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Work(ing) on the Marines’ Future

August 10, 2010

The Honorable Robert O. Work, Undersecretary of the US Navy.

The Army has pretty much a stranglehold on the USMC since World War 2, using it to beef up its own numbers to handle hot wars from Korea, Vietnam, and now the Gulf. The Marines haven’t helped themselves much by investing in giant and very costly, also fewer  large amphibious ships, which concentrate their unique abilities in very visible and vulnerable packages. The Gator ships are quite handy for things such as glorified troop transports or disaster relief. But the one time the Jarheads planned to use them in a real beach assault, 1991 off Kuwait, the leadership balked at the notion of risking their extreme investment in exquisite landing ships.

So, the Marines can either continue to lose its identity by keeping its “second land army” status, or become increasingly irrelevant in giant floating green zones useful only in the most benign of environments. Though he still loves his Big Ships, Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work thinks there is another alternative to irrelevance, and an ongoing requirement for amphibious ops in the Age of Terror.  Robert Haddick at Small Wars Journal summarizes a recent CSBA discussion with the Secretary:

Work explained that the United States needs to maintain substantial power projection capabilities – including the ability to execute large-scale amphibious assaults – if it wishes to maintain the credibility of its security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. Work dismissed the argument that large opposed amphibious assaults are obsolete because the United States hasn’t performed one since Inchon. Work explained that the circumstances of the Cold War resulted in large forward deployments of U.S. ground and air forces, thus temporarily removing the requirement for large combined arms power projection capability. In the future by contrast, the closing of overseas bases will renew the requirement for combined arms power projection capability, including large amphibious assaults. Work believes that large amphibious assaults will be extremely rare events. But, according to Work, allies will not consider U.S. security guarantees to be credible if the U.S. does not retain and exercise this capability.

I agree completely in the continued viability of the amphibious assault. It has been a part of Marine/Navy warfare since time immemorial. And just as America didn’t invent it, though perhaps they did perfect it, neither will we see its end in our day. It needs a lot of adjusting and rethinking, and special planning to carry it off though, especially in an age of new threats. But Work isn’t deterred by all this:

Concentrated adversary forces, either at a landing site or in a mobile reserve, will be vulnerable to U.S. precision attack. U.S. landing forces, by contrast, aided by platforms such as V-22, LCAC, and EFV, have a very wide variety of insertion options. In addition, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed the Marine Corps to perfect distributed operations, which will also be an effective technique during amphibious assaults. Finally, Work is counting on the participation of Air Force long-range strike and Army parachute BCTs as force multipliers in a joint campaign.

I have little confidence in the platforms mentioned, though the distributed ops concept is genius. Instead of a single massive beach assault, you could utilize numerous landings, widely dispersed, from several locations. In place of the “V-22, LCAC, and EFV”, I would use JHSVs, LCS, and LSVs, plus good ole reliable helos. These latter are affordable, and except for the LCS, uncomplicated allowing the Marines not to bust their budget on wonder weapons, to the neglect of personnel and training, the latter being essential to make the beach assault happen. Here is my earlier thoughts on the concept:

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…

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.

So Mr Work is on the right track, and his zeal for the Navy’s infantry is on target. Only scrap the old platforms and wonder weapons, since amphibious warfare isn’t rocket science. By all means keep a few, no more than 10 of the Wasp type. Seeing as how they are so capable, as the military will always insist, you should be able to do more with less. European Nations only deploy a handful each, and the British Royal Navy only 2 such large and specialized craft to conduct the brilliantly successful Falklands Landings in 1982. The USN should be able to get by with only 10, plus many of the craft I mentioned above and sealift vessels.

The Marine soldier preceded the American Way of War and will likely outlast it. No hurry, though, so lets stay in the game.

This discussion is continued tomorrow within the weekly LCS Alternative post.


43 Comments leave one →
  1. leesea permalink
    August 18, 2010 10:30 pm

    Fencer having served on the Newport, I can said that that design of LST is definitely not what would help now. They only had 15,000 sqft of cargo area and not much DWT. The newer RSN Endurance LST/LHD, or the JDS Osuma LST are much improved versions both of which have wet well docks and large flight decks.

  2. leesea permalink
    August 18, 2010 10:21 pm

    Heretic, right about JHSV but I don’t think all the “insertions” that Bob Work is talking about are forcible entries? And we know that he has specifically mentioned using JHSVs for troop movement coastwise before.

