Monday, January 21, 2019

Out Of Control Marine Corps

The Marines are now trying to tell the Navy how to build ships.

The Marines want better-armed amphibious warships for high-end combat … (1)

… the naval force must upgrade the C2 (command and control) suites and introduce Vertical Launch Systems,” Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault the Marines’ three-star deputy commandant for plans, policies, & operations, told the Surface Navy Association conference … (1)

Since when did the Marines become experts at fleet structure, naval tactics and operations, and ship design?  The sheer arrogance of the Marine Corps of late is breathtaking.  They’ve moved into the Air Force and naval air arena in a bid to build their own air force, they’ve moved to take over the Army and Air Force deep strike role, they’re moving into the Air Force large UAV realm, and they’re trying to take on the role of land and sea based anti-ship combat.  Bizarrely, they’re doing all this while simultaneously downsizing and lightening to become nothing more than light infantry.  They’ve ignored acquisition of an amored personnel carrier (although the ACV may function as a poor man’s APC), an infantry fighting vehicle, improved tanks, and greater numbers of tanks and artillery.  The Marines are dictating to the Navy while ignoring their own core mission.  How odd is that?  Presumably, it’s all in a bid for greater budget slice.

The Marine’s stated rationale for their demands reveals a basic misunderstanding of naval operations and ship costs.

In a major war against Russia or China, or even Iran, amphibious warships — as currently equipped — would have to rely on escorting destroyers both defensively, to shoot down attacking missiles and airplanes, and offensively, sinking enemy ships and bombarding targets ashore.

Of course, the amphibious ships would rely on escorts for protection.  That’s how it’s always been and it’s been that way for a very good reason:  if we build totally self-contained, do-it-all ships then they’ll become unaffordable.  An amphibious ship is a troop/cargo transport – nothing more.  There’s nothing wrong with a few point defense weapons but expanding into broader AAW requires more advanced radars, a more advanced combat control software package, a more sophisticated command center, more personnel, more high tech maintenance, and more support – in other words, hugely increased construction and life cycle operating costs.

The Marine’s rationale continues,

But those destroyers might not always be available and, even if they are, they might overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incoming fire. So the Marines want better-armed amphibs that can, ideally, operate unescorted or, at minimum, take on some of the burden of their own defense. (1)

If an enemy can overwhelm an escort of Aegis/AMDR Burkes and Ticonderogas, we’re screwed anyway.

Since when did the Navy become subordinate to the Marines?

I’m a huge supporter of what the Marines were and what they should be but I’m fed up with what they’ve become and where they seem to be going.  The Marines no longer bring anything unique to the fight and they’ve all but abandoned their core mission of amphibious assault in favor of all these other areas and they’re totally ignoring what I consider to be their core mission which is port seizure.  I never thought I’d say this but I’m ready to disband the Marines.

The Marine’s arrogance and ambition is out of control.  If we won’t disband them, then they need to be smacked upside the head and brought back into line.


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marine, Navy Wrestle With How To Upgun Amphibs”, Sydney J. Freedburg, Jr., 18-Jan-2019,


  1. Well they CANNOT do any worse than the Navy has done with the DDG-1000, LCS, and LPD Programs, can they?

  2. I would offer a bit of devils advocate defense in that it seems hard to criticize the trend toward light infantry. That is what the Forever GWOT terror demands (and has demanded) for close now to 20 years. Congress was unlikely back in the 90s cold war over days to fund a force that had no mission. Enter GWOT and the mission was light infantry.

    On ship design stuff I would think the USMC would or should be more interested in getting MRLS systems on the craft for fire support. Do any Amphibious ships deploy w/o a Burke anyway, and presumably some of the new Frigates.

    1. " Do any Amphibious ships deploy w/o a Burke anyway, and presumably some of the new Frigates."

      ARGs rarely deploy with escorts and now the individual ships of the ARG are splitting off on dispersed missions. Of course, this is peacetime so you don't need escorts. We're talking about war. During war, yes, every amphibious ship will have an escort(s).

      "I would offer a bit of devils advocate defense"

      That's defending an ill conceived concept whereby the US jumps into every little dispute it comes across with no actual plan for victory and no geopolitical plan for the aftermath. If that's what you want to defend, feel free.

