Skip to content

The Amphibious Swarm Pt 1

April 19, 2010

Why can this work? Because of the great and growing power of even very small units, especially when they are networked together and connected to attack aircraft and supporting missile and naval gunfire. This small-scale approach to amphibious warfare also cultivates a renewed capacity for surprise, given that the range of landing zones would be far greater than it ever was in traditional amphibious warfare. Thus defenders would have great difficulty trying to prevent an initial lodgment, and they would then be outmaneuvered again and again by the swift and inherently surprising movements of these small expeditionary forces. If greater numbers were deemed necessary, their landing would be eased by the disruptions caused by a first wave of these small, swarming units.

From “Worst Enemy” by John Arquilla

Almost everyone, especially the Marines themselves see the need for getting away from the land-centric role as a “Second Army”, back to its namesake the sea. It might be expected this will occur after a massive influx of funds for new large amphibious vessels and technically complicated Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles. The problem being, of course, static defense budgets and the continued vulnerability of traditional landings ships, cuts becoming more likely than increases.

Conflict between First World Powers have been non-existent since World War 2, though the threat was still there. The rise of so-called Hybrid War with divergent groups armed with First World Weapons is an alarming trend and naturally a deterrent to to future amphibious landings. Another problem is the use of satellite surveillance that can track a landing task force during its entire route. The possibly looms that such technology can be shared among unfriendly nations in a conflict, leaving the Marines little room for stealth.

The neglect of amphibious expertise in a new century is a serious one, especially since land-sea combined operations are not a recent phenomena of the last century Pacific Battles, but instead a crucial part of naval operations throughout history. So called “sea soldiers” go back to the dawn of history, and the fate of nations have often been decided by invasion from the sea, probably the most notable being Hastings in 1066.

Even the threats of modern mines, missiles, submarines, and precision bombers should be no complete hindrance. The use of specialized landing craft and the dispersal of forces proved the answer to the amphibious stalemates of the Great War, at Gallipoli. Looking at the declining force of very large Gators, which the Marines insist they require for modern landings, their vulnerability to smaller and lethal guided projectiles, their cost and complication, seems to highlight a creeping obsolescence to the entire concept.

Yet, I insist that this is a false assumption. If technology and a change in tactics saved us once before, it can do so again. My own proposals have been, with the giant ships being forced further out to sea because of new weapons, why not take them out of the equation altogether, but building ships which can go directly from port to beach, such as high speed catamarans or even improving the hovercraft we already use? The use of self-deployable landing craft is just one idea, and hardly unique.

If dispersal was the answer to the new automatic weapons that transformed the last century warfare, a further dispersal might prove the answer to the new guided weapons and advanced sensors. Modern RMA advocates seem to think that new weapons mean you can do more missions with less platforms and less manpower, which is a false assumption, since the need for adequate numbers of boots on the ground rarely fluctuates in the history of conflict. The same applies to hulls in the water, in other words, the new technology allows you to do more with the forces you have, because the enemy adapts to your new technology. This we see happening in the Third World today.

Instead of thinking in terms of powerful brigades, regiments, and battalions in a single wave, there might be a smaller widespread beach landings. These would involve numerous landings performed by company and platoon sized units, kept cohesive by networking, the new sensors we talked about. Instead of the few highly visible giant gators, these would be supplanted by many smaller craft, with the enhanced numbers increasing the survivability of your landing force greatly. Instead of limiting ourselves with even the type of transports I proposed, hovercraft and JHSV’s, you could also deploy APD’s, RFA vessels, landings by helicopter, tiltroters, submarines converted to carry troops (the SSGNs) or even by parachute.

Swarming large numbers of smaller landing craft should solve the problem of getting them to the beach in the age of the guided missile. The question might arise whether these numerous but smaller teams will be effective when they do land?

Tomorrow-Marines embrace the swarm!

39 Comments leave one →
  1. papa legba permalink
    April 21, 2010 2:10 pm

    Smitty said: “Tanking is an expensive way to deliver gas, but not necessarily the most expensive way. “

    Well that doesn’t help my argument, but thank you for that link. It’s an eye opener. Suddenly the military’s ‘green initiatives’ don’t seem like boondoggles anymore. On-site alternative energy seems like hard-headed practicality when a gallon of fuel costs half a grand.

    “Troops in contact prefer whatever aircraft is overhead first. “

    Because a COIN (or an A-10) can be situated closer to the combat zone, the tactical fighter is no more likely to be on station sooner. Loitering a fighter, even with the fuel issue discounted, is still logistically prohibitive.

    What’s more, the COIN’s ability to stay on station longer, keep the bead on the enemy longer, and return to the attack zone quicker are highly valued by the guys on the ground.

    Tactical aircraft (including the A-10) use targeting pods to distinguish targets visually nowadays.

