Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Marine Corps Is Now Redundant


Marine Corps Times website is now confirming that the Marines are planning to significantly dial back their combat capability (1) to the point that they will only be able to function in very low end threat scenarios or in only peripheral capacities in higher threat scenarios.  Here’s the details, as summarized in a graphic posted at SNAFU website (2) :



As shown in the graphic, the Marines are significantly cutting back on firepower – you know, the stuff that lets you win in combat.  
  • A complete combat organization that has no tanks?
  • An amphibious combat organization with no bridging capability?
  • A combat force with almost no artillery?
That is some serious insanity being demonstrated there!

The only aspect of the Corps that is being increased – and it’s a huge increase – is land based anti-ship missiles.  Clearly, the Commandant views the Marine’s main mission, now, as sea control which, as we’ve discussed, is an idiotic concept that is simply not viable.  Even the F-35/aviation side of the Corps is going to take a substantial hit.  Previous Commandants sacrificed the ground element to promote the aviation side and now it appears that, too, is fading, all so that the Commandant can attempt to take over a Navy mission in a bid to remain budget-relevant in the face of the China threat.  The irony is that the sea control mission will actually make the Marines irrelevant. 

The only other missions the Marines are now capable of are very low end, very light infantry work.

The Marines are no longer a viable warfighting force.  They are a peacetime police force.  This Commandant has, in the stroke of a pen, relegated the Marines to irrelevance.  There is nothing that the new Marine Corps will be capable of that can’t be executed better and faster by the Army.

This Commandant has done what our enemies could not: eliminate the Marine Corps as an effective fighting force.  It breaks my heart to say this but this is the final nail in the coffin - the Marine Corps is now redundant and should be disbanded. 




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(1)Marine Corps Times website, “The Corps is axing all of its tank battalions and cutting grunt units”, Shawn Snow, 23-Mar-2020,
https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2020/03/23/the-corps-is-axing-all-of-its-tank-battalions-and-cutting-grunt-units/

(2)SNAFU website, “Very good summary of @CMC_MarineCorps force design from @WSJ”, 23-Mar-2020,
https://www.snafu-solomon.com/2020/03/very-good-summary-of-cmcmarinecorps.html

77 comments:

  1. I guess the USMC mission will be contestion of the first island chain and make it impossible to sail with their consent. Insertion of forces against high-end threats is off the table.

    I assume that these decisions were made before the economic troubles ahead, so further cuts could be coming. Same for Army/Air Force/Navy

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  2. Losing the tanks seems like the biggest hit. Pretty much guarantees you need to call the Army for any significant combat, especially urban fighting.

    Seems like they're going all in on EABO, at the expense of conventional warfighting. I guess that's the Army's job now.

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  3. There are other places in the world apart from America and China. If the USA obsesses over China and ignores everything else they won't have the equipment to fight anyone else.

    I think the real problem for the Marines is that they can't find a solution to getting heavy equipment onto the beach from 25 miles out in any sensible way and that's completely thrown them. We've discussed solutions to this on here many times and I'd love to know if some of the solutions have been wargamed and rejected or it's just a head in the sand approach.

    I fully agree that the Marine Corps Commandant has to resign.

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    Replies
    1. "If the USA obsesses over China and ignores everything else they won't have the equipment to fight anyone else."

      You'd like to believe that if we had the forces to fight China that we could handle any other conflict as a subset of the major threat.

      I think the reality of the Marines changes is that they're engaging in an ill-conceived budget-saving tactic because they foresee a China conflict where they are not relevant and that threatens their budget slice.

      Unfortunately, I can't see any scenario in which their 'solution' is viable or useful. Either they haven't wargamed this out or, more likely, they've wargamed it with the conditions manipulated to produce the desired outcome: that the Marines win the war single-handed.

      "I think the real problem for the Marines is that they can't find a solution to getting heavy equipment onto the beach from 25 miles out in any sensible way …"

      That's the technical problem. The real problem for the Marines, and the thing they're afraid of, is that there is no significant role for them in a China war. The war will be a Navy and AF conflict and the Army will pick up any minor ground action that might be needed.

      I've thought-wargamed a China war and I see no scenario in which the Marines are needed. I suspect they see the same thing and are desperately trying to make themselves relevant and, therefore, budget-relevant.

      Delete
  4. Reducing the helicopter squadrons is a mistake, in my opinion, and reading the link they're talking about reducing F-35B size from 16 aircraft to 10 aircraft. Which is going to be great (not!) for squadron survivability and resilience against losses. There's a reason the US Air Force uses 24-aircraft squadrons in tactical aviation (F-15C/F-15E/F-16C).

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  5. When I read this yesterday, I was impressed that they dare said this was a "chinese focused" move.

