Monday, May 21, 2018

Marines Drop 120 mm Mortar

One of ComNavOps recurring themes is that we are making a mistake by focusing on information at the expense of firepower. 

Now, before you start typing out an ignorant reply, go back and reread that sentence.  I’ll wait …   …   …

Okay,  Did you take note that I DID NOT say that we shouldn’t pursue information systems?  What did I say?  I said that we are focusing on information AT THE EXPENSE OF FIREPOWER. 

Information is vital.  Recon, recon, recon, right?  But, when we begin dropping firepower to pay for information we’re making a huge mistake.  That path will lead us to having perfect knowledge of the enemy who is raining heavy artillery on us as we die, unable to muster the firepower to fight back.

The Marines have cut tanks and artillery and are continuing to reduce firepower to pay for UAVs, 3D printing, information specialists embedded in companies and squads, etc.  One of the latest reductions is the elimination of the 120 mm towed mortar (Expeditionary Fire Support System) (1).  The towed mortar was a lightweight system that provided significant firepower at low organizational levels.

“The EFSS, fielded in the early 2000s, was designed to be extremely portable, small enough to be towed by an all-terrain vehicle that fits easily inside anMV-22 Osprey.

Made by General Dynamics, the full system weighs roughly 18 pounds and can fire high-explosive, smoke and illumination rounds.” (1)

All the information in the world is of no use if you haven’t got the firepower to take advantage of it.  A corollary to that is that firepower can make up for a LOT of information shortages.  For example, you don’t need to know what’s waiting for you over that next hill if you can simply conduct an area bombardment and kill whatever might be there.

120 mm Mortar

During combat, information is a very difficult thing to master and use.  Recall the recent destroyer collisions and groundings despite the ships having many information sources such as radars, satellites, transponders, electro-optical sensors, and old fashioned lookouts – and yet the collisions and groundings still occurred – during peacetime!  Or, recall the Vincennes shootdown – a massively capable Aegis system rendered useless because the operators couldn’t properly interpret the data in the adrenaline rush of combat. 

In contrast, firepower is simple, effective, and easy to master and use.  Firepower is an example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) philosophy while information is the epitome of complexity and failure-prone systems.  Which do you want to depend on in war?

A mortar is an outstanding example of a dirt-simple weapon system that is incredibly cheap and provides firepower all out of proportion to its size.  It’s exactly the kind of KISS weapon system we should be acquiring and yet we’re dropping it.  When we face the Chinese with our tiny, squad level UAVs and 3D printing while they’re raining heavy artillery down on us, we’ll quickly regret the decisions we’re making today.

The people making these decisions have clearly never engaged in peer combat against a foe who emphasizes great big gobs of heaping, steaming firepower.  To be fair, that kind of combat hasn’t occurred within their lifetime so they couldn’t have faced it.  However, they’re supposed to have studied warfare and learned the lessons from those who have faced it – and they’ve failed to learn the lessons.


(1) website, “Marine Corps Ditches Towed Mortar System in Push to Fund Modernization”, Hope Hodge Seck, 19-Dec-2017,


  1. One interesting thing about that mortar- it's actually the MO-120RT, a French mortar built in France (along with its ammunition). When the USMC procured it, they did so without asking Congress first, which is a *criminal act* under US law.

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    1. Just like them starting the camouflage wars and fielding the M27 rifle. They have to be different.

    2. The EFSS is rifled which gives it extra range with HE, but the ammo was not as available. It was the ITV that pulled it and the ITV’s unreliability and poor rough terrain ability that killed the EFSS

    3. The rifling also gives superior dispersion, a point that was highlighted when the Marines began to have their rifled (and automatic) mortar programs in the naughties.
      It cans till shoot ordinary fin-stabilised 120 mm ammo.

  3. The marine's had a system called Dragonfire that was an automatic mortar also was featured in the show "future wepons" it was also dropped even though it worked extremely well guess because it was not complex enough or shiney

    1. There are two things one needs to know about Dragonfire:

      1) Simple manual muzzleloading of 120 mm mortars can achieve 16 rpm
      2) Magazine-fed solutions do not allow for the same responsiveness regarding choosing the qty of auxiliary charges and choice of payload type (HE, SMK, ILLUM etc.).

  4. "The towed mortar was a lightweight system"

    That's relative - this rifled Brandt mortar is the heaviest Western 120 mm mortar model IIRC.

    1. From the linked article,

      "... the full system weighs roughly 18 pounds ..."

      I assume that's probably just the tube system itself. Still, quite light and compared to other forms of heavy explosive, very light indeed.