    The A-10 is, after many years of delay, able to use full-featured targeting pods and everyone is happier for it. However, the fact that A-10 uses the same targeting pod as the F-16 doesn’t mean the two platforms are identical. The A-10’s ability to stay in the location longer and keep the target area under observation longer allow it to better resolve targets in close proximity, and to target them with a cannon, when an F-16 might need an expensive guided munition to perform the same task.

    “I don’t have a problem with buying some light COIN aircraft, I just don’t see them as a general “boots on the ground” substitute for fighters like Mike does. They are niche players, IMHO.”

    I’d say they’re bigger than niche players, but they’re not a replacement for tactical fighters. Their job should to take the workload off of F-16’s and Strike Eagles so that the Air Force doesn’t end up with a fighter gap like the Navy has.

  2. B.Smitty permalink
    April 20, 2010 10:36 pm

    papa legba said, “For CAS, the preferred platform is still the A-10. For situations where friendly troops are already in contact with hostile forces, the F-16’s inability to distinguish targets by visual reconnaissance is a serious problem.

    Tactical aircraft (including the A-10) use targeting pods to distinguish targets visually nowadays.

    Troops in contact prefer whatever aircraft is overhead first.

    Tanking is an expensive way to deliver gas, but not necessarily the most expensive way.

    “The Defense Logistics Agency buys military fuel for $2.82 per gallon. But that same fuel can cost $13 if it’s shipped by ground to a forward-deployed location, during peacetime. If it’s transferred in-flight from a refueling airplane to another aircraft, the gas is $42. If troops are in hostile areas, prices can range from $100 to $600 for “in theater” delivery. The Army estimated fuel can cost up to $400 a gallon if the only way to ship it is via helicopters. ”

    So air refueling can actually be less expensive than delivering fuel to forward bases in hostile areas.

    I don’t have a problem with buying some light COIN aircraft, I just don’t see them as a general “boots on the ground” substitute for fighters like Mike does. They are niche players, IMHO.

  3. papa legba permalink
    April 20, 2010 1:38 pm

    Smitty said: To provide CAS in the same area, you have to seed it with distributed support bases comfortably within the light COIN aircraft’s non-air-refuelable radius.

    Forward air bases already exist in Afghanistan, and are included for in the planning of almost every extended military operation. Operating more aircraft out of them incurs some additional expense, but a lot of the operation of a COIN aircraft network is already a sunk cost.

    The absence of air-refueling is a bonus, if anything. Midair refueling is expensive in terms of personnel, and maintenance. In terms of delivering a gallon of fuel to the front lines, it may be the most expensive link in the logistical chain. This is the best-case scenario, again neglecting the current tanker shortfall.

    For this cost, you get superior force presence and endurance. A network of COIN craft can respond to multiple threats simultaneously, while the single fighter leaves ground forces in queue and under fire.

    “That is a myth. Tactical fighters perform highly effective CAS on a daily basis. We ousted the Taliban with these so-called “ineffective” CAS platforms just fine. “

    For CAS, the preferred platform is still the A-10. For situations where friendly troops are already in contact with hostile forces, the F-16’s inability to distinguish targets by visual reconnaissance is a serious problem. This is mediated by the use of smart munitions, but smart munitions are expensive. Compare this to the COIN craft’s ability to quickly select targets by sight and engage them with dumbfire rockets or cannon fire .

    “The arrival of A-10s on the scene didn’t improve the situation THAT much. (Note: they didn’t arrive until late in the conflict, once we’d taken, secured and built-up local airfields)”

    The tactical fighter’s ability to press an attack into hostile territory is unarguable. No one in their right mind would send a COIN craft into hostile airspace, and even an A-10 needs top cover. However, once we establish the use of local airfields, why not make good use of them?

  4. B.Smitty permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:44 pm

    papa legba said, “First, the cost of a tactical fighter are steep in numerous ways.

    It takes multiple, slow COIN aircraft to cover the same area with the same CAS response time and payload as a single fighter. To provide CAS in the same area, you have to seed it with distributed support bases comfortably within the light COIN aircraft’s non-air-refuelable radius. Each light COIN aircraft distributed support base need base infrastructure, air and ground crews, support staff for these crews, and security to protect the base AND sanitize the surrounding area (to prevent shoot-downs during vulnerable takeoffs and landings). Each distributed support base needs to have fuel, munitions and other consumables brought to it somehow, opening up new logistics lines, vulnerable to attack.

    So to distribute light COIN aircraft with the same effectiveness (i.e. response time, payload) as centralized fighters requires a lot more infrastructure, logistics and people.

    papa legba said, “Second, a tactical fighter’s ‘capability’ for CAS is low.

    That is a myth. Tactical fighters perform highly effective CAS on a daily basis. We ousted the Taliban with these so-called “ineffective” CAS platforms just fine.

