Monday, March 30, 2020

Force Design 2030

The Marine Corps, meaning Commandant Berger, has issued the force design document, Force Design 2030 (FD 2030), describing the changes that the Commandant intends to make.  I won’t bother reciting the litany of changes as they were documented in the previous post (see, "The Marine Corps Is Now Redundant").  Suffice it to say that the Commandant has decided to drop firepower in favor of maneuver and data.  Let’s analyze the document. 

The first thing that jumped out at me was the Commandant’s personal impetus for the radical changes he intends to make.  We are all shaped by our experiences and it is natural to wonder what experiences shaped this Commandant to the degree that he believes a wholesale remake of the Corps is called for.  Well, he lays out what motivated him.

That prioritization was the result of my direct participation in five years of naval and global war games while the Commanding General of I MEF, Commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration. Those war games helped shape my conclusion that modest and incremental improvements to our existing force structure and legacy capabilities would be insufficient to overcome evolving threat capabilities, nor would they enable us to develop forces required to execute our approved naval concepts. (1)

So, the primary driving force that shaped the Commandant’s views is five years of war games.  This leads to a couple of thoughts.

It would have been nice to see a nod to history as a driver/shaper of his views since he has no actual peer level combat experience to draw on.  Why not draw on the lessons of those who did experience peer combat?  Now, I’ve got to be fair and acknowledge that the purpose of the FD 2030 was not to detail the Commandant’s life story and all the things that have influenced him so he may well be a student of history, however, the military, today, seems not to study history and seems to have no desire to partake of the lessons of historical combat and, lacking a specific nod to history from the Commandant, I lump him into the same category.

War games are wonderful tools, however, they suffer from one huge weakness and that is that the value of the game is a direct reflection of the value of the opposing force that is programmed into the game.  In other words, garbage assumptions in … garbage results out (GIGO).  Unfortunately, the military has a reputation for unrealistic games with pre-ordained results.  Were the Commandant’s five years of gaming a series of well designed, accurate, open, free play exercises or were they the usual scripted, pre-ordained games?  Is the Commandant’s basis for overhauling the Corps founded on good war games or the usual GIGO games?

Troublingly, assuming that the Commandant wasn’t playing these war games by himself, why is he the only one to come to the conclusion that the Marines need to be radically overhauled?  Of all the game participants, he’s the only one who has come to that conclusion, at least publicly.  Did everyone else draw the wrong conclusions and only he drew the right one?  That’s possible but not likely.  You’ve got to wonder if the Commandant is the outlier.

Now, just because he’s the only one to reach his conclusion does not necessarily mean he’s wrong.  Having a solitary, contrary position in the face of institutional opposition is kind of the definition of a visionary.  However, it’s also kind of the definition of a lunatic.  So, which one is the Commandant?  I have my opinion and you can form your own.

Finally, my colleague over at SNAFU website raises the question of war games and asks how bad the results must have been to motivate the Commandant to embark on such radical changes?

The war games that led to USMC Force Design 2030 must have been awful...

War games obviously showed us getting smashed...or in a fight so hard that it stunned participants. (2)

SNAFU’s take on the war games is thought provoking, for sure, but there may be another explanation.  Instead of the games demonstrating that the Marines were ‘smashed’, I think it’s far more likely that the games demonstrated that the Marines, in their current form, simply weren’t needed and played no significant role.  That would, indeed, stun the Commandant because that would be a direct threat to the Marine’s relevance and budget slice.  A budgetary threat would induce a survival instinct reaction in any modern general and I suspect the Commandant’s restructuring response is more about restructuring the Marines to be budget relevant than to be combat relevant.  That the two may (or may not) go hand in hand is just fortuitous. 

Moving on …

One concern I’ve had from day one of the Commandant’s tenure is the degree of insularity that he has manifested.  This reshaping of the Corps is his and his alone.  He has actively discouraged and limited input from any other source than himself.  This breeds an inevitable “emperor’s clothes” mentality.  We see this demonstrated in the Commandant’s initial efforts:

Phase I focused on problem framing, began in July 2019, and centered on a small operational planning team (OPT) that worked directly with me to establish an initial visualization of the future force … (1)

Noteworthy is that the Commandant did not range out to seek input but, rather, concentrated inward with just a small group whose thoughts and actions he could control – ‘a small operational planning team that worked directly with me’. 

Another troubling aspect of the FD 2030 related to the suspect nature of the war gaming is the lack of actual exercises supporting the conclusions already drawn.

Limited experimentation has been conducted upon discrete elements of the future force utilizing approved naval concepts, to include some carefully constrained tests of the ability of the F-35B to operate and be sustained from austere, undeveloped landing sites.