    2. A single shot from that weapon weighs approx. 18 kg.

      This is essentially the TDA (Brandt) MO 120 RT rifled mortar, which weighs 582 kg.
      barrel 131 kg
      baseplate 194 kg
      carriage 257 kg
      For comparison; the smoothbore TDA 120 mm MO 120 LT mortar weighs 247 kg.
      U.S. M121 battalion mortar system: 321 kg

      That rifled mortar is a heavyweight in its class due to its nowadays unique rifled munition which is more demanding.

      The entire concept of towed mortars is outright insane if one intends to deter or defend against Russians or Chinese (same for any towed howitzer). You need shoot & scoot ability in addition to 'battery' dispersion to achieve satisfactory survivability.
      The USMC has no survivable indirect fire support save for 8x8 mounted 81.4 mm mortars AFAIK.
      They're not equipped for a peer fight on large islands (Taiwan) or continents (Europe) at all.

    3. Correction: HIMARS is self-propelled, of course. The mass and volume of the munition makes employment by marines very questionable in their core amphibious role, though. The minimum range is several kilometres (MLRS munitions are in closed packages that do not allow the addition of drag rings).

    4. SO

      You comments are painfully correct.

      What is maddening from a Naval perspective is the demand for lightness is divorced from the requirements of actual U.S. treaty commitments.

      U.S. naval forces used to bring enormous logistics capacity to the fight.

      Our strategic focus, and combat capabilities have been badly damaged by an intervention focused mindset.


    5. The weight of a single mortar or howitzer tube is insignificant compared to the amount and weight of ammunition that it is capable of firing.

      The weight of a M327 120mm mortar in question is 1798 lbs (817.3 kg) in ready to fire configuration.

      The weight per round is not relevant: the weight of a fire mission is critical.

      Per FM FM 7-90, the weight of packaged ammunition for a three minute preparation fire mission by firing unit (defined as the maximum fire rate for three minutes) is 4,800 lbs (2181.8 kg).

      This does not delve into munition effectiveness from JMEMs, or the advisability of firing for three minutes continuously, but it clearly shows the impact on the logistics system.


    6. "You need shoot & scoot ability in addition to 'battery' dispersion to achieve satisfactory survivability."

      This is one of those "truisms" that I find to be unsupported by real world experience, at least to some degree.

      Certainly, one cannot set up fixed artillery locations and expect to fire for hours on end without a response. However, at the lower end, meaning mortars, our experience in Iraq/Afg has shown that terrorist/insurgent mortars are quite effective and survivable for reasonable periods. In other words, we have a hard time finding and destroying them. So, why should it be different for the Chinese trying to find our mortars?

      People have an impression that in a war every shot will bring instantaneous counter fire and that's simply not true, especially at the lower levels. The enemy simply does not have the resources to counterfire every little mortar on the battlefield.

      Let's remember that the enemy is also "shooting and scooting" and, at any given moment, will only have a portion of his command/control, counterbattery radars, and counterbatter firepower available.

      At least from a survivability aspect, there is nothing wrong with small and/or towed mortars. Now, from a mobility or logistics aspect they may or may not be desirable. The problem is, if we write them off as less than the perfect solution (a self-propelled howitzer is the perfect solution, I guess) what do we replace them with. That's kind of the point of the post. We're dropping firepower and replacing it (from a budget perspective) with information.

    7. That weight appears to include the munitions trailer (see "system" and picture there). They cannot have added that much weight to the existing mortar.

    8. Concerning survivability:

      Think about the small quantity of mortars in a battalion or battalion equivalent, think about the large quantity of rifle platoons, think about how the rifle platoons are dispersed, think about the poor range of the mortar and finally think about how the mortar has a dangerous and rather inefficient dispersion past about half maximum range.

      Even losing a single mortar team once in a while looks very unacceptable suddenly.

      Meanwhile, a SP mortar or 105 mm SPG could relocate by 200...500 m after every fire mission in a matter of seconds, could drive away if there's some line of sight threat and could more easily support mobile forces. It could also have frag protection without half an hour of exhausting digging or manually carrying large and heavy armor panels (which the towed mortar teams usually don't anyway).
      A 105 mm SPG could reach twice as far, have better dispersion and accuracy at 15 km than a mortar at 7.5 km, be capable of lower register firing and with dedicated munition and good maximum elevation it could still approximate the mortar's 400 m minimum high angle range.

    9. Three points:

      1) The ammunition weights above are for the M120 smooth bore mortar, but are roughly comparable to the M327.

      2) The French made essentially the same 120mm mortar in a smooth bore version comparable with all NATO smooth bore 120mm ammunition.

      3) the real failure of EFSS is a series of failures driven by the extremely questionable decision to buy the V-22. The V-22 does not accommodate a HMMWV (ludicrous) which in turn force a number of flawed procurement decisions (growler prime mover, a towed rather than bed mounted mortar, and so on.


