Friday, July 29, 2022

Navy Lays Down the LAW

The just-released CNO Navigation Plan 2022, aside from being a buzzword-filled, worthless piece of garbage, contains a piece of information that dooms Commandant Berger’s entire missile-shooting concept.  The document calls for 18 Light Amphibious Warships (LAW) to be built by 2045.[1, p.10]


Berger’s entire concept is predicated on the LAW which will transport his small units and their massive missiles, clandestinely, to hidden bases deep inside enemy waters.  The LAW will then relocate the Marines in the unlikely event they’re spotted and will conduct resupply on a regular basis, again, undetected.


Setting aside any mocking of the LAW or the concept, it is clear that the LAW is the foundation of the concept.  Without transport and logistics there is no concept, right?  The Navy appears to be providing only very limited support to the Marines.  Eighteen LAW is woefully insufficient to support the concept.


Even if a single LAW could fully transport, relocate, and indefinitely resupply a single unit, the maximum number of units deployed is, then, limited to eighteen.  Now, factor in the need for the LAWs, like any ship, to return to base regularly to repair, replenish, rest, etc. and you see that multiple LAWs are needed to support a single missile-shooting unit. 


Add in attrition – does anyone really think that 14 kt, non-stealthy, defenseless vessels trying to operate deep in enemy waters are not going to suffer significant attrition? – and 18 LAWs can only support a few Marine units for a short time;  and even that’s wildly optimistic.  With any realistic attrition factor, it is clear that the concept needs something north of forty LAWs for the concept to have even a small chance of working.


Light Amphibious Warship - Artist's Concept

Thus, it appears that the Navy is not on board with the Marine’s concept and is only paying token lip service to the concept. 


At best, the Marines may get a couple of LAWs per year over the next couple decades.  The Commandant will be retired in a year or so.  Will his concept still be around by the time the Navy gets around to building LAWs?  It seems unlikely.


If the Navy’s forecasted war with China occurs in the next several years, the Marines won’t have any transports and will be relegated to the sidelines.


Even if you think Commandant Berger is a genius whose concept will revolutionize warfare and bring China to its knees, it is clear that he has utterly failed to get buy-in from the Navy.  He has failed to convey and communicate the merits, as he sees it, of his concept.  Navy buy-in should have been one of the very first things he accomplished but it appears that was not the case.


Eighteen LAWs by 2045, Commandant?  The Navy is telling you what you can do with your concept.








Wednesday, July 27, 2022


The Navy is floundering.  They’re wandering aimlessly, throwing ideas against the wall to see if anything sticks.  Thus far, nothing has – or at least nothing worthwhile and supported by rigorous analysis, combat exercises, and experimentation.  The only two things that have ‘stuck’, in the Navy’s mind, are networks and unmanned vehicles and neither of those enjoy significant support outside the Navy.


As an example of the Navy’s floundering, consider the issue of fleet size.  That should be a simple, straightforward statement of fleet size based on a professional warrior assessment of our combat needs, right?  Any semi-competent, professional sailor should be able, off the top of his head, to put forth a required fleet size (and composition) based on years of expertise, experience, and study.  The Navy, however, seems utterly incapable of elucidating a fleet size as evidenced by study after study calling for seemingly random fleet sizes. 


Over the last few years we’ve seen plans calling for a fleet size anywhere from 300-500+.  As recently as April of this year, the Navy presented Congress with a 30 year shipbuilding plan that offered not one, but three different plans and fleet sizes!  The three fleet sizes ranged from 316 to 367.  The Navy couldn’t even muster enough professional expertise and analysis to come up with a single plan.  Instead, they offered three plans to cover their collective rear ends from any criticism and to circumvent the need to commit to something, thereby risking their reputations (such as they are).


To hammer home the randomness of the Navy’s ‘planning’, the following table presents some recent naval studies and the range of fleet sizes they called for.  Note the wildly varying numbers in a short span of time.  That’s a Navy that is floundering. 




