Friday, March 27, 2020

The Marine Corps Navy

As you know, in a time of war, the Navy is tasked with sea control and uses various equipment such as ships and aircraft (Airborne Early Warning – AEW, electronic warfare – EW, etc.) to accomplish that task.  Oops … I’m sorry, I misspoke.  I meant to say that the Marine Corps is tasked with sea control and uses various equipment such as ships and aircraft (Airborne Early Warning – AEW, electronic warfare – EW, etc.) to accomplish that task.  Uh … wait a minute … I think I just confused myself.  They can’t both be tasked with the same mission, can they?  That wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

Of course not!  A closer look reveals that the Navy uses their aircraft for specific tasks such as command, control and communication, early warning, persistent fires, escort, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition.  In contrast, the Marine’s will use their aircraft – meaning the proposed MUX (a very large, unmanned, Group 5 (like the Reaper, Global Hawk, or Triton) UAV – for specific tasks such as command, control and communication, early warning, persistent fires, escort, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition.  Whoa!  I just had the strangest feeling that I just typed the same thing twice but I couldn’t have, could I, because the Navy and Marines have two different responsibilities, don’t they?  Don’t they?

So why did I just type the exact same list of specific aircraft tasks for both services?

We know the Navy uses E-2 Hawkeyes, EA-18G Growlers, MQ-8C Fire Scouts, P-8 Poseidons, Triton UAVs, various helicopters, etc. to accomplish their specific aircraft taskings.  Apparently, the Marines only need the MUX to accomplish the same thing.

The MUX program – formally the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Expeditionary – was meant to be a Group 5 UAS, the largest of the categories with highest altitude and greatest endurance. It would cover seven missions: command, control and communication; early warning; persistent fires; escort; electronic warfare; reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition … (1)

What’s more, the absence of the MUX is the only difference between a full-fledged carrier strike group and a Marine carrier strike group, formerly called a ARG/MEU !  I know, I was surprised to hear that, too, but here it is,

The MUX program was intended to help the Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) team operate more like a carrier strike group. With the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter coming online at that time, the major gap between a carrier air wing’s capabilities and what the Marines could bring to the fight was an airborne early warning capability the Navy has in its E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. MUX would fill that role, the Marine Corps envisioned. (1)

The Commandant wants UAVs installed on his ships quickly.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger wants to see UAVs on ships soon.

“In the next 10 years, the quickest way – the commandant wants to go quick on this – this quickest way will be some sort of land-based high-endurance that can be based and still be able to provide the surface force, the amphibious force the capabilities that we would call ‘quarterback,’ or some sort of node that can provide 24 hours on station time, it will have all the networking and early warning and electronic warfare capabilities that they require for that type of thing,” Rudder [Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder] said. (1)

The Commandant also wants his ships to be able to handle any UAV, at any time, to do anything.

“In the future, we have to get to a point where an aerial vehicle can take off of this ship, any ship, go do its mission, land on that ship over there. Change payloads, launch, do another mission, land on a third ship. We’re nowhere near that right now. We’ve got to get there,” he [Commandant Berger] said. (1)

Berger also plans to alter the Navy’s unmanned tanker, the MQ-25 Stingray, into a family of tankers.

He also said he wanted to spin off the Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned carrier-based tanker into a family of systems that included a UAV that could operate from an amphibious assault ship that hosts the F-35Bs. (1)

The Commandant is also going to develop unmanned ships for the Marine Corps navy.

… since Berger took command in July, the Marine Corps has proposed developing a Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vessel (LR-USV) to support the Expeditionary Advance Base Operations concept … (1)

So, there you have it – the Marine’s vision of their future fleet … uh, I mean the Navy’s vision of the … uh, I mean the Marine’s directives for the Navy’s vision … uh, I mean the Commandant’s direction for the Navy … uh, I don’t know what I mean.  I’ll wait for the Commandant to tell me what I mean.

The Commandant is heavily invested in his own private air force and now, I guess, he’s turning his attention to his own private naval fleet.  The Secretary of Defense or the President needs to severely rein in the Marines.  They’re running amok, fueled by arrogance and budgetary desperation.


(1)USNI News website, “Marines Ditch MUX Ship-Based Drone to Pursue Large Land-Based UAS, Smaller Shipboard Vehicle”, Megan Eckstein, 10-Mar-2020,


  1. The Marines are struggling to find a mission to justify their existence. Their traditional amphibious assault mission has been rendered pretty much useless by the move to LHAs/LHDs and ferociously expensive LPDs, all of which are too valuable to risk bringing in close enough to shore to launch a viable amphibious assault. And in Iraq and Afghanistan, they've been plugged into the Army mission of long-term occupying ground and controlling area, which is not really in their wheelhouse.

