Friday, January 15, 2010

QDR War Warning

Oh boy,
here we go. The Marines know - be the firstest with the mostest.
Gen. James Conway, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, said Jan. 14 he is concerned about the amphibious fleet after reviewing the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), due to be made public Feb. 1.

“The most stressed capability are our amphibious ships,” Conway said at a gathering of the Surface Navy Association near Washington. After the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), new submarines, surface ships and other Navy requirements, “amphibious [vessels] are not at the top of the priority list,” Conway said. “Yet I think as a maritime nation we have to retain that capacity.”
The Commandant just gave you all the I&W you need that this will be a fight. Good, I like creative friction.

Here is Chapter 436 of "Phib wishes he wore a loop again and was sitting in the cheap seats."
Conway said he has discussed shipbuilding priorities with Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. The Marine Corps is “being fairly adamant” about the need for amphibious vessels. “This is a capacity the nation has seen dwindle,” which can put the country at risk, he said.
CDR Hendrix, Galrahn - call your office.
The construction of large-deck amphibious ships lacking a well deck also worries Conway. “If ships are built without wells, we don’t think it’s wise,” he said. Ships must “be multicapable. It will be a bit more expensive and require some redesign,” but the result will be a ship that is “exactly the size it needs to be.”

Additionally, Conway said he is looking at various ways to take advantage of the capabilities inherent in the Navy-Army Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). “Is the [JHSV] a ferry? A troop carrier?” he said. Might the LCS host a module that would transform it into a Marine troop carrier? “We think it can,” Conway said. “We have to do more exploration to determine the utility of that type of vessel.”
Byron - go put a few pounds of mudbugs on a boil while Sid makes a beer run - 'dis is go'n be a good'un.


Galrahn said...

I was going to discuss this topic all week next week before Haiti broke out.

But now I'm waiting until after we see the Marine Corps response unfold. Phib, you should know, the heart of this debate is not amphib ships, it is forcible entry amphibious assault as a Marine Corps core capability. It involves SECNAV, CNO, and good ole Conway - top tier debate.

I suspect following this post, the industry boys and others... will be tipping with talking points. Tread carefully.

cdrsalamander said...

DC Bloodsport my friend - played at the Varsity level.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Methnks the Good Admiral can wave away a MAJOR capability for force projection because when the requirement is imminent, it won't be his folks having to figure out how to get combat power ashore.  Or support it with NGF.  That will be the CLF's problem. 

Very, very foolhardy choices in the last decade regarding amphibious capabilities of any kind.  General Conway is absolutely correct.

AW1 Tim said...

And if we don't have that capability, then the Marines are just sea-going security details.


UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>Well, there is also the down side of not having the capability of projecting meaningful power in the littorals.  Which is where all the people are.

MR T's Haircut said...

"And a Marine shall lead them...."

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Conway's a war dog.  I'd follow him through hell in a gasoline suit.  Not always been true of CMC, but sure is of him.  Priorities are warfighting, warfighting, warfighting, and whatever contributes to warfighting. 

CNO could take some lessons....

sid said...

I'm up for that beer run...

And -no matter SO's wrath- will (cyber) see y'all on Sunday!

leesea said...

like I said in my email, the Marines are living in a byegone era.  First wet wells are NO longer needed for forcible entry not to mention they are systems which fail often.  And when they do fail all the nifty gear for forcible entry is bottled up inside the LPD17 holds because there is NO alternative means of discharge.  And secondly, the Marines ship lift rqmts for forcible entry are over stated.
That of course completely ignores the debate about the value of amphibious f/i ops or the likelihood they will happen in the future.  I am not going to take that on, BUT I do say there are OTHER means of lifting assault equipment to the AOA and launching it.
NO more exquisite ships pullseee!

leesea said...

hey how about Petes' Bar given the chilly temps of late?

leesea said...

newsflash there is not a CLF anymore, its MSC's NFAF and the numbers of ships funded for it do not even suppor the reduced size of the current battle force.
Guess what is leaving NORVA for Haiti besides the Comfort - Big Horn want to bet there is a T-AKE headed to a PIM down south?
Oh yes IRT using T-AKEs to support the MPF(F) psuedo-amphbs, guess what they can't transfer ANY USMC tactical equipment.  Stricly used for naval ship support like the LHA-6 the CMC is complaining about

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Er, there still is a CLF as far as I know.  CLF is Commander, Landing Force.  At least that is what the joint pub says.  And there's a CATF, too.  They come in handy when splashing ashore.