A single, limited-objective experiment addressing aspects of the organization, training, and equipment of a Marine infantry battalion was conducted … (1)

So, suspect war games and limited and constrained real world exercises are the foundation of this radical change?  Does that seem wise?

To be fair, the FD 2030 acknowledges the need for further exercises.

We will need to conduct full-scale, empirically-based experimentation of the future force in realistic maritime and littoral terrain. (1)

Unfortunately, the course has already been set.  The Commandant has already begun the overhaul of the Corps and future exercises will be too late to alter the trajectory.  The exercises should have been conducted prior to committing to the overhaul, not after.  Again, this demonstrates that the Commandant has already made up his mind and done so with scant, reliable input from any source other than his own experience.

Berger notes that F-35 numbers are, as yet, unknown.

I am not convinced that we have a clear understanding yet of F-35 capacity requirements for the future force. (1)

I assume this means that the Commandant is not yet sure how many F-35s he wants.  This seems slightly at odds with his stated plan to reduce squadron numbers from 16 aircraft to 10 unless he’s possibly anticipating further cuts?

Berger goes on to state that ‘ground tactical combat vehicles’ will undergo further reductions not identified in the initial cuts.

Addressing land based anti-ship missiles which will become the focus of the Marine Corps under the Commandant’s plan, he had this to say,

This requirement is based on one of the more well-supported conclusions from wargaming analysis conducted to date. (1)

That Berger believes this to be one of the more well-supported conclusions from the war games suggests to me that the games were pre-ordained to produce this result.  The illogic of the concept would seem to be evident from any realistic war game so the strongly positive result suggests that the games were not realistic.

For decades, the Marines have been focused on a replacement for the venerable AAV and have finally settled on the ACV despite proclaiming that the era of amphibious assaults is over.  If amphibious assaults are a thing of the past, why does the Corps need ACVs?  The logical discontinuity, here, is breathtaking.  Berger, at least, seems to recognize this and states that Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV) will be reduced by some unspecified number.

One fact from Berger’s document comes through with absolute clarity and that is his commitment of the Marine Corps to a concept of distributed operations (DO).  Addressing the notion of a redesigned infantry battalion, he notes,

We must conduct more live-force experimentation to ensure our proposed design results in a truly DO-capable force. (1)

His focus is unerringly on distributed operations.

Now, here is a breathtaking summary of uncertainty.

I am not confident that we have identified the additional structure required to provide the tactical maneuver and logistical sustainment needed to execute DMO, LOCE and EABO in contested littoral environments against our pacing threat. While not an afterthought by any means, I do not believe our Phase I and II efforts gave logistics sufficient attention. (1)

Berger acknowledges that the foundational sustainment of penny packet forces, in enemy territory, may well be inadequate.  This is exactly one of my primary objections to the concept.  Despite his doubts, he has already fully committed the Corps to the concept !!!!!!!  Essentially, he’s saying, I’m not sure this can work but we’re going to do it anyway.  This is not rational thinking.

What happens when Berger’s own commissioned study produces results he doesn’t like?  He responds, thusly,

The Phase II IPT seems to have produced an incrementally improved version of today’s 3-ship ARG/MEU. This vision falls short of our future needs. We cannot accept or accede to recommendations for incremental change or better versions of legacy capabilities … (1)

His own study produced a result he didn’t want so he’s ignoring it.  This man is accepting no outside input that is not exactly in line with his own thinking.  This is dangerous.

What does Berger need in the future to support his objectives?  For one, more war gaming.  However, it will be carefully controlled, pre-ordained gaming.

To further refine and develop our understanding of force design changes, I am directing the immediate implementation of an intensive program of iterative concept refinement, wargaming, analysis and simulation, and experimentation. I will be personally involved in and responsible for setting priorities and ensuring that necessary resources are made available for this effort. (1) [emphasis added]

It is clear that Berger is not going to allow any war game to produce a result that does not support his vision.


What makes analyzing this Commandant a challenge is that he’s not completely wrong.  If he were a total idiot then it would be easy to analyze his failings and write him off as a crackpot.  However, much of what he observes in the world and much of what he says is spot on.  His analysis of the challenges and shortcomings of the current Marine Corps force structure is largely correct.  Where he fails is in his solutions to those problems.  In other words, he sees the problem but fails in the answer.

Along with his recognition of China as the main threat, here’s some more examples of his observations that are absolutely correct:

“… an array of low signature, affordable, and risk-worthy platforms …”

“…create the virtues of mass without the vulnerabilities of concentration …”

“…foreign humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and noncombatant evacuations do not define us – they are not our identity.”

“There is no avoiding attrition. In contingency operations against peer adversaries, we will lose aircraft, ships, ground tactical vehicles, and personnel. Force resilience – the ability of a force to absorb loss and continue to operate decisively – is critical.”

