With wars still going on - those looking over the horizon to what they think will be the land of peace that nations have been looking for but have never found - are already going after the Marines.
They have fought this battle before - and their external enemies and challenges they will have to fight and overcome. In that battle - one over the next couple of decades that will be well seasoned with budgetary challenges unheard of in living memory for those leading the DOD - how much are they going to be weakened by decisions made over the last decade and more?
Over at ArmedForcesJournal, LCDR Perry Soloman looks at what has come to define Marine Air - SVTOL.
The Marine Corps has embarked upon a comprehensive overhaul of its aviation force that is scheduled to culminate in 15 years with the replacement of every airframe currently in service.There is the set-up.
To reduce the compounding costs associated with operating multiple varieties of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, the Marine Corps will transition from 13 to six types or models of manned aircraft over the next 10 years. In doing so, Marine Corps aviation will attain a goal 40 years in the making: the fielding of an entire light attack force capable of short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) operations.
What is the good?
The doctrinal concept of Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) recognizes the challenges faced by Marine logisticians as they phase combat power ashore. Gen. Charles C. Krulak envisioned that “with sea-based logistics, fire support, medical facilities, and command and control assets, [the] force maximizes its protection by limiting its footprint — and hence its vulnerability — ashore.” For the low-intensity littoral conflicts of the future, OMFTS will be the touchstone doctrine. Ship to Objective Maneuver (STOM) is the tactical application of OMFTS. With the publication of the STOM concept of operations, the Marine Corps paid recognition to the sometimes unnecessary and untenable requirements of amphibious lodgment and the inherent attrition-based strategy that accompanies securing an actively contested beachhead. With OMFTS and STOM, aviation units are not phased ashore. Therefore, STOVL attack aircraft capable of sustained operations from sea are a critical requirement for the successful execution of OMFTS.But the challenges ...
Marines deploying from the deck of an amphibious assault ship and operating independently of a larger carrier strike group need fixed-wing tactical aircraft organic to the amphibious ready group that will support their movement ashore. The idea of a fifth-generation STOVL stealth fighter based near the front that will bring “unprecedented responsiveness to the fight” is a red herring that continues to propagate from the highest levels of the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps aviation is in an unnecessarily precarious position. As the price of the F-35 continues to climb, budgetary restrictions will force the Corps to make cuts in other programs or purchase fewer STOVL stealth fighters. Without argument, the F-35B is crucial to the future of Marine Corps tactical fixed-wing aviation. Without the F-35B to replace the aging Harrier fleet, Operational Maneuver from the Sea is a hollow shell of a concept. Marine Corps leadership is making an existential gamble on an untested and unproven weapons system. To guarantee that future amphibious assaults have organic fixed-wing assets in direct support, the Marine Corps must at least acknowledge a second course of action that involves a more diversified air arm.Towards the end of the article he expands on the discussion of the FA-18F option; something I think we will hear a lot more of down the road.
The Department of the Navy should reduce the number of F-35Bs procured for the Marine Corps and buy only the number of aircraft required to fill Marine air wings dedicated to deploying with amphibious assets. This will cause the per-unit cost to rise even more, but the increased cost can be offset by transitioning F/A-18D squadrons to the much cheaper F/A-18F. The Marine Corps can buy three F/A-18Fs for the cost of a single F-35B.
The great thing about the USMC has always been that when you call them - they show up with all the tools they need to do their job, with a little help from their Navy sibling. A critical part of that is Marine Air. The bean counters have never understood that and for decades they have been trying to kill it. Once again, it seems, the battle is joined.