    I continue to believe that vessels like the PASCATs and L-Cat would be valuable to the USN. LCACs are limited by the wet wells they have to fit into and buy their high cost to buy & maintain. The LCACs are also limited by the number of spots available for them. Even the MLP only adds four spots (a design failing I believe?).

    I am pretty much in agreement with your analysis of the Wasp vs. LPD17s BUT their cost limits the numbers we can buy. AND Bob Work is talking like he wants more hulls for different locations not less?~

    @ x the Navy studied use of LASH and Seabee ships to support amphib ops in the 1980s. I saw the studies since while at MSC I chartered the first LASH ships for prespositioning – 3 hulls then rose to 5 and then they went away. A c-9 LASH was the ammo heavy hauler, carrying 26,000 DWT of ammo with NEWs exceeding 10 million lbs!

  3. Hudson permalink
    August 12, 2010 3:39 pm

    Practically every contested shore landing has come down to the Marine on the beach tossing a grenade into a pillbox. Defeat in detail. This time, the weapon inside will be a missile launcher instead of a Nambu machine gun. Of course, Tarawa and Iwo are relevant! And while I’m at it, I’m tossing a grenade in the direction of GRAMM, thus eliminating one acronym, making the world safer for plain speech.

  4. August 12, 2010 3:29 pm


    X said:

    “V22 is a joke. Why not just build more CH53?”

    I completely concur.
    I would have like to have seen a Marine Corps with F35Cs,CH53Ks and UH60s rather than the F35Bs,V22s,A/UH1s (and CH53Ks) which it is getting.


  5. B.Smitty permalink
    August 12, 2010 2:53 pm

    The idea that the runway melting, gas guzzling massively expensive F-35B will operate out of austere forward airfields and might be destroyed by random mortar fire as RAF Harriers were in Afghanistan just doesn’t sound very likely.

  6. Heretic permalink
    August 12, 2010 9:51 am

    Theater entry would also allow setting up bases ashore to conduct land based air operations, always appealing to the Air Force and its short legged tactical fighters.


    F-35A isn’t going to be taking off from anywhere that doesn’t have 5000 ft of pristine paved runway which is kept immaculately free of FOD potential. A-10C is better at this, but as takeoff length shortens, its payload capacity diminishes.

    The only tactical fighters that have a HOPE of operating out of a theater beachhead that doesn’t ALREADY include a nice big airbase (conveniently located and unguarded before takeover!) are the A/V-8B, the F-35B and the JAS 39 Gripen C/D/E/F. If you look (not all that) carefully, you’ll notice something distressingly apparent about that list of tactical fighters.

    None of them are, or are planned to be, part of the USAF inventory.

    USAF tactical fighters, such as the F-35A, are not only short legged, but they’re short sighted as to required ground support needed for operational capacity in an amphibious forced entry scenario. The USAF long ago abandoned any pretense of operating its tactical fighters out of dirt and grass airstrips in austere bases.

  7. August 12, 2010 8:29 am


    X said:

    “In the Lebanon skirmish of 2006 only 1% of all IDF armoured vehicles were “knocked out” by a much later generation of ATGM than used in the Yom Kippur War.”

    There is a very good reason for that which British forces ought to pay attention to and which is very much the point I am trying to get across.
    Unlike the British army,the Israelis do not use vulnerable medium armoured vehicles in frontline roles,they use heavy vehicles which can take the punishment,like this one:


  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 12, 2010 7:26 am

    Here is more on the rocket threat to ships and troops, from Greg Grant:

    Achieving battle network superiority will take time, Work said, requiring a phased campaign. The Navy and Air Force, employing operational concepts develop under the AirSea Battle initiative, will counter the higher-end or longer ranged GRAMM threat, while the Marine air ground task force, once ashore, will battle the shorter ranged rockets, artillery and mortars.

    Once Marines have been built up ashore, they must be able to survive a counterattack. Yet, the expected counterattack will no longer come in the form of a motorized rifle regiment (for which the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was originally designed to repel back in the 1980s), Work said, instead it will be a GRAMM threat. So, the Marines must think about how far out they must push that inner counter-GRAMM perimeter so that rockets and mortars aren’t impacting on the assembly area so men and equipment can be offloaded.