"<span>the Marines ship lift rqmts for forcible entry are over stated".  Do tell.  Very interested in hearing what MAGTF combat power you might deign to give Marines on the beach.   And how you would build a serial assignment table for scheduled, unscheduled, and on-call waves in the landing plan.  </span>

I smell the old DoD mentality of, because we chose not to fund it, and retired all the equipment with which to do it, we must not have needed it anyway. 

The Commandant disagrees.  I would be inclined to think he is right.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Downright balmy here in VT.  Shorts weather.  34.

AW1 Tim said...

Ayuh, Ovah heah in Maine, it got all th'way up ta 39!

If'n it's th'same tamorrah, I'll set the grill up out back on th' patio.  8-)

Anonymous said...

I'm somewhat in agreement that the days of forcible entry over the beach are over. Having said that, I don't think we should ditch the amphibious capability that we have. Why was the LHA(R) built without a well deck? And why are the Marines only now complaining about that?

Wanna see the utility of a well deck? Watch Haiti in a few days. Right now, they have tons and tons of supplies sitting on the tarmac that they can't distribute. When the Marines are ashore, they'll bring significant vehicular lift, and be able to move supplies where they are needed. And they'll get those trucks (and a crapload of supplies) ashore via welldecks on LCACs and LCUs.

xbradtc said...

That was me, just below.

Eric Palmer said...

The USMC needs to turn away from gold plated solutions. Marines can still to their mission without the F-35, MV-22 and EFV. Three pieces of gear that are draining funds best used for other things.

Two. Stop using Marines for jobs that the Army can (and should do). There is plenty of littoral work that we need Marines for. The are wasted doing Army like duties.

leesea said...

sorry URR I thought you meant Combat Logistic Force?
I am not disagreeing with CMC about combat forces, I am saying there are other ways to get the Marines and Navy there specificaly their ocean transport i.e. sealift.  The Marines contend that ALL of their force MUST be transported and supported by amphib warships, I disagree.
I have sat in enough cargo planning seesions with Marines to know what is essential for forcible entry and what can come along later.  I have seen lift rqmts that look like sponges expanding and contracting often.
And in my area of expertise, the MPF(F) does NOT need to be carried on amphjib warships painted black aka psuedo-amphibs.  For centuries sealift type ships have helped navies and marines get there and put the marines ashore.  Usually those ships were minor modifications of merchant hulls.  There is NO reason that cannot continue.  The Afloat Prepositioning Force worked pretty well from 1980 until today.  MPF just needs some tweaking with more capable hulls in it to meet the Marines sealift needs.

Grandpa Bluewater said...

I'm with URR on this one. How much. Well...

The Corps is not a 4 division manpower sump for the Army. It is a short notice on call crisis forcible entry tool. "Crisis", defined to include picking up the army's play book and gaining yardage when the army needs the help, of late.

"It'll never happen again." Heard that song before. "We'll always have a developed port of adequate capacity thru which to go where we plan to." Un-huh. Undefended and not a trap. Mmm...that's not what the record shows.

If you can't go anywhere on a coast and go over the beach, then mining is easy and cheap.  If you can be countered that easily you have no deterrant value at all. Will somebody read the history of the Korean War, please. Wonson, Inchon...hello?

Time for some folks to drag out B. H. Liddel-Hart again and explain why we need to plan to go where the enemy plans we won't. If we can't, well, if you can't hit a curve ball, you won't see much else from then on.

