Archive for the 'EFV' Category



Marines Posture Over Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

The Orange County Register has an interesting article on the next U.S. Marine Corps installment of their defense of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

CAMP PENDLETON – On a cool day in late June, the Marines asked local media to board this seaside base and learn more about a new 80,000-pound hulking war machine – the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle or EFV.

They handed out information packets with glossy brochures, touting the $16.7 million amphibious machine as far more lethal, agile and sophisticated than the current assault vehicle, now nearly 40 years in service.

A video promo for the EFV ended with a slide of these words from Commandant Gen. James Conway: “The EFV is essential to the Marine Corps mission. There are programs that are absolutely and vitally important. One of those is our EFV.”

It was a polished presentation and the Marine Corps will need its best sales pitch with prototypes currently being tested. In a tough economy, the Corps is trying to sell the beast of a vehicle, first to the American people, and second, to members of Congress, who ultimately will write the check for it.

The price tag is steep: $13 billion for the entire program with detractors already having put the fighting machine in the crosshairs. And, immersed in land-locked battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps itself stands at a crossroads.

If approved, the hulking ship-to-shore vehicle would solidify the amphibious future of the Corps.

If rejected, it raises the question: Will the Marines be rendered another land army?

The OCR also has an interesting multimedia presentation in which the following question, among others, is posed: “Would helicopters and Ospreys ferrying troops to shore, landing behind enemy beach positions, remove the need for a beach landing under fire?”

Indeed.  Has the OCR been reading The Captain’s Journal?  It isn’t that I don’t see the tactical value of the EFV.  Clearly, I do.  It’s that I don’t yet see the strategic value of the EFV, and that I have recommended a different paradigm.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

The EFV is designed for a near peer state (or close to it), and its presupposition is active enemy fire while ferrying troops ashore while providing covering fire.  It is a reversion to 65-year old amphibious warfare doctrine with updated equipment.  But if the state upon which we intend to conduct forcible entry is capable of rocket fire against navy vessels (positioned 25 miles offshore over the horizon in order to increase the likelihood of survival), the EFVs will become deadly transport vehicles for Marines.  If the nation-state is in fact not capable of such opposing fire, then the EFV is not needed.

There is also a good video of the EFV in action:


But the tactical capabilities of the EFV are not at issue.  It’s the place that it occupies in the strategic plan.  I still reject the Commandant’s dilemma, i.e., that we fund the EFV or the Marines become obsolete.  This is the thinking of outdated, mid-20th century, South Pacific strategy, not that of the 21st century.  The U.S. Marines will always be needed, but the paradigm must be retooled.  It must be.  All Marine Corps readers, listen to me, and listen to me well.

I continue to pose the following questions to the strategic thinkers in the Marine Corps.  Where are we going to invade?  What country, or what failed state?  What are the tactical capabilities of this country or failed state, and why do we need floating tanks?  Does this state have shore to ship missiles?  Have you thought much about a fighting vehicle that has all of the capabilities of the EFV (MK44 cannon, stabilized turret, etc.) but without the need for flotation?  Why can’t troops come ashore via air delivery (e.g., fast-roping) rather than sitting in a floating tank?

I have proposed that the U.S. Marines transport behind enemy lines and take the beach head, thus allowing the Navy to deliver more land-based vehicles to the campaign rather than the Marines fighting their way on shore through a hail of missile and artillery fire and water borne mines, and in response, we get the stuck record of the current argument:  “Give us the EFV or we cease to exist.”

Sorry, I don’t buy it.  Do better.

SECDEF Gates on the Navy and Marines

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 6 months ago

Before we address the issue of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ position on the sea services, let’s debunk the mythical notion that either the military or the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan is bankrupting the country (or even demanding the lion’s share of money).  From CATO (h/t Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit).

That’s quite enough said about that.  On to the sea services.

“Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040,” Gates said. But a look at the facts is warranted, he added. The United States now has 11 large, nuclear-powered carriers, and there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world.

“The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets,” he said. “No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to allies or friends.”

The U.S. Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as the rest of the world combined, Gates said. Under the sea, he told the group, the United States has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines – more than the rest of the world combined, and 79 Aegis-equipped surface ships that carry about 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells.

“In terms of total-missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies,” Gates said. “All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet – a proxy for overall fleet capabilities – exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.”