    So they are trying to turn the LHAs/LHDs into first Harrier Carriers and now Lightning Carriers to Marine Air's existence. And Marine Ground is still searching, with the EABO concept their latest.

    Seems to me like there ought to be a logical way to sort this out.

    Army fights large conventional land battles.
    Air Force provides strategic airpower and tactical air support to Army.
    Navy handles on, over, and under the sea.

    That leaves Marines to handle what doesn't fit in any of those other boxes. That means their traditional mission of obtaining and securing ports and beaches from which Army can move inland. The Navy is going to have to help with that by coming up with some ships from which such operations can be launched realistically. You can transition from there to this sort of littoral thingy that doesn't really belong to anyone--Marines and Navy can work together to sort that one out. And there is the asymmetric counterinsurgency threat that Army is not really set up to fight (Westmoreland proved that in Vietnam, but we still haven't learned the lesson). And we probably need a significant boost in our special operations capability. And there is always a role for an outfit that can pop in anywhere and deliver a lot of firepower in a hurry.

    So there are missions there, and Marines are probably well constituted to go after them. But the more Army, Air Force, and Navy go invading each other's turf, the less room they leave for Marines.

    I guess I'm saying that we need a rethink from the top down.

    1. I feel that in addition to ports and harbours, Marines could also concentrate on swamps, estuaries,Delta's, and any terrain too rough for the armies' high speed/low drag blitzkrieg style of mechanized warfare.

      Let the Marines be the rough terrain anvil to the armies' high-speed hammer.

    2. I would like to see the USMC go to a 50/50 force. What I mean by this is that they fight 50 miles inland and 50 miles into the water. If it is greater than 50 miles inland they pass it off to the Army or act as their support. By having riverine forces and modern equivalents to Defense Battalions of WWII this allows some defensive ability toward threats from the sea. This is NOT the stated superman system that the proposed strategy states.

      Doing this tanks are still needed for urban warfare. The M1 might not be the best fit but has to be something. Also needed are heavier IFV,s and APC,s to fight with your infantry. Yes, infantry are still needed. It is just one part of the combined arms package.

      In order to make this work, more amphib's are needed and fire support ships. We need more bare bones amphib's to flesh out our numbers we can put ashore, because no matter how bad a$$ed you are you still need lots of friends.

      For fire support ships, I would make cruisers based 8 inch guns the standard. That seems to provide the best trade off for range, explosive power and cost. One idea to supplement the gun ship would be a variant of the arsenal ship. If ATACM's can be made to easily tip over from a full vertical launch, we can make a ship based VLS's full of ATACM's. The missile can hit point targets at a decent range and can carry submunitions. Because the Navy would be piggy backing on existing weapon this should keep the cost down.

      This isn't a list of all that is needed. But it should be enough to get started.

  2. There really was only 2 choices for USMC:

    1. Football analogy: running the ball, physical defense, we are tougher than you. USMC goes back to what it does best: hit the beach, be nasty, be hard, scare the shit out of the bad guys,etc....that requires lots of heavy gear like tanks, artillery,etc...lots of stuff that goes boom and kill people, not very fancy and needs lots of it. Expensive but still doable, requires to go back to the basics. No glamor.

    2. Football analogy: throwing the ball. We don't want to get dirty and physical. We only want to play inside a dome. USMC ditches all tanks, artillery, goes light, goes all in on the UAV stuff. No more talk off hitting the beach or doing forced entry, we hit the enemy with long range missiles and we scoot to a new location. Ditch the past, get rid of everything heavy, buy massive quantities of stuff nobody knows if it really works but the brochures are awesome! Guarantees cushy retirement for lots of Generals moving on to private side. Very fancy.

    No need to saw more, we know what USMC direction picked...

  3. With limited resources they are focusing on counterinsurgency, targeting of peer/neer-peer ships and the ability to sink said ships from land. That does make some sense for what is supposed to be a Maritime Army, exchanging one form of firepower for another due to changing geopolitics.

    Is the opportunity cost of eliminating the already meager ability to launch an opposed amphibious landing worth it?

    While I think one can point to the fact that the logistics capability is not there, the past predictions of never needing amphibious capability again post-WW2 didn't pan out (Inchon).

    With the current budget and political climate this may be the best the Marines can do right now.

    1. "this may be the best the Marines can do right now."