    The arrival of A-10s on the scene didn’t improve the situation THAT much. (Note: they didn’t arrive until late in the conflict, once we’d taken, secured and built-up local airfields)

  5. CBD permalink
    April 20, 2010 10:46 am

    Adding to Papa Legba’s statement,
    The experience with the OV-10 should also be considered. The background is well explained here.

    There was need in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, to get rapid CAS and a FAC on the scene. The Broncos were, as has been mentioned, vulnerable to IRSAMs…but the scout helicopter program that was to replace them and the OH-58D (the Comanche) was an abject failure in terms of technical challenges, weight and cost controls. The Broncos are much less vulnerable to ground fire than the existing attack helicopters and can bear similar armament at higher speeds…but those remain.

    2 very early model Broncos (which lacked the IR countermeasures and more powerful engines of the D model) were downed over Iraq in the early 90s…with modern countermeasures and electronics, would the same happen today?

    The IRSAM threat that grounded the Broncos in the mid-90s? Recently solved for the CH-47D with ATIRCM .

    The Bronco did not replace the A-10 or the F/A-18 or the F-16 (or any other fast jets). What it did was provide light, available CAS and FAC capabilities to coordinate fire support missions, providing laser guidance or coordinates for the heavy bombs dropped by the heaver, higher and faster AF jets. It was simple, relatively cheap and available.

    The economy of any item is balanced against its costs. I don’t think that anyone would prefer an OV-10 over an A-10 for taking out armored units or to the F-16 for striking at major facilities…but if you need an escort for a convoy or coordinated fire support for a unit under fire, the OV-10 excelled.

    Trade-offs always exist…the A-10 doesn’t go Mach 2, the F-16 can’t turn precisely at low altitude as the A-10, the B-52 bomber can’t twist and turn to avoid enemy ground fire…but none of these craft need what they don’t have. A COIN plane, OV-10 or Super Tucano or AT-6B or whatever, has a pointed ground support role. Ground support is needed now and in the future…and the B-1s, B-52s, F/A-18s, F-15s and F-16s aren’t really providing the best support possible. A-10s, attack helicopters and COIN planes could.

  6. papa legba permalink
    April 20, 2010 10:06 am

    B. Smitty said : “A single Super Tucano’s sticker price might look good, but once you factor in what it takes to deploy and sustain a light COIN aircraft capability equivalent to a 4th gen tactical fighter, the picture doesn’t look so rosy.”

    It does, actually. First, the cost of a tactical fighter are steep in numerous ways. Second, a tactical fighter’s ‘capability’ for CAS is low. That’s why we have the A-10. (If the question was A-10 versus cheap COIN, the issue would be much more cloudy.)

    For the first point: A tactical fighter is so expensive that every hour of life on its airframe is worth several thousand dollars. On top of that, every one of those flight hours requires many man-hours of maintenance by highly skilled techs. What’s worse, the need of a tactical fighter to operate off of large, pristine airstrips means that it’s going to be far from the action– it needs to fly from the finished airstrip to the combat zone, then back. A lot of those expensive flight hours are burned up in commuting.

    A COIN craft, on the other hand, needs less maintenance per man hour, and the maintenance it requires can be performed by less skilled technicians. This isn’t just an issue of cost, but of available manpower– there are many more techs capable of maintaining a commercial-grade turboprop than there are of a cutting-edge, military-grade jet engine.

    For my second point: For all the sophisticated gear on a modern fighter, it has steep disadvantages in the CAS role. The Time an aircraft spends at the objective- ‘target under the crosshairs’- is a key factor that tactical fighters are poor in. The poor time-on-target of tach fighters has been a problem for CAS since Vietnam. On top of this, their time to return to target is unacceptably high. The F-16 is poor for CAS for the same reason the F-105 of Vietnam was: it can only zip by the target at high speed, and then it takes a long time to turn around and come back.

    What’s more, the high-speed passes make it difficult for the pilot to appraise the situation. Many CAS situations are so granular that they cannot be resolved as dots on a radar screen.
    When friendly troops are closely engaged with the enemy, the only way to distinguish targets is with the eyeball.

    The tactical fighter cannot loiter in the combat zone. Even with in-flight refueling, the cost of keeping a high-performance jet in the air, racking up precious flight hours flying in circles, is prohibitive, especially once you factor in the cost of the refueling plane. At this point just the fuel costs become a significant issue. The current shortfall in the tanker fleet makes the problem even worse.

    Finally, even if you need multiple COIN craft to cover the same area as a fighter, those planes will do it better. When multiple calls for air support come in, that fighter is swamped able to reply to one and hoping that the others don’t resolve for the worse in the mean time.
    With several COIN craft, instead of one fighter speeding over multiple target zones, each target zone has a dedicated craft, one persistent threat loitering overhead, spending a lot of time with the target under the crosshairs and circling back quickly. The presence of multiple aircraft is something that electronics cannot substitute for.

