Saturday, August 24, 2019

Is the USMC so committed to winning the war at sea that we're losing focus on the battle on land?

via Breaking Defense.
“For both the Navy and the Marine Corps it’s critical to figure out a way to distribute your forces and to distribute lethality,” said J.D. Williams, a senior defense policy researcher at RAND and retired Marine officer. Large bases on Okinawa, Guam and elsewhere will remain as push-off points, but in the event of a conflict with China, they will also be the primary targets for long-range attack by China’s massive arsenal of medium to long-range missiles. The story is the same for aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, which are relatively lightly equipped to find off such attacks.

One way of distributing assets is to push the development of large and small unmanned platforms that can not only act as a sensing picket line in front of carrier and amphibious strike groups, but also push supplies to smaller, austere bases. The Corps has long talked about the ability of its new vertical take-off and landing F-35Bs to work out of ad hoc airstrips in the Pacific, which would get them off of big-deck ships that are prime targets for Chinese and Russian submarines and medium-range missiles.

One of the holdups to the plan has always been how to get fuel, ammunition and parts out to these locations. “If I can’t sustain it, I’m hosed,” Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command recently told reporters at the Pentagon.

The idea, as it has developed, is to equip some of those small bases to help deliver fires to support the Navy, in effect providing cover for ships to operate far out at sea. Last year, the Corps kicked off an effort to fire long-range anti-ship missiles from shore-based ground vehicles, dubbed the Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, or NEMSIS. The plan is to start testing in early 2020 with one of a short list of possible missiles. 
Story here. 

Read the entire article for yourself and then come back.  Did it?  Good.  Now bear with me while I lay out my concerns.

I guess the major issue that I have with this whole concept is that the USMC seems to be getting hip deep in the naval fight .... so deep that it almost pales in comparison to what the Navy is even thinking about doing in that regard.

Going a bit further we're going to be dedicating (or so it seems) a large part of our funding toward fighting the war at sea.

Don't get me wrong ... I get it!

The Marine Corps is part of the Dept of the Navy and we have a history of fighting at sea.

I guess my major issue is that while everyone is so focused on the fight at sea that we seem to be losing focus on the fight on land.

The hard times don't stop for the Corps once it reaches the beach.  It continues till it reaches the objective.

Our potential foes are not standing pat!

They're developing highly effective armored forces.  Their attack aircraft will be prowling the area looking for targets of opportunity on land.  Those expeditionary bases that we'll be using to refuel the F-35?  If they can effectively target a ship then surely those will be under threat too!

I guess what I'm saying is that this new concept is really looking like another chestnut from the past.

Read up on the "Defense Battalions" of WW2 and the concept behind them.  Once you've done that, then take the concept...flip it around a bit...make it a bit more mobile if you will and see how close it comes to what we're talking about here.

Another thing to bring up.

Have you noticed what's missing in this talk?

Almost nowhere do you find in any of the talks from the new Commandant any mention of the Ground Combat Element.

I state it clearly at the end of this missive for two reasons.  The first is because I want to be clear in my thinking and the second is because if the GCE is missing from the larger planning (and with that I mean funding) then we can assume that the thinking is that this will be a pure naval contest.

If that's the case then my thoughts of the Corps basically reverting back to its pre-WW2 setup is spot on.

From my chair the guy in the big chair has decided that we will be fighting defensively...seeking to contain China in the coming fight.

If that's the case then things are worse than I thought.  That means we're already in a position where we're going to be trying to hold on...and that means the Chinese have already reached parity with our force.

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