    10. "shooting and scooting"

      PS The Russians solve high rate mortar fire decades ago with a simple solution

      2B9 Vasilek (Cornflower) is an automatic 82 mm gun-mortar developed in the Soviet Union in 1967 and fielded with the Soviet Army in 1970. It was based on the F-82 automatic mortar. Unlike conventional mortars, the 2B9 can fire in single and automatic mode using four-round clips. Rounds can be loaded from either the muzzle or the breech.

    11. Ordinary manually loaded mortars do 16 rpm. Rate of fire isn't the issue. The correct 'gun' laying between the shots makes a robotic approach purposeful (see CARDOM), not the loading process challenge.

    12. "HMMWVs on V-22s was never seriously considered."

      At the risk of speaking for him, I think that was GAB's point - that procuring a transport aircraft that couldn't transport our [arguably] most common/important vehicle of the time was a mistake. That mistake was compounded by the subsequent series of acquisitions that attempted to work within the limitations of the V-22.

      Apologies to GAB and correct me if I've misrepresented your thoughts.

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    14. The issue is that the V-22 loses its speed and range advantages if it carries external sling loads, and that speed and range advantages are all of its advantages.

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    16. "It wasn't a mistake."

      Well, that's the debatable point, isn't it?

      We should establish what we need to fight (tanks, jeeps, artillery, etc.) and then develop and procure the means to transport them, not the other way around. You don't acquire a V-22 and then develop weapons that fit it - that's backward.

    17. "It only loses its range and speed advantage on the outbound (sling load) leg."

      That's the one that counts!!!! That's where the transport asset justifies its cost, if it can.

    18. Thats why they invented this vehicle for the V-22

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    20. "If you built a V-22 that could carry a HMMWV,"

      Or ......... we could have skipped the V-22 and built CH-53Ks.

      Before you go and focus on the HMMWV, I'm talking about things we need to fight. Do we need an HMMWV? I don't think so. It offers nothing that we can't obtain in other, better ways. So, if we hadn't built HMMWVs, we wouldn't even have this conversation!

      I'm talking about weapons and vehicles that are needed for combat: tanks, artillery, mortars, IFVs, APCs, SP guns of all sorts, and so on. Design what you need to win and then figure out how to transport it.

      Some things can't be transported by air to a battlefield - a tank for instance. If that's the case then we need to examine our doctrine. If our doctrine insists on tanks then we need to limit ourselves to scenarios in which we can transport via other means.

      What we don't do is design the tail and then figure out what kind of dog we can get to match it. How's that for a tortured analogy?

      Establish your combat needs first and then figure out transportation.

      What all of this may be telling us is that the concept of aviation assaults and aviation-centric transport is just not feasible in peer combat where we actually need our combat assets.

    21. "They both count."

      You're debating borderline irrelevance. Get there firstest, fastest, mostest. That's nearly timeless combat wisdom. That's the driving force. The fact that a faster return can generate some fractional improvement in sortie rate matters only for the sustainment phase and once you're into sustainment, the outbound leg becomes less time-critical anyway.

    22. SO said: “AFAIK, HMMWVs on V-22s was never seriously considered. The only US rotorcraft that can actually carry one on a regular basis is the forthcoming CH-53K.”

      HMMWVs fit inside CH-47s. It requires seat removal, it is not a pleasant experience, but it can be done.

      On EFSS, it is a *weapon system* - a quick down and dirty on the failure can be found here: There were other issues, notably with the ammunition, but the failure of EFSS is the nail in the coffin of OMFTS.

      The H-53K, is another ridiculous program from a line of aircraft that should have been killed by then SECDEF Robert MacNamara back in the 1960s. Fan boy stats aside, there are very few *practical advantages* that the H-53 series has over the H-47 series, and a lot of disadvantages starting with cost. Every H-53K purchase could buy five (5) CH-47Fs, or two (2) F/A-18 aircraft, which is highway robbery of the taxpayer.


    23. CNO said: "Apologies to GAB and correct me if I've misrepresented your thoughts."

      Nope, nice summary!


    24. Should be Smitty not SO - my apologies.

      I need new glasses...


    25. To those following this thread, recall that the premise of the post was that we're adding information capabilities to the Marine infantry while taking away firepower. Perhaps we can debate the value/usefulness of the EFSS but the premise remains. We're adding toy UAV operators, laptop operators, cultural analysts, public relations specialists, etc. to the squad, platoon, company, etc. while removing tanks, artillery, mortars, air defense, etc. We're replacing firepower with information.

      Anyone want to address the wisdom of that?

