Archive for the 'Navy' Category



The Navy And Marines Need Adult Supervision

BY Herschel Smith
1 year, 11 months ago

Jean sends this along to show why the Navy needs Marine supervision.

Meanwhile, the officials also said that a Russian electronic intelligence-gathering vessel was granted safe harbor in the commercial port of Jacksonville, Fla., within listening range of Kings Bay.

But the Marines have their own problems.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SABIT QADAM, Afghanistan – As full integration of the Infantry Automatic Rifle into the Marine Corps’ arsenal becomes complete, the M249 Light Machine Gun, formerly the Squad Automatic Weapon, slowly fades into the history of the Corps.

The SAW has seen action since 1984 and has protected Marines since. Replaced by an automatic rifle of similar size and weight of the M16A4 service rifle already issued to rank and file Marines, the familiarity with the new weapon is almost instant.

“The IAR has fewer moving parts than the SAW does making it a lot more ‘grunt friendly,’” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Shaulis, an IAR gunner with 4th Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7. “It has a direct piston system, so there are fewer jams. It stays cleaner, longer with less carbon build up after it’s been fired. The muscle memory stays the same with it as it would an M16. If an IAR gunner goes down, any Marine could grab the weapon and lay down accurate suppressive fire without thinking twice.”

[ ... ]

“We’re going back to what we had in WWII with the Browning Automatic Rifle,” Henderson said. “Since the 1980s, we gave the infantry squad the light machine gun, and now we’re having another shift in the Marine Corps to get back to what we were doing right the first time.”

I asked Daniel, my former Marine, what he thought about this.

This is sad. The reason we went with the SAW was because the BAR and its associated concept were inadequate.  At times in combat in Iraq, we had all nine SAW gunners firing during engagements, and I’m glad that we did.  We needed the fire power.  In the thousands of rounds I put down range stateside and Iraq, I never had a single problem … never … had … a … single … problem, with my SAW.  I kept it clean.  This change to the IAR is a testimony to laziness.  What do Marines want to do – take someone out on a date?  What else do they have to do when they’re deployed?  What’s the problem with cleaning weapons?  Mine worked because I maintained it right.  All this has done is make the Marines weaker.  It may be that this IAR could be used for select circumstances like room clearing, but the death of the SAW will bring nothing good.

Additionally, in spite of this, the Marines are still hell bent on bringing women into the infantry officer training at Quantico.

The Marine Corps’ effort to evaluate whether more combat jobs should open to women marked another milestone last week when the second of two female volunteers washed out of infantry officer training.

A second lieutenant, she was dropped from the program Friday after failing to complete required training due to unspecified medical reasons, a Marine official told Marine Corps Times. It’s unclear whether she was injured or if she became ill.

[ ... ]

At Quantico, those overseeing the IOC experiment have said that it will involve up to 100 female officers and take at least a year to complete. The Marine official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reaffirmed the Corps’ intent to recruit female volunteers for subsequent iterations of the course.

“This was just the first shot,” the official said.

The Navy is out to lunch, but the Marines have joined them at that lunch.  If they aren’t attempting to force women through training at Quantico, they are worrying over large scale, heavily armored amphibious assault landings on near peer states, something that will never occur again.  Meanwhile, SOCOM continues to use up the money and be the nation’s first responders.  There are no adults left in the room, and the Marines are left without mission, leadership or vision.

Iranian Boats Shadow U.S. Aircraft Carrier

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 8 months ago

Currently in the Persian Gulf.

The American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has passed through the Strait of Hormuz, shadowed by Iranian patrol boats.

But there were no incidents on Tuesday as the Lincoln’s battle group crossed through the narrow strait, which Iran has threatened to close in retaliation for tighter Western sanctions.

Several U.S. choppers flanked the carrier group throughout the voyage from the Gulf. Radar operators also picked up an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter in Iran’s airspace near the strait, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Oman.

Make no mistake about it.  These boats are a threat to U.S. sea craft.  And consider what I have reported before.

… consider what happened (I have reported this before) with the 26th MEU in 2008.  The USS Iwo Jima was in vicinity of the very subject of our discussion (somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz), and an Iranian helicopter virtually landed aboard the ship.  The Marines at that time judged a threat and prepared to engage the enemy, but Navy officers, not wanting an incident, of course, ensured that the Marines didn’t respond.

An Iranian aircraft virtually landed on board the USS Iwo Jima, hovering above the deck for minutes.  The U.S. Navy did nothing.  And you can rest assured that the Navy will do nothing concerning Iranian sea-borne threats either.

