As I anticipated, no one offered a concrete, specific, foreseeable need for an amphibious assault. All the comments were, again as anticipated, a call for continued Marine Corps amphibious capability based on vague, theoretical features of amphibious assaults such as threatening an enemy’s coastline.
I’d like to address some themes from the post and comments.
First, the common comment response was that the mere threat of amphibious assaults will tie up huge amounts of enemy troops and attention. This is a theoretical feature only. As I described in the post, it presents no real threat because there is no real possibility of an assault. Sure, we could somehow circle to the far northern coastline of the Russian tundra and conduct an amphibious assault but it would accomplish nothing. We’d have no means of resupply. There are no worthwhile targets in the area (center of gravity). Winter weather (always just a few weeks away there!) would destroy any forces left after their initial supplies ran out. It’s a theoretical threat but not a credible one. And so on for the other cases.
Second, the enemies we’re facing each have hundreds of thousands of mines. We have two dozen mine clearing helos and a handful of barely functional Avenger MCM ships to counter the threat. We simply do not have the capability to conduct opposed amphibious assaults when mines are involved. This is why the Desert Storm amphibious “feint” was never a real threat. The presence of mines precluded the possibility of an actual assault (recall the mining of USS Princeton and USS Tripoli?) –
’s Hussein was just too militarily
incompetent to realize this. Iraq
Third, most readers incorrectly took the post to mean that I was calling for elimination of the Marine Corps. In actuality, I called for a reduction, not elimination, down to 6 big deck amphibious ships with the ability to embark two MEUs. I also called for port seizure as a core Marine capability. I haven’t gamed that one out so I don’t know what force size/structure would be needed.
As an astute Anonymous commenter pointed out,
“Remember that the
required over two
years to mobilize and deploy forces to invade USA in 1944.” Normandy
Retention of 6 big deck amphibious ships and two MEUs (plus whatever additional port seizure force is needed) retains a core of amphibious capability that can be reconstituted in war if we suddenly find an unanticipated need for an amphibious landing.
My post proposal was not a call for elimination of the Marine Corps and amphibious capability but a reduction based on the foreseeable operational needs. It makes no sense to maintain a fleet of 30+ big deck amphibious ships and a 180,000 man Marine Corps when there are no foreseeable needs for significant amphibious assaults.
If no other country in the world possessed airplanes, we wouldn’t maintain a fleet of fighters, would we? We’d maintain a fleet of bombers but there would be no need for fighters.
Similarly, if no other country in the world possessed anti-ship missiles, we wouldn’t continue to build AAW focused, multi-billion dollar ships with Aegis/Standard, would we? We would be smart to continue to develop AAW capability in R&D programs, against future need, but we wouldn’t continue to buy unneeded capabilities.
This is no different. There is no reasonable, foreseeable need for major amphibious assaults so why buy the ships and maintain the force? Besides, it’s not like we haven’t abandoned the amphibious mission before, and recently, at that. For the last couple of decades the Marines have been exclusively focused on land based operations, albeit unwisely. We lost our amphibious capability. We’ve been slowly attempting to “rediscover” our amphibious capabilities.
The final piece of the puzzle is the fact that we can’t actually conduct an amphibious assault from 25-50 nm standoff distance as our doctrine calls for! So, we have no reasonable, foreseeable need combined with an inability to execute an amphibious assault even if there were a need. Does that sound like justification to maintain a fleet of 30+ big deck ships and a 180,000 man Corps?
In short, there is no compelling reason to maintain the Marine Corps and amphibious navy at their current sizes. This could change over time as needs and/or capabilities evolve but, for the present and foreseeable future, we need to drastically downsize. We also need to carefully examine the need for port seizure and how to accomplish it.