    26. It makes sense once you see it as an admission of uselessness in peer war on large islands or continental land masses.

      Such moves help in stupid 'small wars', while being highly suboptimal in alliance defence scenarios.

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    28. "Basically, it's good for launching deep raids against modestly defended targets that can be suppressed by airpower, have wide open landing zones nearby, and where the enemy can't muster a reinforced counter-attack in a timely fashion."

      That sounds more like a fraternity pantie raid.

      "But we're stuck with the V-22."

      What we can't do now is compound the mistake. We can't go designing weapons/vehicles that are sub-optimal for combat just because they can fit into the V-22.

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    30. "My point was that there isn't sufficient width in the CH-47 to carrying a HMMWV internally _safely_, on a regular basis."

      You are being stubborn.

      The article I linked showed it being done, throwing the safety flag is just nonsense.

      As to *regularly* - that is mission driven.


      Telling the ANG

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    32. "for the vast majority of missions, it's easier, safer and faster to just sling them."

      I have to ask ... is slinging really a viable peer war, combat practice? You can't get whatever you're carrying anywhere near a battlefront that way - not and survive. I can't imagine a more defenseless target than a V-22/helo with a slung load.

      I understand doing sling loads during peacetime and against third world terrorists or as simple logistics movements well behind combat lines but is really a feasible practice for providing useful transport of weapon systems?

      I really don't know. Have we ever gamed this out against a peer level opposing force to see if it's feasible?

    33. "A sub-optimal vehicle is better than no vehicle."

      No it's not! Sub-optimal on the battlefield is how you get people killed. Ask all the people killed by IEDs before we got "optimal" vehicles.

      It's also a false argument to suggest that if we don't get a sub-optimal vehicle we won't get any. What we'll do is put the money towards an optimal vehicle and if we need more money, we go to Congress and make the case.

    34. "I have to ask ... is slinging really a viable peer war, combat practice?"

      It was done in the Falklands, including transportation of bridging sections IIRC.

      Helicopters are comically slow compared to combat aircraft anyway. They lack the missile approach sensors or radar warning receivers for teh situational awareness needed to do meaningful evasive actions. Their survivability on a battlefield with hostile mdoern fighters rests on the pilot receiving a timely radio call that he needs to park his helicopter inclduing stopping the rotors.

      BTW, ironically an underslung load may even IMPROVE survivability because it's kind of a second target (almost equivalent to a towed decoy) that the missile may lock on - and thus miss by about 10 metres. Missiles coming from below may also have their prox fuse set off by the underslung load.

    35. ""A sub-optimal vehicle is better than no vehicle."

      No it's not! Sub-optimal on the battlefield is how you get people killed. Ask all the people killed by IEDs before we got "optimal" vehicles."

      You're not focused on "victory". Keep in mind that war is bloody, period.

      "It is better to be on hand with ten men than absent with ten thousand."
      Timur the Great

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    37. "You're not focused on "victory"."

      Victory is achieved by not wasting your finite budget on sub-optimal weapon systems.

      Optimal, on the battlefield, is simple, rugged, reliable, maintainable, transportable, lethal, and survivable. THAT'S WHERE YOU PUT YOUR BUDGET. That's what brings victory.

    38. "Of course, short of peer wars, we've used it a fair amount."

      And therein lies the problem. We've developed a dependence on a practice that is likely not viable in a peer war. We've concluded, erroneously, that we've "solved" the transport problem.

      We're someday going to look back at these last couple of decades of police actions and conclude that they not only didn't prepare us for peer war, they actively guided us down incorrect acquisition, doctrinal, and tactical paths.

      You don't get better by scrimmaging the JV. You get better by playing the best peer varsity team you can find.

      Steel sharpens steel. We've been "sharpening" ourselves against wood.

    39. "Ignore JV at your peril."

      If you can play with the varsity, you handle the JV with ease.

      You're being argumentative about nothing.

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    41. ""If you can play with the varsity, you handle the JV with ease."

      This is historically not true."

      This is absolutely true. What is also true is that poor execution and stupidity can ruin any war plan.

      Vietnam was the poster child for poor execution and stupidity: sanctuaries for the enemy, off limits ports and resupply locations, off limits enemy air bases, etc. Had we fought the war as a war it would have been over in a matter of months. You know this so I can only assume you're arguing for the sake of argument.

      The Korean war was over until the Chinese opted in. Then we refused to commit to total war and end them. Again, stupidity. Again, you know this.

      Iraq/Afg were examples of stupidity and a desire to avoid casualties to anyone. That's not a war, that's police actions and stupidity. IED's should have been nothing more than a minor/non-existent annoyance if we had simply staked out the supply routes we wanted to use and then sanitized them by killing everyone who approached - you know, kind of like a war.