Concerning Iran, the U.S., and the Strait of Hormuz

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

We’re all aware of the recent boasting over how Iran can shut down the Strait of Hormuz.  We also know all about the pipelines being constructed by the UAE in an attempt to circumvent the Persian Gulf and thereby defang Iran in its hegemony over the region, at least as regards its threats over the waterways.

There is also – as usual – the bluster about how Iran won’t possibly make good on its promises, and how the U.S. Navy issued threats of its own.  But rest assured that if the U.S. or Israel launches a strike against the Iranian nuclear program, given the radical Mullahs apocalyptic and eschatological view of reality, they will hold nothing back from their retaliation.

And don’t rest so comfortably in the blustering of of the U.S. Navy.  Their fear of shore to ship missile technology has been the basis for their demurral to define any role at all in what they want so desperately to have a role in, i.e., littoral combat.  They won’t tread any closer than 20 miles to shore, the “beyond the horizon” distance.

As for anecdotal data, consider what happened (I have reported this before) with the 26th MEU in 2008.  The USS Iwo Jima was in vicinity of the very subject of our discussion (somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or Strait of Hormuz), and an Iranian helicopter virtually landed aboard the ship.  The Marines at that time judged a threat and prepared to engage the enemy, but Navy officers, not wanting an incident, of course, ensured that the Marines didn’t respond.

The incident of Iran filming a U.S. Aircraft Carrier rather pales in comparison to an Iranian helicopter hovering just over the deck of the USS Iwo Jima, does it not?  I have no confidence whatsoever in the willingness of the US Navy to engage Iran on any level at all.

The Navy in Asadabad?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

In Response to Afghanistan: We No Longer Give Pens and Stationary Away, DirtyMick responded as follows:

I was on the previous two PRTs in Kunar. They need to jettison the navy element and make it an army effort. Previous two Navy commanders (especially the one with the Nevada National guard in 2009/2010) focused too much on the soft aspect of coin, were in overall charge of the army manuever element at camp wright (like army running a ship), had a hard on for wanting to take non essential navy personnel (ie anybody not engineers) into places like the pech river valley and north of asadabad, and passing out badges and awards like candy on Halloween (so navy guys can be just as stacked as an 0311 marine cpl.). Torwards the end of this summer did my higher chain of command do things like cancel projects in the pech only after many months of us getting shot up in the pech. Why build a school for assholes when they’re shooting RPGs at us? I will never work on a PRT again.

And in response to Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II, Scarbelly79 said:

I was with DirtyMick in Asadabad during 2009-2010; I felt like our time was wasted in large part to satisfy the egos and experimentations of everyone who wanted to show how nuanced they were, and how we were going to make a lasting impact by NOT killing the enemy… An old vet told me once that “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”.

It’s bad enough that Army and Marine Corps field grade officers are unwilling to risk their careers by granting air and indirect fire assets to troops in contact… We have Navy surface warfare officers and Air Force admin officers “leading” PRT’s; most of them without applicable experience or training – but trying desperately to pick up their O6 as they blame the Army and Marine Corps for screwing everything up.

The Pashtuns are not suicidal fanatics, they are brigands. We won’t win them to our side by bribing them with roads (when many of them don’t own cars), hospitals (without doctors to staff them), or electricity (when most of them don’t own televisions). We will win them to our side by effectively separating the militant Taliban from the general populace by hunting them down and killing them.

If you look back at the advent of Naval officers on PRTs in Afghanistan, it has pretty sad and naive theoretical framework.

The teams were founded in 2004 and are designed to be mobile goodwill ambassadors for coalition forces, using their transportation, logistics and communications capabilities to access the most remote Afghan villages.

Once there, the specialized personnel can hold medical, dental and veterinary clinics, and help build roads, wells, schools, irrigation systems and other facilities that will improve life for Afghans who have known only war and poverty for generations, Hartung said.

What about the infantry, you ask?  Why, they handle force protection for the team.  That’s right.  Force protection.  But DirtyMick and Scarbelly79 have given us reason to think that things are even worse now.  Naval officers are adorning themselves with medals at the expense of the fighting men, and then blaming the Army and Marines to boot.

Let’s make one thing clear.  We can discuss ineptitude all day, or organizational inadequacies, or lists of reasons that we are failing in Afghanistan.  We can treat that with clinical precision and a degree of detachment as a scientist.  But for a Naval officer on a PRT to complain and blame the fighting men is about as low as it gets.  I’m not sure what medals adorn the Naval officers on the PRTs, but unless they have been involved, engaged and active in kinetic operations and under fire, they don’t deserve and shouldn’t be awarded Combat Action Ribbons.  This would be a travesty.