    Work’s explication of the Marine’s role in theater entry sounded to me like it blew some big holes in the rationale for the EFV armored amphibian. When the EFV’s initial requirements were written, some 25 years ago, the need was to launch from over the horizon and get inland quickly before the Soviet motorized rifle battalion counterattack could pin you to the beach. Perhaps an extremely costly armored personnel carrier with a 30mm stabilized gun isn’t the best solution to the GRAAM problem set.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said, guided weapons in the hands of potential enemies will force Navy ships farther offshore. Work said he’s not so sure. After a period of time in which the joint force can achieve battle network superiority, or at least attrit the enemy’s reconnaissance strike network down to manageable levels, the amphibs might be able to move closer to shore before they launch.

    (Me)I don’t think so either, but the way we build amphibs now, they are unnecessarily large and expensive. We have to expect attrition in such an environment which is why I think use these high speed vessels initially, followed up by traditional landing craft as soon as some type of safety is assured.

    Yet, as ships move closer to shore, they enter into a much dirtier and more cluttered electronic spectrum, they become more vulnerable to enemies in fast-attack craft, mines and they close within the envelope of a host of guided missiles (Hellfire, TOW, etc.) that can be pressed into service as anti-ship missiles fired from mobile or very low signature platforms.

    So we build close-in warships for these close-in threats–gunboats, patrol boats, and corvettes, and ensure some of them carry the same weapons. Aster, ESSM, we are placing on fewer and far between frigates, which have no place in these waters.

    Work made clear that has vision of amphibious landing isn’t the Tarawa or Iwo Jima island fortress assault model. Better, is to land troops where the enemy isn’t doing “littoral maneuver.” The mission the Marines should truly embrace, and one at which they would excel, is providing the amphibious component of joint “theater entry” operations. Work said the Army’s airborne brigades would provide a valuable force for theater entry. Theater entry would also allow setting up bases ashore to conduct land based air operations, always appealing to the Air Force and its short legged tactical fighters.

    Yet, as another whip smart former Marine, CSBA’s Dakota Wood, told me, penetrating an enemy anti-access network is one thing. Operating inside it is something else. The real contest will come in close contact with enemy forces where short range GRAMM systems may take us back to attrition warfare, he said. That’s exactly what the Israelis, long the undisputed masters of maneuver warfare, ran into against Hezbollah in 2006.

    Which is what I pointed out in the previous comment, a new type of air superiority that our flashy fighters have little control of. The couldn’t do much for Hitler’s V weapons, neither Saddam’s scuds or Hezbollah’s rockets. A new type of air warfare requiring new tactics. And it is more about tactics than weapons. No budget-busting wonder weapons need apply, but old fashioned boots on the ground, though first you have to get them there.

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 12, 2010 7:08 am

    x wrote “I pointed out that the USN would probably have achieved control of the air space before the initial landing making that moot.

    How do you ensure there will be no rockets and missiles raining on your fleet? I think the whole way we describe air superiorty needs to be revised. Even one of the world’s strongest air forces, the Israelis have yet to figure this out completely.

    And you are right about the V-22. Even if they ever work properly, there won’t be enough of them to matter except in benign environments sans attrition. The extra capability is not worth the kids glove operations they are good for. Special Forces maybe OK.

  10. August 12, 2010 6:29 am

    V22 is a joke. Why not just build more CH53? Less speed, less range, but heck more cargo space.

  11. August 12, 2010 6:28 am

    You have to be careful in how you interpret success of the ATGM. In the Lebanon skirmish of 2006 only 1% of all IDF armoured vehicles were “knocked out” by a much later generation of ATGM than used in the Yom Kippur War. During the latter stages of WW2 the tank’s “main weapon” was it co-axial machine gun as crews learned to hose down any potential cover for anti-tank teams. The intelligent air burst munition is an even more effect counter measure as it can be delivered at ranges greater than most modern ATGM. Of course as the range lengths so the area of potential threat increases exponentially………

  12. August 11, 2010 7:14 pm


    Fencer said:

    “It seems that relying on two LCACs to offload a 25,000 ton ship could easily result in a bottleneck….”

    This appears to be at the heart of the United States Marine Corps problems,if you need to move lots of stuff long distances quickly you have got a really big problem if you only have space for 2 landing craft.
    I believe this basic lack of capacity is the catalyst for all the expensive “go faster” solutions like the V22 Osprey and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (E.F.V.).

    X said:

    “Modern amphibious warfare is manoeuvre warfare; the idea is to land where the enemy aren’t sitting entrenched and waiting.”