      Please don't continue this. It's beneath you. There are so many more important things to discuss.

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    43. "GD Flyer 60 appears to be a decent example of an internally transported vehicle for the V-22."

      To what purpose? The vehicle is essentially a jeep. It offers nothing on the the peer war battlefield where artillery will rule.

      In various comments, you have acknowledged that the aviation assault is a flawed concept. I agree. That being the case, why do we care about fitting a useless vehicle into the V-22?

      Sure, there's always the peacetime and anti-terror work to do but we can use any vehicle for that. Simple, small ATVs would be fine.

      This is the loss of focus that I've been preaching. We've forgotten what the military's primary responsibility is, which is to fight peer wars, while we dither about which jeep can best fit into a V-22 when neither the V-22 nor the jeep have much use in a peer war. We've lost our focus.

      The Army has had a mini-awakening with the realization that they might have to fight the Russians. Now, they're frantically scrambling to upgun everything. I note that they're not scrambling to get more jeeps. They're beginning to realize that they are woefully unprepared for peer combat.

      That is the premise of the post - that we're dropping firepower for information - not which useless vehicle will fit in a useless aircraft.

      "SOCOM bought 10 for use on CV-22s. Would be interesting to know what they think of them."

      Who cares what they think? They don't fight peer wars. They have a completely different set of responsibilities so their view of, and opinion of, the vehicle is meaningless. Again, this is the lack of proper focus.

      If we don't radically change our trends, the next peer war is going to see us throwing jeep infantry into artillery battlefields and they'll be slaughtered.

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    45. "But we also need to spend money on the JV fight... You know, the conflicts we ACTUALLY fight day to day, year to year, decade to decade."

      You and I are so close to agreement.

      Regarding the JV conflicts that we seem to jump into at the drop of a puck (little hockey reference for you, there),

      1. Many/most of them we fight incorrectly. We bring odds and ends pieces of capability without any concrete plan to decisively win and end it. We need to either bring everything we have and DECISIVELY END IT in weeks, not screw around for years or we shouldn't be in it. ComNavOps: "In it to win it or don't get in it." How much bloodshed over how many years could we have avoided if we had decisively ended Desert Storm by continuing just a bit further and killed Hussein there and then? Of course, that leaves the issue of nation building which is another topic. How many lives, time, effort, and money could have been saved if we had ruthlessly crushed ISIS instead of trying to conduct a no-casualty war?

      2. We absolutely need a "peacetime" or "JV" force. I've written about a two tier peace/war force. The key is that the peace tier doesn't need V-22s, Super Hornet truck plinkers, etc. A greatly reduced capability force is adequate. Super Tucano type aircraft, for example. Commercial type helos for transport instead of a V-22. And so on. Anything you identify as "maybe not completely useful in a peer war" has no business in a peer war and is too expensive for the "peace" conflicts. We need a peace tier.

      3. More than equipment, we need the will to enter a "peace" conflict and end it without undue regard for casualties. If a "civilian" driver is driving an oil tanker for ISIS, he and it die and we'll be saving lives by not allowing more funding for ISIS to kill more people.

      "find a use for them"

      Find a use for them is not how you build a peer combat force. Unfortunately, we have way too many "find a use" assets: LCS, V-22, Zumwalt, UAVs, JLTV, etc.

      Setting the fun of arguing aside, I don't see that we disagree to any great extent.

    46. The tolerance for paying $250,000 for the M1161 (900 kg cargo capacity), a very lightly armored 4x4 unique to the USMC, is abhorrent.

      For comparison, the 8x8 HEMTT M985A4 cargo truck (9,100 kg cargo capacity or) is about $500,000 - showing how little value the tax payer gets from the unending series of poorly conceived, and badly executed programs.

      No, a HEMTT is not going to fit in any light/medium lift aircraft, but it can keep up with tanks cross country, something the Growler cannot do, and do it while carrying 10x the load of an M1161.

      A HEMTT is a war winning logistics vehicle, a M1161 might contribute to one or two battles, but 99% of the time we would be better off with HEMTTs.

      If we could not design the V-22 to fit the HMMWV (JLTV will only substitute for about a third of the HMMWVs), then the Marines should have designed the V-22 to accommodate a light commercial pickup like the ~$40,000 Toyota Hilux or similar.

      The lack of foresight on everything V-22 related is appalling and the willingness to throw good money after bad for overspecialized vehicles is almost criminal.


    47. "The tolerance for paying ..."

      This touches on one of my recurring themes and that is that we've become so used to horrible acquisition decisions and programs that we've come to believe they're normal!!!