Yes, we need them all; Minesweeps, Gators, Corvettes, Frigates, CruDes types, Subs and auxiliaries of all types; Seabees, MPA and bird farms;  and more of them all. About twice as many ships (and half as many admirals - another post). Because we keep getting told to do immediately what nobody but the Navy and Marine Corps can do at all.  Yes, we have to borrow pieces of the AF and Army and CG to do it. It used to be organic, now it's joint, but we gave up the pieces we now have to beg/borrow. The limits of "can do" are closing fast.

There is nothing to gain by giving up capabilities, on the promise of great leaps forward.  Plain fact is the Navy is too damn small, has been downsizing continuously for two decades, and still faces  unanticipated, unplanned, third world contingencies on no notice about twice a year, as it has for the last six decades. Do you think Africa is going to get better? The Chinese PLAN will get smaller and stay coastal? Jihad will succumb to sweet reason? We will have any influence at all with two hundred and a baker's dozen, all over tasked, over taxed, ill maintained, etc., etc. aging ships? 

Costs too much? More like can't manage well enough and can't plan for beans.  Great operators. Can't sell well drilling rigs to the Sinagua Indians 15 years into a drought.
We have got to stop eating the seed corn.


ewok40k said...

Outside-of-port amphibious capacity showed it's worth from Normandy to Inchon as indispensable, war-turning strategic asset. History must not be forgotten!

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"The Marines contend that ALL of their force MUST be transported and supported by amphib warships, I disagree.  "

That is hardly our doctrine.  But the assault forces, in sufficient strength to establish combat power ashore, need to have their belongings in amphibious hulls.  If there are follow-ons into aport facility or over a secure beach, then alternate means can be found to reinforce combat forces ashore. 

Having been on the building block level of amphibious load plans more times than I care to remember, I can assure you that the T/E for units, ammunition, POL, and Class IX repair parts, plus chow, medical supplies, and water ('ll do your work on water...) are packed in tight as a tick into the amphibs.  Try and sneak in something unauthorized or unnecessary, and you have GLOP.  Gear left on pier. 

Also, with your comments regarding modified merchant hulls, you don't seem to be recognizing the hard lessons of Gallipoli and Guadalcanal ( that spawned the hundreds of APA and AKA built during and immediately after the war that were retired in the 1970s and 80s and foolishly not replaced.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

" And why are the Marines only now complaining about that? "

USMC been howlin' 'bout that since it was first proposed.  My question is why is it only now that someone took their earplugs out?

Byron Audler said...

Pete's Bar has never been a place where Navy is exactly welcome. Not as bad as the old days, but some things last a long time. It's pretty much a place for beach types, townies and Navy not welcome. Singletons a better bet...foods better too :)

Byron Audler said...

I can only fault Gen. Conway on one thing: that silly ass remark about a Marine module on the LCS. That's just outright pandering to the prosti-Admirals (the ones setting themselves up for their next career) LCS is having issues handling VBSS teams, and he wants to add a couple of Marine SQUADS?

AW1 Tim said...

   WEll said, sir!

   I'd add "What happened if we need to make a landing somewhere in the Med to support (or relieve) Israel?  An MEU landed alomng the coast behind the lines might go a long ways towards taking pressure off the Israelies if it came down to their survival.

   Hows about Somalia? Yemen? Any of a hundred places. The Marines NEED the ability to go ashore wherever and whenever they need to. It's what they do, it's a primary reason they are there.

   There's also that whole NGFS issue, too, but that's for another day.

MR T's Haircut said...

China grows and we shrink.  We will need the ability to show up and kick in a door.  period.

MR T's Haircut said...

I wish Gen Conway would write our Maritime Strategy...

CDR Salamander said...

MTH speaks with big medicine....and remember, I was the first to call for a Marine CNO ... with the last name Mattis.

Byron Audler said...