      If that's true then they need to be disbanded because they offer nothing viable (their sea control vision is pure fantasy for the reasons I've repeatedly documented) and nothing that can't be better performed by the Army/AF (82nd, 101st).

      I've stated repeatedly what their main mission should be: port seizure.

    2. If the Marines just stuck with the current MEU's and no larger they would have a good niche. They would be a fast, combined raiding force with some serious punch behind it. Port seizures and other raids to allow the SEALS to go back to their original missions.

    3. "They would be a fast, combined raiding force with some serious punch behind it."

      If all they're going to be is a specialized raiding force then they're vastly oversized and overequipped.

  4. hey, have some (unrelated) fun:

    1. As always, the USN tries to fix a problem that wasn't a problem and totally fails.

  5. So, ComNavOps, a question. What do you think the Marines need to be?

    I get your port seizure mission, but how often does that come up? I can't see maintaining a force anywhere near the size of the current USMC for that lone mission. So what else should they do?

    1. How often do nuclear strikes come up? And yet we maintain a nuclear triad. How often do parachute drops occur? And yet we maintain an Army division of paratroopers (82nd Airborne). How often do bridging operations occur? And yet we maintain specialized units for it. When was the last time a US sub fired a torpedo? And yet we maintain an entire fleet. And so on.

      Port access is the key to any sustained major assault. Most people don't know it but D-Day (Normandy) was all about seizing ports for the sustainment of the European ground assault against Germany.

      You raise two excellent questions:

      1. What size should the USMC be for the port seizure mission. Since we don't have a doctrine for it, I can't offer a good answer. My guess would be two divisions (maybe just one?) but they would be radically reorganized and re-equipped.

      2. What else should they do? On the one hand, my answer is nothing else. Why should they have to have another mission any more than the strategic missile command should have another mission? On the other hand, a force that is specialized for sudden, violent, port seizure ought to be pretty good at sudden, violent raids of a general nature, don't you think? What they shouldn't be doing is floating around for months on end in giant amphibious cruise ships waiting for extremely unlikely calls for their assistance.

    2. Agree that port seizures seems like a good fit for USMC TODAY but that sounds like they would need lots of what they are getting rid of: tanks and artillery, lots of firepower, all kinds of hard training in MOUT,etc....The problem is it sounds very dangerous, people might actually be killed. Let's just hit the bad guys from 1000 miles away with all our power-point presentations and I'm sure they will surrender....

    3. "port seizures seems like a good fit for USMC TODAY but that sounds like they would need lots of what they are getting rid of … "

      And therein lies the problem. This Commandant is committing the Marines to a course that there is no coming back from. If he's wrong - and I think he is - then the Marines are finished as an effective fighting force. Light infantry are okay for police duties but are useless on the modern battlefield.

    4. In the Pacific, large heavily mechanized units will face difficulty with unforgiving terrain ill-suited to mechanized warfare, long sea borne logistical supply lines and lack of infrastructure.
      Light infantry forces do have a role in amphibious and jungle warfare in modern combat.
      That isn't to say that the Marines shouldn't operate tanks. The Abrams is probably not the type of armoured vehicle you want for the kind of fighting that would occur in a Pacific war, but armored vehicles would have a role. Not to the exclusion of light infantry though.

    5. "In the Pacific, large heavily mechanized units will face difficulty with unforgiving terrain ill-suited to mechanized warfare"

      What specific terrain do you see them operating on? This is the problem with these kinds of generic statements - they're divorced from any geo-reality. Unless we intend to invade mainland China (that would be insane) there is no land that we need to occupy and would be able to. Thus, I agree that mechanized infantry would have a hard time but it's okay because there isn't any land we would want to put Marines on!

      Sure, Philippines would be nice to have as a base-center but we don't own the country and unless we're willing to invade a neutral country, we aren't going to be there. There is no way Philippines joins us in a war with China. If anything, they'll join China! Of course, that would give us the right to seize the country and use it.

      So, with some geo-reality, where do you see the Marines operating? I just don't see ground troops playing much of a role in a China war. I think Commandant Berger saw that, too, and is in a panic to find a role.

  6. "He also said he wanted to spin off the Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned carrier-based tanker into a family of systems that included a UAV that could operate from an amphibious assault ship that hosts the F-35Bs."

    This sounds like a huge development program as the MQ-25A requires a catapult and arresting gear to operate from a carrier, equipment that a large amphibious ships lack. So, that means a STOVL variant.

    At the same time, these are pretty big aircraft, comparable is size to an F-35B. So, something has to give because a large amphibious ship doesn't have much room for aircraft as it is.