If only his solution was as good as his analysis of the problem!

We’ve discussed the enormous degree of fantasy involved in believing that you can insert, supply, and operate sea control forces inside enemy territory without the enemy observing and destroying you.  I have yet to hear the Commandant explain how this can successfully happen.  In fact, he explicitly acknowledges that the logistical support for such operations is likely inadequate and yet he is fully committed to the concept.  This is not rational.

Commandant Berger comes so close to being exactly what the Marines need in a leader and yet he falls so far short of the right answer that he will ruin the Marines as a relevant, capable fighting force.


(1)”Force Design 2030”, Department of the Navy, Mar-2020

(2)SNAFU website, “The war games that led to USMC Force Design 2030 must have been awful...”, posted by Solomon, 28-Mar-2020,


  1. The army should identify one of its infantry divisions to be trained and equipped to conduct amphibious operations, the reaction to that would be fun to watch.

    1. During Vietnam they, unofficially, did with the 9th down in the Mekong Delta. It was interesting because the Marines, the amphibious masters, operated far from the ocean in the hills up near North Vietnam & Laos.

    2. I've never understood how the marine corps wasn't partnering with the navy in the mekong delta, it seems so obvious.

    3. Easy answer: William Westmoreland.

      The Army got the delta and the Marines got the hills. Made no sense.

  2. The USMC has become a classic ‘Greek Tragedy:’ the strengths of the Corps are now a rigid inflexible dogma.

    How much maneuver can you have without mobile, protected firepower (tanks) or mobile artillery (self-propelled howitzers)? Missiles have their uses, and that use is growing, but missiles are also logistically unsustainable as a replacement for tube artillery in high-intensity combat.

    The Marines are wedded to vertical envelopment and cannot see their way beyond infantry-centric warfare: a concept proven bankrupt in the trenches of WWI. The USMC armor board of 1949 recommended against this, as did the Krulak board post Desert Storm. USMC experience in Falluja showed the value of tanks (in that case U.S. Army tanks) doing what days of infantry assault could not do: break into the enemy defense and destroy it.

    Vertical envelopment (including helicopter/tilt-wing insertion) is very much in doubt as an operational imperative (witness the lack of use in the 2003 Iraq war), as well as numerous RAND studies highlighting the survivability/viability issues of vertical envelopment.

    I believe all these ills point to a fundamental organizational institutional character flaw in the USMC, which sees nothing beyond the infantry – much the same way cavalry officers in the early 1900s still expected to charge machinegun nests with lances. Pure infantry officers will never understand maneuver warfare (and vertical envelopment is *not* maneuver warfare). The first USMC experience fighting a modern Russian or Chinese tank or motor rifle brigade will be a sobering and lethal experience.


    1. The larger problem with Berger's overhaul of the Corps is that it will leave the Marines suited to fight ONLY in the Pacific islands. History almost guarantees that the Marines will be called on to fight elsewhere and in the relatively near future. What will this light infantry force armed with anti-ship missiles do then? They'll die - in alarming numbers.

    2. "USMC, which sees nothing beyond the infantry"

      On point, as always.

      So, how should the Marines be preparing for the Chinese threat?

    3. If the Marines aspire to fight a high intensity war against a peer enemy it will need to adopt a maneuver war focus, complete with tanks (can be USA units attached), SPHs, a MRL like an IMI Lynx/LAR160 (MTVR base could work), and a purpose built heavy engineering vehicle.


  3. I noticed that the document is only signed by Commandant Berger. Where are the endorsements from the CNO and the Secretary of the Navy? Surely both have to be involved in wholesale changes like those proposed.

    At the same time, where is Congress on all this? They are the ones who will eventually approve these changes with the Secretary of the Navy requesting and defending them before Congress.

    1. I went and scanned over a random dozen or so USMC papers and reports and other than those that directly involved the Navy, there were no non-Marine signatures, by and large. So, I don't think that's significant.

      However, you raise the very good point that, sooner or later, Congress, the Navy, and other parties will have to get on board with this concept in order to make it work. A politically astute Commandant would have spent some time laying the foundation for this and generating support among interested parties prior to the big reveal. The Commandant may encounter increased resistance for bypassing normal 'buy-ins'. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

      In particular, the Commandant's pronounced disdain for outside input may cause friction with Congress who, at the very least, expects to be listened to with respect.

      You raise a great point! We'll watch and see what happens.

    2. The Commandant of the Marine Corps can do much on his own authority when it comes to leading the Marine Corps. But, since this involves significant changes in force structure, I have to assume Secretary of the Navy has given his permission to at least start the process.