Mattis as CJCS...would give everyone in the Administration and Congress a freakin' heart attack, right after they wet their panties. He is a WARRIOR. To him, any enemy of the nation must be placed as soon as possible in one of two states: utterly defeated or dead, and it don't matter which. I listened to him speak last year for a solid thirty minutes and it was a complete adrenaline rush. At the end, I was wanting to put on LBE and lock and load my M4 and get it stuck in. He's Chesty Puller reincarnated!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Right now, there are so few US flag mechant ships out there, that we basically don't have any to turn into APAs and AKAs.  How many would TARP/Auto Bailout/ACORN have funded?  I remember listening to NPR's Morning Edition once, back in the early '90's, and they were interviewing a Marine General about the MV-22, and the General was saying that the USMC does not need the Osprey, what they need is a new heavy lift helo.

Are  we now so blind to the past, that we cannot look at where the PLA, and the PLAN are going, and see where this will wind up?    

MR T's Haircut said...

I think the good General's MS would be simple:

Find Enemy
Engage Enemy
Kill Enemy
any questions?

Marine6 said...

It should be kept in mind that the Army does have a forced entry capability. However, the Rangers are LIGHT infantry, and have limited sustaining power. They can probably parachute in and seize an airfield, if there is one conveniently located, and open an airhead (maybe.)

However, it doesn't take a Clausewitz to realize that defending airfields is important in times of conflict, and that just might make the Ranger mission prohibitively expensive.

Anyone who doesn't understand that it is essential for the United States, as a maritime nation, to maintain a robust amphibious capability, is blind to history. And those who think you can do amphibious operations on the cheap ought to read the history of the Guadalcanal campaign. The First Marine Division was left on the beach without food, ammunition, or artillery. They survived, and conquered through pure determination. It ws NOT the Navy's finest hour.

And anyone who thinks that Marines have a bunch of "gold plated gear" has never spent any time in the FMF.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

In 1945, when the USN could put entire 3 division Corps ashore in just days, and were prepared to do the same with actual Armies in Operation Olympic, we had 117 HASKELL class APAs, and over 100 AKAs in just the ARTIMES, ARCTURUS, and TOLLAND classes alone.  We could put them ashore almost anywhere, at short notice, we could run huge operations simultaiously.  We invaded Normandy, and the Marianas at the same time.   While taking enough firepower along with, that we could fight the Turkey Shoot at the same time as we invaded Siapan.  The world is a much more dangerous place today, with enemies that don't want to impose thier economic and political systems on us, they want to kill us. In WWII, the US Army was orginized into Corps of 3 Divisions, and Armies of 3 Corps.   The US Army right now, has 10 divisions, so it is just that, an Army.  

  There is a type of maul, used to set floor beams in buildings like barns, that has a face over a foot wide, it is called a commander.  Since hammers are a frequently used military metaphor, I will say, with a tip of the hat to our Most Noble Host, that at one time, we had an Amphibious Commander.  Congress, in order to free money for social engineering, seems to want us to eventually have an Amphbious Tack Hammer.  These choices, made by Congress, will come home to roost someday, and the price will be payed in blood and treasure, at a horrendous cost, and that is only if we win, if we don't, it won't matter to any of us here, as we won't be around any more.

Byron Audler said...

Pretty much says it all ;)

AW1 Tim said...

Well said. Well said indeed.

  At the moment, our military is at a cross-roads, and the decisions of those in power will determine which road we take.

  Sadly, rather than making a decision as to which road to take, or CinC is asking what's for lunch, and when the WH interior decorator will be installing the new drapes.

   There's a HUGE storm gathering outside the house, and he's worried about a leaky faucet.

sid said...

Aw heck, all you Luddite Old Farts just Don't Get It...

With our superior information, technology, and speed, we won't need to do any more forcible entry!

The enemy will never outsmart us!!

(until they easily prove they can)

UltimaRatioRegis said...

General Mattis would make Roughead's head explode.  I am still giggling about the stories of his arrival at Joint Forces Command. 

Byron Audler said...

Please tell :)  I've listened to 45 minutes of him in polite company, can't wait for behind closed doors!

