Tuesday, October 14, 2014

No time for a Coast Artillery Corps Revival, Rep. Forbes

There are some ideas, weapons, tactics, and platforms that have a long historical record and are as useful now as they were then. Some ideas were exceptional for their time, but are just not a fit for the warfare requirements of today.

A good side arm was and is essential. As we saw in 2001-2, though we no longer need horse cavalry divisions, it is probably a good idea to keep enough equine presence in our Army to make sure we don't lose all those skills.

Recently, as reported by Sydney Freedberg over at BreakingDefense, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) sent a letter to the Army that is, well, a nice thought - but notsomuch.
China has an arsenal of long-range ship-killing missiles, based on land but able to hit US warships hundreds of miles offshore. Now the chairman of the House seapower subcommittee suggests we give them a taste of their own “anti-access/area denial” medicine. Why shouldn't the US Army develop its own land-based anti-ship missile force?

Rep. Randy Forbes has carefully timed his letter to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, sending it on the eve of the service’s largest annual gathering, the massive Association of the US Army conference here in Washington. Nor does Forbes pull his geopolitical punches: He explicitly advocates “ground-based anti-ship missiles… specifically for deployment in the Western Pacific [to] offset current strategic advantages by the People’s Republic of China.”

“The Army’s existing expertise in missile defense, rocket and missile systems for offensive precision fires, and partner-capacity building make it a natural choice to spearhead… an integrated web of A2/AD systems among allies [that] would greatly increase the costs of any hostile action in the region,” Forbes continues.
A few things.

First, for the United States, the best coastal defense is a warship (especially submarines) or aircraft. I am a firm believer that fixed defenses are simply monuments to the folly of men.

Second, there is a nugget of goodness here. What may not be best for the USA, might for our smaller and less financially capable friends, a valid option. Here is the good part;
... spearhead… an integrated web of A2/AD systems among allies [that] would greatly increase the costs of any hostile action in the region,” Forbes continues.
There we go. That is something we can do, and we could do it with mostly off the shelf technology. Fixed positions, as is the norm in coastal defense, is not the answer.

As we saw in the Falkland Islands War with the HMS Glamorgan hit by a land-based improvised Exocet launcher, and more recently off Lebanon when the Israeli corvette Hanit was hit by a Hezbollah ASCM, land based coastal defenses using ASCM can be an effective area denial weapon.

What can we do to help our allies? Well, if we can move Aegis ashore, why not Harpoon and its follow-on? How ... well, what can we leverage from what the USAF learned with its late Cold War Ground Launched Cruise Missiles?

A 4-pack of Harpoon behind a truck? 

Work on a guidance CONOPS and you're off and running.

Produce that with Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, and Vietnam? Sure ... that will complicate China's plans. That is good. Do we need Army officers wearing what is at the top of the post? No.

Oh, and the more modern weapons will make you pucker.

Hat tip Lee.

UPDATE: See what happens when you are the SECDEF's speech writer and you don't read CDRSalamander every day? You beclown your boss!
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday suggested a new Army mission at the annual AUSA convention: a coastal defense force.

In a speech to a military and industry audience that mostly shied away from program specifics, the secretary suggested the Army should try and “broaden its role by leveraging its current suite of long-range precision-guided missiles, rockets, artillery and air defense systems.”

Hagel said these capabilities “would provide multiple benefits, such as hardening the defenses of US installations; enabling greater mobility of Navy Aegis destroyers and other joint force assets; and helping ensure the free flow of commerce.”

He also insisted that “this concept is worthy of consideration going forward” and that “such a mission is not as foreign to the Army as it might seem — after the War of 1812, the Army was tasked with America’s coastal defense for over 100 years.”

UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: More from our friend Jim Holmes over at TheDiplomat.

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