Monday, September 30, 2019

Heading Off The Tracks

At its most basic, our armed forces exist to fight and win wars of existential concern: true threats to our national security and existence.  This means peer wars. 

Yes, we assign many other tasks to our armed forces but those are lesser concerns and, frankly, the wisdom of many of them is suspect.  But, I digress …

Our armed forces exist to fight and win peer wars.  Every plan we make, every item we buy, and every exercise we conduct must be run through the filter of, ‘how will this enhance our peer war capability?’.  If we can’t answer that with a good, solid rationale then we shouldn’t do it.  Yes, we can plan, equip, and train for lesser contingencies after we’ve completely nailed down our peer war capabilities and nothing we do should detract from our peer war capabilities.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest nonsense and drivel being put forth by the Navy/Marines.

Consider this statement,

The Navy and Marine Corps recently used a new Littoral Combat Force concept to command and control units spread over 2.2 million square miles of land and sea, in the latest demonstration of what a future operation near and on the shore might look like. (1)

Outstanding!  A demonstration of future peer war combat capabilities!  I mean, what else could such a momentous effort be geared towards, right?  But, hey, how about some more detail?  Okay, there’s this:

After the two services signed out the Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE) concept in 2017, they’ve been trying to understand what gear they’d need to support moving small units of Marines around the littorals to take a beach, establish sea control from ashore, and more. (1)

Uh, wait … what now?  Small units of Marines?  How is that related to a high end, peer war with China?  How are small units going to defeat China?  I’m getting a bad feeling about this.

There was also no command and control model that adequately reflected that, under LOCE, there would no longer be a traditional blue-in-support-of-green or green-in-support-of-blue relationship. Rather, ships at sea would provide cover for Marines trying to get ashore, who could then set up temporary anti-ship missile launchers and contribute to sea control from ashore … (1)

Ships at sea provide cover for Marines trying to get ashore who then establish sea control???  This is classic Catch-22, circular logic and we've discussed it before (see, "Land To Enable Landings????").  We have to land Marines in order to establish sea control but if we can land Marines don’t we already have sea control?  The Marines have stated before that they envision landing and establishing sea control so as to enable landings.  Landing to enable landing?  Again, circular logic!  If you need to establish sea control to enable landings (and you do!) then how do you land the Marines who will establish the sea control?  I know … I’ve got a headache, too, but this is the Marine’s latest vision of future war.

Surely this major concept and core foundation for future war can’t all be about small units, can it?  Well, there’s this,

Last year, the Navy and Marines first tested out a key tenet of LOCE: the Littoral Combat Group, which would combine a traditional ARG and embarked Marine force with at least one surface combatant … (1)

So … a key tenet … an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG/MEU) plus one escort ship?  That’s the big game changer for future war?  This is not peer war combat power.  If we’re going to war against anything more than an irate Boy Scout troop we’re going to be in trouble! 

I think the real problem and the real goal is incorporated in the following statement.

He’s [CNO Gilday] certainly intrigued by that, and I [Expeditionary Strike Group 3 Commander Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle] owe him a few things as we capture all of our lessons learned and try to rewrite and organize the Navy’s integrated maritime power and talk about how we fight and how we also render assistance” in a disaster relief type of scenario. [emphasis added] (1)

You see it right there at the end of the statement.  I think this is all geared towards the ‘render assistance in a disaster relief type of scenario’ because it sure isn’t geared towards peer war!  Troublingly, the Navy does not seem to see peer war as a either a responsibility or a likelihood.  Instead, they seem focused on very low end threats, humanitarian response operations, and budget expansion.

Of course, what would all this be without some good buzzword bingo?

“I suspect that when he [Marine Commandant] comes out with his guidance here real soon, there’s going to be a heavy portion of it that discusses naval integration and how the Navy and Marine Corps and the Coast Guard can work better as an integrated American seapower team.” (1)

An ‘integrated American seapower team’!  I’m bursting with pride!  In fact, I think I just wet myself a little.

What a bunch of garbage all around.  We have no concept of how to wage a peer war and, far worse, we seem to have absolutely no interest in trying to develop a concept.  The Navy and Marines seem to believe that peer war is not even a possibility which must make the Chinese very happy.

The part I don’t understand is why the Navy is allowing the Marines to drive this effort.  It’s the Marines who came up with the Catch-22 ‘land to enable landings’ idiocy and they’re, somehow, getting the Navy to play along.  Baffling.  Our Navy and Marines are most definitely headed off the tracks.