    What’s odd is that so many of the arguments against COIN craft are the same arguments once used against the A-10. Right up until the first Gulf War, the Air Force wanted to replace the A-10 with F-16’s for CAS, and leveled many of these same statements against the A-10.

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    April 20, 2010 9:33 am

    Mike said, “Also Smitty, concerning cost effectiveness, it is often about the pricetag over the lifespan of a platform that the military considers. But the budgets are annual, and upfront costs must be taken into consideration by politicians, which deal in annual budgets, not 20-30 year plans. It is a faulty system, proof being in the ongoing shrinkages, ancient weapons which keep going and going, war after war.

    ?? I’m not sure where you’re going with this. Annual budgets include O&M costs for in-service systems. This year’s new purchase will appear on next year’s O&M budget.

    All future costs have to be considered. Sometimes paying more up front to reduce life cycle costs makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    April 20, 2010 7:31 am

    B. Smitty said : “A single Super Tucano’s sticker price might look good, but once you factor in what it takes to deploy and sustain a light COIN aircraft capability equivalent to a 4th gen tactical fighter, the picture doesn’t look so rosy.”

    Exactly, and this is one of the most fundamental flaws in Mike’s approach : not taking into account what might be under the tip of the iceberg.

  9. Scott B. permalink
    April 20, 2010 7:28 am

    Mike Burleson said : “I love the fact there are no “billions” involved in the pricetag”

    It’s a matter of perspective : given the $70 million pricetag of E-Craft, the Navy could buy more than 700 Hellfire missiles.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 7:19 am

    Also Smitty, concerning cost effectiveness, it is often about the pricetag over the lifespan of a platform that the military considers. But the budgets are annual, and upfront costs must be taken into consideration by politicians, which deal in annual budgets, not 20-30 year plans. It is a faulty system, proof being in the ongoing shrinkages, ancient weapons which keep going and going, war after war.

  11. B.Smitty permalink
    April 20, 2010 7:11 am

    Mike said, “I think we obsess a little too much over individual platform economy rather than over-all force economy.

    Mike, I think you are doing precisely that. You are looking at the cost of the individual platform (i.e. light COIN aircraft vs fighter) and not looking at what it does to the overall force economy (not to mention capability).

    A single Super Tucano’s sticker price might look good, but once you factor in what it takes to deploy and sustain a light COIN aircraft capability equivalent to a 4th gen tactical fighter, the picture doesn’t look so rosy.

  12. Scott B. permalink
    April 20, 2010 6:24 am

    Mike Burleson said : “True, but it is first of its kind, one of a kind so far.”

    That’s what they said with LCS…

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 6:06 am

    “At $70 million – about $100 for every resident of Alaska – it has to be the world’s most expensive ferry on a $/ton basis: now, who’s going to subsidize its operation?”

    True, but it is first of its kind, one of a kind so far. An interesting experiment. I love the fact there are no “billions” involved in the pricetag that is the norm for Navy sponsored projects.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 20, 2010 6:00 am

    Smitty wrote “$600 should give one pause when considering the “economy” of light COIN aircraft.”

    I think we obsess a little too much over individual platform economy rather than over-all force economy. The much-hyped savings found in multipurpose platforms gives us $2 billion amphibs, $2 billion destroyers, $100 million+ jets, etc, also reducing purchases of platforms, contributing the incredible shrinking air force and navy. Anymore such “economy” and the services vanish altogether!

    I will be doing a post on the myth of cost effectiveness later this week. (See, I do listen to you guys!)

  15. Scott B. permalink
    April 20, 2010 5:47 am

    Speaking of aluminum boondoggles, Tim Colton posted an interesting memo of one of Mike’s favorite Gator alternative, E-Craft aka M/V Susitna :

    *****************************************************************************
    FERRY-TO-NOWHERE FLOATS

    The 130-passenger/20-car SWATH ferry Sisitna has finally hit the water, with delivery now scheduled for June 11th. Read the story in the Ketchikan Daily News here. At $70 million – about $100 for every resident of Alaska – it has to be the world’s most expensive ferry on a $/ton basis: now, who’s going to subsidize its operation? And at more than four years in construction, it has probably taken longer to build than the Ark. But then it’s a Lockheed Martin design, funded by the Office of Naval Research, so what can you expect? Credit to Alaska Ship & Dry Dock, however, for whom this is only their second new ship: for a young yard, they’ve done OK. April 16, 2010.

    *****************************************************************************

  16. Distiller permalink
    April 20, 2010 2:27 am

    I also think distributed landings, spreading out the landing zone in breadth and depth is the way ahead. And also to sync air assault (C-17, C-130 with armored cav units) and amphib 2D (LCAC, EFV) and 3D (helicopters) assault.

    Are small units needed? Yes, granularity is important for survivability. The EFV has a lot of technology going for it, but it should be applied to a cavalry tank, not a personnel carrier.