      We now think that a 20 yr development cycle for an F-35 is normal - forgetting that we went from concept to deployed F-14 in about 5 yrs. We now think that a $15B carrier is normal - forgetting that the last Nimitz was on the order of $8B. We now think that the Burke is a great warship - forgetting that its basic design features would have been laughed out of WWII warship design efforts. And so on.

      The bar has been so lowered that we now believe that bad is good!

  5. So speaking of firepower, do the Marines have actually a organic air defence system? Only thing i know is the LAV-AD and that only has Stingers and no radar.

    How do they expect to conduct serious operations when having basically no ground air defences.

    1. Funny you should ask. I've got a post coming in the fairly near future!

    2. LAV-AD also has a 25 mm gatling:

      Such VShoRAD systems are near-pointless against modern threats.

  6. How are we supposed to trust USMC when you screw up something so bad like a MORTAR SYSTEM?!? Come on now, this isn't the Space Shuttle, it's a mortar. They can't get it right, it's not compatible with US Army mortar! (how stupid is that?!?), it's heavy, expensive, tied to a system that's complicated to the point where the leaders don't want to bother taking it with them into combat?!?!?

    Why is this so tough?!?

    1. A 120mm mortar inside amtrack was recently proposed, as well as an anti-air AAV.

      Every Marine I know loves the idea. The Marines retired the few LAV-AD variants several years ago, and now only has .50 cal machine guns.

    2. 120 mm mortars cause shock issues on many vehicles - the old AAVs may not be able to support one for long.

    3. I was involved in an 120mm mortar M-113 experiment in 97' or so. After the 4 round stonk, the M-113 threw its tracks from the shock. To be more precise, the 'shock and relax, repeat'.

  7. One other thing that the V-22 fails at is logistics.

    As a reminder, OMFTS was supposed to take advantage of the speed/range characteristics of the V-22 to enable vertical envelopments of several hundred nautical miles and *sustain* them.

    The HMMWV also happens to be about as wide as an aircraft 463L pallet. The 463 pallet is a standard that is used to efficiently move cargo, especially ammunition. If an aircraft cannot accommodate a 463L pallet, it means that every bit of cargo has to be broken down and deck loaded, a time consuming evolution that slows turn around times onboard ship and critically at the HLZ. the alternative of sling loading slows flight operations dramatically and reduces aircraft range significantly.

    I do not know the Corps glossed over this point, but the ability of a CH-47 to roll pallets off the aircraft at a hot HLZ is a potential life saver and orders of magnitude more efficient than the V-22.

    Yes I love the CH-47 and hate the V-22. Different aircraft, different mission, but one is a great fit and moderately priced, the other is gold plated, costs a lot, and will be obsolete when the FVL program arrives.


  8. The Marine Corps seems to have been pretty dissatisfied with the 120mm mortar. It offered no protection to it's crew, it's too heavy to transport via V-22, and it's towing vehicle was prone to breaking down.

    There also seems to be plenty of evidence that the USMC is not abandoning it's requirements for heavy artillery. Quite the opposite.

    1. "seems to be plenty of evidence that the USMC is not abandoning it's requirements for heavy artillery. Quite the opposite."

      Really? I don't see it. The Marines have cut entire companies of tanks, reduced artillery, eliminated mortars, deployed without tanks, and eliminated the LAV-AD, among other firepower reductions.

      From Col. Clifford Weinstein, Commanding Officer, 10th Marine Regiment in a Dec 2014 interview:

      "The point we’re at now with the budget constraints, as well as coming off of several contingencies throughout the world, is we’ve reduced the amount of artillery ..."

      What evidence do you see that the Marines are increasing their heavy artillery? That's a sincere question since I don't follow ground combat all that closely. I may well have missed announcements of increases. If so, tell me.

    2. When the Corps replaces the self propelled artillery pieces it got rid of decades ago, then you can say it is serious about artillery.


    3. Question wasn't that what HIMARS is for just asking

    4. DL,

      No, HIMARS is a distinct capability, but not really an artillery buff. The point is that the ground component of a MEU (a reinforced infantry battalion) has lost its tank company, and gone from self-propelled howitzer battery (six tubes, maybe eight), to a towed howitzer battery (six tubes), and then to a section of two towed howitzers. Not impressive

      Yes, HIMARS does add capability, but MRLS, especially LRPF or ATACMS rockets, are really corps level assets. An infantry battalion cannot sustain these systems in high intensity conflict, nor effectively employ these systems. Adding HIMARS to a MEU is window dressing, allowing an infantry battalion to shoot $500,000 GMRLS missiles at illiterate goat herders is publicity stunt. The acid test is how many reload missiles does the MEU deploy with?