UltimaRatioRegis said...


If I can meander out of the Vermont Permafrost one of these days I can relate some over beers.  One of the first was as related to me:

Apparently JFC had convinced themselves that there were on the order of 26 or 27 warfighting tasks (likely contractor or MSM driven),and Hurricane Mattis came in and told them the number they were looking for was six.  And only six.  Anyone not involved in those six could find other places to go.

butch said...

Exactly Brad.

I'm a planner at NAVSO - we loves us those gators & LCUs.

xformed said...

Psst! Byron:  The only correct answer (or comment to that  was:  "NO, SIR!"  Loud enough to make any Gunny smile.

xformed said...

A few weeks back, I had a copy of "Marine Corps Avation in WWII" handed to me by a retired Col, who began in Corairs in '43.  Now about 1/2 way through it.  Even more detail on not the Navy's finest hour...but more importantly, so of the detail and what the Cactus AF fought to keep fighting.  Incredible version or improvise, adapt and overcome.

And, had breakfast with him and the other old war dogs this AM.  For any one near the Tampa/St Pete area (or passing through on a weekend), it's a standing every other Sat AM breakfast meeting.  Contact me for details.

Galrahn said...

Actually, I think the issue is a bit more complicated than these blog comments allow or CDR Salamanders post allows. If you think we have spare corporals to throw away in a beach spearhead, I think you're a fool. There are better ways to move Marines ashore than the same way we did it in Normandy.

The debate isn't whether Marines will be a force "from the sea" - the debate is how the Marines will be a force "from the sea." If you think the direct approach with the EFV, et all - direct forcible entry is the way ahead in the 21st century, you are a General Conway guy.

I'm don't believe in the method advocated by General Conway. I do not believe EFV is the solution it was 2 decades ago when it became a requirement, and since it isn't the solution, we should take this opportunity to look at different ways to put Marines to sea and from the sea to land.

Sim said...


Anyone with the Southern Cross and Walzting Matilda as their march is ok with me ;)

ewok40k said...

No helicopter, or Osprey can land an MBT on the beach, and LST can land 10.
And nothing is better for direct infantry support in assault.
Iraq proved it sufficiently, methinks.

MR T's Haircut said...


sounds alot like Patton's maxim that an Army can built on 3 sheets of paper.  Everything else is not needed.

UltimaRatioRegis said...


While amphibious assault may be an undesired way to pass combat power ashore, and would only be used as a last resort, I would suggest strongly that such a means may indeed be the only viable option our enemy leaves us, particularly if they know we are no longer prepared to do so. 

Would we need to choose our landing beaches carefully?  Absolutely.  Always have tried to do so.  Would it be costly?  Probably.  Is it "throwing away spare Corporals"?  If the mission is required for tactical, operational, or strategic success, it is not.  I would suggest that the fool will be the man who decides to concede defeat in such a situation by being unwilling to have the resident capabilities to allow for victory. 

If you have another plan, one that can build sufficient combat power ashore quickly enough with survivable platforms to get it there, let me know. 

One of the great and silly misconceptions to thinking on modern amphibious operations is the idea that a port can be secured as an SPOE.  Most harbors worldwide are surrounded by more or less crowded urban terrain.  How many forces would be required to properly secure such a place sufficiently to bring combat power in pierside, and what kind of fighting would be necessary to open the roads leading from that port into the AO?  I will wager that such would be a longer, bloodier, and less certain fight than having the ability to project power over a beach where light to moderate defenses can be suppressed or destroyed by a robust ATF and its assets.

Grandpa Bluewater said...


We didn't move troops ashore in a seaworthy, much less fast, armored personnel carrier at Normandy.  Every inch of the coast of Europe was to one degree or another fortified ("Atlantic Wall" - remember?) The first assault waves came in led by plywood crackerboxes with a block coefficient approaching One. Slow. The direct drive tanks sank. Effective covering fire was by 5 inch guns in multiple mounts on DD's operating with a fathometer reading of zero, after the first wave got cut to ribbons and stalled at the water's edge.

