armor, arms and the ability to operate underwater. No other ship existing or envisioned has the Sharks unique combination of stealth and firepower. With a length of 440 ft. and a beam of 78ft. she has a shallow draft of only 12 ft. The Vessel is a semi planning mono hull design using water jet propulsion from a mixture of power sources. Although she is a shallow draft vessel with heavy armor and should handle poorly in rough seas, she has a freeboard of 18ft more than the Arleigh Burke’s. As well, the Shark has the luxury of submerging and thus avoiding the inherent dangers of operating in heavy seas. All her weapons and electronics are stowed in retractable containers giving the Shark extremely clean and angular lines. She has two huge flight decks and a hanger big enough for two Blackhawks. The Sharks RORO deck can accommodate up to 200 men and their vehicles.
    The primary uses for this warship would be carrier group forward scout and interdiction, harassment and destruction of enemy ships and installations, and delivery, recovery and support both logistically and with firepower for up to a company size element of Special Operation troops anywhere there is 12 feet of water.

    1. You've mentioned this thing several times and I've found no information on it. Do you have a reference or is this something you've made up on your own (nothing wrong with that!)? Frankly, it sounds a bit magical. Huge flight decks and hangars, lots of guns, big magazines, retractable weapons, RORO, berthing for 200 soldiers and vehicles, etc., all in 440 ft and 12 of draft. It doesn't sound like it would even be possible to fit all that in the available volume. Have you or anyone sized all this out?

      You need to either provide a reference of some sort or stop bringing it up.

    2. Sir,This vessel has been fitted out.First by myself the inventor and then by Navy folks at SOCOM, my home. The ship carries less guns than the fletcher, half the missiles of the Burke. so there is your rorodeck. See Fincantari fast ferry RORO it was the basis for the monohull LCS it is a RORO ferry. 380 ft 10 ft of draught. Hell you haven't even seen a sketch and you poopoo. You are so full of hate for the current system, rightfully so, you are unable to allow your mind to imagine something better even though you know and have stated ad nauseum what we need. A tip of the hat to you, as I used this blog and the suggestions you have put forth to assist me in design. I will gladly send you the white paper but you have no contact info.
      I will publish more info on this ship and you can delete it if you want it's you blog.
      Who do you think suggested using Hellfire missiles on the LCS? It was me 3years with My Apache in a box invention posted here a few days ago. My grandfather was commander of the USS Hoel just before taffy 3. I grew up reading Proceedings and surrounded by polished 5" brass shell casings. So if you want to see the future and not just whine about the past you'll let me post.
      LTC RET Ken Cook USA

    3. More shark class. It should be noted that this ship is compiled of known and successful platforms, weapons, systems, and components modified to work in concert and present a warship that is easy to produce, extremely versatile, very tough and yet menacingly effective.
      On the surface, she is amazingly fast and agile. Her hull design and propulsion are based on the famous Fincantari jet ferry’s semi planning monohull. Her quad water jets are fired by both diesel and electric power plants which combined offer speeds up to 40KTS. This gives the ship a wide range of options in the fields of speed, distance and stealth. The Sharks diesel electric front jet thrusters allow the ship crazy maneuverability including the ability to move in reverse rapidly. Her electric motors can run entirely on batteries and the ship has both rollout solar panel arrays and a half megawatt wind turbine to replenish the batteries as well as the traditional diesel and steam turbine generators.
      The main reason this warship is submersible is for stealth. The best way to reduce a radar signature is to have no signature at all. This vessel is completely submerged in seventy feet of water and can operate as a ship in as little as 12 feet of water. There are two main levels of semi submergence. At level 1, only the fighting deck at the top of the superstructure is exposed resulting in an above the water signature of only 110ft. in length by 10ft. in height by 40ft. wide. All weapons systems, including missiles, with the exception of three of the main guns are available at level 1. Level 2 exposes another 25ft. of the Shark and is the level three of her main guns, the 2, 5inch guns and the second 76mm gun are emplaced. Level 2 exposes 125ft. in length and 35ft. in height with 80 percent of the ship still underwater with full operational capabilities.

    4. The submersible ship hybrid is not a new concept. It was well on it's way at the end of WW2. I used this blog to research the past failures and successes of this concept.
      Not only is it doable but it has been done.
      This guys blog has more pictures than yours does
      perhaps you should add more pictures for simple folk like me.
      Com nav ops please read this history of the concept.
      thanks LTC Ken Cook

    5. Ken, reply with your email address and I'll immediately delete it so it's not public and then I'll contact you.

  5. Ok, there are two different arguments here that need to be split.
    OMFTS isnt possible
    OMFTS isnt possible for the US as currently constituted

    The second, I can agree with, but the first is a lot more open, its like saying armoured warfare is impossible because tanks dont exist, ignoring that they can be (and were) invented and mass produced.