      Congress is the wildcard here. This might be too cynical, but I wonder if the Commandant is staking out an extreme position in order to get what he really wants.

    3. What do you think he really wants?

  4. 1.A someone on the outside I find the Marine structure a bit confusing. Sometimes they appear part of the navy and sometimes the appear as an independent force (like the Airforce).
    2.Being devils advocate why does the Navy need an Army? The Airforce could argue it needs an Army which is moved around by air.

    1. During the early days of our country while the Navy operated sail vessels, Marines were the soldiers of the ships as the common tactic was to pull alongside an enemy and board. The Marine Corps development continued sporadically in the decades following with an eventual, fairly logical, movement to amphibious assault warfare. There have been multiple attempts to eliminate the Marines.

      Wiki has a pretty good writeup on the history of the Corps.

      While I love the Marines, at this exact moment in time, and given what the Marines have lately morphed into, I see nothing unique about them and no reason for their continued existence since they have no interest in the core mission that I see for them (port seizure). I think Commandant Berger sees the same lack of justification and is frantically trying to make the Marines relevant.

    2. The French have the Troupes de marine which are trained for amphib operations. They are not part of the navy though, they're a unit of the army. Their lineage comes from the former colonial regiments that fought in Vietnam & Algeria.

    3. You're slightly wrong on the origins of marines. Sailors were used for boarding and counter boarding. While both operations were an all hands affair that included everybody but embarked women, clergy and doctors, marines were not the effort. The American marines were mostly used as sharpshooters in the rigging and to beef up (not lead) raids ashore.

      The reason the Continental Congress authorized them in the first place was in emulation of the Royal Navy, who had to have them because they impressed their sailors and therefore needed a robust security force. The Americans didn't impress sailors, so didn't need them for that. The USMC owes its early existence not to military necessity but to me too-ism. All in all I think the decision worked out well.

  5. Berger is just being realistic. A Marine Corps with just 24 infantry battalions (20,000 men) will play no role in fighting China with 20 million men or even N. Korea with a million. He is looking a the early World War II model of Marine Defense Battalions:

    Filling the official role of protecting "advanced naval installations". Protecting Okinawa, Guam, and Saipan from from commando attacks and unhappy locals. These attacks may come by air or subs or fishing boats.

    Grand amphib ops may come a couple years later after massive mobilization, but the first year defense battalions make sense.

    1. "Filling the official role of protecting "advanced naval installations"."

      If that's the case, shouldn't they be investing heavily in anti-air defenses as much, or more than, anti-ship missiles? And yet they aren't.

    2. And arguably, if their role is instead highly mobile "shoot & scoot" around the pacific to keep China on their toes, thats something that either the existing SpecOps groups could do anyway, or could be done with the navy from small ships.

      Whatever historical reasons for the Marines' creation, I'm not seeing any continuing reason for them to exist aside for the sake of tradition.

    3. An out of the box thought; The marines have effectively a microcosm of all other military branches within their current set-up - what if they transformed into a specialist aggressor force for the entire US military?
      They have the equipment to simulate all sorts of hostile forces and scenarios - what if they made that their prime role; actually RUNNING the war games against the army, air force & navy? That would keep the espirit de corps alive and hungry, as well as an on-going & critical function for the US.
      At the same time, like Air Force & Navy aggressor units are still combat-rated, the Marines would in effect be a highly-trained & effective force still, with an inherent knowledge of the tactics & equipment of potential adversaries.
      Feel free to shoot holes in this idea, but it seems on the face of it to be a good one.

    4. "specialist aggressor force for the entire US military?"

      Well that's an interesting thought. They'd have to downsize a good bit - say one division, one air wing?

      The only slight catch might be equipment. An aggressor force should, ideally, use actual enemy ships/planes/vehicles. Of course, since we don't normally have a large inventory of enemy equipment on hand, we use substitutes that best emulate enemy equipment. That might result in equipping the Marines with non-standard US equipment which would prove to be a problem if they were called on to fight.

      Still, an interesting thought.

    5. My only in-depth knowlegde if in the aviation area, not navy or army, but here are the air force Aggressor units:
      They all fly US hardware, but do so in a way that mimics or replicates enemy aircraft. The navy do the same (aside from the odd MIG-35!).
      Look I've honestly no idea if the same principle would apply to army or ships, and I'd agree you simply wouldnt need anything like the size of force that the Marines currently field - but the more I've chewed the idea over, the more I like it.
      They'd be able to self-transport to anywhere they wanted to stage assaults, etc too.

    6. "They'd be able to self-transport to anywhere they wanted to stage assaults, etc too."

      An OpFor that makes house calls!

      Seriously, you might want to check on the size of OpFors in things like Red Flag to see what size force might be appropriate. Let me know what you find.