      A MEU is good enough for fighting against militias and irregular forces in Toyota pickups, but it does not remotely match against a peer competitor in a high intensity conflict. If you doubt this, compare this to a Russian tank or mechanized/motorized infantry battalion or one of the experimental Battalion Tactical Groups fighting in the Ukraine. A MEB fares even worse as it is a reinforced infantry regiment that will be facing Russian or Chinese tank or mechanized/motorized infantry brigade.


    5. "A MEU is good enough for fighting against militias and irregular forces in Toyota pickups, but it does not remotely match against a peer competitor in a high intensity conflict."

      So, from a purely analytical perspective, why are we maintaining a Marine Corps and a fleet of 30+ very expensive amphibious ships? What do you see as the Marine's reason for existence, today?

    6. Our political and military leadership has an endless appetite for intervention in third world nations, wars that cost a great deal of blood and treasure, but are not vital to protect our sovereignty, and do not prepare us to win against aggressive peer competitors.

      As to what we should do with our defense budget:

      1. Reevaluate our vital national interests including every military threat and also *every treaty obligation* we have committed ourselves to.

      2. End every treaty that does *directly and materially* contribute to our sovereignty and national interests.

      3. Bring our overseas troops home from every foreign nation described by #2 above.

      4. Fire the bottom 10% of uniformed members tomorrow.

      5. Reduce the officer overhead by 30% and eliminate 75% of general and admiral ranks. Cut the Pentagon and surrounding DC military billets by 75% and return them to combat units throughout CONUS. Establish a staffing policy to over-staff ships, squadrons and ground combat units to 105% of their war-time strength.

      6. Ruthlessly reevaluate our plans, doctrine, tactics, and training in light of defeating aggressive peer competitors. Validate these concepts in large scale unscripted exercises.

      7. Implement a procurement policy to support acquisition of vehicles and equipment to support number 6 above. This is the bloodiest as I would end the “share the pie” mentality at the Pentagon. The USAF would get the largest share of the defense budget, followed by the Navy, and much farther down the list is the USA and Corps. Sorry, but space power, airpower, strategic forces, and sea power are priorities over ground combat power in a world where there is no credible territorial threat to the U.S. of A.

      8. Evaluate and improve our infrastructure (transportation, communication, power, water, etc.) to support the mass movement of forces IAW numbers 6 and 7 above.

      9. Establish civil defense as a priority. This includes the full spectrum of ABM, SAM, SOSUS nets, coastal artillery (ASCM/ASBM), fallout shelters, decontamination facilities, airport and harbor repair teams, and so forth. The national guard is probably more useful in this capacity than to expect it to perform combat missions in a peer conflict.

      10. Work with the Russians, Canadians, and other Artic Ocean member states to Chinese to enforce and defend against threats (primarily by the Chinese) against the Artic Ocean. Ironicly, this means establishing artificial island bases a la the Chinese. We also need ice breakers, airfields and other infrastructure.

      So were does the USMC fit in this vision? I would like to see the Corps largely get out of the aviation business and reimagine itself as an amphibious, mechanized ground combat force structured around brigade sized forces. I would take the MEB and rebuild it as a true brigade with the regimental infantry regiment fully supported with APC/HAPC transport. I would add a tank battalion, a SP artillery battalion reinforced with MRL (122mm, 127 mm (adapt the rocket motor of the 5” Zuni rocket for surface to surface fire), or 160mm). I would then add a robust SP air defense capability (0-10,000 meters).


    7. GAB, well, you get my vote for SecDef!

      You leave me with two questions:

      1. What do you see as critical in the Arctic? I haven't studied it extensively so I am likely missing something but what do you see as the benefit of operating and/or (controlling?) the Arctic? Resources? Strategic basing? ICBM/IRBM missile attack/defense? Something else? I see a lot of discussion around the Internet about the need to build Arctic equipment but no discussion about why.

      2. So, you appear to want to beef up the Marines from the current light/med infantry to med/heavy infantry/semi-armored. Fair enough. Now, what do you see them being used for?

      Obviously, they can be flown in to some spot and used as an army as was done throughout the last couple of decades - but, one has to ask, why not just increase the size of the Army and drop the Marines?

      They can conduct assaults from the sea but I consistently ask, against who and in what scenario? I just don't see any assaults being strategically or operationally useful or likely against China, Russia, or NK. Maybe against Iran but those would be the low end of the spectrum.

      So, where do you see a likely assault scenario especially in the peer war category (China)?

      Yes, there's always the "you never know" scenario that no one can predict but that's a LOT of cost for an unlikely "you never know" case.