Recent Navy Fleet Size Studies



Fleet Size


Force Structure Assessment

355 manned


Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment

390 manned

435 manned + unmanned


Future Naval Force Study

337-404 manned

440-540 manned + unmanned


Battle Force 2045 (SecDef Esper) [1]

500+  manned + unmanned


PB22 Jun 2021 Ranges

321-372 manned

398-512 manned + unmanned


30 Year Shipbuilding Plan – Option 1

316 manned


30 Year Shipbuilding Plan – Option 2

327 manned


30 Year Shipbuilding Plan – Option 3

367 manned


Future Navy Force Study

355 manned


CNO Navigation Plan 2022 [2]

350+ manned




Despite this plethora of [random] fleet size studies, CNO Gilday has now released yet another plan with yet another fleet size goal, the Chief of Naval Operations Navigation Plan 2022 [2] which calls for a fleet size of 350+ (he couldn’t even pick a fixed number !).[3]  This plan differs markedly from the one he sent to Congress only a few months ago and it differs from the several plans generated in the last couple of years. 


The Navy can’t seem to settle on a plan.  That’s called floundering.


Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., took to Twitter today to criticize the Navy for its constant number swapping following a POLITICO story that reported fierce in-fighting at the Pentagon over the Navy’s future fleet.


“The fact that Congress has received four different answers from the Navy in the past three months alone sparks confusion and ultimately, less effective advocacy,” he said.[3]


Exactly!  Why would Congress support and fund any plan since the Navy can’t seem to settle on a required fleet size and a rationale for that requirement?


Responding to Gallagher’s criticism, CNO Gilday couldn’t/wouldn’t even defend his nebulous goal.


Asked to comment on Gallagher’s criticism, Gilday said the NAVPLAN “is not a perpetual end state. It can’t be.”[3]


CNO Gilday is basically stating that the latest plan isn’t really a plan, that the desired fleet size isn’t really a requirement, and that the desired fleet size will certainly change, likely sooner than later.  Is that supposed to inspire confidence? 


A noteworthy aspect of this latest plan is the decision to sacrifice quantity for modernization.


Amid inflation pressure, Gilday says the Navy "will prioritize modernization over preserving force structure."[3]


Shrinking the fleet is not a good trade off especially when the quantity you’re giving up contains significant firepower and the modernization you’re attempting does not.  Modernization that does not increase firepower is a poor choice, indeed.


Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., had this to say,


“By any measure, China has much more capability than we have, we must modernize our Navy [and] we need to do it with a sense of urgency,” he said.[3]


Wrong Mr. Wittman!  We need quantity and firepower, not misguided modernization for the sake of modernization.





The Navy is hopelessly lost.  Fleet size and composition plans are a dime a dozen and none seem to last more than a few months.  Our joke of a Navy leadership would rather conduct study after study than commit to a plan.  That’s understandable because they recognize that they have no rationale for any plan.  They lack the professionalism and expertise to conceptualize a plan.


To a very small extent, this is understandable since no Navy leader has every seen naval combat or even a realistic exercise.  That being the case, why/how would they have any rationale or experience on which to base a fleet size/composition plan?  Worse, they exhibit absolutely no knowledge or grasp of history’s lessons which could provide the experience they lack and no desire to learn from history.


Our Navy and our nation are being well and truly screwed by Navy leadership.  The horrifying reality is that, barring the emergence of a Rickover or Halsey, only a combat disaster can alter the failed path we’re on.










[3]Breaking Defense, “‘More than 350 manned ships’: CNO lays out de facto Navy shipbuilding request in new NAVPLAN”, Justin Katz, 26-Jul-2022,

Monday, July 25, 2022

Lessons From The HSV-2 Swift Attack

The former US Navy high speed vessel (HSV) Swift (HSV-2) was returned to the manufacturer, Incat, in July 2013 and then subsequently wound up in UAE service.  The ship was attacked by Houthi rebels off Yemen on 1-Oct-2016.  Reports vary as to what weapon struck the ship with some citing four RPGs and some citing a single C-802 anti-ship cruise missile which seems more likely.