    And regardless of what toy is used to go over the beach, the Marines have to seriously speed up the whole first assault wave and also the second wave with the heavy stuff. Regrouping on the beach is suicide. Only being able to use the well deck at very low speeds or stand-still is deadly for the ships.

    ok, gotta run …

  17. B.Smitty permalink
    April 19, 2010 9:38 pm

    Mike said, “You can also count the air superiority fighter in this category, and I also frequently call for building very many light COIN aircraft and UAVs, which for the Air Force would be “boots on the ground”.

    Light COIN aircraft and (non Global Hawk-sized) UAVs would’ve been worthless for most of OEF MCOs for the same reason there were so few land-based fighter sorties: no nearby land bases. Turboprop COIN aircraft suffer even more as distances grow because they are so slow, relative to jets.

    I’ve tried to explain the false economy of light COIN aircraft in other threads. Think Defense has an excellent summary. In the end, they conclude that a modest reduction in fast jets for a couple squadrons of COIN aircraft might be warranted, but no wholesale shift.

    Think Defense doesn’t go into detail on the problems of distributed, austere basing but the report of a single gallon of gas delivered to parts of Afghanistan costing $600 should give one pause when considering the “economy” of light COIN aircraft. Not to mention the infantry units you might have to tie up to secure a single forward airfield and surrounding area.

  18. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 8:20 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Something will get through.”

    The aluminium high speed boondoggles would have to get there in the first place, which is not guaranteed given their poor seakeeping qualities.

    E.g., during her last season in Tasmania, Manannán aka Joint Venture aka Devil Cat established some kind of record with seven cancelled sailings in a period of just two weeks…

  19. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 8:10 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “get smaller, get faster, increase in numbers affording numerous targets to overwhelm the attacker with quantity”

    Smaller : JHSV provides very distinct signatures : IR, radar, visual… Though *small* by your standards, it’s nowhere near being *naturally stealthy*. Quite the opposite actually : a very juicy target for quite a lot of weapons, with very little survivability. IOW : dead meat…

    Faster : @ 35 knots, JHSV won’t be able to outrun many of the weapons it’ll face in an even lightly opposed landing. Given the complete lack of survivability, it’ll end up being nothing more than a juicy target for quite a lot of weapons. IOW : dead meat…

    Numerous : not putting all your eggs (read : people, cuz that’s your most valuable asset !) in the same basket is an approach I can agree with. However, if the baskets you choose are individually as fragile as porcelaine dolls (which is what all these aluminium HSVs are), you end up gaining nothing. Just making it muuuuch easier for your opponent to score numerous cheap kills with the most mundane weapons.

    I would also have thought you guys had realized that *fast* and *affordable* don’t get along too well these days : glamour ain’t cheap !!!

    The bottom line is that your proposal is fundamentally flawed and will only produce un-necessary casualties among our ranks.

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 19, 2010 7:34 pm

    Scott said “And why even bother which such trivial platform-centric attributes in the *missile age* ?!?!’

    Everything is at risk, just as from air attack in the 1939-45 War. I don’t think platforms are obsolete, they just have to change with the times. Disperse, get smaller, get faster, increase in numbers affording numerous targets to overwhelm the attacker with quantity. Something will get through.

    Nobody-Interesting observations. The problem with the Rumsfeld doctrine is now you can’t just declare victory and go home. The aftermath often breeds the terrorist insurgent who tries to fill the void left over from the dictator “strongman” with his own dark ideology. I don’t think the USA presence cultivates this, just the desire for power like all ideologies. I wish it was simple to declare victory and go home.

    Retired Now wrote “Which is better: LSD-41 carrying 4 LCAC’s each, or an LPD-17 carrying 2 LCAC’s ?”

    Its these tiny numbers which scare me! At least for the safety of the Marine landing force. I’d prefer to think in the terms of dozens or scores of assault craft, when you have dozens and scores of missiles coming at you.

  21. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 6:19 pm

    x said : “A “voyage report” in the current Ships of Mann magazine confirms stories I have heard that Manannan (formerly Joint Venture) is a vomit comet for less seasoned sailors.”

    This entire HSV boondoggle (LCS, JHSV and the like) is a comedy that will turn into a tragedy whenever something is gonna hit the fan…