The United States must be able to project power overseas, Gates said. “But, consider the massive overmatch the U.S. already enjoys,” he added. “Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”

The Marine Corps is now 202,000 strong. It is the largest force of its type in the world, and exceeds in size most nations’ armies. Between the world wars, the Marine Corps developed amphibious warfare doctrine and used it to great effect against the Japanese during World War II. Whether that capability still is needed, however, is worthy of thought, the secretary said.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore,” Gates said. “On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?”

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) will take a particularly tough beating over the course of the next several months and years, but the Marines have rolled out their case.

The Marine Corps unveiled its new $13 billion landing-craft program on Tuesday, a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned the Pentagon’s need for it …

“Secretary Gates has placed his marker, and he’s not in favor of continuing the program,” said Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a retired Marine officer. “The Marine Corps is going to have to come up with a whale of a rationale to convince him otherwise.”

The need, the Marines say, stems from their need to replace its Nixon-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles. The new vehicle will allow Marines to land on a hostile shore, a capability needed, for example, in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia in the 1990s and civilians from Lebanon in 2006, said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, who leads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The amphibious capability also forces adversaries to undertake “costly defensive measures,” Flynn said.

Analysis & Commentary

The issue of expense of military hardware, systems and size has nothing to do with overspending.  It pertains to the relative commitment of this particular administration to national defense as opposed to government-run, government-administered programs and subsidies.  We have the economy to support an even larger military than we currently have.  What we don’t have is the national will.

Aircraft carriers, as much or more than any other military hardware, is a way of projecting power across the globe.  My support of them is well known, and my support for the F-22 program has been made clear.  In fact, I have proposed an increase rather than a decrease in Carrier battle groups.  The size of the Marine Corps is not a problem for the national economy, and it’s easy to question expenditures for a strong national defense while comfortably enjoying the peace and security that it has brought.

But this isn’t the same thing as questioning the need for the EFV and the forcible entry doctrine of the Marine Corps.  I have taken the doctrine to task.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

This is not suggesting that the Marine Corps in any way needs to have its funding cut or decrease its size.  It is to suggest that the money might be more wisely spent in other areas.  The mission still isn’t clear.  Above it has been suggested that the Corps needs the EFV for withdrawal of forces (such as from Somalia) or evacuation of civilians (such as from Lebanon).  But this explanation doesn’t comport with the facts of the program.  “The Corps aims to buy a total of 573 EFVS. This would give it the capacity to amphibiously transport eight infantry battalions of about 970 Marines and sailors per battalion, the Congressional Research Service said in a report dated August 3, 2009.”

We don’t need 573 EFVs and eight infantry Battalions to evacuate civilians from Lebanon.  The Corps obviously plans to replace its amphibious transport of Marines (currently with the LCAC) with the EFV.  The Corps also plans to continue its doctrine of amphibious-based forcible entry.  But as I have pointed out, there is no reason that this cannot be done via air and a new helicopter fleet.  If the plan is to be prepared to invade a near-peer via an amphibious landing, this is lunacy and madness.  If the plan is to save ships by allowing them to be 25 miles offshore, this is naive and sophomoric.  The Navy had better be designing better counter-measures.

While there is every good reason to be more efficient in both military spending and non-defense spending, there is no good reason to cut funding to the Corps.  But the Corps needs to rethink its basic doctrine and reassess the real need for the EFV.  Going in the direction of a lighter, air-sea-based, rapid reaction force has its merits, and should warrant some attention.  Gates should hear fresh thinking from the U.S. Marine Corps, not warmed over 60 year old doctrine.  It’s too bad that the QDR, that brainchild of Michelle Flourney,  is such an incredible waste of ink and paper.  It would have been a good repository for fresh thinking.

Marine Corps Commandant on DADT and Expeditionary Warfare

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

Marine Corps Commandant Conway opposes the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).  Spencer Ackerman weighs in with the point that “Conway is implicitly assuming that the interests of the Corps and the interests of gays and lesbians are two different things. But there are, in fact, gay Marines.”

Later, he makes the following observations:

It’s his right. But if he opposes repeal, it’s curious that he doesn’t evidently explain why open gay service is bad for military readiness. (I am having a hard time finding the hearing transcript, but none of the reports I’ve seen indicate that Conway offered an argument for repeal’s negative impact on core military capabilities.) The U.S. military would be unique amongst the 20-odd militaries that have embraced open gay service over the past 25 years if somehow combat readiness declined as a result. I have every confidence, thanks to the gay servicemembers I know and have been lucky enough to befriend, that what gay Marines want is to do their jobs without fear of persecution or discharge on the basis of their identity. They’ll want to send the same ribald messages to their intended hook-ups and jump-offs through social-networking sites that straight soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines get to send during downtime. And when it’s time for them to do their jobs, they’ll do their jobs. Period. Because they want to be Marines, and if they’ve made it into combat situations, they’ve earned it.