    7. Okay, I've done some homework!
      The wiki page has a pretty good set of numbers, but doesn't break it into individual exercises, rather by year:

      There are also good write ups like this:
      They give number like 100ish aircraft and anything from a few hundred people to over 2000 (

      Those are numbers for individual excercises though. Foal Eagle is on a bigger scale and includes Marine Units already:
      Theres over 12,000 (mostly) Marines involved with that instance quoted there.

      Looking to another US ally, Australia, numbers I've found quote 25,000, although there is no breakdown of who makes that up:

      These have all been examples of US allies that are around the Pacific area, and Japan isnt left out either:
      Again, Marine units are specifically mentioned in there. Apologies for the numerous links - no doubt the formatting is going to look horrid, but I wanted to 'show my working'.

      Now, how much is needed for the multi-domain aggressor role? Going back to your Marine Corps Manning post led me to this page (
      It has a good breakdown of the units it includes with a total of about 47,000 individuals. Being generous and assuming you need another 10,000 support roles that would bring you to just under 60,000 Marines in total.

      Now, this force would be able to do something mentioned here several times - go out and win allies, project a presence, without having to tie up Carrier Task Forces. They would be able to hone the skills of US allies pretty much all over the globe as well as domestically.
      Over & over here the lack of realistic training and war games is pointed out as a fatal flaw. Looking through those sources I found, 1 common theme is that those exercises are being shortened/scaled down/ happening less frequently/ being swapped for tabletop or planning exercises. None of those are good.

      Imagine if Australia were simply told; "Sometime in April next year we will be sending the II MEF to Australia to land and conduct an amphibious assault/ maneuver from the sea (whilst obviously not landing in the middle of Sydney!). Australia is tasked with finding, intercepting and engaging the force at sea and on land." That would be a pretty realistic scenario that could be played out everywhere from Korea to Canada to the UK as well as the US coastal areas. Theres no reason why other military branches couldn't play a role as well, like including strategic bombers.

      If thats too long, my premise simply is: if the aggressor logic & equipment used now works for air assets & a common failing in forward planning is lack of realistic war games or practise, In a unit like the II MEF the USA has a force greater than that of many countries that is pretty self-mobile, multi-domain and well-equipped that could be used for plugging that exact hole.

      And again, apologies for any format issues that appear as soon as I hit publish...

  6. CNO "So, the primary driving force that shaped the Commandant’s views is five years of war games"

    You aren't the only one skeptical of wargaming scenarios used, thoughts of Acting Sec of the Navy Modly per USNI News article "Modly: Parallel Fleet Studies Could Reshape Future of Aircraft Carriers" March 12, 2020, his point specifically based on the unrealistic assumption 12 CVN would be operational, what other Alice in Wonderland assumptions did Gilday and Berger assume in their wargaming.

    "Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger presented the new Navy/Marine INFSA (Integrated Naval Force Structure Asssessment) to Modly earlier this year after months of study, simulations and wargaming, but Modly kicked it back to them with concerns in a few areas. // I know that they didn’t pressure test it through other types of wargaming scenarios

    [The Navy has] said consistently that it should be 12 carriers. That’s what the law says. That’s what they put in all their scenarios. That’s a requirement that they put in there. Well, even if you looked at our own plans that we’ve developed, we never get to 12 in 50 years or something – I think 2060 or something is when we get to 12 carriers,” Modly said.

    “So my view on that is, well, if we’re not going to ever really get to 12, why are we wargaming around 12?"

    1. Wargaming with 12 carriers versus any other number is utterly irrelevant. Other than on day one of a war, you'll never have 12 available carriers. Unless you assume that your ships are invisible and invulnerable and will never be damaged (as the Navy seems to believe!), at any given moment half your carriers will be either sunk or undergoing battle damage repairs. History tells us that carrier availability will be sporadic. So, if you're wargaming with 12 carriers you're wargaming a situation that is only valid on day one and never again.

      There are two levels of wargames:

      1. Campaign level where you map out the entire war in broad, strategic and operational strokes. The WWII War Plan Orange is an example of this.

      2. Tactical level where you work on single battles or single operations. For this, you'd have to be a ridiculously optimistic fool to use 12 carriers. You'd be lucky to assemble 4 carriers for such an event and, therefore, that's what you should be modeling in your wargame.

      With that in mind, I really wonder what kind of wargaming and what kind of (utterly unrealistic?) assumptions were used?

      Small side note: the Congressionally mandated number of carriers is 11.

    2. And no Congress is not beholden to what it mandated in the past...

      Congress could appropriate full funding for 24 CVNs today, and tomorrow cancel the program and order the sell-off of any contracted material...