(1)USNI News website, “Navy, Marines Practice ‘Littoral Combat Force’ Construct in Alaska”, Megan Eckstein, 23-Sep-2019,


  1. It seems as if its a money grab by the Marines to get into the anti-ship business. I think the Army was doing the same with some supergun of some sort that has "maritime capabilities".
    And while much of it sounds like the battle of budgets, part of it may be that the other services feel that the Navy isnt capable or prepared for a major conflict, and are trying to assume some roles due to lack of faith in the Navy. It kinda makes sense that the Marines would want to be able to defend themselves from enemy fleet units, ala'Guadalcanal.....
    Note im not defending any of the buzzword garbage, or the concepts yoy mentioned. Its idiocy!! But I see where other services feel that they may need to expand into the Navys traditional areas of responsibility to grow their ability to fulfill their own mission/defense, and if they get a few more bucks in their budget too, theyre not gonna complain...

    1. "I see where other services feel that they may need to expand into the Navys traditional areas of responsibility to grow their ability to fulfill their own mission/defense"

      The problem is that this leads to each service trying to establish itself as the sole warfighter. The Marines, not content with just amphibious operations (or whatever they think their mission is today) or worried about the Navy's ability to win the sea war, attempt to take over the sea war and become a complete, one-stop, warfighting organization (they've already built themselves a small air force!).

      We have one, single military, not multiple militaries. Each service has been given a role and responsibility within the one, single US military. Trying to have four complete warfighting services just promotes duplication and wasted money. If a service truly feels that another service is failing then that's a discussion and remedy that has to occur at the Secretary level.

    2. Oh I absolutely agree...and crossing lines of responsibility shouldnt be happening. But I think that those two factors are in play nonetheless...

    3. CNO, you forgot about SOF, the we are way more elite light infantry than the Marines. SOF has their own trade show, they must be a separate branch of the USM.

    4. I think we have two major problems:
      1) Nobody's mission is well-defined, and the Marines in particular seem to be in search of a mission; and
      2) We have fought so many limited wars that we aren't trying to win, that we have very much dulled the sword. We haven't done anything remotely approaching a peer war since WWII.

      I have my own thoughts about what to do about both of those, but that would be a much longer post.

  2. It's really an admission: forget hitting a beach, anything with an opposition would be too much. Disaster relief with some peace keeping is the future of USMC, they pretty much are saying it in between the lines.....the whole concept is beyond ridiculous. An amphib and a DDG? Some small connectors? Those are all targets!!! Not going to survive 5 minutes against a peer! Sh#t, they wont survive 5 minutes against any country operating a sub...there was no mention of air dominance, air superiority,ground 2 air defense,etc... SO how does that work out? No mention of F35 going ashore? Did USMC give up on that idea...oh wait, you dont need air superiority when you do peacekeeping, probably why it wasnt mentioned....I could keep on going on the stupidity but it's obvious to all what's going at a once proud institution.

    It really rejoins what I've been saying about USN: forget MCM, it's dead and just about buried. ASW is probably already marginal on surface ships, it will be relegated to side mission for P8s and subs and if they are spending so much time on ISR, how good is their ASW? We will just keep seeing missions go to the wayside for USN and USMC....

  3. Don't forget the Marines can skip the beach entirely and come back to grab it later. Also, to me, they are describing nothing different conceptually than the Cactus Air Force.

    1. You see no difference between the Marines talking about small units zipping around the littorals and the enormous Guadalcanal campaign?????

    2. Well, the USNI article you reference mentions several times that they plan to take that concept and scale it up. I take that to mean a little force all over the place. They were also focused on operating in an austere environment, which I take to mean generating the ability to project power from the middle of nowhere. Sounds a lot like Guadalcanal in the beginning to me. There is a Proceedings article now out talking about Coastwatchers deployed from subs. Also a small force ashore contributing to the sea battle. Also present at Guadalcanal.

    3. "take that concept and scale it up"

      That's like saying we'll train a squad and that will scale up to an army. This is the kind of misguided, idiotic thinking that passes for military thought from our uniformed leadership today.

      "Also a small force ashore contributing to the sea battle. Also present at Guadalcanal."