    1. I'm still stunned that we can't keep our big USN carriers with all the escorts alive BUT little USMC "carriers" with no E2D and no Growlers, not much escorts survive being detected because....we don't know how but they survive. I guess they still survive after Chinese receive some ASMs from some hidden islands and Chinese are too stupid to find a FIXED TARGET. I guess all the UAVs survive too. Why not, since USMC is just making sh%t up, Chinese never do anything smart or unexpected.

  7. Totally agree, going in the wrong direction. And port seizure should be the primary mission. That doesn't stop them doing raiding etc as the skill I would have thought are similar.
    Also going to a port and stopping the the other side taking it or a least slow them down would be a very useful capability. Through the cold war the Royal Marines job was to slow the Russians down as much as possible in Norway.
    Surely someone is going to have to take over all the Chinese bases on the "Island chains" or do we just flatten them with tlam's

    1. "someone is going to have to take over all the Chinese bases on the "Island chains" "

      You ask a very interesting question. In this day of long range precision guided weapons, fixed locations are non-survivable unless the location has very powerful defenses. Given the physically small size of the island bases, it is simply not possible to build sufficiently powerful defenses to ensure base survival. We will destroy the bases with Tomahawks as a matter of course. If we were to take over the bases, the Chinese would do the same to us. Thus, I see no value in occupying the bases.

      Correspondingly, the bases serve no real war purpose for the Chinese because they are non-survivable. Their real purpose is political. Their presence serves to 'legitimize' the Chinese fraudulent territorial claims and to intimidate the less powerful militaries in the region. Thus, the bases are a peacetime tool, not a war asset.

      Considering the above, the bases offer no justification for the Marines.

      What do you think of that analysis?

    2. I agree except you assume we go from no war to total war. There may be occasions when taking a base or island is part of the "political dancing" that happens before a war and sometimes leads one of the players backing down as it shows resolve etc by the other. I'm not saying this is a reason for keeping the marines, just if you train at taking things over hard and quick that ability can be used for other missions as well as port capture.

  8. "The Commandant also wants his ships to be able to handle any UAV, at any time, to do anything."

    That's not a bad capability of have. Imagine a Blackjack-size UAV that can take-off and land on it's own obviating the need for dedicated launch and recovery equipment. That would allow almost any ship to operate an UAV. And, if they had a good one-way range, say 500 nmi, they could be networked between ships and even land bases. And, being able to take-off and land on their own, they would be a good fit for marine expeditionary operations.

    For reference, the Blackjack has a cruise speed of 55 knots and endurance of 16 hours giving it a theoretical range of 880 nmi. The problem is that a long-range communication system, with enough bandwidth for command and control and data transmission, is needed to make the concept work.

    1. "That's not a bad capability of have."

      Yes and no. There's lots of capabilities that aren't bad to have like 16" guns, Aegis radars, large flight decks, catapults and arresting gear, ballast tanks for submerging, etc. but the problem is they cost money and space (which is money) on a ship. Every ship is a compromise and every capability that's added increases the cost and, therefore, decreases the number of ships we can afford to buy. Ships should be designed and built for the MINIMUM capability necessary to accomplish its intended purpose, not the maximum capability theoretically possible.

      So, the objection to every ship being UAV capable is that not every ship needs to be to accomplish its mission. Further, I've called for lots of UAVs on some ships but the key is the word 'lots'. Operating a single UAV is almost useless.

      Finally, the point of the post was that it's not the Commandant's place to dictate ship design to the Navy.

    2. Unlike 16-in guns and AEGIS radars, this is a capability that could fit on just about any ship. And, this could solve the targeting problem that you've repeatedly cited of putting long-range antiship missiles on ships without long-range eyes. This could also provide targeting data for the Marine's future shore-based antiship missile units.

      I really don't care about the politics of the Commandant's comments. All of this would have to be coordinated with the Navy anyway. Nor, do I believe in unduly burdening any ship with equipment and capabilities outside of what they need.

      I see this simply as a better mousetrap, one that could work a work better than the ones we already have.

    3. As I said, I'm in favor of LOTS of UAVs on ships, not just one or two. Think about actual war operations. You're going to lose UAVs at a rapid rate. That means you need LOTS of UAVs on the ship to allow for the expected attrition. That now becomes a substantial impact on the host ship. Storage room for all the UAVs has to be provided, handling procedures to get the stored UAVs from their 'magazines' to the hangar/flight deck, larger fuel storage facilities, more maintenance shops, more robust comms to control multiple UAVs in the air at a time, etc. The host ship will likely lose its helo capability - crowded out by the UAVs.

