Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Power of Amphibious Operations in the 21st the formation that broke Marine Air...the Corps' patient X!

via Real Clear Defense.
The Navy and Marine Corps are acquiring new platforms and systems that will enhance the effectiveness of amphibious forces in operations across the spectrum of conflict. The stealthy F-35B, able to operate from large deck amphibs and small airfields, provides a particularly useful capability for attacking defended targets and providing targeting information for other platforms and weapons systems. Improved ship-to-shore connectors, including the MV-22 Osprey, the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, and air cushion landing craft will enable Marine Corps units to project power onto the land further and faster.

The impact of new aviation assets on future amphibious operations cannot be overestimated. An analysis about the future of amphibious operations by the RAND Corporation observed that “Marine Corps aviation is on a path to significantly alter what even ARG/MEUs are capable of doing, and it is important to shape the rest of the force to acknowledge this change. An ARG/MEU with F-35Bs and MV-22s is not just capable of local influence, but can project power and provide defense in ways impossible just a few years ago.”
Story here. 

Wow.  I've gone from being a Goure fan (of his writing and thinking that is) to questioning every idea he comes up with and wondering how much the govt is paying him for this clap trap.

Putting that aside for a minute I finally globbed onto what makes me so nervous with the thinking behind aviation transforming the way the Marine Corps does business.

They're always talking about it with how the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) does work.

That's been bothering me and I finally laid my finger on it!

At best it's to be an early entry force.

The reality is that reinforcements better be on the way in a hurry or it better be tied into coalition/allied forces.

It is a potent force for "in extremis" operations.  It's excellent for amphibious raids, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.

But straight combat ops as a standalone force?

It's not configured to operate that way.  I hear what you're saying.  What about Mattis' master stroke of combining two MEUs and doing the Afghanistan thing?

Insurgents.  Terrorists.  Goat herders with AK's.

Not the kind of forces we see today.  You know the type.  Terrorist organizations that are capable of beating nation state forces in a given region and are equipped with armor, are highly motorized thanks to Toyota's with Russian Machine Guns in the back that seem to grow on trees and enough RPGs to hazard any force if they get lucky and pick the right LZ.....

There is no way around it.  The Marine Corps needs to get back to basics.  Shortcuts don't exist.  You have to do the hard work.  That means rolling back A2/AD defenses, dealing with enemy armor properly and to end the fantasy born during the 1950's that vertical envelopment would be the magic bullet and building a force that can move by helo was the solution to future combat.

The formation that broke Marine Air..the Corps' patient X!

I've been doing a bit of thinking about the sad shape that Marine Air is in today and I finally tracked it down.  You might not believe it, but the formation that was suppose to highlight the utility, capability and combat power of an aviation centric Marine Corps is the same formation that broke it.

Specifically the SPMAGTF-CR!

Think about it.  Marine Air should be in it's heyday.  If you go by PR officers then we are seeing unprecedented capability being tossed our way.  The full allotment of MV-22's is coming online.  The AH-1Z/UH-1Y are in service, the F-35 is muddling along but they're confident and the wildly expensive CH-53K is about to enter production.

Instead we're seeing tragedy, Marines voting with their feet and desperation coming from HQMC with the current state of the wing.

Part of this is leadership.  The Commandant and his deputy focused exclusively on the F-35 while the Wing burned.  Ok, leadership failure is simple to diagnose and easy to solve.  Fix yourself or get someone in that can do better.

But the other more dramatic part is the theory/concept part of it.  SPMAGTF-CR was "invented" in 2011.  That was the heyday of Amos making his pronouncements that the Marine Corps needed to be relevant.  His thinking was that generational war against terrorism was the future and that a major war was almost unthinkable (he was wrong on so many levels).

Unfortunately he wasn't alone and several high ranking generals agreed.  They sought to make the Marine Corps over into a SOCOM support unit and aviation would be the ticket to ride.  SPMAGTF-CR was born and MAINTENANCE TOOK A HIT!  I need to somehow get documentation to prove my theory but if newspaper stories about the Wing's troubles are traced (and I've done that) then you can see a DIRECT correlation between the SPMAGTF-CR and increasing trouble.  My guess is that these "extra" deployments postponed/modified and delayed not only maintenance but also rest for the crews.

In other words the Marine Corps leaped before it looked.  It threw together a concept, tried to do it on the run and didn't take into account HUMAN factors as well as established maintenance procedures for equipment in the condition that ours was in at the time.

It sounds simplistic I know but do your own Google search of when you first heard of trouble in Marine Air and trace it to the birth/deployment of the SPMAGTF.  The connection is undeniable.

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