Examine the following damage photos and then we’ll discuss them.



Damage Analysis


I am not a combat damage, photo interpretation expert but I’ll offer a few observations about the damage that seem fairly apparent.  The weapon, whatever it was, appears to have struck the starboard bow as evidenced by the inward bent holes.  The port side bow holes seem to mainly be bent outward, suggesting damage from an internal explosion (the missile warhead, presumably). 


There is also a large, outwardly bent hole on the underside of the bow, presumably due to the internal explosion of the weapon, which suggests that the weapon did not penetrate to any significant degree before exploding.


A large section of the upper bow surface is missing.  Whether that is from the weapon explosion or the subsequent fire, I’m unsure.


My novice interpretation is that a weapon struck the starboard bow, resulting in an immediate explosion (contact fuzed?) just inside the bow and producing exit holes downward and to port.  Other photos show the entire forward section engulfed in flames after the attack and fire accounts for the damage to the superstructure and damage aft of the bow.





Unmanned Vessels – The Navy is planning on having small, unmanned vessels make up a significant portion of the fleet.  Presumably, these unmanned vessels will be lightly constructed of thin aluminum.  The Navy is unlikely to spend money on thick steel for small unmanned vessels.  The Swift is a good model for an unmanned vessel in terms of combat damage resistance (none) and susceptibility to damaging fire (total).  The obvious conclusion is that lightly built, unmanned vessels will be totally destroyed by single, relatively light hits.  If the vessels are cheap enough, this may be an acceptable situation.  What this tells us is that cost control for small unmanned vessels is paramount as attrition rates will be high.  We cannot afford to allow small vessels to assume large costs, as the Navy is prone to do.


Damage Control – Ships will get hit and the ship and crew’s survival depends on damage control.  As history has shown, repeatedly, the number one factor in successful damage control is large numbers of crew.  There’s no getting around it, damage control is physically brutal work and the more live bodies that are available, the better the chance of success.  This also argues strenuously against women on ships.  Women simply haven’t got the physical strength or endurance to conduct effective damage control.


Aluminum – Swift’s damage once again demonstrates the foolishness of using aluminum in the construction of WARships.  Recall that the Independence variant of the LCS is all aluminum construction and the Freedom variant has a steel hull with aluminum superstructure.


Armor – The damage pattern shown on the Swift indicates that the initial hit occurred at the forward end of the bow (nearly missing!).  The subsequent damage pattern shows that there was no containment or mitigation of the explosive effects.  Armor would have reduced the ‘spread’, extent, and severity of the damage.





The Navy is being presented with multiple, actual, highly relevant, combat damage examples from which to draw lessons (Port Royal, McCain, Fitzgerald, Norwegian Helge, Guardian, Bonhomme Richard, Miami, ex-Swift, Russian Slava class, and others).  Bafflingly, the Navy seems determined to ignore the lessons.  The Navy continues to design ships that are poorly designed for combat and damage resilience and they continue to embrace minimal manning which all but ensures the loss of billion dollar ships to minor damage.


Eventually, somehow, some way, we’ve got to embrace the combat damage lessons that are piling up and begging to be applied.  We’ve got to stop designing peacetime cruise ships and start designing WARships.  Unfortunately, the Ford class and the new Constellation do not appear to be WARships and the Navy’s obsession with unmanned vessels certainly does not embrace any combat lessons.


Wake up Navy and embrace the combat lessons.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Navy SUPSHIP and Waivers

Congress has recently been exercising their mandated oversight responsibilities over the military.  This is all for the good and I commend them, as a group, while noting that they should be much more vigorous, rigorous, and punitive in their actions.  Still, it’s an improvement. 