Finally, here is the prerequisite for a Naval officer to complain about anything – ANYTHING – that is going on in Afghanistan.  Pick up a weapon, go on patrol, take fire, and kill the enemy.  Until you do, no one cares about your complaints, and playing the blame game with men under fire is immoral.  If you are a Naval officer who wants to complain, then lodge it right here, right now.  But show us your combat action ribbon first.  Tell us all about it.  We’re waiting.

SECDEF Gates on the Navy and Marines

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 5 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.

Honoring the Navy Corpsman

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

Every Marine infantryman and parent or spouse of a Marine infantryman knows the value of a Navy Corpsman and the high esteem in which they are held by the Marines.  They are technically in the Navy (while the Marines are only part of the Department of the Navy).  They have had extensive medical training, and essentially serve as the doctors for the Marine infantry.  But these doctors aren’t just there for medicine.  They carry a rifle, they engage in combat, and they do all of the things that Marine infantrymen do.  When the Marines go on twenty mile humps with full body armor, backpacks and weapons, the Corpsmen do all of that and more.  The Corpsmen take all of their medical gear in addition to their other load.  In many units they carry the nickname “doc.”

One such Corpsman I know returned from Iraq with my son’s unit, 2/6 Golf Company, in 2007.  His last name was Prince, and he was a prince of a guy.  He was very kind and friendly, well trained, in excellent physical condition, and had absolute commitment to his fellow Marines.  He showed me his wound from Iraq within several days of returning.  A round from an AK-47 had entered through the front part of his lower thigh, ricocheted up his thigh, and exited out of the very upper part of the back of his thigh.  Entry and exit wounds (now scars) were at least a foot apart.

Corpsman Prince stayed in Iraq and did his own rehabilitation during the deployment.  The hardest thing about the experience, he told me, was getting enough pairs of clothing after each successive pair became blood stained.  The more interesting thing about what happened that day with Corpsman Prince was what happened to his fellow Marines.  He wasn’t the only one who was wounded in that engagement.  Several other Marines were also wounded, and Prince had to treat them before he could treat himself.  He did so while bleeding out.

Navy Corpsmen are worth their weight in gold, and even if the Commander in Chief isn’t smart enough to know how to pronounce their billet, we have the utmost respect for them.

Fallujah, Navy SEALs and Effeminate Crying

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

Remember this?

Blackwater_Fallujah

Right.  Four Blackwater employees dead (two strung up at the the green  bridge at Fallujah over the Euphrates River).  It was instigated by a terrorist named Ahmed Hashim Abed.  Several Navy SEALs captured him, and Abed came away from the experience with a busted lip.  Now three Navy SEALs are under charges.

Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told FoxNews.com.

The three, all members of the Navy’s elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called a captain’s mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named “Objective Amber,” told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.

Matthew McCabe, a Special Operations Petty Officer Second Class (SO-2), is facing three charges: dereliction of performance of duty for willfully failing to safeguard a detainee, making a false official statement, and assault.

Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe, SO-2, is facing charges of dereliction of performance of duty and making a false official statement.

Petty Officer Julio Huertas, SO-1, faces those same charges and an additional charge of impediment of an investigation.

Neal Puckett, an attorney representing McCabe, told Fox News the SEALs are being charged for allegedly giving the detainee a “punch in the gut.”

“I don’t know how they’re going to bring this detainee to the United States and give us our constitutional right to confrontation in the courtroom,” Puckett said. “But again, we have terrorists getting their constitutional rights in New York City, but I suspect that they’re going to deny these SEALs their right to confrontation in a military courtroom in Virginia.”

The three SEALs will be arraigned separately on Dec. 7. Another three SEALs — two officers and an enlisted sailor — have been identified by investigators as witnesses but have not been charged.

FoxNews.com obtained the official handwritten statement from one of the three witnesses given on Sept. 3, hours after Abed was captured and still being held at the SEAL base at Camp Baharia. He was later taken to a cell in the U.S.-operated Green Zone in Baghdad.

The SEAL told investigators he had showered after the mission, gone to the kitchen and then decided to look in on the detainee.

“I gave the detainee a glance over and then left,” the SEAL wrote. “I did not notice anything wrong with the detainee and he appeared in good health.”