    If they have severely reduced offensive capabilities, how are they going to set up this theoretical antiship batteries to "contest" the sea? Where are this magically uncontested, yet strategical important islands at?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Where are this magically uncontested, yet strategical important islands at?"

      You've cut to the heart of the matter!

      Delete
    2. In Australia the inner arc is the equivalent of China's first island chain. It stretches from Indonesia to Fiji. This is a list of number of islands of some countries in the inner arc.

      Indonesia 17,508
      PNG 600
      Solomon Islands 900
      Fiji 330

      and a bit further afield

      Phillipines 7,641

      That's where the islands are.

      Delete
    3. So you're saying that the war the marines are preparing for is to take out Australia. I never thought of it before but perhaps the CMC is seeing the future trend. Conquer our allies and ignore our enemies.

      Delete
    4. "That's where the islands are."

      Those islands are either not under US control and therefore unavailable for combat use or too far from China to be strategically/operationally useful. A China conflict is going to take place within the first island chain.

      None of those countries are going to allow us to use their islands for combat. Unless we're willing to invade neutral countries to set up island bases, those islands are simply not available.

      Delete
    5. The marines already occupy northern Australia, at least during the dry season. They go home for the wet season. There is a brigade light sized force here 6 months of the year. It is out of range for most Chinese missiles.

      Delete
    6. Here is a report from CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS in the US. It lays out the tactical problems of long range missile attack for the USN. https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/Taking_Back_the_Seas_WEB.pdf

      So the US is weak near China's shores due to distance. It goes further than USN current plans for optionally manned corvettes plus arsenal ships that rotate in and out for rearming, passive senor ships, decoy ships, and unarmed active emitting ships based on a two DDG task force.

      The tactical means of coping with firepower on land has been dispersal. The same thing is happening at sea.

      Delete
  6. This is disturbingly (but not surprisingly) stupid.

    Clearly the New Marines© are going to be so awesome they'll never need tanks anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It would be funny if it weren't for all those videos of Chinese amphibious forces hitting beaches with tanks and other heavy armor....USMC going from 16 to 10 F35Bs,yeah, that makes me think somebody realizing the wonder weapon isnt that cheap as advertised, with 10 of them, forget about 24 hour coverage but I'm not even sure that's a big deal. Since we dont have tanks, armor, artillery, etc I guess we might as well assume the enemy wont fight at night, just between 9 to 5pm would be nice...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "USMC going from 16 to 10 F35Bs"

      And that's assuming that all 10 aircraft are mission capable every day. We've seen, in peacetime, that mission readiness is 50% or so. In war, with battle damage and lack of spare parts, we'd be lucky to have 4-5 ready aircraft per day.

      Delete
    2. Desert Storm, I feel, has unduly induced optimism in planning. Prior to Desert Storm, the Pentagon Reformer movement insisted that these newfangled high tech wonderweapon F-15s, Apaches, Abrams, PGMs wouldn't work and you'd need cheap and simple A-10s and lots of dumb bombs. Desert Storm proved them wrong, but the pendulum has swung a little too far to the side of optimism and faith in tech, perhaps.

      That said, Desert Storm also showed that mission readiness rates can go up in wartime, though that was because of the Air Force practice at the time of buying a stockpile spare parts that were designated purely for wartime use (and thus not normally available during peacetime). Though it's a question as to whether the Air Force still practices this, and whether the Navy has ever adopted this practice.

      Delete
  8. The elimination of the tank battalions and artillery is idiocy. They already have no NGFS, so they need to pack their own firepower, and now theyre voluntarilly giving it up!!!
    The new Commandant is a fool, budget competition be damned!!!!

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    Replies
    1. "The new Commandant is a fool, budget competition be damned!!!!"

      So, I'll put you down as undecided? :)

      Delete
    2. Haha.... This has me shaking my head to the point of neck strain. Recently Ive been worried the Marines were believing all the recent hype over the Lightning Carrier, and would be pushing for being even more aviation-centric. But this bombshell is shocking in its insanity. Its the equivalent of having soldiers ditch their rifles for sidearms only, in a quest to be "light"!!!! While I applaud the refocus towards the Westpac, somehow everyone drew all the wrong conclusions, and making sweeping force changes based on them will doom the Marines to irrelevancy. They may never recover from this. When they rethink this at a later date, and want to buy into armor again, its unlikely theyll get the $$$ again. At this rate, "repel boarders" is about all they will be capable of...
      And my apologies, I dont usually resort to name calling of senior, accomplished officers, but damn.....

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    3. "accomplished officers"

      Huh?! What? Where?

      Delete
  9. In the 1950's, the Army fielded several Pentomic divisions, the name is a combination of "pentagon" and "atomic." Instead of 2 or 3 brigades, a Pentomic Division had 5 battlegroups, each larger than a battalion but smaller than brigade. This was done in the hope of dealing with the current threat of nuclear weapons at the time. The name sounded cool too.