  22. nobody permalink
    April 19, 2010 6:13 pm

    Now we no longer have a staging ground (Iraq) for an operation against Iran, as such if full spectrum warfare doctrine is to applied an amphibious landing would be required. The key once multiple beach heads area secured is for a deep landing port to be secured, by landing in multiple locations it is possible to divert the enemy forces structure by spreading them thin across their strategic depth, breach a hole. By using Para and SF it also possible to land forces behind the enemy lines to disrupt the logistics of the enemy. Once you have consolidated area from the beach head a temporary airstrip is established and larger infantry forces structure is landed. With the use of disproportionate air power small units landing on multiple fronts can operate in a lighter quicker force structure. Just because the units land in a small structure does not mean a overall smaller force is deployed as the first units flank the enemy, the secondary landing troops hit them front on, so it is possible for small forces in three landings to encircle the enemy, while not having to land in a single or two large waves. The other small unit columns will push past these encirclements, deeper in country, thus moving fast but consolidating the supply of logistics from the beach head and airstrip. Getting them in country is the easy part getting them out in 3 to 6 months after the Blitzkrieg, before an insurgency takes place, the operation is to achieve military objectives, not occupy the country, weaken the regime and then withdraw and leave the regime change to the CIA clandestinely, which will be easier as the regime is weakened and sanctions are in place. If cells operate in a pseudo-terrorist manner in the North with the Kurds, with air support, this would divert the IRG, that are on the front line, if you limit their ability to counter an amphibious landing the more likely you are to succeed. By placing SF in country months before for clandestine operations, you can draw the enemy into areas, then hit them and their logistics also. And drawing them away from the landing locations, deep in country. Rumsfled is right and was right as long as you do not occupy the country and are out before an insurgency occurs around you, 3 to 6 months. Military objectives can be achieved via Blitzkrieg with a smaller, lighter and faster force. Something like that, you are on to a sound doctrine in my opinion and it is a module option for operations against Iran, not available to Israel as they do not have the capability, but to the US.

  23. Retired Now permalink
    April 19, 2010 6:11 pm

    Elementary Math: for each new LPD-17 class warship that can keep its engines working long enough to get overseas, then the USN has 2 more LCAC’s deployed. So, for only $2 billion dollars (avg) per LPD, we get 2 new LCAC’s available somewhere in the World. If the USN manages to actually have 2 working LPD’s which don’t experience engine failures, then there are a total of 4 LCAC’s deployed overseas. At a total cost of roughly $4 billion for the two working LPD-17 class amphibs.

    Of course, the existing LSD-41 class can carry 4 LCAC’s each and you can bet the US Navy didn’t pay more than a quarter billion per LSD amphib.

    Final Math Exam: if the Navy builds $10 billion worth of new LPD-17 class gators, and they all deploy together for 6 months, then how many total LCAC’s are available for 6 months to support the Marine Corps ? This is assuming that every new LPD can deploy for 6 months without needing a shipyard availability while overseas.

    Which is better: LSD-41 carrying 4 LCAC’s each, or an LPD-17 carrying 2 LCAC’s ?

  24. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 5:20 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Scott wrote “it is estimated that they lost, on average, 20% of their combat effectiveness.””

    Actually, I was merely quoting one of far too many studies / papers by McCauley & Pierce, in which they consistently, and somewhat desperatly, tried to attract some attention on the dubious seakeeping qualities of most HSV programs out there and how it would seriously degrade the warfighting qualities of their skeleton crews and/or unfortunate passengers…

    But, hey, what are McCauley & Pierce supposed to know on the subject, huh ?!?!

    And why even bother which such trivial platform-centric attributes in the *missile age* ?!?!

    Whatever…

  25. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 4:56 pm

    Mike Burleson said : ” the 8-9 San Antonio LPDs alone replacing a huge 41 ships according to the Navy’s own estimate?”

    The exact quote from the Navy website is this :

    “Collectively, these ships functionally replace over 41 ships (LPD 4, LSD 36, LKA 113, and LST 1179 classes of amphibious ships)” (emphasis added)

    The operative word is this quote is functionally, which you seem to misinterpret as meaning the same as numerically.

    By the end of 1995 :
    * 17 of the Newport-class LSTs had been decommissioned
    * 5 of the Charleston-class LKAs had been decommisioned

    That’s more than one year before the first San Antonio-class LPD was even ordered.

  26. April 19, 2010 4:28 pm

    I know Mike you are fond of cheaper European designs. But the Europeans only build these because we can’t afford gold plated (American style!!!) designs. Who would choose Ocean’s 15kt over LPD17’s 20kt best economical cruising speed? Who would choose Albion’s troop lift over 305 (standard) over LPD17’s 700 (standard/ a battalion)?

    (I am only using LPD17 because using WASP etc. would be silly!!!)

    Though as mentioned below most “trips” ashore involve company sized deployments and this is true. But to do anything useful (in a high war scenario) you need at least battalion (plus a few supporting arms.)

    The Marines are light infantry; I can’t see how you can make them any lighter.

  27. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 19, 2010 3:43 pm

    Smitty asked “You repeatedly say new aircraft allow you to do more with less. How is this any less of a false RMA advocacy?”

    Very good question, which I have been expecting. Note that I also say we can make do with fewer large carriers, nuclear subs, Aegis warships, and yes even large deck helicopter carriers. On the land side I also point out you can do with fewer heavy tanks, and Tommy Franks proved this in Desert Storm II. But buy many more patrol ships, corvettes, conventional subs, LAVs, and JHSV’s to manage the tyranny of numbers, where there is no compromise.