Congress requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the Navy’s Supervisors of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair (SUPSHIP) organization which functions under NAVSEA (which I have previously stated should be eliminated as a completely worthless organization).  To that end, GAO has released a report examining the role of SUPSHIP.  As the report notes, SUPSHIP


… serve as the Navy’s on-site technical, contractual, and business authority for the construction of Navy vessels at major private shipyards.[1]


These are the people who should be ensuring that ships are built properly and to specification.  The reality, however, is that ships are routinely delivered significantly incomplete, non-functional, and, in some cases, damaged.  Clearly, SUPSHIP is failing and failing badly.  For example, GAO


… found in 2018 that the lead ships for six Navy programs experienced delays in providing the ships to the fleet, ranging from 6 months to 6 years, and cost growth as high as 154 percent.[1]


As the report states,


Collectively, these results have raised questions about the Navy’s ability to effectively oversee shipbuilder performance throughout the construction of new ships.[1]


GAO was commissioned to find out why.


Think about the concept embodied in SUPSHIP. 


While prime contractors are responsible for controlling the quality of their work, the Navy relies on the SUPSHIPs, as the government’s primary on-site representatives, to perform quality assurance oversight during ship construction at private shipyards.[1]


These are supposed experts in ship construction and they are emplaced in the shipyards that the Navy contracts with.  They see the ships being built on a daily basis.  There should be no surprises, no quality issues, no incomplete ships, and no construction failures    and yet there are.  In fact, failure is the norm.  How can that be?  Well, peruse the following quotes from the report that point at various SUPSHIP issues. 


Note, in the following quotes, ‘we’ refers to GAO.


… we found in 2013 that, while the number of significant deficiencies generally had dropped, the Navy continued to accept the delivery of ships with open deficiencies that lingered after ship delivery.


We recommended in 2013, among other things, that the Navy clarify in its policy when contractor-responsible deficiencies should be fully corrected during the acquisition process for shipbuilding programs and ensure the policy is followed. In response, DOD indicated that it would monitor whether additional guidance was necessary but took no further action to implement our recommendation. [emphasis added]


In July 2017, we found that problems with quality, completeness, and reliability persisted when ships were turned over to the Navy’s fleet.  Although a certain number of deficiencies can be expected for something as complex as a Navy ship, we found that the Navy’s routine acceptance of ships with significant unresolved deficiencies and reliability problems consumed limited resources, diminished ship performance, and added to sailors’ workloads.


… we recommended that the Secretary of the Navy revise the service’s ship delivery policy to clarify what types of Supervisors of Shipbuilding deficiencies need to be corrected and what mission capability must be achieved at acceptance of ship delivery from the shipbuilder and when the ship is provided to the fleet. DOD did not agree with this 2017 recommendation and has yet to take action to implement it. [emphasis added]


We found that the Navy infrequently uses specific quality incentives in contracts, and that, when used, they have minimal effect on the SUPSHIPs’ quality assurance activities …


… SUPSHIPs traditionally perform limited or no on-site quality assurance of the ship systems and components developed and produced away from the shipyards.


… for key complex systems that must be integrated into the ships, the SUPSHIPs’ lack of involvement prior to the [Government Furnished Equipment’s] arrival at the shipyard reduces opportunities to leverage their expertise to address known problems.


We found that the Navy largely limits the SUPSHIPs’ involvement in key decision-making activities for shipbuilding programs prior to contract awards.






As regular readers know, ComNavOps is death on waivers, believing they are unjustified, regardless of circumstances, during peacetime.  Indeed, the report repeatedly addresses the use of waivers as a detriment to successful ship construction and delivery as evidenced by the following quotes.


Prior to the [Ford] acceptance trials, the CNO also approved a waiver for the advanced arresting gear that excluded the system from inspection during the trials.


We found that five of 12 case study ships used deficiency waivers approved by the CNO—50 waivers in total—to proceed with acceptance trials.  Additionally, the Navy’s subsequent acceptance of ship deliveries for five of the ships was supported by 59 waivers for starred card deficiencies identified by INSURV during the trials.