      Congress can and does anything they want. Everyone allways treats the Executive branch as 'The Government' when it is actually 1 of 3 equals in importance, and Thomas Jefferson noted that of the three co-equal branches, the legislative branch was 'more equal' than the others.

      Just saying...


  7. Reading the entire document FD 2030, The Commandant is pretty much transforming the USMC to become infantry heavy, supply light? and according to him, be able to survive "inside an adversary’s long-range precision fire weapons engagement zone (WEZ)" (verbatim). Ok, I would like to hear more on that but hopefully, in the coming months we will hear more on how he plans to accomplish operating inside enemy WEZ.

    1."Mobility inside the WEZ is a competitive advantage and an operational imperative." Ok, you just turned everybody into infantry and on foot. Or are you moving around in helicopters but that is being cut how mobile are you? You have to be REALLY SMALL to operate inside the WEZ without being detected.

    2. "Logistics (sustainability) is both a critical requirement and critical vulnerability. Forces that cannot sustain themselves inside the WEZ are liabilities; however, those that can sustain themselves while executing reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance missions create a competitive advantage." This is interesting point, logistics are important! but how are you going to respond to the contradicting requirements here? Your forces need to be supported inside the WEZ BUT both forces and logistic tail need to stay hidden! Even on foot, you need food, water, ammo,etc...helicopters on top of that need some kind of base (outside the WEZ?). The other point is NOW the USMC becomes a recon unit with some LIGHT offensive capability? Better hope you never fight an enemy with superior firepower because you're dead. Recon units never survive long against heavier regular units,especially since it sounds like USMC is on foot and the bad guys are going to be mechanized.

    3. "Investment in additional rocket artillery batteries...long-range, precision expeditionary anti-ship missile fires.." Like CNO pointed out, he states that it's important and most well supported conclusion but very much a contrived conclusion, how do you explain all the cuts, going small and light infantry BUT then say you need land based ASMs? How do you get them in place? Move them after they fire? Support? There is a mention of needing more G2A defense so I guess they acknowledge they need protection but that still really doesn't get us to understand how he reached that conclusion or necessity of that weapon system. Seems actually a contradiction, USMC going so small, mobile and then add batteries of land based ASMs that are going to require a big footprint?

    Last, as CNO mentioned, there sure is a lot of "me" the Commandant, I can't recall a document so full of 1 person's opinion and not having that "consensus" or the "team" reaches the same conclusion. The Commandant is one and center on this paper. It will be interesting to see if we hear of some push back...something is bound to leak, you know somebody inside USMC doesn't agree with this....

  8. To understand Berger's move from obsolete tube artillery to rockets, read this link:

    That includes "The Problem with Howitzers"

    A big drawback for howitzers is a low rate of fire compared to what a rocket system can deliver. This is a fatal problem for howitzers now that counterbattery radar is common throughout the world since an enemy can determine the exact location of a firing battery before its first volley of projectiles land. This has made towed artillery (pictured) obsolete in modern warfare, and made self-propelled artillery operations complex and limited.

    The big breakthru would be something the Army's toyed with -- multi-role launchers. There is no reason a big launcher cannot be used for rockets, or guided missiles to include anti-ship or HARM, or anti-air like Sidewinder or AMRAAM.

    1. The premise that MRLs are *less* logistically demanding than tube artillery is pure bunk.

      Tube artillery is about an order of magnitude more efficient in the use of propellant compared to rocket motors

      There are many merits to guided missiles; ease of logistical support is not one of them. A good source for analysis of MRLs and FA is General Bailey's book: "Field Artillery and Firepower"

      At any rate, there is little purpose in adding systems like HIMARS or M270s to Marine combat formations that lack the organic C4ISR to employ them.


    2. Simply watching those videos is proof you are wrong. Unpacking artillery rounds, bag charges, and fuzes is manpower intensive and everything must be neatly laid out for use so is vulnerable to counterfires and very difficult to repack to relocate. HIMARS and MLRS are big snap in disposable canisters.

      A 155m gun needs a crew of 9 Marines, plus the ammo trucks following. HIMARS needs two guys who sit inside and push buttons. To reload a small crane pulls off the entire canister and snaps in another.

      Here is more:

    3. "This has made towed artillery obsolete"

      I'm not a land combat expert by any means. I understand that fixed artillery (meaning towed) is susceptible to counterbattery fire, HOWEVER, I'm always suspicious of this kind of sweeping statement that relegates a tried and true capability to the dust bin of history because, almost inevitably, it turns out to not be true.

      We once proclaimed the era dogfighting and guns to be over only to find out to our dismay that wasn't the case.