    2. I'm not defending per say, just pointing out its sort of an inevitable tide. It is the job the USMC is asked to do not a theoretical one. One most decision makes likely doubt will happen - war with Russia, China or even Iran outside of bombing and missiles. Kind of like the part before WW2 where spent most of its invading Latin American Banana Republics.

      Was the USMC or the Army ready to storm Okinawa or Normandy at the outset of WW2? Guadalcanal only worked because the Japanese we even more unprepared for the realities of a contested fight at the end of long logistical chain (well an of course the results of Midway).

    3. First, the Marines are NOT being asked to create their own air force, take on deep strike, design Navy ships, get into the large UAV business, etc. That's all stuff they've come up with on their own.

      As far as the light infantry trend, they've been ordered to those missions, to an extent, but have enthusiastically grabbed hold, as well. The Marines should be carrying out the assigned mission while remaining firmly rooted in their primary purpose. That the nation is misusing the Corps is no excuse. As the Marines say, when the nation is least prepared for war, the Marines should be most prepared. Instead, the Marines are leading the way towards unpreparedness.

      As far as defending them (even devilishly), you cite the example of pre-WWII and yet fail to apply the lesson it offers about preparing for the wrong kind of war. We have the benefit of many decades of actual experience and hindsight and should be able to recognize the false path we're on. Again, defending an unwise path, even devilishly, is wrong.

  3. I wouldn't have a problem with something like an MRLS or similar for fire support BUT putting VLS on board to launch cruise missiles or SMs is just crazy money talk. IF USN loses escorting Burkes or there's not enough fire support for the beach head and USN/USMC is getting overwhelmed, what the heck are you doing there in the first place?!? Shouldn't the all whole sector been softened up way before hand? What USMC needs is a cheap, high volume, moderate range artillery/fire support not some pinpoint long range system or shooting down ABMs missiles....

    I know I'm reading AGAIN WAYYY TOO MUCH INTO THIS BUT this is a disturbing trend of looking at operating single or 2 ships as normal military this something being seriously looked at by the Pentagon? Why now? Is it because USN/USMC is so over stretched and spread thin or more far graver, we don't know anymore how to operate in a big Task Force?!?

    1. I would assume the stretched thin is the answer.

      Consider the sum of the LCS thread. The LCS are supposedly now going to forward deployed to the US coasts seeming to do USCG work. Yet the USCG has 6 cutters forward deployed to Bahrain and another a NSC forward deployed to the India-Pacific command for months?

      Maybe the USMC are not wrong, because it seems odd the Navy can't deploy dozens of ships farther than the US coast if at all but the USCG can. Maybe they will be all alone on there transports

    2. "is this something being seriously looked at by the Pentagon?"

      It certainly appears so and it's because we've forgotten what real war is. Our current military leaders have grown up with police actions and nation building and have come to think that's what war is. The Chinese will, eventually, educate us about real war.

    3. "we've forgotten what real war is."

      Which is sort of a US tradition since before it was a country. You know the reason the UK got all annoyed because it was them manning the thin red line.

    4. Sorry to be glib. But the real wars we are fighting are not peer wars. Is the GWOT stupid at this point and distorting priorities, yes but I think criticism has to be balanced against demands.

      I really don't see a peer war with Russia we made it through the Cold war without one and SIOP said you did not need worry about conventional issues anyway.

      I know your view but I am hard pressed to imagine a conventional war with China or Iran would involve the USMC force any Inchon type landing aside from maybe helping Taiwan (actively defending itself).

      I can see a mostly navy war with china over Taiwan or something else, but that calls for far more subs and cruise missiles such that the US can impose a naval blockade.

    5. "I know your view but I am hard pressed to imagine a conventional war with China or Iran would involve the USMC force any Inchon type landing aside from maybe helping Taiwan (actively defending itself)."

      Really? What is my view? I ask because it doesn't sound like you grasp it so why don't you tell me what you think it is and I'll correct you, if needed.

    6. " The Chinese will, eventually, educate us about real war."

      Will they? The last time they tried Vietnam schooled them.

      They spend money making copies of ridiculous US weapon ideals like the 20mm grenade/gun compo or rail guns they hype with no results.

      They still have not dealt with the fact many officers can buy advancement or earn with political loyalty.

      In all honesty I more worried about the Czar's reformed Russian army. He actually looked at the lessons of sub par operations in Chechnya and George and moved on. Certainly Russia can take what it wants from the Ukraine if chooses. China has not been tested for a very long time.