… we found that the Navy has received standing waivers for some deficiencies with Virginia class submarines that will never meet Navy specifications or cannot be completed prior to acceptance trials due to time restrictions.


… waiving incomplete or deficient equipment through trials and delivery reduces the SUPSHIPs’ ability to hold the shipbuilder accountable for timely correction of deficiencies by allowing shipbuilders to deliver ships that have yet to meet requirements.


The Navy’s use of waivers and the corresponding limits to the SUPSHIPs’ shareable knowledge of the condition of waived systems also have the potential to mask construction problems with longer-term quality and performance consequences.





Here’s a table showing a couple examples of the use of waivers in Acceptance Trials and Delivery (table adapted from report [1]).



Acceptance Trial Waivers

Delivery Waivers









Waivers are tossed around like confetti.  Is it any wonder that ships are delivered incomplete, non-functional, and damaged?  All waivers must be personally approved by the CNO.  That makes this entire mess solely and personally his fault.  Congress needs to immediately fire SecNav and CNO.  Of course, if either had an ounce of integrity, they’d resign in shame.


NAVSEA and SUPSHIP need to be eliminated since neither perform an effective, useful function.






[1]Government Accountability Office, “Navy Shipbuilding, Increasing Supervisors of Shipbuilding Responsibility Could Help Improve Program Outcomes”, April 2022

Monday, July 18, 2022

! ! ! !

This is not a Navy issue but it warrants a notice.  The Boeing KC-46 tanker program has had lots of problems and the manufacturer has taken massive losses.

... KC-46 losses now total more than $5 billion on a $4.9 billion contract ... [1]

Boeing has lost more than the contract was worth !

KC-46 Tanker [1]

Sooner or later, the various military and industrial contracting parties have got to learn some lessons such as:
  • Don't design products that are more complicated than they need to be.  Seriously, it's a tanker.  It's a flying fuel tank with a pump for transferring the fuel.  We've been doing this for how many decades?  But no ... we had to make the new tanker an all-digital, remote vision, automated, fly-by-wire boom, with super glass panoramic displays.  In addition, we couldn't just have it dispense gas.  No, that would be too simple and cheap.  We had to make it a multi-function, combination tanker, passenger transport with seating for 58, cargo transport with capacity for 18 pallets, and medevac with room for 54 patients.[2]
  • Don't low ball bids[1]
  • Don't accept bids that are obviously unrealistic.  The Air Force is just as much to blame as Boeing.
  • Don't ask for and don't offer fixed price bids for unproven products.
  • Demand prototypes and test them thoroughly before issuing contracts.
The Air Force may think they were clever by using a fixed price contract but what did they gain?  The program began in 2001 and Boeing was selected in 2011.  Now, 11 years later, the Air Force has yet to receive new functional tankers.  The Air Force may not be footing the bill for the problem fixes and schedule delays but they aren't receiving any product, either.  So, what did they really gain?


Chinese Seizure of Solomon Islands

The Chinese just completed a security agreement with Solomon Islands which gives China’s military access to the islands.  What, specifically, does the agreement allow?  No official copy of the agreement has been released but a leaked ?draft? copy reveals,


A draft of the deal leaked online said it would allow China to send armed forces to the Solomon Islands to protect Chinese investments. Chinese warships would also be permitted dock on the islands.[1]


Prime Minister Mannesseh Sogavare told his parliament in Honiara a day later that [the security agreement] will allow China to send police and military personnel to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order”. Chinese warships also could stop in port there for “logistical replenishment.”[2]


According to the draft text, the agreement would allow China to “make ship visits to, carry out logistical replenishment in, and have stopover and transition in Solomon Islands”, leading to fears that China could secure a naval base less than 2,000km from Australia’s east coast.[3]


