Friday, October 20, 2017

Land To Enable Landings ????

I keep hearing the Marines talk about landings to enable landings – that the Marines recognize that an assault can’t be successfully conducted unless Marines first land and secure the area, both sea and land, around the intended landing site.  I continue to be amazed by the fact that no one seems to recognize the Catch-22 nature of that concept.  You can’t land until you’ve landed and secured a landing area????  If you can’t land successfully, how do you land to secure a landing area?

Well, you can rule out a conventional assault, as evidenced by Commandant Neller’s comment, as reported in a USNI News website article:

“…Neller said the Marine Corps wouldn’t launch an amphibious assault with lines of Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs) swimming ashore …” (1)

That immediately begs the question, why are we pursuing replacement AAVs and ACVs?  But, I digress …

Okay ……..  So how are Marines going to land to secure a landing area?  Maybe this is where the aviation (read MV-22) component of the Corps comes in?  But, MV-22s and sufficient manpower to secure an operating area can only come from big deck amphibious ships which the concept says can’t successfully operate in an enemy area until the area has been secured – Catch-22 again.

Somehow, in some magical, undefined way, the Marines will land in sufficient force to secure land and sea control over a large enough are to enable the actual landing. 

“…focus on securing an advance land base that can then allow ground units to establish sea control …” (1)

One more point of logic – if you’ve managed, in some magic way, to secure the land and establish sea control, why do you need a subsequent landing?

I further note that while the very concept assumes the Navy is not capable of establishing sea control, the Marines will, somehow, land a (presumably small?) force and establish sea control from the land!  If small forces of infantry can establish sea control, why do we need a Navy?

This concept, landing to enable a landing, may work at the very low end of the warfare spectrum but I can’t see it working in a peer war.  Of course, at the very low end of the warfare spectrum, we probably already have sea control and don’t need to execute this concept!

I’m also dismayed by the apparent ignorance of amphibious operations being displayed by Marine leadership.  Consider this statement from Neller.

“…we have operated amphibious ships by themselves as opposed to part of the fleet. This Bold Alligator, I think the last one had a carrier strike group …” (1)

A carrier supporting an amphibious operation seems to be an entirely novel concept to Marine leadership (just as escorts were new to the Navy) and yet this was how amphibious operations have always been conducted.  This is not new.  I also don’t think Neller grasps how a carrier operates – to be fair, I don’t think the Navy grasps how a carrier operates, either!  Carriers don’t sail with amphibious groups – they sail in support of amphibious groups but operate well away from the group.  A rudimentary study of WWII amphibious operations makes that clear.

If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.  I keep hearing this landing to enable landings being repeated and no one is questioning it.  Well, that’s why this blog exists – to examine, analyze, and question.  Right now, I have major questions and reservations about this concept.


(1)USNI News website, “Neller: Marines Must Prepare to ‘Fight to Get to the Fight’ In High-End Littoral Warfare”, Megan Eckstein, 21-Sep-2017,


  1. Gen. Neller must be speaking to the North Koreans,
    trying to confuse them to our intentions.
    He has succeed magnificently, I have no idea what he
    is talking about. Side note, the Marines do understand carriers, they got the Navy to buy LHA-1.
    Bobs Baradur.

  2. That is a catch-22. The fundamental truth left out is: THE ENEMY ALWAYS HAS A VOTE. Maybe all officers should be required to play chess. Seriously, playing chess teaches some important lessons on strategy. You can lay out fantastic plans but your opponent is not just going to let you execute it unopposed. There is also learning how to coordinate a mix of assets with different capabilities.

    Sorry to get off on that tangent, but if you can't land a large unit, why would the enemy allow you to land a small unit???


    1. You're correct about the enemy getting a vote but this concept doesn't even require the enemy to invalidate the concept. The basic concept is just circular logic: we can't land until we land.

      The enemy doesn't need to screw that up, we've done it ourselves before we even begin. This is just the Marines trying desperately to shove their way in to every operation and justify more budget. The fact that the justification is idiotic is not really relevant to them as long as they can claim more budget because of it.

  3. Anon
    Interdicting 30 bulk lifters and 300+ landers is pretty easy

    What do you do against 5 men in a rubber dingy or even just diving gear who come off a sub?

    Or a stealth helicopter dropping a team off during a bombing raid when radars will either be off or busy.

    1. "What do you do against 5 men in a rubber dingy or even just diving gear who come off a sub?"

      You're correct that you can't prevent a scenario like that but what can five men do? They can't establish land control over the desired landing area and, at the same time, sea control over the surrounding ocean. If five men could do all that against a peer army, then we don't need a 180,000 man Marine Corps, do we? About 15 men would suffice to win any war!

    2. "Interdicting 30 bulk lifters and 300+ landers is pretty easy"

      Huh???? It was rarely, if ever accomplished in WWII. I'd say it's actually a pretty difficult task!

  4. Marine officers only know COIN and beating up Third Worlders. Most haven't a clue on how an opposed landing is done since the last major one was in 1950. Neller is right that AAVs aren't the answer since modern tanks dug in ashore and ATGMs will chew them up from 2000 meters offshore until none are left. And the new amphibs are all too big and too expensive to come near shore. Aerial assault is madness!