    The Pentomic Division didn't last long and I don't think this will either. Some of these changes will go into effect, but I can't imagine the Marines without some armor. The Army is working on a light tank for their infantry units, maybe the Marines will adopt that once it's been fielded.

    I'd much rather see the Marines adopt the Army's organization of relying on self-contained brigade combat teams with the division acting as a headquarters unit. Maybe extend that concept to a self-contained battalion combat team for expeditionary warfare. In essence, making an MEU a permanent, fixed organization.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi. Also noted the shift from gun howitzers to rocket howitzers but thought that was more M777 towed howitzers to MLRS rather than anti-ship missiles. Maybe I missed something?

    Aren't MLRS "better" in some aspects?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The large increase in 'missile/rocket batteries' is mainly in the form of anti-ship missiles. The Marines are looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) mounted on some vehicle, possibly the HIMARS or MTVR. Another possibility that has been mentioned is the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) but that seems less likely.

      Did that answer your question?

      Delete
    2. Yes rockets are much better for mass artillery fires rather than slow awkward and outdated howitzers. The Corps could acquire old Harpoons the Navy retired and fire them from MLRS launchers to hit ships within a 100 miies of a coast. This would cost very little.

      The Corps also needs a couple 120mm mortar battalions. These can be transported inside helos and V-22s and upstairs into buildings.

      Also really needs a couple amtrack battalions with 120mm mortars as explained here.

      https://www.g2mil.com/AAV-Variants.htm

      Delete
    3. Yes. They currently have 1 active and 1 reserve HIMARs battalions and were activating a second active battalion 5/10th which will be cancelled.
      The new rocket batteries will have Himars vehicles but with Naval Strike Missile (NSM).
      Having fixed location anti-shipping batteries seems to taking on a naval mission and doing it defensively. I seem to remember the US just ignored some heavily defended Japanese bases in the Pacific war. Atolls with hardly any infrastructure made great temporary anchorages

      Delete
    4. The idea is that MLRS can fire rockets for ground support if needed, or load up Harpoons for sea control if needed. Same trucks, same launchers, same crews.

      Delete
    5. "The Corps could acquire old Harpoons the Navy retired and fire them from MLRS launchers to hit ships within a 100 miies of a coast."

      People constantly and incompletely/incorrectly throw out this idea. The reality is that they can only hit targets within the radar horizon (15 miles or so) of the firing location unless they have some sort of long range surveillance and targeting support. It's not a simple matter of having a long range missile. You've got to be able to see/sense a target. How's that going to occur in your vision of this? Marines on a small, isolated island deep inside enemy waters aren't going to have long range surveillance capabilities unless they build their own air base or operate their own UAVs which means bringing along more equipment, catapults, more men, more supplies, more fuel, UAV control equipment, transmitters/receivers, etc. Now, the small, hidden base becomes a much larger, much more visible base. Unless the enemy is polite enough to cooperate and allow the base to operate, the base will have a very short lifespan.

      So, think this through and then tell me how it will work.

      Delete
    6. We have SSGNs and SSNs loaded with cruise missiles if we need to fire long-range from within enemy waters.

      The apparent A2/AD CONOPS is to create temporary gaps in enemy surveillance and attack capabilities to create our own effect. I assume that our ability to create those gaps will be finite and limited in extent. How much effort will it take to create enough of a gap to land Marines with their missiles, and will the opportunity cost be worth it? How much harder will this be, and how much more opportunity will it cost if Marines are bringing their own organic (likely non-stealthy) ISR assets to these islands?

      It's wild to hear that F-35 squadrons are going from 16 to 10, in that case the equivalent squadrons are not constant at 18, but should instead drop to 11 or 12. All the compromises made to get the Corps its stealthy STOVL fighter.

      I used to be under the impression that a key feature of the Corps was its combined arms capabilities. So much for that!

      I agree strongly with the strategic need to constrain China within the First Island Chain and to protect the freedom of navigation and commerce on the water and in the air within the First Island Chain, but we the U.S. can not and should not do it by ourselves from across the Pacific in China's backyard.

      We should be engaging and creating allies! The new anti-ship Tomahawk on a truck already has the Tomahawk's excellent long range, and is not a brand-new technology that is risky to give out. We could then collaborate with our well-armed allies on receving and coordinating targeting data and fires.

      Delete
    7. "We should be engaging and creating allies!"

      An all around excellent comment!

      Delete
  11. Perhaps General Berger agrees with this article: "The Tank is Dead" https://www.g2mil.com/Anti-armor.htm

    But that article says to eliminate them in favor of SPAAGs and small tanks with heavy armor called Rhinos.