Well, the U.S. Marine Corps isn’t like 20 other militaries on earth.  They are the best.  But aside from false comparisons, I don’t believe that Spencer fundamentally understands where Conway is coming from.  The Corps operates as a very base and basic level.  It has no interest whatsoever in fomenting societal change of any sort.  Its interests intersect nowhere and with no one, save that of the security of the U.S.  The Marine Corps cares about no one and nothing except the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps needs no one.  They have met their recruiting goal every year, and when the mandate to increase the size of the services came down, the Corps met their goals before the Army.  Large reenlistment bonuses shrank to nothing after having been implemented a few short months because the Corps became bloated with NCOs.  Everyone wanted to reenlist.

For Commandant Conway to favor repeal of DADT, someone would have to explain to him why this policy change would be in the interests of the Corps, not gays or lesbians, or societal harmony, or societal change, or anything else of the sort.

In order properly to understand DADT and any change to it, we must first of all jettison personal feelings concerning the subject, but (and this is important) we must also throw the Red Herring back into the sea, or burn the straw man, or betray the canard, depending upon your choice.

Recalling what I previously said concerning DADT:

It doesn’t prevent gays from serving in the military.  That’s just a mythical talking point of those who advocate its revocation.  DADT only prevents open discussion or practice of such things.  It is, by the way, similar to the way heterosexual relations are treated as well.  Men stay away from women altogether in uniform.  It isn’t practiced, it isn’t discussed, it is frowned upon – in theory.  This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen, any more than DADT would imply that gay sexual relations don’t happen.  It does mean that there are certain requirements in the military that comport with good discipline, and they are enforced to the extent possible.  For a branch like the Marines which has as their cornerstone removing differences and enforcing sameness (or at least relegating them to unimportant status – e.g., no one can remove language barriers), it probably will have a significant affect.

Now for my own views.  I thought about this position within the context of the only exception that I can think of, namely, marriage.  Men and women are allowed to be married in the military.  But marriage is not performed by the Marine Corps or Army.  It is performed and recognized within and by states which have laws that govern such things.  Imposing homosexual marriage on a branch of the service just to say that there is no exception to the way gays and heterosexuals are treated under DADT is a false dilemma.  It is imposing a foreign problem on the military – a consideration that should be irrelevant to the conversation.

In a republic such as ours, laws are changed by legislative process which usually begins with advocacy.  One group or another wants a law changed or enacted, and that group presses the issue.  If gays want to marry, changing DADT isn’t the way to go.  Changing laws is the way to go.  No gay marriage (insofar as DADT applies) in the military (similar to no gay marriage in most states)  is an output (or outcome) of the debate, not an input to it.

No one has to hide or lie.  Gays can still serve, but they must follow the same rules as everyone else.  Don’t fraternize.  Period.  End of discussion.

Spencer goes on with Conway’s testimony to outline troubling statements concerning his focus on expeditionary warfare.

Other elements of Conway’s testimony have fulsome praise for the Marine Corps’ history of involvement in counterinsurgency, so I don’t wish to caricature what he’s saying. And I make no argument against the need for amphibious assault capabilities. As Conway says very well, the “littoral domain … where the land and sea meet [is]… where most of the world lives.” But if Afghanistan (a mission that will continue for years) and Iraq (a mission that the Marines have pretty much entirely concluded) are most likely models of future combat, then it raises the question whether the Corps’ “designed missions” ought to look more like the “assigned missions.” It’s a balance, and I get that, and perhaps Conway doesn’t share the view that hybrid and land-intensive close fights are the near-term future of combat. But he suggests in his testimony that he does (“The current transnational struggle against violent extremism will not end anytime soon…”) and if so, then the question about designed-mission priorities returns.

Spencer’s comments are well taken, and Conway’s focus on expeditionary warfare are well rehearsed over this site.  My objections to Conway’s views have always come at a very fundamental level.  When Marines were losing their legs in Now Zad and we had Battalions of Marine Infantry on board Amphibious Assault Docks, I complained loudly.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.  There is more than one way to skin a cat, and forcible entry can be effected in many ways.

Prior:

U.S. Marine Return to Amphibious Operations

Strategic Decisions Concerning Marines and Expeditionary Warfare

Arguments Over EFV and V-22


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