    Quite right,as Douglass MacArthur probably said:

    “Hit ’em where they ain’t….and if you can’t do that use a bloody great big tank.”

    X said:

    “I think wondered if there was any advantage to cargo/personal variant of the WASP; that is to say one where there is no hanger, just cargo space/vehicle deck/ accommodation.”

    Funnily enough that sounds not unlike what I often refer to as a heavy landing ship.

    Imagine a large vessel,perhaps using the same hull form and machinery as a large air attack/air assault ship (though very different structurally).
    Carrying perhaps two dozen large landing craft,each able to carry one heavy tank or four medium armoured personnel carriers at 20 knots.
    Much of the ships internal volume would be taken up by vehicle decks,accommodation and cargo storage.

    This ship might carry as many as 4,000 marines and 400 armoured personnel carriers and be able to land them all within 12 hours from 25 miles off shore,with supplies to follow – after the air attack/air assault forces have diluted the threat level of course.

    Going faster isn’t the only way to increase ship to shore delivery rates,going bigger works just as well and is almost certainly cheaper than investing in things like V22,E.F.V. and T-Craft.

    Hudson said:

    “The EFV is a replacement for the AAV-7A1 aka LVTP-7, introduced in 1972.”

    That is true and back in 1972,the lightweight armour which a floating armoured vehicle is able to carry was more than capable of withstanding the expected threats such as small arms fire and shell fragments.

    A year later,the Yom Kippur war gave us a view of the future battlefield with extensive use of anti-tank guided weapons.
    Those threats have gotten much more severe over the 37 years since and that trend will continue over the 40 years that the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (E.F.V.) is likely to be in service.
    The problem is that a low density floating vehicle cannot stand up to what are now common threats.
    A heavy vehicle could but a heavy tank cannot swim,it could be carried to shore by a well protected landing craft though and ford the last fathom to the beach if need be.

    B.Smitty said:

    “You can’t surge combat power ashore that fast with unarmored landing craft.”

    You can’t if your amphibious fleet has not got sufficient landing craft capacity (and lacks well protected landing craft).
    But you could if you had a very different kind of amphibious fleet,one with large landing ships which carried lots of large landing craft instead of two or three.
    With such ships you don’t need sea skimming tanks to make up for a lack of landing craft.

    Heretic said:

    “The best metric to answer this question, methinks ought to be the range of (enemy) artillery.”

    Young Grasshopper is clearly on the path to enlightenment.


  13. August 11, 2010 3:09 pm

    I have said that before here and one of our learned friends said that it would make the ship a sitting duck. But I pointed out that the USN would probably have achieved control of the air space before the initial landing making that moot.

    Further I think I am right in saying that the time saving in unloading is somewhere in the region of 50% to 60% but I will be darned if I can find the source right now.

  14. Fencer permalink
    August 11, 2010 2:22 pm

    Could something similar to the Newport-class LSTs be useful replacement for a LPD in an amphibious assault? It seems that relying on two LCACs to offload a 25,000 ton ship could easily result in a bottleneck whereas a LST could use its bow ramp to land a large amount of cargo rapidly. The Newports also had a stern door so in a high threat environment they could deploy EFVs from over the horizon .

  15. August 11, 2010 12:53 pm

    Modern amphibious warfare is manoeuvre warfare; the idea is to land where the enemy aren’t sitting entrenched and waiting. Again the classic example is the Falklands. The Argentines dug in around Stanley waiting for the British to do an Iwo Jima. And the British snook ashore somewhere else. If the Argentines with their numbers had covered each of the 10 possible major landing sites with a company or two, covered them with firebases in the Camp , and used a mobile reserve things would have been a lot different.

    I have been thinking about San Antonios today. And perhaps another “failure” in their design is their layout. You can never have to many landing spots, but can you have too many hangers? Perhaps the LPD25 would have been a better design if had been like the JMSDF Osumi class. This layout offers the advantage that helicopters could be staged on to the LPD. I think wondered if there was any advantage to cargo/personal variant of the WASP; that is to say one where there is no hanger, just cargo space/vehicle deck/ accommodation. As much as I like hovercraft I think the USN love with the LCAC is ill-founded.

  16. Hudson permalink
    August 11, 2010 11:21 am

    The EFV is a replacement for the AAV-7A1 aka LVTP-7, introduced in 1972. EFV is heavier, better armed and armored, and has a lower profile than the bus-like AAV. The Marines like the EFV samples they have seen.