    7. "Really? What is my view? I ask because it doesn't sound like you grasp it so why don't you tell me what you think it is and I'll correct you, if needed."

      I read the China War post you think a hot was certain and one China will start sooner rather than later.

      Am I wrong?

      There are only two other major wars that seem reasonably possible - one that results from a Bolton led bombing of Iran, or Korea spinning into war.

      For the first unless you are willing to radically advocate increasing taxes and restoring a draft of even women too there is no way the US will be invading China.

      I doubt anyone has the apatite to try and occupy Iran and given the lack of international support that would require a draft as well. Third unlike back in the day the ROK is massively superior in conventional forces now. If Kim decides to burn Seoul and Japan and bits of Cali well that means the the North is glass... He looks like a man who does not relish being incarcerated. Thus I suspect there is no second Inchon likely to be needed.

      That leaves a peer war with Russia over the Czar overreaching but that is more or less the job of the Army and Air Force if he suddenly sends his tanks into Poland.

    8. " The last time they tried Vietnam schooled them."

      And us.

    9. "In all honesty I more worried about the Czar's reformed Russian army."

      Russia is aggressive and evil but not irrational and deluded. It is the last two characteristics that define the Chinese and the kind of thinking that leads to war. It's just a matter of time.

    10. "China will start sooner rather than later. Am I wrong?"

      You're correct that I see war with China as inevitable. The time frame is debatable and will continue to be pushed back as long as we continue appeasing China and giving them everything they want. We've ceded the entire E/S China Seas and now they're beginning to move on the Pacific Rim countries, Africa, South America, and India. As long as the US refuses to confront them, the Chinese will happily take without going to war.

    11. @Seal of lion, how much more time do we want to give them?

      By my count, we've already given them over two decades to start laying the groundwork for not only the modernization of their military, but their entire industrial, logistical, and R&D capabilities. Make no mistake, this isn't the China of either the 90's or 2000's anymore.

      That story you mentioned sounds very familiar, almost like Millennium Challenge...

  4. Totally agree. "Of course, the amphibious ships would rely on escorts for protection." Isn't the clue in their name "escorts". If they can be overwhelmed either you need more of them (escorts that is) or you should not be landing at that location.

    1. EXACTLY!!!

      When you listen to the USMC General and further comments, you have to wonder if he really understands all the implications of what he is saying....if the escorts are sunk, you didn't have enough escorts! That's what you need or needed more of! Putting more VLSs won't help since he isn't seriously thinking we have the money to install AEGIS on his ampibs?!? Those launchers are pretty useless if you don't have the whole systems of search, intelligence, targeting,etc...and why did you land where you landed if the enemy is still that strong?!?!?

      This sounds like just asking for more money without really any thought behind it....

  5. Agreed. If it turns out that you do have enough escorts, you are now bringing less troops and equipment ashore because the space on ship is being taken up by unused VLS and radar! Madness.

  6. So...
    "Marines want better-armed amphibs that can, ideally, operate unescorted "

    They want AmphiBurkes?

    The idea of having souped up AmphiBurkes for amphibious assault, then cutting back on armor and artillery, is insane.

    Even if they got the super 'phib... what would they do with it? 'Hey! We got our light infantry on shore! They'll get to work building lilly pads for the F-35's...'

    1. They should put aegis ashore on the lily pad!

  7. “They’ve moved into the Air Force and naval air arena in a bid to build their own air force, . . .”

    The Marines have had their own aviation arm since WWI and have long provided direct close air support of Marines on the ground. There are even Marine F/A-18C squadrons embedded in two carrier air wings today.

    “. . . they’ve moved to take over the Army and Air Force deep strike role, . . .”

    If we’re talking HIMARS with GLMRs and ATACMs, I don’t see this as a problem unless it is at the expense of traditional artillery. Giving Marines on the ground the capability to quickly hit an enemy deep in their territory is important and adds to the ability to bring mass fires against an enemy.

    . . . they’re moving into the Air Force large UAV realm, . . .”

    I assume you're referring to the Marine's MUX program, which is intended to develop a large, ship-based UAV for airborne early warning, ISR, and function as a communications relay. It’s an ambitious program that would provide the Marines the ability to identify targets and pass that information along to other units. It would also provide the amphibious group its own airborne warning capability, though limited compared to the E-2 Hawkeye.