“The agreement states that China may, according to its own needs and with the consent of the Solomon Islands government make ship visits to the Solomons and carry out logistical replenishment and stopover and transition in the Solomons.”[4]


The above is bad.  It gives China the opening it needs to begin establishing a permanent naval base.  However, far worse is the following passage from the document:


… the relevant forces of China can be used to protect the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects in Solomon Islands.[5]


This passage gives China carte blanche to establish a permanent military presence in the Solomons in the name of ‘protecting the safety of Chinese personnel and major projects’.  How flimsy of an excuse would the Chinese need to justify bringing in military forces?  The thinnest of excuses would suffice.  Given the blatant lies the Chinese routinely engage in, they won’t hesitate to concoct some ‘safety’ issue when the time comes to establish their base.


Does anyone recall the Chinese assurances that the illegal artificial islands in the South China Sea would not be militarized?  Of course, they were militarized in short order.  China’s word means nothing and China has a habit of militarizing everything it touches.  There is absolutely no doubt that China will construct a naval base in the Solomons under the guise of ‘logistical replenishment’ facility improvements.


There is also a confidentiality clause in the agreement which prohibits either party from publicizing any of the terms or actions related to the agreement without the other’s consent.[5]  This provides further cover for the Chinese to act clandestinely.


So, what has been America’s response?


A high-level American delegation will go to the Solomon Islands next week.  The United States said it will re-open its embassy in Honiara, which has been closed since 1993.[1]


Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has got out! 


The US has talked about a Pacific Pivot but has utterly failed to do anything.  We haven’t substantially increased our military presence.  We haven’t made any significant attempt to conduct a political campaign in the region.  We’ve exerted no economic influence.  And so on.  Clearly, we’ve ignored relations with the various Pacific countries. 


Sending a delegation to the Solomons after the fact is simultaneously useless, embarrassing, and humiliating.


At this point, one might ask whether a Chinese base (and there will be one) in the Solomon’s is a serious concern for the US.  After all, the Solomons are around 3970 miles from the Chinese mainland coast, depending on exactly where one measures from.  Isn’t that an awfully distant and isolated base for China?  Is it really a threat?


A Chinese base in the Solomons gives them their Pearl Harbor … their far forward base to support deep Pacific air and naval forces in both times of war and times of war.  Huh?  Did I just repeat myself?  Don’t I mean times of war and times of peace?  No, I don’t because, for China, there is no difference between war and peace.  For China, peace is just the non-shooting portion of the war.  They are already at war with us and they’re winning.  We’re steadily retreating and appeasing.  They’re achieving all their objectives and we’re failing ours, to the extent that we even have any objectives. 


In the mind of the Chinese, peace and war are the same thing.  There’s no difference other than methods and means.  China is at war and we’re just sitting back in a Chamberlain appeasement mode.  A base in the Solomons gives the Chinese a resupply and support facility to further their expansion efforts.


Just for fun, let’s check the distance from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco … it’s 2400 miles.  That’s awfully isolated and far from the US mainland and resupply.  So, if the isolation/distance argument is valid for China in the Solomons, it’s also valid for the US and Pearl Harbor.  Of course, Guam is even more isolated and far from the US and resupply at 5800 miles.  On a related note, the distance from Pearl Harbor to Guam is 3800 miles.  So, as China acquires bases in the Pacific, who’s more isolated and distant? 


Consider these distances: 

  • Distance from Chinese coast to Solomon Islands = 3970 miles 

  • Distance from San Francisco to Solomon Islands = 5960 miles
  • Distance from Pearl Harbor to Solomon Islands = 3560 miles
  • Distance from Guam to Solomon Islands = 1914 miles
  • Distance from Darwin to Solomon Islands = 2000 miles


It is the US that has far flung and isolated bases.  With a couple more security agreements with other Pacific island nations, it will be the US in the position of being isolated and unsupported in the Pacific.