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  12. Your concept of ACVs with indirect fire is sound but they need 105mm howitzers mounted on ACVs for their range and effects.
    120mm mortars were tried but their range is too short, they weigh the same as 105s, and the high angle of fire creates air de-confliction problems with your assault support helos

    ReplyDelete
  13. Forgive me for being off topic, but I wanted to "pass" this along.

    Bloomberg News, "New toilets on the Navy’s two newest aircraft carriers clog so frequently that the ships’ sewage systems must be cleaned periodically with specialized acids costing about $400,000 a flush, according to a new congressional audit outlining $130 billion in underestimated long-term maintenance costs."

    Full story here.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FI,your Pun has been noted and demerits entered in your file under:
      Advanced Sewage System -
      Handling And Transport System.

      Delete
  14. Eliminating the bridge companies is a great idea since the new AVLBs are far superior. The Marine Corps has two active and three reserve Bridge companies. Officers in these units have very minimal training on building wooden bridges, so such work is best left to real civil engineer units like Navy CBs. The basic purpose of Marine Bridge companies is to assemble aluminum "MGB" bridges within a few hours. The big challenge is transporting the large MGB components to where they are needed and fitting them together by hand. Bridge companies also have some boats and pontoons that can be employed in a lengthy and complex river crossing. These bridges are usually warehoused far in the rear and moving them to where they are needed takes weeks.

    During the past decade, the Marines acquired dozens of a far superior bridges, the Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), which is an armored vehicle that launches and retrieves a 60-foot scissors-type metal bridge. The entire bridge is self-propelled and can be emplaced within a few minutes by two Marines, even under fire!

    Pictured here: https://www.g2mil.com/Armored_Vehicle_Landing_Bridge.jpg


    This is what Marines need so it should leave bridge construction missions to Navy CBs and the U.S. Army, which have entire battalions trained and equipped for these tasks, which Marines rarely, rarely need. This would allow the Marines to eliminate tons of "big land army" MGB equipment and Bridge companies.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Arent any indirect fire weapons a problem for low flying helos ?
    The Dragon Fire II is lighter than earlier models-1500kg which is less than the lightest UK 105mm unit and an extended range munition reaches out to 17km.
    Seems to be comparable to weight range of the 105mm M119. The mortar units can be towed for a weapons company or part of aLAV battalion rather than a separate artillery unit. As we can see Artillery battalions numbers are being reduced.

    ReplyDelete
  16. They are simply trying to solve a problem that us better answered by someone else.
    If they don’t find a purpose in life then they will cease to exist, simple as that.
    Perhaps pivoting to a force that could rapidly deploy a small but high firepower force at short notice anywhere on the globe? Is that what they are looking to become in effect?
    I really don’t know, but I’d agree they are stretching for a purpose- they have a long history but if you aren’t useful, then go the way of the dinos with grace guys..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "a force that could rapidly deploy a small but high firepower force at short notice anywhere on the globe"

      That actually sounds good.

      Delete
    2. That actually sounds like the 101st Airborne.

      Delete
  17. Although I am confused about some of these moves, remember people have counted the USMC irrelevant before and we have ALWAYS delivered.

    Folks thought we were crazy to be working on little amphibious boats in the 1930s. And how was D-Day done? From little boats.

    Let's continue the analysis and see what turns up. I haven't heard of ANY Army plans for the Pacific. Probably their plan is synchronize at Hawaii and figure out what to do then.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I’m Navy, not Marine, and although a lot of my Navy time was spent in Gators, I don’t know enough to have the answers. But I do think I understand the problem.

    The LHAs/LHDs have pretty much taken away the Marines’ historic mission—amphibious assault. You can’t launch a viable assault from 25-50 miles offshore—airlift can’t handle heavy cargo, boats are too slow, and as ComNavOps pointed out in a previous post, the attrition rate on LCACs is too high. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Marines have been used for Army missions—occupying and controlling territory for the long term. Marines aren’t designed to hold and occupy—they get in, secure a beachhead or port, and then turn it over to the Army to push inward from there, and move on.

    So they’re kind of grasping for straws:
    - The Harrier Carrier/Lightning Carrier is an attempt to make some use of the LHAs/LHDs.
    - The call for smaller amphibs could be asking for a return to the old assault approach.
    - This EABO concept is trying to find a mission where none may exist.

    When the Royal Marines had this problem back in the 1970s, they reinvented themselves as a kind of gung ho special forces commando outfit. That actually worked pretty well in the Falklands, although the quality of the enemy was suspect. Without trying to be political, I will say that one of the few places that I agree with Sen. Chuck Schumer is that we need more special forces. Maybe the Marines could pick up that slack and become some sort of counterinsurgency/special forces/commando organization.

    Beyond that, some kind of maneuver warfare mission makes sense. Maybe that’s classical amphib assault, maybe with a mix of some EABO thrown in. With all the new focus on the littorals, there ought to be a Marine mission in there somewhere. I’m thinking it’s going to be trial and error for a while until they find it. But I’m having a hard time figuring out why getting rid of tanks and heavy artillery makes sense an any scenario.