      So, this is not a capability that can fit on just about any ship. Done right and done combat effectively, this would have a significant impact.

      I do care about the politics because this Commandant is not only smashing the Marines, he's now turning his attention to the Navy and I don't believe that he has the experience, training, or perspective to tell the Navy what to do. Of course, one could say the same about Navy admirals ...

  9. "The Commandant wants UAVs installed on his ships"

    That's kind of the problem. They aren't his ships. But that seems to be the point that you are making.

    1. Yup. I have no problem with him discussing things with the Navy, behind closed doors, but when he starts publishing official USMC documents telling the Navy what to do, somethings badly out of whack.

  10. (AP) Washington DC
    - In response the the Marine Corps Commandant's new ideas and directives about taking over portions of the Navys combat missions, today the Navy announced sweeping force changes. Beginning next month, the Navys aviation centric L-class ships are to be transferred to the reserve fleet. The Marine air wings will be decommissioned and the hardware redistributed to Navy squadrons. Wholesale reassignments of personnel will follow, increasing ships security force sizes and naval base guard contingents.
    A new transport design, similar to a WWII transport that carries its own landing craft, has been proposed by the Navy to industry, with 64 to be built, at $44M each cost target. A variant will carry the Corps' armored forces, which are expected to see growth in coming years, said one anonymous Navy officer. The new transports are designed for a specific loadout, with everything from number of Marines, to what heavy and light weapons they are equipped with when embarked. While seemingly an inflexible design, its clear that Navy leadership has chosen to retailor the force to its own mold, after recent debates over budget and missions. A new, urgent program was announced that will design a NGFS ship, resurrecting the 8 inch gun and utilizing an older hull design, possibly a scaled down Spruance destroyer. Another large scale program, initial build numbers are anticipated to be approximately 45 ships. The program is mandated to have a finalized design ready for industry bid by late October. The new plan was announced as a reaffirmation of the Navy to "get Marines ashore" said one program staffer.
    The Navy has had massive amounts of overbudget and poorly performing acquisitions in the past decades, and these sweeping changes are an attempt to build a more effective joint force, while clearly crushing any attempts by the Marines to make any mission or budgetary grabs. The CNO was recently overheard and unofficially quoted as saying "Its time the Marines get a reminder that their paycheck says Department of the Navy on the top...!!!"

  11. They are actually supposed to be working on a vtol kit for RQ-21. It's kind of the in thing with class 3-5 drones right now. Check out the Arcturus Jump 20 for comparison. They also have a satcom option for RQ-21 now too.

  12. Here's kind of where I'm thinking of drawing the lines now.

    Army - you are responsible for major land warfare inland
    Air Force - you are responsible for strategic air and for tactical air support of the army
    Navy - you are responsible for surface, subsurface, and air in the blue water ocean
    Marines - you are responsible from the beach to, say, 25-50 miles inland; you establish the beachhead or port as the operations base, and the Army takes it inland from there, seaward of the beach is Navy responsibility, but they are tasked to support you. You also do raids and special operations that require a unit bigger than, or greater firepower than, a SEAL or Green Beret teams.

    In that context, the Marines competence is putting large amounts of ordnance on target in a hurry. That requires tanks, artillery, NGFS, and close air support. The role of Marine air is to provide tactical and close support to Marines ashore. Because they are one organization, they should be able to coordinate close air support much better than the Army can with the Air Force (who doesn't really want to do the close air support mission, witness their willingness to get rid of the A-10s). Marine air needs a Marine A-10. It doesn't need long range, stealth is a nice to have but no big deal, it does need to be able to carry a bunch of ordnance, and it probably needs to be able to operate out of short unprepared strips.

    That's kind of my first draft thinking.

    1. With that, I could see a few turf battles:
      1) Army is going to have to convince Air Force that close air support really is a significant mission.
      2) Navy and Air Force need to reach some sort of protocol for handling bombing/attack missions in places like Iraq during Desert Storm
      3) Navy and Marines need to reach some sort of protocol over who has authority over what in the littorals
      4) If we are going to create the Marine Raiders as sort of commando team (say a heavy-duty team with more firepower than SEALS or Green Berets typically carry), then somebody needs to define the boundaries between those responsibilities.

      But I see all of those as doable, and more doable than resolving the disputes we have now.

    2. “ 1) Army is going to have to convince Air Force that close air support really is a significant mission.”