  17. B.Smitty permalink
    August 11, 2010 9:58 am


    AAVs and EFVs also allow a MAGTF to surge power faster than using landing craft. A MEB could pulse over 40 EFVs ashore in one wave. Each has to be individually targeted. Each is armored to some degree and can fight back.

    You can’t surge combat power ashore that fast with unarmored landing craft.

    Yes if the enemy is dug in with massed ATGMs the landing force is in trouble. But hopefully recon assets have detected them beforehand and an alternate location is chosen.

  18. Heretic permalink
    August 11, 2010 9:40 am

    Wasp Class
    Vehicles: 24,012 square feet / Cargo: 145,000 cubic feet

    San Antonio Class
    Vehicles: 23,000 square feet / Cargo: 35,000 cubic feet

    I am now even MORE convinced than I was before that the San Antonio class is a complete and utter waste of money. -_-#

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 11, 2010 7:17 am

    Fencer wrote “The entire European Union could only land 10,000 soldiers, why should we take them as our model?”

    The capacity of the USMC amphib fleet is less than two brigades. Like it or not, they are almost wholly dependent on sealift vessels except for most minor operations and peacekeeping.

    The LSVs despite their slow speed, would be adequate for most missions we do today in the littorals, and especially the peacekeeping one. Today the HSV Swift is being used in so-called soft power missions, which seems a waste of her high speed attribute. The LSVs should be doing this and much cheaper.

  20. August 10, 2010 8:42 pm

    Hello B.Smitty,

    yes it is a simplification,it would take more time than I have to do this subject justice.
    However,consider a very general circumstance this vehicle is likely intended for:

    Enemy air power,armour and long range artillery has been sufficiently neutralised in the vicinity of the landing area.
    However,infantry threats remain with eyes on the beach precluding the use of Landing Craft Air Cushion (L.C.A.C.).
    E.F.V.s are launched from a ship just over the horizon to perform the initial assault and clear the area for L.C.A.C.s.

    Depending on the local geography,the E.F.V.s may be visible to the enemy for somewhere around an hour before they reach the shore.
    The enemy will almost certainly have the advantage of height,the concealment and protection of the terrain and a stable firing platform (mother Earth).

    The enemy’s anti armour weapons are designed to penetrate heavy tanks which in turn are designed to withstand such attacks.
    The E.F.V.,which must be of sufficiently low density to float,cannot carry the same level of protection as non swimming heavy tanks and is therefore vulnerable to anti armour weapons.
    The E.F.V. has no cover to hide behind at sea and becomes particularly vulnerable when it comes off the plane to become trackborne just off shore and well within the range of enemy anti armour weapons.
    Even before it reaches that point the E.F.V. at sea is a bigger,slower and easier to see target than any tank on land.
    The enemy has concealment and protection of the terrain which the E.F.V.’s medium cannon cannot fire through or over even if it could hit it’s difficult to see target while bobbing around on the water.
    The enemy is going to see and shoot first and the E.F.V. will have little chance of surviving those hits or neutralising the threat.


    P.S.I think the E,F.V. is a really bad idea but I did once hear a good justification for it – having armoured vehicles swim ashore compensates for the lack of landing craft and lighterage within an Expeditionary Strike Group (or whatever they are called this week).
    But surely designing ships with more landing capacity would be cheaper than making sea skimming tanks?

  21. Fencer permalink
    August 10, 2010 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the numbers. Calculating them the LPD-17 cost 88% more for cargo space but 53% less for vehicle space.

  22. B.Smitty permalink
    August 10, 2010 7:49 pm


    That is a bit of an oversimplification.

    The enemy only need have eyes on the beach who can radio their G-RAMMs when the huge, lumbering amphibs appear on the horizon.

    EFV allows these vulnerable ships to stay OTH, complicating enemy detection and targeting.

  23. August 10, 2010 5:43 pm


    aside from the technical problems,there is a more fundamental issue with the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (E.F.V.) concept.

    If the enemy is on the beach,E.F.V. is a sitting duck.

    If the enemy is not on the beach,you don’t need E.F.V..