    8. @CNO,

      1) On the Arctic Ocean... its all about resources, and the shortcut between Asia and Europe. Petroleum and metals (e.g. gold) are obvious resources, but in 2014 U.S. commercial fisheries generated $153 billion in sales according to NOAA.

      2) Shit can the NSA of 1947 and go back to traditional USMC missions dating from inception. There are plenty of requirements for VBSS, security of naval installations, security of ships, and amphibious operations. Congress could fix this tomorrow as no Congress is obligated by prior statute – they are Congress! The Corps needs to stop pointing to this act as though it were the Constitution itself.

      On the last point, major river crossings (Muse, Don, Dneiper, Rhine, Vistula, Oder...) present comparable challenges to amphibious operations. The British and Canadians kept the same specialized forces they used at Normandy (79th armored division) to force the Rhine including LVT-4s.

      I do not think there is any reasonable professional argument against a USMC designed to field 6-9 high quality mechanized infantry brigades, particularly if the Army provided the tanks and, or SP artillery components of these brigades. Much of the USMC "2nd land army" controversy arose from the creation of USMC Division structures, which is silly in 2018 as most armies have largely abandoned divisions as a redundant level of command. Also note that many Commandants of the Marine Corps post 1947 have not held division command.


    9. "particularly if the Army provided the tanks and, or SP artillery components of these brigades."

      Now that's an absolutely fascinating idea I had never heard of before. For an isolated operation it could surely work (ignoring training, doctrinal, and tactical differences) for the Army to "donate" units. For a major war, however, it's a zero sum game. Any units donated to the Marines reduce the Army assets. However, since all units are not constantly engaged, that shouldn't be a problem, either.

      In short, fascinating idea. Are there any problems that you can foresee, aside from the obvious parochial aspects?

    10. @CNO - the USA and USMC routinely attach and cross attach units.


    11. "USA and USMC routinely attach and cross attach units."

      I was unaware of that! To what purpose, given that the units are, essentially, functional duplicates?

      It would be like the AF and Navy exchanging aviation units. Other than familiarity, which has some slight value, I guess, neither branch would gain any capabilities.

      For example, if both the Army and Marines have artillery units, what's the point of exchanging? I could see the point if one or the other had no artillery.

  9. Offtopic, So they declared that the F-35C does not have the needed range ( and thats from stars and stripes)

    The U.S. House Armed Services Committee has directed the Navy to report back by 2019 on how to “expand the strike range of a carrier air wing in a contested environment.” After concluding that the F-35C’s current range will not allow it to strike enemy targets without putting the carrier in harm’s way.

  10. Seems to me the Marines have fallen in love with the fancy gadgets like the MV22&F35 resulting in cutting everything else as to artillery don't they use the towed M777 instead 9f the M109 and to the AD question they really need some kind of FAAD system maybe they should look at the Army is looking at with the Stryker variant that has Hellfire along with AA missiles some I've seen with the AIM 9X mounted

  11. I think the larger point here is the disturbing tendency to replace tried, cost effective weapon systems that work with new shiny things that have a high coolness factor and questionable (if any) fitness for the job at hand (winning a serious war). Examples abound -- Fords for Nimitzes; F35s for F18s; UAV refueling for S3As; Zumwalts for ???; LCS for MCMS & real ASW; V22 for helos;... and don't get me started on the A10.

    And it all comes from very questionable budgeting...why spend $$ maintaining and training on the old, effective stuff when you can spend those $$ on cool new toys?

    Last time I checked, war was kinda a down&dirty thing. Your stuff had to WORK...shiny didn't count for much.

    1. Though to be honest, the EFSS was really an afterthought. The original EFSS requirements kept slipping until it hit the bottom with the bare bones 'current' system. And now, you don't even have that.

      There is also even a question on the 'role' of the EFSS in Marine ops. The initial AAV landing, you don't bring it ashore, just infantry, so it is useless at this stage, but once you have settled ashore, you got 777s to support you then, so where is the role for the 120mm?

    2. A few points:

      1. I'm not a ground combat expert - not even a little - so I don't know this stuff!

      2. I've never heard anyone complain about having a mortar during a fight.

      3. The EFSS can be internally transported in a CH-53/MV-22 vs the M777 which is sling loaded and still needs a large truck to tow it (not sure how the trucks are transported. The point is that it seems like the EFSS can get ashore easier and sooner than the M777.

      4. The M777 is a higher level asset in terms of control whereas the EFSS is controlled at a lower unit level. Again, I've never heard a lower unit complain about having control of a heavier firepower asset.

      5. With today's (misguided) emphasis on infantry running around the battlefield in "jeeps", the EFSS seems to fit right in with that level of mobility and transportability.

      Just my non-combat knowledgeable thoughts. Correct me if I'm wrong.


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