    Can a significant force be quickly landed on an undefended or lightly beach. Yes, quite easily.
    Can the US do so today, no, probably not, but an Armoured BCT has roughly 200 armoured vehicles, included armoured engineering, maybe a bit of armoured comms and counter battery and the like.
    Landing that is an impossible task if you have 10 LCACS. Even at 50miles, its an hour is you have 100+ LCACS
    The same goes for supplying them quickly over the beach.
    If you have 10 LCACS, 4 trips per day gets you 2,000t of supplies per day, meaning a slow supply build up.
    If you have 100 LCACS, 4 trips per day gets you 20,000t of supplies per day, far more than a BCT is going to be capable of using.

    If you have 100+ LCACS, OMFTS suddenly looks quite easy, *on the landing/supply front*

    The next problem, is resistance.
    I frequently defend the air deployed CoLT concept on the idea that, if it can be inserted before the enemy, and it is inserted with a healthy supply of ATGMs and artillery, it can wipe out my theoretical LCAC mounted ABCT as it is trying to land.
    But once the ABCT lands, a small trip wire force can do nothing but run or die, 100 light infantry against 3500 armoured infantry ends only one way.

    Run head on, die horribly, land 5km away, win.

    So, now we have landed on beach 0, and attacked and secured beach 1.
    Our theoretical force have the logistical transfer capability to leave beach 0 and never ever return, resupply and a whole extra BCT can roll up on beach 1 in an afternoon now its safe.

    And you can repeat this, 100miles up the coast if necessary, 1000miles, 10,000 miles.
    Or at least, theres nothing wrong with OMFTS that stops you, if you dont have the ground forces or the whatever to back it up, it doesnt invalidate the concept.

    ""... actually trying to stop the rampaging juggernaut that is the US Army."

    Wow! That is some seriously one-sided thinking. What about a rampaging Russian or Chinese force since, arguably, they currently have heavier armored forces and heavier artillery than we do."
    Possibly true, but rectifiable, and a critique of any land warfare against those powers, rather than just OMFTS, or the bastardised buzzword variant currently practiced.

    "We may not be considering the same kinds of A2/AD weapons. I'm thinking of dozens of diesel subs, hundreds of aircraft, hundreds of cruise/ballistic missiles, and many dozens of missile boats."
    Diesel subs are a pause at best, get them in place, wait, and either surface to recharge your batteries and be blown up, or go home. Aircraft need to be engaged and destroyed no matter the concept, ballistic missiles are either utterly useless, a 600m CEP isnt going to worry many, or so fanastically expensive they are available in very small numbers and will be expended or hunted down quickly (see Yemen, the Saudis tagged 55 of 60 in the first couple of hours)

    Anyway, tea time

    1. You are most definitely not describing OMFTS. You're describing a completely different kind of operation. If you read the source OMFTS document, you see that OMFTS is, specifically, all about operating without any beach or supply point. Supplies will be delivered straight from the ships to the soldiers at the front line. Beaches don't exist in OMFTS other than to fly over. What you're suggesting is not OMFTS and not, therefore, the point of the post.

      That said, feel free to propose an alternate methodology, as you're doing. It does, however, have issues, as I've outlined.

    2. "ballistic missiles are either utterly useless, a 600m CEP isnt going to worry many"

      The Chinese DF-21C is credited with a 50-100m CEP and the DF-21 has terminal guidance radar and optical sensors and is designed to hit a carrier. That should be more than enough accuracy to hit a fixed location like a beach.

    3. "surface to recharge your batteries and be blown up, or go home."

      Wow! Diesel subs will be found and destroyed the very first time they stick their nose up, with 100% certainty? Every exercise report I've read suggests that they are very, very hard to find and kill. Your assessment of our ASW effectiveness is on the extreme end of optimistic!

    4. "OMFTS isnt possible
      OMFTS isnt possible for the US as currently constituted"

      My post is about OMFTS as theorized and as "practiced" today. As you seem to agree, it's not possible.

      Regarding future capability, sure, anything is theoretically possible, I guess, and I'll address it when it happens.

    5. TrT, just a general question for you ...

      OMFTS presupposes a purely aviation based assault (well, resupply - I guess the initial assault wouldn't have to be aviation based) which rules out the use of tanks and other equipment too heavy to be air-transported by anything the Marines have. That would seem to limit the assault force to light/mobile infantry. Given that an attack on an enemy's center of gravity, as required in the OMFTS doctrine, would be heavily defended by, presumably, heavy armor and artillery, do you see a bit of a built in self-limitation in the OMFTS concept?