  24. Hudson permalink
    August 10, 2010 5:05 pm

    Re EFV issues, from GlobalSecurity, a fine example of milspeak:

    “The EFV program has had problems with maturing its software
    development capabilities. The EFV’s prime contractor, General Dynamics
    Land Systems (GDLS), which at the time had a level 3 maturity software
    capability, developed all software for the early EFV program.22 According
    to the program office, when the program entered SDD, responsibility for
    “EFV’s software development was transferred to GDLS’ amphibious
    development division, General Dynamics Amphibious Systems (GDAMS).
    GDAMS has a level 1 maturity software capability. Consequently, the SDD
    contract required GDLS to achieve a software development capability
    maturity level 3 for all EFV software contractors and subcontractors
    within 1 year of the contract award date, July 2001. In January 2002, the
    program extended this requirement by 1 year, until July 2003.
    Nevertheless, while GDAMS twice attempted to achieve level 3 software
    development capability maturity, it did not succeed.”

    Apparently, the Air Force had a hand in the early software, which naturally did not work in a Marine vehicle. The EFV program has experienced design and reliability problems from the beginning, ages ago. In one series of tests, it achieved only one of 10 main gun objectives. The high speed waterjets are a constant issue. The vehicle was supposed to be ready for full production in 2010, but that date has been pushed back to 2015. When you think about it, it will likely take longer to build this amphibious tank than it will require to build a Ford supercarrier.

    Why, I don’t know. I would blame the people in charge of the project, first. The testing regime has been articulated in great detail, as you can see from the above quote. Many metrics, but many failures. When I read about failures like this, I think about general breakdowns in our overly complex hyper-modern society. The military does catch the vibe, after all. Other programs seem to work much better. We have been building excellent subs and destroyers for decades. They are very expensive, but world class.

  25. B.Smitty permalink
    August 10, 2010 4:17 pm


    Wasp Class

    Vehicles: 24,012 square feet
    Cargo: 145,000 cubic feet

    San Antonio Class

    Vehicles: 23,000 square feet
    Cargo: 35,000 cubic feet

    Click to access MCRP%203-31B%20Amphibious%20Ships%20and%20Landing%20Craft%20Data%20Book.pdf

  26. Fencer permalink
    August 10, 2010 3:52 pm

    I understand the flaws with the San Antonios, what I was trying to demonstrate was why a pure LHD force probably isn’t the best idea. I like the Rotterdam’s cost effectiveness and think that they could make an excellent alternative to the San Antonios.

  27. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 3:27 pm

    “I think the question is far inshore do want Marines to go. ”
    That’s not only an important question, but a defining question in the debate.

    The best metric to answer this question, methinks ought to be the range of (enemy) artillery. Whatever the (estimated) range of hostile artillery is … take that and double it, and that’s how much of a minimum beachhead the USMC needs to establish in order to secure a rear area in which the US Army can then start getting funneled through. The USMC and Army then jointly expand the beachhead out to approximately double that again, and then the Army takes over completely and the Marines move into a support role and prepare to return to sea, leaving the Army in control.

  28. Bill permalink
    August 10, 2010 2:25 pm

    “4500hp engines are what frigates use as their cruise engines. So two of these engines can move 2,500ton frigate at 20kts”

    Ah yes, And I can calculate how many HP will be required to lift said frigate 10 meters clear of the ground with compressed air and move it inland……

    Note that it takes almost twice the LCAC power to move a 270 ton FAC at 65 knots too.

    More fun with numbers.

  29. August 10, 2010 2:20 pm

    What we are looking for there in some magic box that can transport a squad/multiple from over the horizon (say 25nm) at speed and then have a degree mobility once ashore up to 20miles.

    Does anybody know why EFV costs 20million? Is it just cost over run? If a Bradley costs say 2million do a half dozen hydraulic rams, a few sheets of heavy gauge metal, and jet thruster really cost 18million?

  30. August 10, 2010 1:54 pm

    What I find interesting about LCAC is that it takes 4 4500hp engines to move 160tons and carry up to 60tons (in good weather) at 40kts; while burning 1000litres of fuel an hour.

    4500hp engines are what frigates use as their cruise engines. So two of these engines can move 2,500ton frigate at 20kts.

    Numbers are fun….

  31. DesScorp permalink
    August 10, 2010 1:50 pm

    “I think the question is far inshore do want Marines to go. ”

    That’s not only an important question, but a defining question in the debate.

    I myself think Marines should go 20-25, miles inland… from 35 to 50 in desperate situations perhaps. But basically, Marines in the amphibious infantry role should secure a beachhead with some territory inland, and then sit on it while seabees prepare for incoming Air Force transports that will start bringing in large numbers of Army troops for the fight deep inland. I think when you start to get past that 25 mile mark, it becomes the Army’s job.