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    Replies
    1. I think they need to find some sort of distinctive mission that isn't just playing Army. At least they are searching for one. With all the emphasis on littorals, there ought to be a mission in there somewhere.

      Delete
    2. "With all the emphasis on littorals, there ought to be a mission in there somewhere."

      You might check out this post:
      Littoral Warfare - Is There Such A Thing?

      Delete
    3. My takeaway from that was more about how ill-suited the LCS is for any kind of littoral role. Other countries are building combatants designed for the littorals, but almost all of them are a fraction of the size of the LCS.

      The problem I see with us and the littorals is that the machinery we want to use there is all wretchedly ill-designed for the purpose. We need something small and cheap that can put ordinance on target and insert and remove special forces/commando type units. That's the kind of littoral combatant everybody else seems to be building. Our answers--LHA/LHD, LPD/LSD, and LCS--are none of those things.

      If there is a mission there, the tools we have don't work for it.

      Delete
    4. "We need something small and cheap … That's the kind of littoral combatant everybody else seems to be building."

      You may be overlooking a key point, here. 'Everyone else' is building ships for home water defense. They're small, cheap, AND VERY SHORT RANGED - which is fine for home waters. The US, in contrast, operates very far from home which leads to challenges like how to get the small, cheap boats to the operation area, how to support them, and so on.

      Our 'answers' are big because they have to be. A coastal patrol boat might be great for defending Norway's home waters but it is useless for deploying to the South China Sea.

      Per the linked post, there is no 'littoral' mission but if there was the tools we have are quite effective (whether they're the ideal tools is another issue).

      Turn it around. The Chinese Type 022 stealth missile boat is a great asset for the Chinese home waters (S/E China Seas) but would be entirely unsuited and unable to deploy to the coast of the US. To operate off the US coast, the Chinese would need large deck amphibious ships - you know, like they're frantically building as fast as possible.

      Delete
    5. "My takeaway from that was more about how ill-suited the LCS is for any kind of littoral role."

      Well, here's another old post that puts a completely different spin on your (anyone's) perception of the LCS and littoral (there isn't any!) warfare. It explains what the LCS was originally supposed to have been:

      LCS - Conceptual Origin

      Delete
    6. And I would say something like that conceptual origin would make a heck of a lot more sense than what we ended up with.

      Delete
    7. Looking back over the conceptual origin piece, I don't agree with the mine countermeasures piece, but otherwise that sounds like a pretty useful ship.

      Delete
    8. "To operate off the US coast, the Chinese would need large deck amphibious ships - you know, like they're frantically building as fast as possible."

      They'd need a lot more than that, like some way to protect them until they could get them here. And they don't have anywhere to hide, like we might be able to in and amongst the first island chain.

      I don't think China is going to invade us, and I don't think invading them is realistic on our part. I would think that if we could keep them pretty well penned inside the first island chain, we could call that a very successful result. And I don't see them having the blue-water capability to contest us beyond there for another 20 (optimistic, or pessimistic depending on how you look at it) to 50 (probably realistic) years--unless we go and do a succession of very stupid things--sort of like we have spent the last decade or so doing.

      I think there is an opportunity for some kind of littoral strategy and tactics in the area of the first island chain, as there is in the Arabian Gulf/Sea area and potentially in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. But I don't think we've figured out what the proper strategy and tactics need to be, nor the platforms needed to execute them.

      Delete
    9. "I don't think China is going to invade us,"

      Never said they were! Clearly, though, they're looking at invading someone! You don't build large deck amphibious ships for fun. You build them to conduct assaults. They have a target in mind. I leave it to you to figure out who that target might be.

      "I don't think we've figured out what the proper strategy and tactics need to be"

      Before you can figure out strategy and tactics you need to establish your victory conditions. We haven't yet established our desired victory conditions for a conflict with China. I've put forth mine but the US govt has not.

      What are yours? I hope you don't say containment! That's one tiny step above defeat because it not only accomplishes nothing, it sets the stage for a guaranteed repeat conflict except that China will have gained experience and come back harder.

      Delete
    10. "Containment" seems pretty insulting to China. I prefer "influencing their rise" to peaceful, equitable, co-existence.

      Delete
    11. "I prefer "influencing their rise" to peaceful, equitable, co-existence."

      Yep, they seem pretty hellbent on peaceful, equitable, co-existence … as long as you're willing to be a vassal state!

      "Containment" seems pretty insulting to China."

      Not insulting China is my number one priority while they're looting our intellectual property, conducting constant cyber attacks on our industry and military networks, seizing our UUVs, seizing our EP-3s, building illegal artificial islands, ignoring the UNCLOS treaty which they signed, making illegal claims about territorial waters, etc.