      One of the problems I have with declaring artillery obsolete, aside from the historical likelihood that the statement is false, is that the statement assumes a degree of omnipotence on the part of the enemy that is unwarranted. Yes, counterbattery fire can hurt artillery but what if the enemy has no counterbattery in range or his artillery/missiles have other, higher priority targets, or he simply hasn't got enough on hand. In those cases, artillery is still devastating.

      What I take from this is that we need to be wise about where and how we employ towed artillery but not that we need to instantly throw it all away.

      Hey, ideally we'd replace every towed piece with a self-propelled equivalent but that's not immediately affordable or practical.

      Greater land combat minds than mine can wrestle with this issue but that's my thought, at the moment.

    4. "little purpose in adding systems like HIMARS or M270s to Marine combat formations that lack the organic C4ISR to employ them."

      And that's my problem (well, one of them) with the Commandant's sea control vision. Setting all other problems aside, he can control the 15 miles out to the horizon and that's it unless he also has a sophisticated, long range, survivable sensor system to provide remote targeting - and he doesn't.

    5. "Simply watching those videos is proof you are wrong."

      Keep it impersonal. Argue the idea, not the person. Thanks.

    6. @Anon" "Simply watching those videos is proof you are wrong."

      I stand by my assertion: rockets are significantly more logistically demanding than tube artillery because physics dictates that you need less propellant to launch the same projectile from a tube closed on one end (howitzer), than a rocket. That makes rockets and missiles more challenging to load store, or handle. This is why MRLS was procured as a *Corps level* artillery system, and attached to armored divisions, later maneuver brigades (AKA tank/mech infantry).

      But do not believe me: "A platoon is a big footprint," said Lt. Col. Dale Butler, artillery and rockets capabilities integration officer at Marine Corps Systems Command. "Just putting 11 of the pods for HIMARS displaces one-fifth of the ammo storage capacity [on an amphibious ship]. From the article: ‘For Marine Corps, Firing Rockets Off a Ship Is Just a Starting Point’ by Hope Hodge Seck -

      - An MTVR truck can carry a single pod of six-M26/M30/XM31/LRPF MLRS missiles; the same truck can carry six-field artillery projectile pallet (FAPP) pallets holding up to *48* M795 projectiles plus propellant charges or 96 projectiles with no propellant charges.

      - M26/M30/XM31/LRPF MLRS missiles are ~14’ (4 meters) and are awkward loads requiring specialized handling equipment; FAPP pallets loaded with 155mm ammunition are compatible with *all* military forklifts and standard cranes on MTVR, FMTVs, and HEMTTs. 155mm ammunition can be man-handled, even in MOP protective gear. 155mm ammunition is also compatible with 463L pallets for air transport.

      - M26/M30/XM31/LRPF MLRS missiles are ~14’ (4 meters) and are awkward loads for 20’ and 40’ intermodal shipping containers; FAPP pallets loaded with 155mm ammunition can be loaded into intermodal shipping containers with 100% efficiency and unloaded with standard 4,000 lb capacity forklifts, pallet jacks, or even man-handled.

      You’re comments about crew size are also irrelevant, and ignore the efficiency of modern *self-propelled* howitzers like the German PzH 2000 with automated ammunition handling.

      The size of a HIMARS crew in no way reflects the man power required to support it - entire logistical train is much less efficient. By comparison, 155mm ammunition can be handled shipped efficiently by both military *and* civilian personnel from ammunition plant to launcher.

      Both MRLs and tube self-propelled howitzers are complementary artillery systems, with mostly different target sets.


    7. "A big drawback for howitzers is a low rate of fire compared to what a rocket system can deliver."

      For how long? Seems to me that given the same storage volume, you would run out of rockets a lot faster than you would run out of bullets. Obviously the counter battery argument says that you want to get as much ordnance out as fast as possible, but there still seems to be an advantage to having more bullets to fire.

    8. "A big drawback for howitzers is a low rate of fire compared to what a rocket system can deliver."

      I'm not a land combat expert so you'll have to explain this to me. I've watched YouTube videos of MLRS/HIMARS reloading and it appears to be around a 15 min process, start to finish. Depending on how far away the reloads are from the firing point, additional travel time has to be added to the reload process. Thus, the max rate of fire of an MLRS/HIMARS appears to be on the order of 6/12 rounds per 25 minutes (allowing 5 minutes for travel time to/from the reload point) for a sustained rate of fire of 1/4 - 1/2 rounds per minute. The M777 howitzer, by comparison, claims a normal sustained rate of fire of 2 rds/min.

      So, how does the MLRS/HIMARS have a higher rate of fire? What am I missing?

    9. MRLs like HIMARS do not have a higher rate of fire, at least not a high sustained rate of fire, but they can saturate an area with munitions in a very short period of time.