If you think that was bad, review the blood bath when direct assault on a built up naval port was tried in the N Africa landings.

You don't assault the strongest fortifications, if possible. You go to the weak spot, break through and take the rest from behind.  At Normandy, Airborne screened the beach assault troops from the counter attack by taking and holding key crossroads, bridges and etc.

Nobody has an "atlantic wall", nowadays.  The point of Inchon was to sieze the key port, quickly, and cut off the enemy in the field from logistic support.  Thus saving lives wholesale by avoiding the war of static defense, which is a meatgrinder.

Which is scant consolation if you are in the first boat to the seawall at Inchon.  The Gunny who taught me how to salute, stand at attention and onward from there, made Platoon Leader as corporal, by the simple expedient of being the senior non casualty present on that seawall that morning.

Now airmobile is better than airborne, hence the MV22. Anybody can jump down with a parachute, no body can jump up. Medevac? Not without VTOL.  Dropping a ramp at the water's edge (or at the reef well out to sea - Tarawa) is a bloody option if enemy machine guns are emplaced.
So the goal is pick a nice lonely spot, hustle ashore with minimum opposition, sieze a lodgement from the squirrels and the dairy cows, get the heavy stuff ashore and engage the enemy at an optimum location (for you) with suprise working (for you) and inside the enemies OODA loop. They did that at Inchon and resistance collapsed until the CHICOMs came in. After we backed out of that to the shore, bleeding, how did we save the ENTIRE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE? 

Oh. Yea. That would be AMPHIBS. Hrmph.

We need 'em, bad days and good. Basic stuff. Anything else is more snake oil.

Expensive?  Depends on how you keep the books. I do mine in blood spilled first, then look at the bucks numbers. 

Besides, Marines work cheap. How old are the assault vehicles and the helos our teufel hunden are using now? Half a century? We got our money's worth. Crooked bankers, now...

(In the black on LST's, EWOK.)

leesea said...

to refine Grampa's & others comments a bit more. MOST troops in an amphib assualt usually go "ashore" in aircraft of one type or another. What remains is tactical equip., Naval Support Element equipment, POL, ammo and provisions.  ALL of that is weighty cargo that must be moved ashore in a relaible manner. Most of that cargo does NO need hispd LCACs but does need landing craft and lighterage.  For instance, the INLS Barge Ferry can move huge loads at a very slow pace.

Why does the Marines place so much priority on the EFV when it is optimized for waterborne travel where it will only spend 20% of the battle?  Why can't whatever AFV the USMC needs be ferried ashore on a L-Cat or a PASCAT or even a new version of the LCU?

This IMHO is an myopic focus on the best damn assault wave the USMC may never use?

Grandpa Bluewate said...

Re: ""Why does the Marines place so much priority on the EFV when it is optimized for waterborne travel where it will only spend 20% of the battle?  Why can't whatever AFV the USMC needs be ferried ashore on a L-Cat or a PASCAT or even a new version of the LCU"

Because the lighter is vulnerable and slow and becomes the critical high value target. It gets sunk, the APC s sink with it and you are back to Omaha and Tarawa. Think half the casualties of IRAQ in a morning, aka Normandy.

The EFV is the "fighting" vehicle,  the first wave armored personnel carrier. 

Resistance in the surf zone, at the water's edge, across the beach, which is firing directly at  slow logistic assets can inflict huge casualties. Troops in a (modestly) armored vehicle which can cross this zone quickly and eliminate that resisting force, supported by their vehicles own crew served weapons. A vehicle may only act in this role for a relatively short time, but that's not the point.  Speed in seizing the lodgement so vulnerable logistic assets can GET ashore and unload what is needed in the order that it is needed, and protection and covering fire/support for the assault troops at the critical points at the required moment reduces the vulnerability of the entire force.  See also Gallipoli, Tarawa,

leesea said...