      This happened a looong time ago. In fact it has been basically the ONLY combat mission the AF, Navy, and Marines have been flying for the past 20 years. What they also realized is CAS is not a particular aircraft, it’s a mission that many aircraft can fly.

      ”2) Navy and Air Force need to reach some sort of protocol for handling bombing/attack missions in places like Iraq during Desert Storm”

      A lot of progress has been made here. Instead of the rigid FSCLs from Desert Storm, in OIF they had more dynamic killboxes and “corps shaping” procedures that helped limit some of the friction. Still more work is needed here.

    3. "it has been basically the ONLY combat mission the AF, Navy, and Marines have been flying for the past 20 years."

      Depending on your exact definition of CAS, this is true. HOWEVER, we've seen that in real war the air assets go to fleet defense, naval strike, and strategic strike and CAS gets what's left. CAS is last on the priority list and, to a large degree, justifiably so.

      "in OIF they had more dynamic killboxes and “corps shaping” procedures"

      This is fine when you're just conducting unopposed, live fire exercises. HOWEVER, in a real war where you can't just leisurely cruise around your killbox or stack in marshal points waiting for CAS calls, none of this will work. We've developed our CAS procedures based on decades of unopposed, free flight. We've forgotten how to deliver CAS under opposed, contested skies or, perhaps, under enemy controlled skies.

      We need to start thinking about real war not live fire exercises.

    4. The Air Force doesn't really think close air support is sexy enough, hence their efforts to ditch the A-10. If the Air Force doesn't want them, maybe the Marines do--except I don't think you can operate them off a carrier, so they don't really fit the expeditionary role.

      It does seem that what the Marines do need is a "Marine A-10." It doesn't need to carry a lot of fuel, since missions will be short hauls, but it does need to carry a lot of ordnance. It doesn't need to be particularly stealthy. It would be nice if it could operate off short, unprepared strips.

      Maybe try for something that could operate off a Lightning Carrier, although even without a lot of fuel the weight limitations would be tricky. A more powerful AV-8 might be able to do the job, although I'm not sure what is the upper limit of power that could be added to that airframe. CAPT Tal Manvel's comments in the video about the Fords (referenced elsewhere) about "half the payload, half the range" might be addressable by accepting even less range in exchange for more payload. And of course a ski jump would help somewhat. I'm just spitballing here, don't have the aeronautical science background to make a determination, but I do wonder.

      I actually like the SAAB Gripen for the role. but it would have to be adapted and would have to operate off a real carrier. SAAB supposedly has designed, but not built, a STOBAR version, but with no STOBAR carriers, we would have to fly it off CVNs.

  13. Marines and Navy, you are going to have to work jointly on the littoral area. Navy, that means you get to design the ships, but you need to find some NGFS platform to support Marines ashore. And you need to come up with some gators that can actually operate in close enough to run a legitimate assault. When the Navy comes up with viable amphibs, Marines you can probably have the Harrier Carrers/Lightning Carriers. Ideally, you would come up with an aircraft that could operate off them, as well as unprepared fields ashore, and could put enough ordinance on target to be worthwhile. Your tradeoff is that you don't need a whole lot of fuel, because you're not going very far, and you do't really need to worry too much about stealth. So see what you can come up with.

  14. The US Army has more than 1600 ships over 1000 tonne.

    1. Looking at the Wikipedia site, I think that is the number during WWII. The Army has hundreds, maybe 1000 or more craft smaller than 1000 tons. But the largest they have right now are 8 LSLs (baby LSTs) at about 4000 tons. Just think, the Army has more LST-type vessels than the navy.

    2. Yes, I miscopied the 1000 number from the WWII stats.

    3. "The US Army has more than 1600 ships over 1000 tonne."

      You may have misinterpreted the numbers. As best I can tell, the Army has 89 ships (LCM and LCU type) plus 300 watercraft which are barges, lighters, and tugs.

  15. The focus in this month's Naval Institute Proceedings is on naval expeditionary warfare (how timely). There are several interesting article. "Reimagine the ARG/MEU Team," by LCDR Andrew Roscoe, USN, identifies four focus missions--strike, raid, spec ops, and humanitarian. To accomplish those missions, he recommends elevating aviation, simplifying command relationships, and narrowing mission focus. "Rethink the MEU," by MAJ Joshua Waddell, USMC, seeks to provide an intellectual argument for the Commandant's vision.

    It seems pretty clear that on several levels the Marines have lost the bubble on mission and are trying to figure out who they should be.