Aside from Japan, the only other Pacific military of any note is Australia and they are an extremely small force.  For example, the entire combat fleet of the Australian navy[6] consists of :


  • 8x Anzac frigates
  • 3x Hobart destroyers
  • 6x Collins submarines


That’s not a significant naval force. 


The US currently has a significant advantage in terms of global geopolitics, finances, economics, presence, and military force.  However, we are doing very little to maintain those advantages and almost nothing to enhance them.  Meanwhile, China is expanding their influence in all those areas at a breathtaking pace.  They are expanding and winning;  the US is shrinking and losing.


A Chinese Pearl Harbor in the Solomons is just the next step in China’s plan to conquer the Pacific.


We need to recognize that we are at war with China and start fighting back.






[1]VOA News website, “Solomon Islands Sign Security Pact With China”, Phil Mercer, 20-Apr-2022,




[3]The Guardian website, “China requested heavily armed security team be sent to Solomon Islands, leaked documents reveal”, Kate Lyons, 12-Apr-2022,







Friday, July 15, 2022

Marine Missiles

Marine Commandant Berger keeps talking about hidden bases with small units that will rain missiles of death and destruction down on the hapless Chinese who won’t have a clue where the Marines are.  Well, let’s attempt to be fair and take a look at the missiles that the good Commandant envisions using.  Are they small enough to remain hidden?  Can they be easily moved as the Marines nimbly relocate from island to island on Light Amphibious Warfare (LAW) ships?


Note:  The inspiration and, indeed, much of the organization and content of this post is taken from a Naval News website article by Peter Ong.[1]



Naval Strike Missile


The smallest of the potential missiles for the Marines is the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). 


The Marine Corps’ Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) mounts two Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) on a remote-operated, driven, and NSM launched unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) 4×4 vehicle.  … The 900-pound (410 kilogram) NSM (or 910 pounds with booster) can be internally loaded aboard a CH-53 and onto the flatbed of a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) 6×6 truck via a forklift.  … it is possible to push an NSM container on a trolley cart but loading it onto the JLTV will require a … forklift.[1]

NMESIS Naval Strike Missile on JLTV

That’s a hefty brute of a vehicle.  Note that it carries two missiles.  To be operationally relevant and combat effective, a unit is going to need … what ? … twenty or so missiles, at a minimum?  That would be a minimum of ten such vehicles.  That’s no longer a small, secretive, hidden footprint.  Of course one could always use fewer launch vehicles and just use reloads but that would require forklifts and some type of missile storage facility which, again, is not a small, secretive, hidden footprint.


These vehicles (JLTV or forklifts) give off very large infrared signatures, especially in the tropical sun.  Again, not conducive to remaining hidden.

From Wikipedia, here's a description of the components of a Norwegian coastal defense battery which is, essentially, what the Marines are trying to set up:

An NSM coastal battery consists of three missile launch vehicles, one battery command vehicle, three combat command vehicles, one mobile communication center, one mobile radar vehicle with TRS-15C radar, one transport and loading vehicle, and one mobile workshop vehicle. 

Again, that's not a small footprint ! 





Another missile option is the cutting edge, brand new, ultra advanced, futuristic  Maritime Strike Tomahawk ... which you knew this as the 1980’s – 1990’s era Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM).  In any event, the Tomahawk will be deployed on 40 ft long, 34 ton, M872 trailers.


The semitrailer is designed to be towed over smooth, hard-surfaced roads with loads up to 34 tons (68,000 lbs payload) at speeds as high as 55 mph (88 km/h). It can also be towed over unimproved roads, trails and open rolling terrain with the same load limit, but at a sustained speed of no more than 10 mph (16 km/h).[2]


The M872 semitrailer is designed to be towed by the M915 Series 6x4 Truck, Tractor.[2]


Tomahawk Launching From Trailer Mounted VLS Cell

Note the immense size of the trailer, VLS cell, and then factor in the trailer tow vehicle.  The photo depicts a feasibility demonstration but the final launch vehicle will not be any smaller.  Again, assuming we want more than a single missile shot, we’ll need dozens of these trailers, tow vehicles, and, potentially, large cranes to handle the VLS cells.  Imagine a large city freeway with a string of twenty giant tractor-trailers and you’ll get an idea of how hidden this operation will be.