The EFV has a wake the size of a house and jet contrails of a fighter, it is as vunerable vunerable to missile hits as any lighter and sinks immediately IF hit.  Good bye Marines!  Then when it gets on land it is an easy IED targer maybe not a kill but with all thay waterborne go fast gear its is easy to disable it.

Landing craft like the old LCAC,  French L-cat and Brit PASCAT are as fast as the EFV.  CAn lift more units to the beach from farther offshore (or away from the enemies weapons launch point) and then can go back for more.

Once again I am not disputing the need for an assault wave just the way it goes ashore.

UltimaRatioRegis said...


An LCAC is not a fighting vehicle.  The EFV is the descendant of the LVT.  All of the vulnerabilities you spoke of?  Present in spades in the AAVP-7 family.  Except the P7 blows through the surf at a neck-breaking 6 knots. 

The EFV gives an over-the-horizon capability that would come in very handy were you sitting in the assualt waves....

Anthony Mirvish said...

Strategy, strategy and strategy.  Without both a coherent strategic concept and a recongition of budget constraints, the correct (or even reasonable) fleet structure is impossible to achieve.   That's why I think the New Navy Fighting Machine report we saw last week deserved a lot of credit for recognizing the importance of the relationship between strategy, tactical capability and force structure.

Keep in mind that the Marines didn't just invent the idea for forcible amphibious entry in a vacuum.  They did so post WWI based on consideration of national priorities based on a longstanding strategy that recognized Japan as our likely future enemy.  To fight Japan, we had to cross the Pacific.  To cross the Pacific, we needed island bases.  Once Japan took over German island possessions after WWI and fortified them, the need for forcible amphibious assault became more relevant.  The Marines get top marks for recognizing this and doing the work necessary to make it practical, especially because post-Gallipoli many experts in the world's military forces thought opposed amphibious assault was an impossibility.  Post WWII, we reaped huge benefits from having this capability, but except at Inchon haven't had to use it in the same way (and had Inchon been more heavily defended let alone mined it might not have been the triumph that it was).  To the extent that the mission remained important, it did so within coherent national and naval strategies whose target was the USSR.  Today, we face huge budget constraints and the certainty that our peer opponent, China, will not be the target of an amphibious assault by us.  Other national enemies might be, but that case has to be made.  So, it comes down to what our current strategic priorities are, how much capability we require, and how much we can afford. 

I personally think we need to keep some of this capability. How we structure it is the issue.  I also think we need to avoid a situation where we end up with a handful of really big, multipurpose amphibs and limited support to get them ashore only to have one missile, torpedo or mine end the assault before it gets started.  Simply scaling down the 600 ship Navy so that each historic capability remains represented is, in my opinion, a recipe for failure. 

ewok40k said...

Continental China is out of question, but what about eg recapturing Taiwan or perhaps Phillipines... or maybe even (horrible thought) Hawaii?

Grandpa Bluewater said...


I do not advocate "Simply scaling down the 600 ship Navy so that each historic capability remains represented is, in my opinion, a recipe for failure. "  I advocate scaling UP the 213 ship navy to adequate size based on strategic need.

Political idiocy (aka "correctness") and congressional and executive branch error have supported the damnfool notion that the current war, with the non governmental organization sometimes refered to as "The Base" (al Queda) and it's governmental and NGO allies,  is two overseas contingency operations; similar to Grenada; or Panama; or the amphibious, if airmobile, NEO of Mogadishu by two Marine CH53's, upon the collapse of civil order in that accursed place.  It, Is. Not.  It is a declared, all out war on the enemies part: the strategic aim of the enemy of the collapse of our civilization.  While assymetric to the extreme, it is a world war, and more of a clash of cultures and civilizations that either the first or second world wars.