    1. I actually thought this would draw some comment, but since it hasn't, I will add a some thoughts of my own. Conspicuously absent from that list of focus missions is what I thought the Marines were supposed to be about--amphibious assault. To me the four focus mission areas should be 1) amphibious assault (including port capture), 2) strike (air, helo, missile, Marines), 3) raid, and 4) spec ops. To me, humanitarian is not a Marine mission. It can be a secondary Navy mission, but I don't see it as a Marine mission.

      I think that the focus missions identified by LCDR Roscoe are those which can be conducted off an LHA/LHD-centered amphibious group, meaning those which can be launched from the 25-50 miles offshore "safe zone" in which we allow LHAs/LHDs to operate. Sadly, I think that's where the Marines are. They are being forced to conduct operations off a platform that is ill-suited to their traditional role, so they are scrambling to find missions that they can do.

      To me the solution is clear. Go back to the core values. Create platforms from which the traditional mission is doable, and then all the others will be doable as well. My idea of a PhibRon would be a smaller LHA/LHD (like Spanish Juan Carlos/Australian Canberra, $1.6B) that would be the primary home for the air element of the MEU, a LPH (like the French Mistral, with well deck, $700MM) that would be the primary home for the infantry element, a LPD/LSD (like British Albion, $550MM), an LST with a conventional LST bow instead of the Newport class over-the-bow ramp ($500 MM), an LPA/LKA ($400MM), and a land-attack frigate that would also carry a Marine spec ops set ($400MM). Total cost of 6 ships, $4.15B, or less than a current LHA/LHD plus a San Antonio class. That squadron could venture into harm's way because there is no unit for which the cost is too great to justify the risk, and because sinking or damaging one unit wouldn't destroy the entire mission. That squadron would have multiple ways of putting Marines ashore, and the one used could depend on the situation. Take that squadron, give it sufficient realistic training to figure out the best ways of doing things, and adopt the lessons learned as doctrine.

      That leaves the question of what to do with the LHAs/LHDs and the San Antonios. I've expressed my ideas, others may have different ideas.

      But my bottom line is that the Marines need to get back to Marine missions and focus on those missions along with the Gator Navy.

    2. " "safe zone" in which we allow LHAs/LHDs to operate."

      There is a fundamental flaw in this thinking. I've got a post coming on the issue.

    3. I can think of at least two flaws off the top of my head:
      1) It's not all that safe, and
      2) There's no way to launch an amphibious assault from there because there are no effective connectors.

      I think you've mentioned both of those before, so I'm wondering if you have something else.

    4. A fundamental flaw with the LHA/LHDs, themselves, which dooms the possibility of assault !

  16. CNO: “You ask a very interesting question. In this day of long range precision guided weapons, fixed locations are non-survivable unless the location has very powerful defenses.”

    On the contrary, the Chinese have a great chance of surviving PGM strikes. 1) long range precision munitions are few and precious making massing fires difficult. 2) targeting from UAV feeds (if they survive) or imagery is a very poor method 3) recovering a runway or communication capability after a strike is quickly accomplished by any enemy with even mediocre engineers or comm architecture. In the end, you need ANGLICO or Recon observers to provide you accurate PGM targets and battle damage assessments. Landing a clean-up Force on the island is even better.

    1. "the Chinese have a great chance of surviving PGM strikes."

      Not functionally, they don't! Have you seen just how small most of those bases are? So many people think you need to churn the runways to dust in an attack but aside from a few cratering hits just to cause some annoyance, I wouldn't even target the runways! Take out the critical link in the air ops chain and the entire base ceases to function. For an air base, the critical link is fuel. On a tiny, artificial island base the fuel will be unprotected. You can't build armored, underground storage on an artificial reef! Destroy the fuel storage and handling and the base is done. For good measure, hit each building and you'll remove the radar, computer mission planning, maintenance, spare parts, housing, munitions storage, etc. An artificial island base could not be easier to destroy. It's defenses will be severely limited by available space.

      These bases would be about the easiest targets one could hope for! I'm guessing around 30-40 Tomahawks would do the job for each base.

      "long range precision munitions are few and precious "

      Now that's true but it's a separate issue. Our Tomahawk inventory is around 3000 missiles. That's nowhere near enough to wage a modern war. We'll either have to drastically ramp up wartime missile production or drastically cut back our missile usage after the first couple of weeks and resort to things like our heavy naval guns (oh wait … we don't have any!).

      " targeting from UAV feeds"

      ????? It's a fixed location. You don't need UAV targeting.