    “. . . and they’re trying to take on the role of land and sea based anti-ship combat.”

    I see this as an extension of the Marine coastal battalions of WWII which were primarily used for anti-aircraft defense but also had a half-dozen 6-in gun. With expeditionary nature of warfare in the Pacific, there will be a need for coastal anti-ship defenses and the Marines are probably best suited to perform that function.

    1. You're missing the main issue and that is that the Marine's are ignoring their core mission in favor of these expansions. If they had an amphibious assault capability that was actually viable, and they were not a light infantry force, and they could execute a port seizure, and they still had extra money and personnel then, sure, expand. But they don't have any of their core capabilities, are shedding tanks and artillery, and yet they're expanding. Baffling.

    2. Regarding Marine air, they haven't simply obtained an improved Harrier (the F-35B) to support their ground element - they've blown right past that and moved into fleet air defense, strike, ISR, command and control, etc. I note that none of that directly supports the ground element. The focus of the Corps for the last decade has been aviation while the AAV/EFV/ACV/whatever has languished and tanks and artillery have been downsized.

      The latest push to build a massive and hugely expensive master UAV is the latest example - all while the core mission withers.

    3. Here here. Truth be told. The Corps has designed ships for the Navy. How do you think we got two assault carriers, USS America and USS Tripoli (LHA 6 &7)? The Corps has somehow decided that air power is the key to their strength....and here I thought, and was trained to believe, that "Every Marine is a Rifleman". I suppose now, with the direction the Corps wants to take the motto should be "Every Marine a Aviation Maintainer".

    4. "USS America"

      This is an interesting case. While the America may be a pure aviation assault platform, it is equally possible that the Navy saw an opportunity to obtain a "light" carrier that could be fitted with an F-35B air wing.

      Of course, it's also possible that both scenarios are in play and that the Navy and Marines saw an opportunity to each sneak in what they wanted and, therefore, willingly cooperated.

  8. I can't help thinking the navy brought this on themselves by making statements about not having enough warships to protect other ships. ("Not Enough Escorts For Convoys" 15 Oct 2018) I know the Defense News article specifically refers to the sea-lift effort but the general tenor is that the USN will be so busy escorting carriers, maintaining ASW barriers and other operations it will have nothing left over for escorting anything. So when a Marine, not trained in naval operations, hears the navy saying it cannot be relied on for protection, it makes perfect sense to ask for more weapons on the amphibs.

    1. If they want the weapons they it should come out of the Corps budget.

    2. "If they want the weapons they it should come out of the Corps budget."

      Yes! I note that the Marines are not volunteering any budget. They're just trying to tell the Navy what to do.

      Great comment!

  9. The Marines may be overreaching with this and other efforts (V-22, F-35, CH-53K) while at the same time forgoing their unique amphibious capabilities for an aviation-centric doctrine. I do wonder whether this news release is related to the Future Surface Combatant program that has featured an LPD hull used as a basis for cruiser replacement and BMD\VLS weapon set in preliminary mock ups.

  10. A couple of thoughts.

    Could this be Lt. General Beaudreault trying to publicly "shame" the Navy leadership for not fully supporting amphib assault? The Navy's policy is to remain at least 30nm off shore with a plan to increase that to over 100nm during an amphib assault. Also, the Zumwalt was an attempt to bring naval gun fire support (ngfs) into the fleet. From reading the Navy CONOPS of the Zumwalt, it is clear they intended the Zumwalt to remain at least 30nm off shore, as well!

    Keeping the escort and ngfs that far off shore would decrease the effectiveness to the point of being in-effective.

    Second, the Navy should be building small, no more than 2500 tons, destroyer escorts (DE) in 2 versions. The first is the legacy role of a primarily ASW ship to escort convoys, re-supply ships, etc. that don't require a Frigate. SeaRAM and CWIS but no other missiles.

    The second is the small gun ship with (I'm using your idea) 4 x 5" guns in 2 turrets and up to 16 VLS for ESSMs.

    Both of these small ships could be constructed in about 12 months, but a prototype needs to be built and construction plans finalized. Many ship yards would be capable of building these ships, leaving the big yards available for the big ships.

    Even without building more than a prototype or two, having the ability to quickly construct small ships would take years of development time out of the process to respond to an aggressor.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.