On our part, it is of necessity a war of counter insurgency at the moment,  and attrition for the duration. We need to mobilize sufficiently.  The navy's role is of necessity, support (at least for now - pray it stays that way). That is not a small or unimportant task.  Nor will the dreary succession of overseas contingency operations ("crises", in the parlance of the fifties) taper off. To just do the work of the Navy requires a considerable increase in size, because the responsibilites are global in scale. The best way to do this in my opinion is to face reality, grasp the nettle, and have Congress formally declare war (but that is another post).

Amphibious operations are inevitably required, albeit episodically. The Marines are part of the Navy, handy as they are to an undesized and underresourced army.  They are a key part of naval operations and naval strategy. Equipping the Siamese twins (Marines and Navy) is a mutual responsibility. Organization of the Marines, history tells (me, at least) is best left to them, in consultation with a sensible naval establishment (if available - the jury is - for the moment - out).

But first you have to explain this to maritime blind ideologues devoid of fiscal responsibilty with dubious commitment to the well being of the republic and it's citizens, aka all the piggies at the DC trough.  Because..... history, it turns out, is not over. It's cherry red and heating up.

So I agree, sort of. Strategy, stategy, strategy. Indeed.

Anthony Mirvish said...


My remarks weren't directed at you.  In fact, I thought your comments on the history/context of amphib ops were great.  Ditto those regarding the current war, need to mobilize properly and declare war.  Where we may not be on the same page is about what to do given the situation we're in right now.  If funds were forthcoming in mid-80s numbers, scaling up would be the best bet.  Who wouldn't like a 600+ ship Navy with 15 CVBGs and all the other elements?  Such a fleet would be highly useful and would greatly improve our options globally.  It would have strategic value.  It would also be impossible to achieve at the moment.  So, it comes down to the question of what we need most right now and, more importantly, why. 

Explaining a force structure to the Congress and educating them is far easier if there is an actual strategy behind it.  And pushing a particular strategy represents a bet because it makes some choices and excludes others.  The Maritime Strategy of the 80s was a good example of all of this.  It related the fleet's force structure to its use both in a possible war with the USSR (it's main purpose) and in peacetime operations (very important but secondary) and showed how that role fit with broader national security objectives and strategy.  It was the product of a lot of thought within the fleet beforehand and it was well presented because those who helped develop it recognized that if they couldn't explain it clearly, it was DOA.  The latest version of the MS does not do any of that.  Thus, it is much harder to make the case for a particular force structure even if an excellent case can be made for specific classes of ships or through reference to historical examples.  This is especially so because, as you've noted, amphib ops tend to be needed only at intervals.  Such a fact still doesn't tell you how much lift you need, how many hulls it requires and what sort of ships they should be.  Those questions depend on a strategic context.  And in my opinion, that case hasn't been fully made.

Don't misunderstand any of this as a critique of the Marines or any sort of desire to short-change them.  I have tremendous respect for them.  They have proven to be the one service that is most consistently right about future threats, they have preserved their service culture and traditions more than any other, and they have never failed in combat when called upon.  All of that notwithstanding, they don't get a blank check.

Grandpa Bluewater said...


Yes, strategy first, then shape the joint forces to execute it.

But joint military strategy, much less national grand strategy, needs to avoid the weeds.

For the topic at hand, I'll throw out a nominal force for discussion: sealift/airlift/amphib entry units in the active force for two and a half MEF's (the half goes for training) and amphibs in reserve on 30 day breakout with designated reserve crews who do maintenance on the vessel they are earmarked for their ACDUTRA.

This to include ACB's as well as MCBs and task force escort (CV or multiple CVL's for CAP and CAS and ASW patrol / helo, plus crudes and frigates). The idea is to have enough for the most difficult task, which will give you a sufficient general purpose force for lesser contingencies and to augment what one might quaintly refer to as the main battle fleet and the power projection fleet. Add the fleet train and the advance base logistic force( AS/AD/AR/ATF/ARS/ASR). Call it the 3 ocean total force 450 ship navy. Then cheat and get it up to 500 ships as a jobs and reindustrialization program.

Can't sell it? Every ship more we get is one ship more. Meanwhile, rust, China, and the enemy never sleep.