      "In the end, you need ANGLICO or Recon observers to provide you accurate PGM targets"

      ????? You don't need anything for a fixed target. You know to the millimeter where everything is. That's what a fixed target is. When we launch Tomahawk strikes on Syria or wherever, we don't use ANGLICO or Recon observers. They're fixed targets!

      Think it through. You're not grasping the idea of a fixed target.

    2. Expect the Chinese to make targeting difficult by hiding everything under radar camo netting and putting lots of false antennas everywhere to give us too many false targets.
      Aircraft fuel bladders are often tarmac’ed over to make them hard to find. The Chinese have their own version of the Phalanx Seawhiz, meaning the number of TLAMs needed per target will increase.
      If we clear in zone by fire (place a round every 25m), we will run out of TLAMs taking out just a few islands.
      Expect barracks, munitions or a anything sensitive to be deceptively painted as a hospital or disguised as fishing facilities to make any of our strikes look terrible on CNN.
      CNN will quickly post images of our Tomahawks striking a “hospital” and if we don’t have the closeup surveillance to show that it is really a barracks of ammo dump, we will spend the whole war explaining things to our allies.
      Only way I can see a successful strike on these islands is to have the close up imagery and observation only ground level observers can provide.

    3. Are you sure you have a clear understanding of what it means to have/be a fixed target? Targeting would be via simple GPS coordinates. All the radar camo netting in the world won't have any effect.

      I would hope you're familiar with the TLAM-D with submunitions - a cluster bomb cruise missile, essentially? We don't need to use a missile every 25, we just need a couple of TLAM-Ds.

      We've watched the bases get built. We know where everything is.

      No CIWS in the world can deal with a simultaneous saturation attack. So we use two extra missiles to allow for the two kills if a CIWS got really lucky.

      "Expect barracks, munitions or a anything sensitive to be deceptively painted as a hospital or disguised as fishing facilities to make any of our strikes look terrible on CNN."

      Come on. Now you're just making stuff up. In a war, no one is going to care and no one is going to believe there's a hospital on a tiny artificial island that's ten feet bigger than the runway.

      Come on, seriously. You know better than this. These targets wouldn't stand a chance.

    4. CNO, I agree with you that we can destroy these islands but the point I am trying to make is that the Chinese will do everything possible to make us waste TLAMs so we can only be effective against a few islands instead of all of our targets. Better observation means less wasted TLAMs.

    5. "will do everything possible to make us waste TLAMs"

      These are essentially undefended islands. As I said, 30-40 missiles per base should suffice. If that amount of usage constitutes a serious threat to our ability to wage war then we've already lost.

      I'm not sure you grasp the magnitude of weapons usage in a real war. We will go through missiles at a rate of hundreds or thousands per week. Either we have contingency plans to produce hundreds or thousands of new missiles per week or we need plans to revert to low tech munitions - like heavy caliber naval guns and unguided rockets and bombs. Since we've abandoned naval guns and seem to have no interest in unguided weapons, I have to assume we have contingency plans for greatly increased production. If not, our ability to wage war will end after about two weeks.

      I know I've criticized our military leaders for their utter incompetence - and rightly and demonstrably so - but the degree of stupidity in failing to grasp the necessary amount of munitions to wage a war would be beyond comprehension. Again, if our professional warriors have that degree of stupidity then we have no hope of winning a war.

      If the relative handful of 'wasted' TLAMs spent on island bases is enough to seriously hinder our war effort then, yet again, we have no hope.

      I encourage you to research the absolutely staggering weapons usage rates encountered in real war. If you grasp those rates you would not fixate on a few extra missiles more or less.

      Finally, the Chinese will not gain by having us destroy the bases. Unless they abandon the bases (in which case there's no need to destroy them), the time, money, and equipment that they will lose when the bases are destroyed cannot even remotely compare to the miniscule cost and numbers of the missiles we'll expend. At each base, they'll lose dozens of aircraft, radars, service equipment, computers, hundreds of trained personnel, anti-air guns and missiles, precious fuel supplies, weapon bunkers, etc. just to make us expend a handful of missiles? Does that really sound like a good plan on the part of the Chinese?

      I'm pretty sure you already know this!

  17. Somewhat related, didn't know to put it in this thread or previous:

    So USMC has a problem with not having enough pilots to sustain F-35B...and the solution is to cut the numbers of jets? Isn't the -B version the one that really compromised the 2 other versions the most?!? Anybody else curious to see those war games the USMC Commandant seems to always be referring too? I know the results are classified but some more details would be nice, wow, that must have a mind blowing experience for USMC leaders!


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