    You can also count the air superiority fighter in this category, and I also frequently call for building very many light COIN aircraft and UAVs, which for the Air Force would be “boots on the ground”. Also more helos and tactical airlift which you could afford lots for the price of the extremely expensive planes like F-22, JSF, Typhoon, etc.

    Specifically, last century high end platforms should be purchased in fewer numbers, for silver bullet decisive actions. Because conventional warfare is so rare you don’t have to blow all of your budget preparing for the unlikelihood.

    But for the everyday slugging, the wear and tear of attrition warfare you still need many low tech warfighters. Try fighting a war of attrition with only billion-dollar platforms and let me know how that works out! But let the low tech stuff do the dirty work and save the exquisite stuff for the crucial battles.

  28. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 19, 2010 3:31 pm

    papa Legba said “The necessity of distributing a force isn’t dependent upon shrinking the size of the force.’

    Absolutely! Its not about fewer numbers. You don’t even need high numbers so much, just more landing points. It’s all about dispersal and the more I read about the Surge, this was its real strength.

    Scott wrote “it is estimated that they lost, on average, 20% of their combat effectiveness.”

    I have to question what percentage of combat effectiveness is lost with every giant ship you replace with fewer giants ships, the 8-9 San Antonio LPDs alone replacing a huge 41 ships according to the Navy’s own estimate?

    Plus lets say you have a single large Gator lost in combat or even mechanical difficulties. Thats a huge chunk of your capability out of action. Capability cannot replace availability.

  29. CBD permalink
    April 19, 2010 3:20 pm

    Smitty,
    Absolutely…assuming that there are roads or clear routes up from the beach, that available routes aren’t mined, that they can handle a vehicle the size of the EFV and that it’s necessarily better to advance within the EFV than on foot.

    Sometimes it’s better on foot, sometimes its better in the armored vehicle…but the EFVs are as yet unproven (even with the rosy news that’s been released recently, including claims of unspecified“MRAP-like” performance). Until recently, they barely had a mean time between failures that exceeded the time it would take an EFV to reach shore. This has reportedly improved, but not much proof has come into the public domain. The EFV is also massive, hugely expensive and technically very complex.

    “LCACs can also nearly guarantee a “feet dry” landing. No getting hung up on a reef and having to walk 500 yds to shore (Tarawa).”

    With the right shore angle, absolutely. But they’re also primarily an equipment mover rather than a people mover. And proper scouting of the LZ can keep Tarawas from happening (and are, in fact, strongly urged for even the LCACs). The issue is a people mover that can be fast, quiet and stealthy enough to land small units of infantry for everything from lightning raids to full-scale invasions.

    I think that the EFV has its uses, but it can’t support the force the USMC needs to be.

  30. April 19, 2010 2:42 pm

    I type “has been” and I should have typed “hasn’t been”…….Whoops!

  31. April 19, 2010 2:41 pm

    “At this stage, a couple of reposts on the seakeeping qualities of high speed cats might be appropriate.”

    A “voyage report” in the current Ships of Mann magazine confirms stories I have heard that Manannan (formerly Joint Venture) is a vomit comet for less seasoned sailors. The latter category encompasses a surprising number of number of marines (both ours and yours.) One of the reasons why Manannan was purchased was to improve fast craft craft availability (and usability;) it seems that this has been a great a success as hoped. Of course the Irish Sea is atypical (shallow, large “flow” of water,) but not that atypical.

    Of course it the speed it takes to transit from OTH that causes the problem. We need a (semi) submersible EFV using an AIP engine. ;) I don’t think there will ever be a good compromise between the special forces inflatable and the full on divisional landing.

  32. B.Smitty permalink
    April 19, 2010 1:35 pm

    Mike said, “Modern RMA advocates seem to think that new weapons mean you can do more missions with less platforms and less manpower, which is a false assumption, since the need for adequate numbers of boots on the ground rarely fluctuates in the history of conflict.

    Why does this not also apply to aircraft in the air? You repeatedly say new aircraft allow you to do more with less. How is this any less of a false RMA advocacy?

    The Air Component Commander’s equivalent to “boots on the ground” is sorties overhead.

  33. B.Smitty permalink
    April 19, 2010 1:26 pm

    cbd,

    The EFV has many things over landing boats like the CB90 and Jurmo, not the least of which is actually driving up off the beach to the objective. Marines landing via CB90 or Jurmo have to walk from the beach the rest of the way.

    LCACs can also nearly guarantee a “feet dry” landing. No getting hung up on a reef and having to walk 500 yds to shore (Tarawa).

  34. CBD permalink
    April 19, 2010 12:16 pm

    Papa Legba,
    Absolutely agreed. I’m sorry if it sounded like that, it was certainly not meant to be that.