Lt. Col. Holly Silkman, spokeswoman for the special operations component of U.S. Central Command, confirmed Tuesday to FoxNews.com that three SEALs have been charged in connection with the capture of a detainee. She said their court martial is scheduled for January.

United States Central Command declined to discuss the detainee, but a legal source told FoxNews.com that the detainee was turned over to Iraqi authorities, to whom he made the abuse complaints. He was then returned to American custody. The SEAL leader reported the charge up the chain of command, and an investigation ensued.

The source said intelligence briefings provided to the SEALs stated that “Objective Amber” planned the 2004 Fallujah ambush, and “they had been tracking this guy for some time.”

The Fallujah atrocity came to symbolize the brutality of the enemy in Iraq and the degree to which a homegrown insurgency was extending its grip over Iraq.

The four Blackwater agents were transporting supplies for a catering company when they were ambushed and killed by gunfire and grenades. Insurgents burned the bodies and dragged them through the city. They hanged two of the bodies on a bridge over the Euphrates River for the world press to photograph.

Intelligence sources identified Abed as the ringleader, but he had evaded capture until September.

A punch in the gut, a busted lip, so on, and so forth.  Things that happen in America every day during High School football practice, gym class during wrestling instruction, brothers fighting each other at home, and U.S. Marine Corps hazing of boots.

I simply cannot help but be struck at how effeminate and muliebrous this has become.  Does some lawyer-mommy want to take care of poor little Ahmed?  Did he get roughed up playing with the big boys?  Surely the enemy scoffs and mocks us.  We should be embarrassed even to ask the SEALs about something like this.  CENTCOM should be ashamed.  SOCOM should be ashamed.  It shows once again that we want to lawyer our engagements instead of win them and that we hold lawyers in higher regard than we do warriors.  This is what we have become.  We have lost the horror of 9/11, and this is the surest way to bring it back.

Arguments Over the EFV and V-22

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

In Gates Reshapes DoD Budget Plans we observed that the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) had gotten off unscathed.  It’s budget dollars remained intact, or so it seemed.  It’s a little more murky now with Marine Corps Commandant Conway publicly arguing for the EFV.

U.S. Marines must be able to storm enemy shores in amphibious vehicles such as those being built by General Dynamics Corp, the top Marine said, defending a $13.2 billion program called into question by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

General Dynamics’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV, “is inextricably linked to that capability and an absolutely critical requirement for us,” General James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday.

“And, by the way, China has already fielded a similar vehicle and is building more,” he said.

As conceived by the Marine Corps, the EFV is to be able to transport up to 18 combat-ready Marines at high speeds on both land and sea. It would have advanced communications capabilities, provide increased armored protection against rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, and deliver lethal firepower up to 2,000 meters (2,200 yards).

Part of the argument is based on the intent of the Navy and its reluctance to engage and support near the coastline.

Conway said he believes strongly the military needs the forcible entry capability provided by the EFV, particularly as the Navy plans to operate at least 25 miles from the shoreline.

“That’s a 25-mile bridge that has to be managed somehow and you’re not going to do it with our current set of vehicles,” the four-star general said. “We think the best way to do that is with a vehicle that can do it in a couple of hours, not in a day. And that’s what it would virtually take with our existing fleet” of amphibious assault vehicles.

But Secretary Gates apparently is still considering what to do with the program.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has announced major changes to many of the military’s largest development and procurement projects, has put off making a decision on the EFV, a program with a troubled history, until the completion of the Quadrennial Defense Review next year. Costs on the General Dynamics program have soared 43 percent to an estimated $13 billion while the Marine Corps has been trying over the last two years to correct reliability problems.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious action again,” Gates said during an April 17 visit to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “In the 21st century, how much amphibious capability do we need?” But Conway said he believes the EFV is essential not just for a major amphibious assault, which the Marine Corps has not done since 1950, but also for humanitarian assistance and evacuation operations. “It really runs the whole gamut from peacetime sort of engagement all the way up to forcible entry,” he said. “And we think that that’s what the nation really needs.”

We also get some news on the V-22 Osprey.

Conway said he expects the Marine Corps to deploy a squadron of MV-22 Osprey helicopters to Afghanistan before the end of the year. The next deployment for the Osprey, which was first used operationally in Iraq in 2007, will be aboard a ship to test the aircraft’s “seaworthiness,” Conway said.

But then a squadron will head to Afghanistan. “We have had issues with our current medium-lift capability” in Afghanistan, Conway said. “The old CH-46 has run up against age and altitude and environment and is not doing the job that we need for our medium lift squadrons to do.”