      Yes. Yes, I want to avoid insulting them.

      Delete
    12. We (the US) aren't a vassal state of China. Even the states near China aren't true vassal states in the way the Warsaw Pact states were for Russia.

      They've done some small-potatoes aggression, sure, but nothing worse than the Soviets did during the Cold War.
      We all survived that without a major war. So "containment" seemed to ultimately work.

      We just need to have some "sharp elbows" of our own, while attempting to keep the level of violence below overt war.

      Delete
    13. "Looking back over the conceptual origin piece, I don't agree with the mine countermeasures piece, but otherwise that sounds like a pretty useful ship."

      It took an Australian team 5 months to clear 60 mines over a 2 km square area outside of an Iraqi port.

      The LCS was designed to do that specific task (less than 30 m depth) in 30 minutes. It's the helicopter (MH-60S) that actually does it.

      This allows amphibious operations with 30 mins notice to the enemy rather than 5 months.

      Delete
    14. "We (the US) aren't a vassal state of China."

      Who said we were?

      To be fair, though, one could make an argument that we are since we're supplying them with money, markets, intellectual property, corporations, securities, etc. Sounds an awful lot like a vassal state!

      "They've done some small-potatoes aggression"

      If seizing the entire international water bodies of the South and East China Seas, building artificial islands, encroaching on Vietnamese and Philippine territorial waters and fishing grounds, etc. is 'small-potatoes' to you, I'd hate to see what 'big-potatoes' is!

      "We just need to have some "sharp elbows" of our own"

      Which, to date, we've demonstrated none of!

      Delete
    15. "The LCS was designed to do that specific task (less than 30 m depth) in 30 minutes."

      Except it doesn't work.

      Delete
    16. "If seizing the entire international water bodies of the South and East China Seas, building artificial islands, encroaching on Vietnamese and Philippine territorial waters and fishing grounds, etc. is 'small-potatoes' to you, I'd hate to see what 'big-potatoes' is!"

      The Soviets seized _eastern Europe_, and we still managed to avoid war. Seizing a few uninhabited rocks on the other side of the world is certainly "small potatoes" in comparison.

      Delete
    17. ''We haven't yet established our desired victory conditions for a conflict with China. I've put forth mine but the US govt has not.

      What are yours? I hope you don't say containment! That's one tiny step above defeat because it not only accomplishes nothing, it sets the stage for a guaranteed repeat conflict except that China will have gained experience and come back harder."

      Well, it's either got to be containment or invade and conquer. I am fine with containment, because I think China has enough internal problems that if we can contain them for 20-40 years, they will fall apart. They are way over-leveraged, and while that doesn't mean the same thing in a communist economy as it does in a capitalist one, it is still problematic. They are totally dependent on Middle East oil, and until somebody figures out how to run a pipeline over the Himalayas, that means by sea--through Hormuz, around India, and through Malacca or somewhere else through the Indonesian archipelago. So Iran, India, or Indonesia could basically shut down China, and one of them is unstable, one of them hates China, and one hates China and is unstable. China doesn't have the blue-water navy needed to protect that supply chain. If they got cut off, their move in that case would probably be to go after Siberia--it's got oil and gas and is pretty lightly defended. Remember Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon.

      I think we can do what Reagan did to the Soviets, contain them and outlast them.

      Delete
    18. And as far as who is the object of China's amphib ambitions, my guess would be Taiwan first, and if that succeeds then maybe the Philippines.

      Delete
    19. "Seizing a few uninhabited rocks on the other side of the world is certainly "small potatoes" in comparison."

      The South China Sea is 1.4M sq.mi. and passes one third of the world's shipping!!!!!!!!! It also contains vast fishing regions for the region as well as huge amounts of other resources. Similarly, the East China Sea is 482,000 sq.mi.

      Again, I'd like to know your idea of 'big-potatoes'?! An entire hemisphere of the world?

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    20. "I think we can do what Reagan did to the Soviets, contain them and outlast them."

      That's a big gamble! If you're wrong, you're just giving them time to build an ever larger military that will eventually be able to break out of containment. That's the key flaw in the containment strategy. It allows China all the time they need to reach a point where they have the military power to push past containment. Quite a gamble with the future of the world!

      I've already debunked the containment strategy. See, Victory Conditions

      I laid out the proper strategy in this post: Setting The Stage

      Give it some thought and weigh the various strategies. Which produce permanent, lasting positive results? There's only one.

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    21. " my guess would be Taiwan first, and if that succeeds then maybe the Philippines."

      I agree with you. Doesn't that assessment suggest to you that China has global conquest aspirations? Sure, it won't happen in the next two years but China takes the long view. Do we? Are we (and you!) looking at the 50, 100, 1000 year projection? All containment/appeasement does is give China the breathing space it needs to build a military powerful enough to brush aside any US containment. I suspect that Chinese strategists laugh at the notion of containment. The flip side of the containment coin is that we won't do anything to prevent China's military and economic buildup - which is exactly what's happening now!