    Keep in mind, we’re talking large ops here. If we need to do a limited operation deep inland… say 200 miles or so… and dropping in Army airborne forces is insufficient.. then OK, send Marines via helo with gunships and Navy tactical aircraft for cover. But that deep should be reserved for small, focused missions. Deep inland, as a rule, if Airborne forces can handle it, then give it to the Army and USAF.

  32. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 1:29 pm

    re: Fencer

    Weren’t the San Antonios supposed to cost less than $1 billion?

    Supposed to and Have are two different metrics.

    What I discovered was that the LHD cost less per Marine carried but the LPD cost less per LCAC.

    Which makes for a trick question then. At which point does the cost per LCAC carried break even? In other words, at which point does an LPD become uneconomical versus an LHD?

    The one fact I couldn’t find was how much cargo each ship carried but I’m fairly certain that’s in the LPD’s favor as well.

    Just as I’m sure that a Rotterdam class LPD @ $370 million will completely outclass a San Antonio class LPD @ $1-1.7 billion.

  33. August 10, 2010 12:58 pm

    I think the question is far inshore do want Marines to go. And not a question of how far over the horizon we want the fleet to hide. Are we raiding? Or are we going ashore to stay?

    For a while now I have been unhappy with the idea of helicopter warfare. They are expensive, fragile, and limited. If we take Heretics thinking on a stage surely a “lift vehicle” and perhaps two IFVs could be purchased for the cost of one helicopter. In pax terms not to great an increase; but in terms of firepower and mobility it would a be step forward. You can buy a damn big fast yacht for a 1million; a lot of 1million goes on luxurious fittings and not on hull and engine.

    Perhaps we need to move away from dock ships; I have pondered about LASH as an alternative.

  34. DesScorp permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:46 am

    The Marines need to be shrunk, and radically. They’re just another competing Army as it is now (and to some extent, a competing Air Force). The Marine Corps may be the proud, but they aren’t the few, and so they aren’t the elite they think they are. When your Marines are larger than the entire UK armed forces combined, you have too many Marines.

    They should be elite, light amphibious infantry. Period. There’s no justifiable reason whatsoever that the Marine Corps should have it’s own fixed wing air, for instance. There’s no justification whatsoever for spending all that extra money. The Navy has carriers. Let them drop the bombs.

  35. Fencer permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:38 am

    Weren’t the San Antonios supposed to cost less than $1 billion? I had wondered why we bought LSDs and LPDs as well so I calculated the cost effectiveness of LHD-8 and LPD-17 at a price of $2.2 billion, and $1 billion respectively. What I discovered was that the LHD cost less per Marine carried but the LPD cost less per LCAC. The one fact I couldn’t find was how much cargo each ship carried but I’m fairly certain that’s in the LPD’s favor as well.

  36. Fencer permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:33 am

    There is a reason the USMC transitioned from WWII-type landing craft. A major portion of your argument is how powerful A2/AD weapons have become so how survivable do you think a ship that needs to travel an extra two hours (five for a LSV) to unload would be? The V-22 and EFV, while expensive, will give the Marines a vital boost in capability.

    Dispersed landings are perfectly feasible using LHAs / LHDs; the V-22 has a combat radius of 370 nm.

    The entire European Union could only land 10,000 soldiers, why should we take them as our model?

  37. J Wilson permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:21 am

    Heretic, the ‘sea sled’ idea is terrible. You want a completely new and novel technology that no-one’s done before, and you use a word like ‘slaved’ as if that explains how the controls will actually function. Oh, and ‘disposable’, because, obviously, a ‘sled’ capable of carrying a fighting vehicle at a high speed dash through a contested sea for 50 miles will be cheap and disposable. And it’s not even like 50 miles is outside the reach of the land-based artillery and missiles that will be sinking the ocean-going craft that launch these ‘sea sleds’. With missiles like exocet being trailer launched, easy to hide and with ranges far in excess of 50 miles, your launch fleet would be in trouble. You need to rethink this, it’s far too ‘Voltron’ and not enough reality. Very dubious.

    ‘Sea Slug’ more like!

  38. Juramentado permalink
    August 10, 2010 11:18 am

    Instead of a single massive beach assault, you could utilize numerous landings, widely dispersed, from several locations. In place of the “V-22, LCAC, and EFV”, I would use JHSVs, LCS, and LSVs, plus good ole reliable helos.