    6. If OMFTS has become an aviation only since I last swotted up on it (or its precurser), then it has jumped the shark in to lunacy.

      My defence is entirely based on the ability to rapidly land large quantities of heavy equipment, and continue to land large quantities of supplies.

      I wouldnt say air assault only is impossible, heavy lift helicopters could drop in towed artillery, big pieces, and some sort of guided missile based tank destroyer, but, bugger, you'd need a huge number of them, well beyond whats practicable.

  6. To be fair to General Krulak, if the Navy had actually built the MPF(F)and DDX (30+!) ships it was projecting in 1996, the concept would have been much more feasible. The MPF(F) was supposed to have dedicated Logistics LHAs, dedicated to supplying heavy lift helos and LCACs.

    1. More feasible, perhaps, but nowhere near actually feasible. As I read it, OMFTS completely bypasses the use of a beach for resupply in favor of, presumably, aviation based resupply. It is just not possible to lift the required supplies with the aviation resources available to an assault force. To even come close would require a series of unrealistic assumptions like short round trips, no aircraft attrition due to combat or maintenance issues, instantaneous loading and unloading of aircraft, etc.

  7. Instead all they built were the MLPs and 3 Zumwalt-class destroyers.

  8. "Seabasing became a hot topic this past decade. It is portrayed as a revolutionary idea that allows a light logistical "footprint" by employing just-in-time logistical support. The idea is that an amphibious or expeditionary force need not establish huge stocks of supplies ashore if it can draw whatever it needs from well-organized ships offshore. This is an attractive idea because it eliminates the need to establish stockpiles and fuel farms ashore, facilities for their workers, and security for all.

    This seems brilliant, so why didn't the experts of previous wars discover seabasing? First, sealift is finite and armies usually have many times more tonnage to move than sealift. Therefore, they "stage" near an objective area, then use their limited sealift to shuttle these resources after a surprise landing. If ships must linger offshore to provide seabased support, they are unavailable to shuttle supplies from staging areas. Second, a seaborne landing quickly attracts the attention of enemy commanders who vector their ships, attack boats, missiles, submarines, commandos, and attack aircraft toward that area. It is much safer for a ship to off-load cargo and depart rather than loiter offshore like a duck in a shooting gallery. Moreover, supplies ashore cannot be sunk by a single torpedo or missile. Since many ships are filled with explosive fuel and ammo, ship captains are likely to run at the first sign of an enemy threat.

    Third, while rapidly moving supplies from ships to shore on demand seems simple, the "fog of war" may intervene. Bad weather or over-the-horizon communications may leave troops stranded ashore without food and ammo. Ships, helicopters, and landing craft break down while naval forces are often distracted by other naval priorities. Even an unsophisticated enemy can fire a modern homing torpedo from a fishing boat and sink a big ship, causing the Navy commander to order all ships to leave an area. During World War II, warships from the Japanese Navy approached Guadalcanal where US Marines had landed several days before. The US Navy decided to run than fight, taking along cargo ships that were unloading supplies to Marines ashore. The Marines survived on the supplies that had been off-loaded, yet they would call today's seabasing idea insane."


  9. A comprehensive deconstruction of OMFTS, CNO. The trend of not actually testing concepts before acceptance and fielding of the forces can't lead anywhere good.

    And it is such a contrast to what worked so well, before (in the 30's, for example).

    It seems to me there would be only two ways to make OMFTS work:
    1. Increase the lift capacity by the factor of 10, 50, or 100 - whatever is required to get the supplies to the units ashore while allowing for attrition, etc. Of course, who will fund 1000 CH-53X? Or 500 LCAC-Rs? What about downstream? How many LHA/LHD/MLPs? Totally impractical.

    2. Develop ground vehicles and units with massively reduced logistical requirements. Partially, by relying on offboard sensors and active protection systems rather than heavy armour, and precision NLOS munitions rather than direct-fire or unguided indirect fire. UGVs would play a part also. But we're not there yet.

    Countering the A2/AD threat is a whole other problem. But when people blithely speak about 'destroying' the ASCM/LACM/BASM/CRBM-IRBM/SAM shooters within the first hours and days, they are ignoring pretty much every military campaign.

    Two brief examples: Desert Storm; and Allied Force.

    In 1991, with total air superiority and something like 30% of sorties out SCUD-hunting, virtually no kills on SCUD TELs were achieved - despite it being mostly featureless desert.

    In 1999, most of the 'kills' achieved against anything that wasn't a building, were actually against decoys.