Also, note the 10 mph speed limit for movement over unimproved roads and terrain.  This will not be a quick, agile, shoot and scoot operation !


The MST uses a two-way communications link for mid-course guidance and targeting updates.  This could prove problematic during combat as it violates EMCON and allows the enemy to locate the communications source. 






Another missile option is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HiMARS) which is a podded rocket system with six rockets per HiMARS pod and are launched from a modified USMC Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) 6×6 truck.[1]  HiMARS rockets may require new seekers to target moving ships.


HIMARS Pod on FMTV 6x6 Truck

Note the size of the 6x6 truck.  Again, several such trucks/pods would be needed.






The options discussed above all involve dozens of sizeable vehicles – no easy thing to hide on an island inside your enemy’s zone of control.  Also, bear in mind that other necessities must be provided including large amounts of fuel, fuel handling equipment, vehicle maintenance and repair capabilities, spare parts, etc. in addition to the operator’s food, health, and shelter needs.  All of this is in addition to the gear and supplies that the regular Marines will require.  While the Commandant may have some fanciful notion of Marines living off the land (that has actually been discussed in various published articles), that is simply not feasible for any sustained period of time.  There is also the matter of health.  The tropics are renowned for myriad diseases and Marines weakened by malnourishment will be quickly rendered sick and ineffective.


We’re also ignoring the challenges associated with transporting and loading/unloading large vehicles to/from islands in secret.  Does the Commandant really believe he can transport and unload dozens of large vehicles without being noticed?


The other aspect that is not covered is targeting.  The Marines will need some type of UAV or radar or something to provide targeting beyond the 12 mile horizon.  That thousand mile Tomahawk sounds great on paper but how are you going to get thousand mile targeting?  Whatever vehicle or sensor the Marines use will further reduce their ‘hiddenness’.  Sensor assets will require two-way communications which, again, point back to the Marine’s location.


When all the vehicles, UAVs, sensors, support equipment, storage facilities, etc. are considered, it is difficult to see how anyone can believe that missile-shooting units will remain undetected even assuming that they can penetrate the enemy’s zone in a small, non-stealthy, painfully slow LAW and establish themselves on an island in the first place.


Finally, the Commandant has stated that in the unlikely event that the Marines are discovered, they will simply hop aboard a LAW  and relocate, thus regaining their secrecy.  Of course, loading and unloading all the equipment we’ve discussed is not an insignificant feat in itself.  Trying to load all the vehicles and equipment onto a LAW will be a pretty noticeable event, one would imagine.


By the way, when this unlikely relocation becomes necessary, where will the multiple transport LAWs come from?  Will they be floating offshore, waiting?  If so, wouldn’t they be quickly spotted?  If they’re not waiting and, instead, they’re back on, say, Guam.  It will take weeks to get them to the Marine’s island.  That’s not exactly going to allow for quick, agile relocations, is it?


Nothing about this concept appears feasible.  The Commandant either needs to come out and address some of these issues, at least in general terms, or he will continue to face resistance.  He appears to have successfully stifled internal dissent but has run into staunch resistance from former Marine generals and other top-ranking former officials.  Commandant, if you want support you’ve got to provide some information and address the gaping holes in the logic of the concept.






Side note:  Does anyone recall the Cuban missile crisis?  The Soviets attempted to secretly transport missiles using small, slow, unarmed transport ships (sounds like a LAW !) and place the missiles on the island of Cuba without being noticed and yet they were instantly spotted with 1950’s – 1960’s technology.  How’d that work out?





[1]Naval News website, “A Look At The Sizes Of U.S. Land-Based Strike Missiles”, Peter Ong, 29-Jun-2022,