The CH-46 will be in service for a long time to come, and is currently the only platform from which Marines can fastrope.  As Colonel Desens put it, “I think the last 46 pilot may have been born, but not yet commissioned.”  On the whole the Osprey has performed well in Iraq, but it will be the true test of its worthiness to test it both at sea in a maritime environment and in the high plains, deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.

Analysis & Commentary

Humanitarian assistance is an absolutely horrible misuse of U.S. Marines.  It’s like driving a corvette on a speedway to deliver pizza.  The Marine expeditionary concept is a good one, with all needed billets and specializations embedded with and assigned to the force.  The expeditionary, quick strike, rapid deployment concept is a good use of the Corps, as long as this use doesn’t detract from the essential deployments in support of the long war, and in the current case, Operation Enduring Freedom.

We have been moderately to strongly supportive of the Osprey V-22 program, but dismissing the helicopter fleet too soon is a monumental error.  In fact, the question necessarily arises “do we need two means of forcible entry – air and sea?”  If we continue support of the V-22 program as well as maintain the existing fleet of helicopters, along with commissioning a new fleet soon, is this a better expenditure of money than the EFV would be?  Note that we aren’t questioning the expeditionary concept or the need for forcible entry.  The question is by what means.

Finally, the Navy must be pressed to strategically engage in 21st century warfare.  The horizon – 25 miles – is a pointless distance given the increasingly available missile technology.  The Navy must find a way to counter this threat and shoulder some of the burden.

In summary, we recommend continued viability of the Amphibious Assault Docks, maintaining the existing helicopter fleet, commissioning a new helicopter fleet, continuation of testing of the Osprey V-22, and high intensity warfare and quick strike use of the Corps (as opposed to humanitarian assistance).  We remain skeptical of the EFV.

Navy and Marines to Part Ways Over Expeditionary Strike Groups?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

I want to touch on several issues in this post.  First, Galrahn at Information Dissemination authors yet another interesting post on Navy strategy, or the lack of it.  It should be required reading for all of my readers.  His discussion of Navy strategy and issues surrounding the Navy is second to none.  He says that the Navy has proven that they are unable tactically to solve piracy.  But while I agree with his dismissal of the Littoral Combat Ship as being the answer, I don’t agree with this assessment.

I have said before that the things required of us to defeat the pirates are less attractive to 21st century America that the alternative of having pirates, and thus we have chosen for piracy to exist.  The tools exist: Amphibious Assault Docks, LCACs, Harriers, Helicopters associated with ESG, etc.  And just to make it clear, if we really wanted to be effective, we could deploy the newer generation of Riverine Command Boats along with the Amphibious Assault Docks, or some smaller water craft (with assault capability).  Hanging pirates on the high seas, videotaping the events and posting it to YouTube would end piracy, and it is given to the Congress of the U.S. in the Constitution to make such laws.  Finally, such laws would supersede all ambiguous treaties in this matter.  In followup to previous posts on piracy, Navy SEAL teams are not an answer.  There aren’t enough, it is too expensive, and it isn’t logistically sustainable.

Donald Sensing makes the point in the comments section that piracy isn’t a national security issue for the U.S.  Perhaps so, right now, but as the pirates continue to give honorariums to al Qaeda which is currently in control of most of Somalia, it might be in the near future.  As the problem continues it grows worse.

On to the part about Naval strategy.  I tend to believe that if the strategic thinking is there, the Navy is not doing a very good job of communicating it.  Now comes a strange twist from the Navy about the future of its participation in the ESG.

The Navy is breaking up the deployments of amphibious ships and surface combatants formerly known as expeditionary strike groups, part of a top-down review that could have far-reaching consequences for how sailors and Marines spend time at sea.

For the past six years, ESGs paired a big-deck amphib and two small-deck gators with two or three surface combatant escorts. Now, the gators and warships will go separately.

As of March 9, the gator groups were renamed “amphibious ready groups,” reviving a term that was shelved several years ago, and combined with the name of their accompanying Marine expeditionary unit, said Lt. Cmdr. Phil Rosi, a spokesman for Fleet Forces Command. Although these were the first changes to come from a joint Navy-Marine ESG working group, they won’t be the last, he said.

“The name change and the deployment construct is the first step in the process — we have, in conjunction with the Marine Corps and [the] ESG working group, been working through roles, missions, capability, training … there’s a lot more that still is being worked out.”