    One could also use the current farce in Yemen as an example. Total overmatch in the skies yet BMs keep getting fired.

    1. Very nice comment, especially your point about overly optimistic A2/AD counters. A more recent example would be the latest Israeli offenseive being totally unable to suppress Hamas missile attacks despite complete air superiority and overwhelming ground presence.

    2. "Increase the lift capacity by the factor of 10, 50, or 100 - whatever is required to get the supplies to the units ashore while allowing for attrition..."

      The other ignored aspect of aviation transport is the issue of how to get tanks and heavy equipment ashore to an inland location. The Marines have no aircraft capable of that kind of lift. That requires that the assault force be little more than mobile infantry which, given OMFTS' stated purpose of assaulting enemy centers of gravity, presumably heavily defended with armor and artillery, will be hugely overmatched.

      The only way to get armor ashore is over the beach which basically negates OMFTS.

    3. Ever hear of the USS Alchiba...?

      Thats your your OMFTS put to the test.

      Sure is a shame its a forgotten lesson on so many levels:

    4. sid, I read the link but I'm missing the point you're making. Care to elaborate?

    5. Major point is that OMFTS demands a cordon sanitaire, or your enemy is going to disrupt the flow of materials ashore...Much as you see in that pic off Guadalcanal.

      Yet, the USN is building the infrastructure with civilian manned ships as if this can all happen like a variation of benign intermodal transfer.

      At least the Alchiba was a USN ship and the crew carried out a robust DC effort, which allowed most of her load to make it to the Marines ashore, and also save the ship.

      Thats not gonna happen on the civil manned, ABS standard civil hulls OMFTS is being built around.

    6. Ah, I got it, now. Thanks.

      On a related note, civilian manned vessels are not allowed to be in combat. Thus, the JHSV, for example, can't be in frontline combat ops. Of course, that can be changed with the stroke of a pen.

    7. "It seems to me there would be only two ways to make OMFTS work:
      1. Increase the lift capacity by the factor of 10, 50, or 100 - whatever is required to get the supplies to the units ashore while allowing for attrition, etc. Of course, who will fund 1000 CH-53X? Or 500 LCAC-Rs? What about downstream? How many LHA/LHD/MLPs? Totally impractical."

      Not really impractical, it would require the US Army to become a lot more, focused, on getting there as well as kicking ass when it does, but, "over, we're going over, and we have the bloody ships to get us over and back when its over over there", has a terrible ring to it, but is certainly doable.

      As to countering A2AD
      Its not 1991 anymore, back then, the preferred method for TEL hunting was nuclear tipped SRAMs carried on B52s, B2s and B1s, TEL launchers, radar detects launcher, Bomber nukes site.
      1999 saw limited effective destruction of enemy assets, but near total suppression thereof, and was fought under fairly tight ROE. Had there been ground forces to flush them out of cover, hiding wouldnt have been half as safe.

      The Saudis managed to knock out 83% of Yemens TELS and missiles on the ground in the opening hours, not the hardest of targets, but not the most competent of hunters either.

  10. Perhaps the best way forward is to admit it isn't happening and spend money on productive areas.

  11. I've just skim read the most up to date literature and I'm not seeing "exclusively air" anywhere.

    To me

    "In other words, landing forces will move
    directly from their ships to their objectives, whether those
    objectives are located on the shoreline or far inland."

    Doesnt say "Teleporters" or "Air Assault", it simply says, forces will land and go straight on to the offence.
    They wont require 12 hours to land all of their combat and three days to land their logistics tail.
    They'll land in fighting order and they'll land and move logistics faster than they can be expended.

    If I can land a full BCT in a single drop, with fuel tanks and magazines full, along with the refuels and reloads on my logistics trucks, I can roll 100miles inland, "blow **** up", refuel/rearm, hit a second target or, run away.

    "The significant reduction of logistics infrastructure ashore
    will also facilitate the rapid re-embarkation of the landing
    force. This will enable the landing force to avoid combat
    offered on unfavorable terms,"

    There are a few concepts that need to be looked at it on practical terms.

    The sea as a conduit for us and a barrier for them.
    An ARG preparing to land and attack one city can redeploy and attack another 500miles away in less than a day.
    This forces the enemy to disperse there forces.

    In 1991, Sadams forces were equally split between the North and South, with reserves in the centre, because he wasnt sure if the US was going to invade from Saudi or Turkey, nothing amphibious there, but it illustrates the point.

    Centre of Gravity isnt literal. Its rarely the enemy Capital, Imperial Germany lost the first world war when a tiny battle in Serbia knocked Bulgaria out.