      Combined with longer range, and larger warheads make MRLs superb at counter-battery operations.

      The other factor that MRLs bring is they can be devastating at delivering neutralization fires designed not just to temporarily suppress a target, but to actually render soldiers in a ztargeted area incapable of resistance for an extended period. This 'method of applying fires was pioneered by the Germans in the later half of WWI as a means of subduing an enemy in a few hours, rather than requiring days or weeks to deliver 'destructive fires'. Similar Effects were achieved in WWII by the Western allies by firing "Terror Concentrations" - essentially focusing ll the arty in a Corps or even an army group on a single position for a short duration, but incredibly intense bombardment. typically the guns would for this sort of mission on sequential targets This was similar in concept to a "Time on Target" fire mission, but the number of tubes concentrating on a single target was extraordinary. Even troops in heavy bunkers were rendered ineffective for hours.


  9. And for those surprised to read that tube artillery is obsolete (a weapons' system that George Washington would recognize) watch this:

    1. Or we could consider modern *self-propelled howitzers* that other nations are buying now…

      Russian 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV

      German PzH 2000

      S. Korean K9 Thunder or


  10. MLRS is the Army's original system. HiMars is half the size and wheeled so is more mobile. It requires one-tenth the crew of a 155mm gun and little training. It can set up and fire ten times faster than tube artillery, and just one can provide more firepower in a minute than 10 155mm guns.

    1. And HIMARs requires about 10x the logistics support and is particularly volume inefficient: a real problem for a force that depends upon the volume challenged V-22 for a substantial part of its logistics.


    2. This video clearly shows why tube artillery is obsolete.

      It is difficult to move and requires a dozen soldiers running about in a complex dance to fire the thing. The video shows rapid fire of a 155mm gun, but after a dozen rounds they must slow to "sustained" fire of one every couple of minutes lest the barrel warp. Simple counter-battery radar can quickly detect its exact location for immediate destruction. MLRS is far superior for large targets, while 120mm mortars are far better for small targets.

    3. You are basing your argument on crappy old towed systems (that the USMC fought tooth and nail to buy), instead of looking at modern self propelled options like PzH 2000, the K9, or truck based systems from GIAT or Soltam.

      The objective should be to have tube and missile systems: they are complementary.


  11. To me the big problem is the LHA/LHD. They were just coming in during my Gator Navy days, and we always thought it was stupid to put all your eggs in one super-expensive basket.

    But it's even worse. Because they are so expensive and carry such a high percentage of our assault capability, we can't afford to lose them, so we can't bring them into harm's way. Same for the San Antonio class LPDs. They may make very comfortable cruise ships, but they are useless in an assault.

    We have an amphibious doctrine that says they stand 25-50 miles offshore, but we don't have any connectors that can get a viable landing force ashore from out there. Helos can't carry tanks or heavy artillery, boats are too slow, LCACs are too unreliable, and attrition kills the whole effort. The LHA/LHD may be the end of amphibious assault for the USN.

    It may also be the end of the Marine Corps. If the traditional amphibious assault role is out, what the commandant has to do is figure out what kind of force can operate under those conditions, and then find a mission for that force. So far, that appears to be proving difficult to impossible.

    I think the solution is to trade our $3B LHAs/LHDs and $1.7B San Antonios for something like traditional Phibrons--maybe a smaller LHA/LHD like the Juan Carlos/Canberras at about $1.5B, an LPH for about $700MM, a LSD/LPD for about $600MM, and LST for about $500MM, an LPA/LKA for about $400MM, and a $500MM fire support ship that could also carry and insert a commando unit. We would have the same lift capacity spread over 6 ships rather than 3, for maybe 2/3 of the cost--$4.2B versus $6.4B. Now you don't have any ship that you absolutely cannot afford to lose, so you can bring them into harm's way and actually land a credible landing force.

    What to do with the LHAs/LHDs and LPDs that we have a bunch of sunk costs in? I understand HII has a plan for an ABM ship with beaucoup missiles on the San Antonio hull, so convert them. As for the LHAs/LHDs, I know you don't like this idea, ComNavOps, but I don't see any better use than as a Harrier/Lightning Carrier. They would convert pretty easily to the RAND CV-LS concept, and while that's not a Nimitz it is equivalent to or better than just about any other carrier that anybody else in the world has, so it could hold its own. It could support a CVN similar to the way CVEs and CVLs supported CVs during WWII, or it could be loaded out with most of a Marine air unit to support an amphibious operation, or it could be UAV carrier or even an ASW carrier. I just see them as a huge sunk cost with zero--maybe even negative, because of how the restrict operations--value where they are. So I'm trying to find something for them to do.


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