For example, the Navy would have called the amphibious assault ship Boxer’s group the “Boxer ESG,” but now it’s called the “Boxer ARG/13th MEU.”

But ESG isn’t going away entirely. An ARG/MEU still can be called an ESG, Rosi said, if it’s being commanded by an admiral or general officer.

Under normal circumstances, a Navy captain will command the ships and a Marine colonel will be in charge of the leathernecks.

Rosi said Fleet Forces Command and the ESG working group still are determining who will decide when an ARG/MEU’s mission requires a one-star officer and elevates the unit to ESG status.

The Navy decided to break up the previous ESGs because the amphibs and combatants usually didn’t work closely enough on their deployments to justify sailing together, Rosi said.

So surface combatants will begin sailing separately as “surface action groups” — another older term — although officials don’t yet know how that could affect their deployments. He also said it wasn’t clear yet whether the surface groups would include set numbers of ships — a certain number of cruisers, destroyers or frigates — or how their missions could change.

“There’s no definite cookie-cutter construct,” Rosi said.

Rosi said ARG/MEUs and surface groups will retain their ability to operate together when needed, but they won’t sail in groups as they have since 2003.

Retired Capt. Jan van Tol said it’s “unfortunate” that the Navy is returning to an older style of surface deployments, but he said he wasn’t surprised because top commanders never fully realized a strategy to deploy amphibs with warships.

“It’s completely back to the future. I guess ESGs weren’t as useful as we thought,” said van Tol, who commanded three ships, including the amphibious assault ship Essex, before becoming an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

ESGs were ideal groups for handling low-intensity missions such as the international campaign against piracy off Somalia, he said, because they combine the speed and firepower of surface ships with many “lily pads” for helicopters on the gators. The amphibious assault ship Boxer, for example, is operating with the destroyer Bainbridge and frigate Halyburton off the Horn of Africa.

What’s more, ESGs were a way to overcome the “artificial divorce” in the surface force between amphib and “cru/des” sailors, van Tol said. He recalled a time when he was the captain of the Essex and his ship participated in a missile-launching exercise with the destroyer John S. McCain, giving the ships’ crews a chance to work together.

Then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark pushed for ARGs to become ESGs in the early 2000s, based on an earlier concept from the 1990s called an Expeditionary Task Force.

But with Clark retired, few top-level Navy and Marine Corps leaders stayed committed to pairing amphibs and combatants.

“It’s dying due to lack of interest, which is a pity,” van Tol said.

Several fairly brief observations.  I will reserve comment for now on the extreme expense of deploying an entire Battalion of Marine infantry on board an Amphibious Assault Dock and floating around the Persian Gulf for seven months as “ready reserve” for CENTCOM or “force in readiness.”  It deserves fuller analysis, much more than I can provide here.  The public has absolutely no idea how expensive this endeavor is.

But this account above is about as strange as it gets.  We’re bored, says the Navy, or something thereabouts.  We learn nothing useful about any paradigmatic change in strategy that caused this divorce, or some new boundary condition or external pressure that is causing the need to separate larger warships from ESGs.  It’s about personalities, or some such foolishness.  Maybe.  We don’t know.  We just learn that it’s going to happen.

Finally, as I stated in Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts, “The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities … Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.”

I am continually re-evaluating the need for MEUs, especially when there is such dire need for Marine infantry in Afghanistan.  I am only softly committed to MEUs.  Someone can try to convince me, but it may be a tall task.  But if we are going to do MEUs and ESGs, we had better consider the danger and risk of deploying Amphibious Assault Docks (AAD) without the accompanying Naval force protection.

I normally assume that the detection and defeater systems for surface-to-surface missiles on board the Navy vessels would add to the force protection for the AADs.  I also assume that an Aircraft Carrier fleet is not too distant from the AADs to provide air superiority in the case of air attack.  I am also assuming that the Navy wouldn’t hesitate to use its power to protect the Marines.

Your assignment: Think hard.  An entire Battalion of Marine infantry sitting on an Amphibious Assault Dock in the middle of the Persian Gulf like sitting ducks, with little Naval force protection, and the likely to come reduction in the Carrier battle groups by at least one.  The Navy won’t deploy with the Marines.  Can you justify this?  Seriously?  Wouldn’t it be better to deploy the Navy or find another way to use the Marines?  Why have the ESG to begin with?  What is the Navy thinking?  We don’t know – it seems as if they’re bored.  Oh wait!  As I re-read the above, there is an “ESG working group.”  Good.  I feel better already.

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?


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