    China isnt going to mass 50million men in Beijing, and ignore US forces raping, murdering, looting and burning their way through shanghai, not if the Politburo wants to remain in power outside Beijing, or indeed, not be executed by soldiers they conscripted from Shanghai.
    Nations have lots of centres of gravity, or at least lots of potential ones. They need to protect them all, you only need to crack one.

    I'll try and come back and finish this, its tea time again.

    1. No, OMFTS does not expressly call for aviation only movement. However, as a practical matter, that's the only way to meet the OMFTS requirments. While the initial landing could be over the beach, all subsequent resupply would drop directly at the feet of the soldiers rather than pass through a beach supply dump. OMFTS doesn't even make allowance for a drawn out logistics tail that lands on the beach and moves directly to the front, which is what I think you're suggesting.

      I think you're still confusing or conflating maneuver and OMFTS. Your example of Desert Storm is an example of maneuver (or the threat thereof) but not OMFTS. OMFTS is explicitly about an alternate method of handling logistics and sustainment.

      Center of Gravity is literal. OMFTS explicitly calls for attacks on the enemy centers of gravity. There is nothing that limits a center of gravity to the enemy's capital and, often, it isn't and, always, there are multiple centers. They may be a key factory, an HQ, a strategic location, a capability, or whatever is critical to the enemy's war effort. Almost by definition, a center of gravity will be well defended - that's why it's a center of gravity!

      I get the impression that you think I've argued against maneuver and I have not. I've critiqued the OMFTS concept and found it wanting. Nothing more and nothing less.

      As you continue to discuss, keep the concept of OMFTS firmly in mind - it's all about the logistical approach to sustaining an assault. It's not about the landing itself.

      On top of all of this is the stark reality that we can't physically do it. We can't land complete assault units in short periods of time and certainly not inland. I could go on a list all of the things we can't do but you know the list as well as I do.

    2. "OMFTS doesn't even make allowance for a drawn out logistics tail that lands on the beach and moves directly to the front, which is what I think you're suggesting."
      That is exactly what I'm suggesting, fleet of LCACs ferry logistics trucks from ship, which acts as supply dump, to beach, whereupon they drive to the forces who require resupply.

    3. That may or may not be a viable approach (I don't think it is) but it is most certainly not OMFTS!

    4. Have another read, keeping my interpretation in mind, that is, enough fast heavy weight connectors to land the Brigade in a single drop, with the option for multiple ARGs to drop multiple Brigades

      I accept thats not the path being followed, but I believe that was the original point.

    5. The problem is that would take basically every LCAC in the navy inventory and even then the navy has no way to transport that many LCACs to the theatre. They just don't have enough ships that can carry and deploy them.

    6. Anony
      Omfts answers the question of how to make modern amphib assaults work

      It doesn't answer how to invade china with a corvette and the deadwood sowing society.

      If you want to land ground power against a capable enemy today, you need a lot of landers and ships to carry them, or a better plan than my interpretation of omfts.

  12. CNO,

    OMFTS was and is a brilliant concept, but like most concepts it assumes certain assumptions, and several key requirements have proven impractical to date.

    Foremost amongst the assumptions/requirements of OMFTS that are problematic are:
    1. The elimination of logistics depots ashore (a version of just in time delivery) while supporting troops at the maximum combat radius of the V-22 (e.g. over 100nm ashore). Nothing in OMFTS addresses bulk fuel handling and other nasty limitations of physics.

    2. Placing a great deal of emphasis on sea based fires (NGFS whatever, also at ranges exceeding 100 nm ashore) – note that artillery is a massive consumer of logistics capacity, but also the greatest producer of casualties. Also note that even hypersonic weapons will not overcome the laws of physics and produce artillery flight times the meet current standards (two (2) minutes from request, to rounds impacting).

    3. Not spelled out but of great concern is the massive expansion in the size and weight of the ground vehicle fleet (an MTVR has a GVW exceeding 28 metric tons!!!) over the years.

    CNO has also noted several more fundamental trends in A2/AD and ground warfare: what does light infantry do when inserted some distance away from a target when the enemy has superior armored forces, how vulnerable are the communication requirements?

    I would also raise concerns looking at the increasing demand for intensive artillery preparation and counter battery fires (compare the Russian and Israeli usage of artillery, particularly the Ukraine).

    Finally, I note that the impact of OMFTS within the Corps has been limited – it is a great tool the marines use to beat up on the Navy, but logisticians in the USMC have not fundamentally altered their operations since OMFTS was signed. It looks like they read it, found to be in denial of the physical world, and went back to doing the job like they always have!



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