    The future can be found in the past. LSTs are small enough and cheap enough to risk near shore, yet big enough to shrug off shore fire until they beach themselves, as this article explains:

    1. I agree with the LSTs. Ship to shore connectors are the weak link, so don't bother with them. Run the big steel box up on the beach, drop the ramp, and come out fighting (bring the tanks). Aerial assault has its time and place, but there are large army units with lots of training and resources dedicated to that mission. I think the marine corps is facing an identity crisis; what mission can it uniquely perform that another branch can't or won't do. Proper amphibious operations with LSTs and LSMs could be that mission but only if the navy were willing to get into the fight.


    2. I am firmly pro-LST. HOWEVER, they are not the answer to conducting the initial assault. LST's are the follow on solution. As best I can recall, LST's were never used in the initial assault wave of a WWII amphibious assault. They are simply not survivable. Even a single small anti-ship cruise missile, like the ubiquitous C-80x, would sink or stop an LST - and that's a LOT of supplies and people to lose.

      We still need a way to get heavy firepower ashore in the initial assault wave.

    3. First assault should be bombardment. Big guns.


    4. 1. The last USN class of LSTs were too big, look at the graph in the G2mil link above. The smaller WWII LSTs were cheaper and smaller targets. We could probably buy them for $200 million each if they keep off the bells and whistles and don't insist on a 20 knot speed.

      2. They can carry pontoons like in WWII alongside for added protection.

      3. Without missiles, bombs, or aviation fuel, secondary explosions from hits are unlikely.

      4. And they are heading full steam to beach themselves. They only have to stay afloat until then. Look at the photo of the USS Westy with two huge holes from a mine in Vietnam and still beached itself. Yes a couple might be sunk and a dozen damaged and stuck on the beach, but this WW III.

      5. They were used during the assault phase in WWII, and shore fire did little damage. The only ones heavily damaged were full of fuel drums that caught fire. Most of those lost were via sub attacks during transit. Here is the detailed list.

    5. "They were used during the assault phase"

      I repeat, to the best of my recollection, very few, if any, were used in the initial assault wave. Possibly some may have been used in North African assaults which were not expected to be heavily defended? None were ever used for initial assault in the Pacific, I don't believe.

      "shore fire did little damage."

      This a factually true statement that is utterly meaningless. First, the reason that shore fire did so little damage is because LST's were not used in initial assault waves. By the time LSTs were landed, there was no shore fire left. Second, in WWII, massive pre-assault bombardments were employed specifically to eliminate and suppress shore fire. We no longer have the capability to apply massive, heavy bombardments. Thus, any landing craft will have to face almost unhindered enemy shore fire - totally different than WWII.

    6. I agree that shore bombardment is needed, and we have nothing. LSTs can carry 5-inch guns, as some did in the 1950s. If you beach an LST that really helps with its limited 13 mile range. Many LSTs were converted to rocket ships for shore bombardment, and a new class should have a few of these.

      That link above provides details of their employment under hostile shore fire. One LST took a dozen hits from German 88mm fire in Italy, yet discharged its tanks and vehicles and withdrew for repairs.

      You are correct that LSTs were not used much in the Pacific. They were a new type of ship that appeared in numbers only in 1943 and were considered extremely valuable, so nearly all went to the main effort, Europe!

      As that link notes, they are difficult to sink as their frame is built very strong to survive beaching, and the powerful water pumps used to ballast an LST for seagoing and raise it for landing also provide a great damage control capability.

  5. It's bigger than just another "Catch'a 22", CNOPs. For a couple decades now the USMC only strategizes for an entire Marine operation with only supporting and compliant Navy amphibious ships and jeep carrier support, divorced from the CSG or numbered fleet commander opcon, because they are entirely partisan and non-joint except for lip service to "big Navy" ONLY when it suits them.... Even the US Army realizes that they need USAF lift aircraft for airborne assault (akin to amphibious assault) in order to execute that expeditionary capability. Consider that...

    This USMC self-licking ice cream cone strategy is all obvious if you connect their dots over the past years. Self preservation. They know their niche is always ripe for the Army to pluck.. and that history and current events have bypassed full scale amphibious assault against a peer adversary However, imo, their recent air capitalization and investment they have been able to wrangle out of a grateful nation (questionable spending) seems to make this habit worse for themselves and no one seems to want to say enough is enough. Who in congress can say NO to the warriors of the USMC? They are the Department of the Marine Corps today.....Plus, they have Mattis and Kelly, right?


  6. Obviously the Marines are there to secure Myrtle Beach so that COBRA equipped drones can Scan for mines without getting shot down by a redneck with a shotgun.

    What the Dept of the Navy should learn from Neller’s diatribe is the need for honest-to-god,area denial, kill-everything-on-the-beach fire support that wipes out anything short of an amoeba. Forgive the hyperbole, I am aware that even pounding by battleship isn’t perfect by any means. But even the army’s cluster munitions warhead for the MLS is being pulled back because of our COIN driven “precision only” obsession. We need the ability to pummel from a distance not take out an easily targeted bunker only to get hit by the ones we didn’t see. This can also help for troops inland. On Okinawa there was light resistance on the beach but hell to pay once they left the beach.

    1. On Iwo Jima they found that even small reinforced bunkers required at least 8" rounds to be neutralized. Assuming that we are able to fly bombing missions, how many bunker busters will we need since there is no longer major caliber artillery available?


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