    There’s an old adage that massed force has a multiplier all it’s own. There is also significant risk in distributing your force capability to the point where your ability to apply decisive combat power is diffused. Vertical envelopment only works when you’ve achieved air superiority and your opponent’s ability to coordinate a mobile defense has been minimized (i.e., disable/destroy C3I, IADS, mobility infrastructure). In a contested landing, you will not always enjoy having those advantages. Like it or not, you may end up having to apply the schwerpunkt at a specific point, just like many of the Pacific War landings, and force your way inland from there. Bloody and fierce, but there it is.

  39. Hudson permalink
    August 10, 2010 10:58 am

    The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is the planned Marine’s IFV of the near future. It does not have a V-shaped hull. However, note from Wiki:

    “…tests in January and February 2010 at Aberdeen Test Center demonstrated that the EFV offers blast protection equal to a category-2 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, including two simulated improvised explosive devices under its belly and tracks.[16] Tests also show that it has superior protection from direct and indirect fire. The flat hull, which has endured persistent criticism for not being the more blast-resistant V-shape, is necessary for the EFV to plane across the surface of the water and reach its high speed, while dealing with sea states of Category 4.[16][17]”

    At more than $20mil est. cost per vehicle, the EFV is unaffordable in large numbers and may well be on Robert Gates’ cut list.

  40. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 10:27 am

    Wasp class LHD
    104 officers, 1,004 enlisted
    1,894 Marine Detachment
    6 AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft
    4 AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter
    12 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters
    4 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters
    3 UH-1N Huey helicopters
    up to three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or Landing Craft Utility (LCUs)

    San Antonio class LPD
    Crew: 28 officers, 333 enlisted
    Landing force: 66 officers, 633 enlisted
    Launch or land up to four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters; or up to two MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft simultaneously with room to spot four MV-22s on deck and one in the hangar
    2× LCACs (air cushion) or 1× LCU (conventional)

    Wasp class LHD = $2.2 billion
    San Antonio class LPD = $1.7 billion

    It’s not THAT much of a stretch to say that 1 Wasp LHD = 2-3 San Antonio LPD in terms of amphibious and vertical lift to theater.
    That means that $2.2 billion = $5.1 billion as far as procurement costs are concerned.

    Which then begs the question … who in their right mind would ever want a San Antonio LPD? We’d be far better off for amphibious assault by just spending an extra $500 million and buying a second Wasp LHD instead of a San Antonio LPD in just about every single scenario I can think of.

    So in terms of bang per buck, the fault lies not with the Wasp class, but the with San Antonio class … which I consider to be a complete and utter boondoggle from beginning to end, and all of which belong at the breakers getting turned to scrap.

    Buy more Wasps INSTEAD!

  41. Heretic permalink
    August 10, 2010 10:08 am

    JHSV are administrative lift, not an assault lift option.

    LCS is a permissive environment ship as it is virtually helpless against threats (plural) from shore.

    LSV are really good sealifters capable of beaching … but they’re only good once a beach has been secured. At 11-12 knots, it’ll take them HOURS to reach a beach after cresting the horizon, during which time they’re vulnerable. Again, administrative lift, rather than assault option.

    Personally, I’m hoping that Sikorsky’s X2 compound helicopter will eclipse the V-22 for vertical assault and ultimately replace the V-22 as a transport lifter.

    I keep banging my head against the desk wondering why the Marines aren’t building a land optimized yet still amphibious tracked IFV which can be loaded onto dirt simple “sea sleds” which perform the high speed dash from ship to shore. That way you can have a V-hulled amphib IFV designed for land warfare, and you offload all the hydroplaning job onto a detatchable module which the IFV “rides” on from ship to shore, which then gets beached and the IFV drives the last few meters onto the shore and the sled gets collected later for possible re-use once the beachhead has been secured. Think “disposable” little LSTs for carrying a single USMC amphib IFV at high speed over 50 nmi slaved to the IFV’s controls and you’ll have the idea. You optimize two vehicles for two enviroments, rather than one vehicle for two environments.

    LCAC needs to be replaced with new updated models which are navalized from the start and which run on marine diesels rather than gas turbines. Any new LCAC needs to put logistics requirements at the forefront, so they’re not hangar/well deck queens.

  42. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 10, 2010 7:53 am


  43. August 10, 2010 6:26 am

    You must be feeling better………. :)

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