      You, me, and the West need to think beyond the immediate future and our [one-sided] desire for peace at all costs and recognize what the desire will produce in the long run.

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    22. "The South China Sea is 1.4M sq.mi. and passes one third of the world's shipping!!!!!!!!! It also contains vast fishing regions for the region as well as huge amounts of other resources. Similarly, the East China Sea is 482,000 sq.mi."

      They don't own the SCS or ECS any more than we own the Gulf of Mexico. They've staked a claim in a few rocks in the middle of the SCS and drawn a dotted line on a map. Big deal. Other nations have claims on other rocks and their own dotted lines. Sometimes sharp elbows are thrown.

      The Soviets invaded and subjugated Hungary and Czechoslovakia with tanks in the streets. They put up an Iron Curtain with major physical barriers blocking in their conquests.

      What the Chinese have done are mere annoyances and petty bickering in comparison.

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    23. "And I don't see them having the blue-water capability to contest us beyond there for another 20 (optimistic, or pessimistic depending on how you look at it) to 50 (probably realistic) years--unless we go and do a succession of very stupid things--"
      If you look at the ship count, and realize that the Chinese can use every single one in a contest, while we have commitments all over the world that can only be drawn down so much, the numbers game looks awful even. Yes, much of their fleet isnt exactly blue-water, but since this is going to happen in their backyard, a US naval victory isnt going to be in mid-Pacific, but when we can claim dominance right to their coastline. When you compare build rates, the future looks increasingly dim, as their ability to hold us at arms length grows. Right now if a shooting war starts, I feel that a US victory hinges largely on timing and luck (ala Midway) and the further in the future it is, the less likely it will be.

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    24. "The LCS was designed to do that specific task (less than 30 m depth) in 30 minutes. It's the helicopter (MH-60S) that actually does it."

      ????? I think you've been misinformed or you're looking at the original fantasy specs. The -60 carries the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) that is used for near-surface mine detection. It then deploys a ASQ-235 neutralizer which is a small, 'suicide' UUV drone that approaches the mine and detonates destroying the mine and itself. The helo can carry 4 neutralizer drones, last I read. After that, the helo has to return and 'rearm' - a process that can take hours depending on distance to the ship and other factors. The neutralizer engagement takes around a half hour by the time the drone is launched, transits to the target, acquires the mine, positions itself, and detonates. Thus, the max clearance speed of the helo is around 2 mines per hour with a major cessation of activity after 4 neutralizers are expended.

      Orignially, the -60 helo was intended to tow a sweep sled which might, under the right circumstances, approach the kind of clearance rate (sweeps always miss mines!) you're stating. However, the -60 helo sweep was dropped long ago because the helo lacks the power for a sufficient safety margin.

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    25. "This allows amphibious operations with 30 mins notice to the enemy rather than 5 months."

      Aside from the incorrect statement of clearance rate which I explained above, the helo can only detect near-surface mines. In an opposed amphib assault with mines, there would almost certainly be bottom mines, deeper mines, surf mines, etc. Even if the helo could perform the near-surface sweep in the requisite time, that's only one type and location of mine. The remaining types of mines would be untouched. No one is going to be performing a mine-opposed landing on 30 minutes notice!

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    26. My point was that it was an important strategic goal versus Iran. And they are capable of a distance blockade of China AND preventing China mining the Malacca Strait.

      But they tried to do too much with stuff not yet invented. Yet today the stuff they want is off the shelf but they are trapped in their older development efforts.

      But we want militaries pushing the boundaries. I think its right the program gets capped. You need frigates now, not ships to attack Iranian speedboats, minisubs, and mines. But assessing the program should be done on its strategic goals it was designed for. Time has moved on. And the goals were overly optimistic.

      I'll post at another time how to defeat China if one wants too. Most who live near her want to MAKE her a good citizen. The US needs to outlast a President and so does China.

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    27. "I'll post at another time how to defeat China if one wants too."

      I'm intrigued and I look forward to it. If you have a really good thought on that, I'd be willing to entertain the notion of a guest post, if you'd be interested. Let me know.

      "Most who live near her want to MAKE her a good citizen. The US needs to outlast a President and so does China."

      We're not going to get into overall politics but the notion of regime and strategy change is valid. Notably, the US mandates regime change every 4/8 years. China, currently, has a dictator for life so there won't/can't be any regime change for decades to come. This also raises the likelihood of strategy change just because a regime changes. In the US, it's quite likely and happens all the time. On the other hand, is it likely that the next guy in China would embark on a radically different (more peaceful) strategy? I suspect not.

