To paraphrase the old saying, don’t bring a knife to a knife fight.
This means don’t enter into a fight on equal terms. Enter the fight with an overwhelming advantage. Bring a 0.50 cal. machine gun to a knife fight.
Unfortunately, bringing a knife to a knife fight is exactly the path the Navy and Marines have embarked on (and the entire military in general). Let’s take a closer look.
The Navy is currently building a class of 40-52 LCS that have no useful combat capability and, at best, in the future, may have a few anti-ship missiles. That is the low end of the naval combat capability spectrum for that size vessel. The Navy is giving its opponents a more than equal chance.
The Navy is steadily shrinking the carrier air wing. From a Nimitz high of 90+ aircraft, the air wing has shrunk to around 65 and plans call for further reductions in squadron size as the F-35 enters service. That’s giving the enemy a sporting chance.
The Marine Corps is shedding tanks, artillery, and heavy equipment. At the time of Desert Storm, the Corps had three tank battalions, each with 70 M60A1 tanks and 72 armored M1045A2 Humvees mounting TOW anti-armor missiles (1). Since Desert Storm, tank platoons have been reduced in size from five tanks to four and entire tank companies have been eliminated. For example,
“Outlining the progression of decline in USMC tank inventories, Bodisch [Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Bodisch, 2nd Tank Battalion] remarked “overall since Desert Storm we had a 54% reduction in tanks and 88% for TOW anti-tank missile systems …” (1)
The situation is continuing to worsen.
“Next February, 2nd Tanks will likely deactivate another of its line companies, “this time Charlie Company, and it will happen about four months before I relinquish command of 2nd Tanks,” he added.
With the deactivation of half of 2nd Tank Battalion’s M1A1 inventory, the Marine Corps [will] be left with only one fully equipped active duty tank battalion, based at the
Palms, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center . “Only 1st
Tanks will have the full complement of 58 M1A1 tanks and 26 HMWWV mounted TOW
systems, 2nd Tank Battalion will have 30 M1A1 tanks and zero TOW systems,”
Bodisch lamented.” (1) California
The Marines are moving to a light infantry, low firepower force. That’s bringing a knife to a knife fight. You’re giving the other side a sporting chance. That’s not how to fight a war. The whole aim of our military is to make a fight so one-sided that no one wants to fight us. That’s deterrence!
By moving towards a light infantry force, we’re only encouraging our enemies to gear up in the belief that they can match us or exceed our capabilities. Not that long ago, no enemy believed they had a chance of matching us. Now,
, Russia , and, increasingly, China and NKorea believe they can match us. Iran believes they can pass us. Our willingness to merely bring a knife to
the knife fight is emboldening our enemies. China
Future wars against peer enemies will involve high end combat with heavy tanks, heavy armored vehicles, lots of artillery, etc. because that is what our potential enemies are developing on a daily basis. They are not developing motor scooters to flit around the battlefield, like we are.
After WWII, we knew how to wage high end combat. Since then, we’ve been bringing smaller and smaller weapons to the knife fight. We had a temporary resurgence in Desert Storm where we brought a machine gun to the knife fight but we’ve since forgotten that lesson. Now, we’ll be lucky to bring a Boy Scout pocket knife to the knife fight. We need to stop making the future fight an equal one and start making it a lopsided, forgone conclusion.
(1)Tactical Defense Media website, “Delta Company’s Deactivation: What Does the Future Hold for USMC Tank Battalions?”, Josh Cohen, date unknown,