      You might want to review the Guadalcanal order of battle. We landed an entire Marine division of 16,000 men. We used an invasion fleet of around 80 ships. An additional 30,000-40,000 men were eventually landed as reinforcements and we threw dozens of additional ships into the battle. "A small force ashore"???? Pretty much the exact opposite!

    4. Perfect illustration of where I am coming from.

  4. (Don McCollor) Guadalcanal, there was inexperience and expensive learning experience..."The Battle of the Five Sitting Ducks" and the "Night of the Battleships" (not US)...history always seems to be forgotten...

    1. Don, quite right. Interestingly, we actually did a full scale landing rehearsal but we didn't rehearse jungle fighting or night naval combat, among other failings.

      Similarly, today, we aren't exercising full electronic warfare, comms denial, GPS loss, opposed landings, landings from 25-50 miles out as our doctrine calls for, F-35s against other stealth aircraft (simulated Chinese J-20s), etc. History, indeed, seems to be forgotten.

      I find it ironic in the extreme that the Marines have forgotten their roots given that it's their obsessive fixation on controlling the naval ships and air force as a result of the Guadalcanal 'abandonment' that is driving much of this.

    2. "Similarly, today, we aren't exercising full electronic warfare, comms denial, GPS loss, opposed landings, landings from 25-50 miles out as our doctrine calls for, F-35s against other stealth aircraft (simulated Chinese J-20s), etc. History, indeed, seems to be forgotten."

      The Air Force, at least, seems to finally be taking seriously the issue of fighting stealth aircraft; the 65th Aggressor Squadron is being reactivated with F-35s to serve as a stealth aggressor squadron (previously they were an F-15 squadron simulating Su-27s, before being stood down), and there are reports and pictures of F-117s seen flying in Nellis airspace, wearing aggressor camo.

      Meanwhile the USN is... apparently not making any effort towards stealth aggressors, be they ship or aircraft.

      What a reversal from Nam, when it was the Air Force that was disinterested in aggressor training and the Navy that was actively conducting aggressor training.


  5. (Don McCollor)..another costly lesson (provided by the Brits in the Falklands)...Once troops crowded on a ship are close to shore...get them off - NOW...
    ...[by the way] in the African Torch landings in WW2, the new Army troopship Thomas Stone was torpedoed and left drifting with a corvette for protection...she began launching her landing craft before the convoy was out of sight - a day early and 140 miles at sea...

  6. It is all very depressing.
    I don’t think there will be any real change until there is a “proper fight” and all the short coming we have been discussing recently become obvious to the man the street.
    Unfortunately, the gap between:
    a. A relatively easy win where the US has overwhelming numbers of kit/personnel/technology (eg Iraq) and
    b. A war / battle where it is too late and the US is defeated.
    Is relatively small.
    In case a, the top brass will just believe / say everything is hunky dory, in case b. we all lean Mandarin.
    Is the “best” we can hope for that China invades Taiwan, US responds, make a complete “balls up” of it and retreats. Jo public is so p***ed of with the military elite that there are changes made before the “main event” with China?

    1. I'm a little concerned I may need to brush up my Farsi. Between carriers staying out of the Gulf and CENTCOM leaving Al Udeid (temporarily) things are not boding well.

  7. Looks like the US Army wants to get into the island hopping game too! As someone else posted/mentioned, why are the services stepping on each other toes?!?! Just about the money or something else going on?

    1. "the US Army wants to get into the island hopping game too! … Just about the money or something else going on?"

      It's always about the money - budget money, in this case. We saw the same thing in Desert Storm. The services insisted on equal participation rather than insisting on the best military outcome. Schwarzkopf had a hard time balancing the demands for participation against military needs. The fear among the services was that if they hadn't participated, robustly, that Congress would start asking why they were funding them to such a large extent.

      I think the same fear is at play here. China looks like a Navy/Air Force war, primarily, and the Army/Marines are afraid that Congress will start cutting their budget because they see a reduced need for them. Thus, the Army/Marines are trying to move in on the Navy/Air Force territory.

  8. Example of budget money going to Marines

    May 2019 Marines awarded $47.59 million Other Transaction Authority funding to Raytheon to integrate Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile with the MH-60R Seahawk, two launchers, one each side of a/c.

    Based on Kongsberg contract to fit the NSM on the Indian Navy new buy of 24 MH-60R's (State Department authorized sale April 2019, $2.6 billion)


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