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    28. I live near 60,000 odd Chinese citizens in my local area (at least till recently - I think it 20,000 at the moment). They as people are earnest and law abiding (they don't jaywalk like Australians). More importantly they are trained in western ways even if not overtly political.

      These people expect to be, and think they are, good global citizens. I wouldn't write the Chinese people off.

      I also don't think President Xi will last. He does have some elections he has to win, he isn't all powerful. He was under some pressure before the virus.

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  19. The Philippines with its 7000 islands is certainly a littoral area where small attack boats and shore based anti-ship launchers would thrive.

    The Marine's BlackJack UAVs don't require a lot of support equipment, and neither do four man recon teams serving as coastwatchers on tiny islands.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_Insitu_RQ-21_Blackjack

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    1. We don't own the Philippines and, at this time, they're highly unlikely to actively side with us in a war against China. So, are you suggesting that we invade a neutral country to use its islands?

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    2. "are you suggesting that we invade a neutral country to use its islands?"

      Maybe playing devils advocate here, but maybe a little infringing on PI sovereignty would be in order. There is historical precedent, Iran being the example in WWII that comes to mind. And while we couldnt just fly in and establish basing, the potential for the Navy to play hide n seek in their waters... Maybe for replenishment(??) Some protests to the UN about territorial waters infringement would be a rather low concern in a China war...

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    3. "a little infringing on PI sovereignty would be in order."

      Setting aside the complete abandonment of the moral high ground (how are we better than the China we would be fighting?), the practical problem is that would push Philippines into siding with China. We'd have to fight Philippines which could mean actual combat, guerilla fighting and sabotage, and would certainly mean that Philippine people would be watching and reporting on our positions and strengths to China. I suppose we could ruthlessly suppress the local populations, just as Japan did in WWII … you see where this is going?

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  20. I think there are a number of useful roles for the Marines :

    - Our likely enemies don't just operate from gray ships, they use everything that floats and there's a massive boarding/searching task there.
    - We too can use things that aren't painted gray and small detachments on merchant ships can use containerised systems to strike the enemy or deny them access. The ships can also act as refuelling platforms (not bases) for F-35Bs or AH-1s with little work.
    - If you assume countries like China will be using the many overseas bases/ports they have invested in to support their non-gray navy, there's a significant task to deny these to the enemy and capture the ships as well as deny them resources.

    I think my main point is that the Marines should be looking to target smaller enemies directly and leave large enemies to the other services whilst striking that enemies forces outside the main combat area. Think channels between Indonesian islands and striking Djibouti rather than the first island chain.

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    Replies
    1. "detachments on merchant ships can use containerised systems to strike the enemy "

      I hear this idea a lot and it makes zero sense. How, exactly, would this work? Is China going to allow a US (or unknown) merchant ship to sail up to within launch range of Chinese ships or shore facilities? Would we? Of course not! So, how is this going to work?

      I keep hearing these ideas that might seem appealing on the surface but are completely unrealistic in practice. So, enlighten me!

      "I think my main point is that the Marines should be looking to target smaller enemies directly and leave large enemies to the other services"

      Okay. If that's the case, do the Marines need to be the size they are if all they're going to do is 'target smaller enemies'?

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    2. You hear it a lot because it does make sense. Let me stress I am not talking about areas within the first island chain. I am talking about intercepting Chinese supply ships coming from places like Africa with little if no escort and preventing covert Chinese shipping with containerised missiles getting close to our (and our allies) ports and launching a strike. I am talking about the Marines dealing with this : https://thediplomat.com/2019/05/chinas-global-port-play/

      I agree that the Marines have the wrong ships to address the tasks I describe but given the number of ships that need to be searched to allow the US to receive supply in any extended war, the number of chinese facilities and vessels, the total number of US Marines may be appropriate, even if a considerable portion of them should be reserves instead.

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    3. "I am talking about intercepting Chinese supply ships coming from places like Africa with little if no escort "

      Okay, fair enough. Is that really the best way to accomplish that task, though? In a war with China, we're going to be woefully short on merchant ships and even more so on merchant sailors. Does it make sense to tie up scarce merchant ships and sailors on trivial blockade work? The best way to apply a distant blockade is not with ships at sea but with squads of armed soldiers preventing the loading and sailing of ships from ports around the world. That frees up the merchant ships and sailors to go deliver supplies to our forces. The odd enemy cargo ship that gets to sea can be dealt with by aircraft or our deadly, vaunted LCS squadrons (who won't have anything else to do in a war!).

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    4. In East Asia / SE Asia the oil in oil tankers is traded over its journey. So a tanker bound for Japan may change course to South Korea, then actually end up at Singapore or China. This is what makes blockading hard - the destination is not yet decided.

      I believe the Russians like containers because other's intelligence can't tell what is in the container.

      And future western long range missiles won't fit in Mk-41s but will in containers. And containers can be reloaded at sea.

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