    Not shrinking the size of the force, just splitting it up into smaller task groups. Instead of trying to land 8,000 men on one beach with their mechanized and armored equipment, it’s landing 1-2 company-sized, mostly light infantry units in dozens of different areas (with each landing wave being a few platoons rather than several companies). Some by helicopter, some by a swimming insertion and some by landing craft. It’s not fewer men, its more dispersed men.

    The reference to SEALs and Marine Force Reconnaissance units as a model is not about placing smaller total numbers, but about placing smaller, light-infantry style units ashore in the same total numbers. As the USMC’s core belief until recently (with the formation of MARSOC) was ‘every marine is an SOF-level soldier’, then why not land them as such?

    Smaller landings are ‘weaker’ against focused opposition, but many smaller landings prohibits the focusing of opponent resources at any particular point as the utter destruction of one small unit at one particular landing site will allow the landing of many more of our units over a larger area…who can then readily launch raids against the focused force.

    The MEU is a perfectly good size of unit to deploy, but the difference is whether you’re trying to land the entire ground combat unit in one place and subsequently break out of that place or whether it will be landed at several sites along a coastline in company-sized units that will engage in raiding attacks. The forced landing of division-sized units may be useful, bit its rare…while the need to land several companies of light infantry that will then carry out a variety of combat tasks is more common.

    The latter scenario demands that a company-sized unit has all of the necessary equipment on-hand for the scenario. While the CoLT concept is in error for not including a significant organic fire support (ATGMs, Mortars, FAC) elements, it is a step in the right direction.

    A big force is a slow force, but that doesn’t mean that you cut the big force down into a small force (Rumsfeld’s concept). Rather, you can break up the big force into several light forces that can be more effective with independent taskings. Cutting men to do the same thing is just a ‘stealth cut’ to the size of the force. Equipping company-sized landing elements of a battalion to carry out all core tasks at that level during and following a landing adds flexibility without cutting the total number of men. It also allows your Battalion to reunite for specific tasks when operating against larger forces without eliminating the capabilities against a distributed enemy force.

  35. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:44 am

    Mike Burleson said : “but building ships which can go directly from port to beach, such as high speed catamarans or even improving the hovercraft we already use?”

    And another post I made back in July 2009 :

    “During African Lion Exercise in April 2005, USMC Reservists from Utah went through an 18-hour exposure to 3-meter seas at 17 knots on HSV-2 Swift (Incat wave piercing catamaran) : 90% were affected by MSI and it is estimated that they lost, on average, 20% of their combat effectiveness.”

  36. Scott B. permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:37 am

    Mike Burleson said : “but building ships which can go directly from port to beach, such as high speed catamarans or even improving the hovercraft we already use?”

    At this stage, a couple of reposts on the seakeeping qualities of high speed cats might be appropriate.

    Here is what Bill said last week :

    “But JHSV? OK..think on this one. The Hawaii Superferry versions were built with what Austal considered to be the most advanced (for them) combination of active-dynamic pitch, roll and yaw motion stabilization package there ever was. It was not near enough..not even close

    The JHSV has none of that. O h..wait..JHSV is suppposed to be routinely trans-ocean deployed. And the HSF was nothing more than an inter-island ferry.

    OK..yep..I’m confused. Whoever is watching the store..please call me. We need to talk. Your incredible magic powers far exceed my 25 years of analysing the seakeeping of JHSV vessels.”

  37. papa legba permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:32 am

    cbd said: “The real model for such future landings seems more like SEAL or Marine Force Recon infiltration of small, raiding teams than the more conventional amphibious landings seen in WWII and Korea.”

    I agree with what the rest of you said, but this part above sounds like a warmed-over Rumsfeld doctrine. The necessity of distributing a force isn’t dependent upon shrinking the size of the force.

  38. cbd permalink
    April 19, 2010 11:09 am

    Mike, Absolutely! You can boost the number of ‘stowed kills’ per unit, but if you reduce units, you’re at risk of losing more of your capability with each successful enemy strike. And these days, you can’t expect that the enemy doesn’t also have PGMs, which improves their chances of defeating a landing! This also raised questions about the relative benefits of LCACs (fast, but noisy and ‘hot’) vs LCUs (slow, but quieter and likely ‘cooler’).. It similarly raises questions about whethre the EFV will offer benefits over a reuseable, fast landing boat like the cb90 or Jurmo/M12.

    The real model for such future landings seems more like SEAL or Marine Force Recon infiltration of small, raiding teams than the more conventional amphibious landings seen in WWII and Korea.

    This would work well in combination with a ‘lightening’ of the USMC and an emphasis on light infantry (with PGMs) with a limited mechanized group to support the initial infantry force and support the heavier engagements that will be seen as the Marines push futher inland.inland.

Trackbacks

  1. Work(ing) on the Marines’ Future « New Wars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: