Monday, May 12, 2008

Questioning the need for a "Gator Navy" Updated

Thanks so much for all the feedback I got on whether the US still needs a highly expensive and (in my view) an underutilized amphibious fleet. Mind you, I'm not suggesting an end to the US Marines Corps, just that we need to reevaluate what role the historic service must play in our country's national security. Currently, the 189,000 strong force isn't quite a land army, and far from naval infantry. I personally feel the nation would be better served with the Corps returning to its roots, that of a light infantry maritime intervention force.

An article I came across titled Future Corps discusses new Marine weaponry now entering service or undergoing evaluation. Here are a few snippets I thought interesting:

Developing technologies to execute the Marine Corps's new tactics
has been a 25-year-long ordeal. The V-22 Osprey program began in 1982 and first
deployed to Iraq last fall. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, still at least
seven years from fielding, officially began in 1995 but is the successor of two
amphibious armored vehicle projects that were abandoned. "This is the solution
they came up with 20-plus years ago and have been trying to field ever since,"
said T.X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel who wrote an iconoclastic book, The
Sling and the Stone, on how low-tech foes can defeat expensive American

The "Over the Horizon Program" 25 years in the making and we're not there yet. Amazing! This is where I differ with our military leadership in that we should build for the wars we are fighting, instead of some future war with an undisclosed foe. Here's more on the Corps' brand new amphibious vehicle:

...the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle's mechanically complex
transformation allows it to skim the waves instead of wallow through them,
making it easily three times as fast as its predecessors. So rather than come
within sight of shore to launch the current amphibious armor--thus exposing
itself to attack--the fleet could deploy EFVs from over the horizon, 25 or 30
miles away.But is that enough? "Twenty years ago"--when the Corps's new tactics
were conceived--"we were talking about 25 miles," said one analyst who works for
the Marine Corps. "The EFV is based on the idea that the enemy can't reach out
25 miles. Now they can." The C-802 cruise missile used in Hezbollah's successful
strike against the Israeli corvette in 2006, for example, has a maximum range of
about 75 miles.

Finally, there is this shocking statement concerning the amount of troops able to be ferried by our fleet of assault ships (helicopter carriers) and landing ships (LPDs, LSDs):

The Navy, meanwhile, has gone from having enough amphibious assault
ships to deploy three Marine brigades simultaneously--a fraction of the force at
Inchon or Iwo Jima--to not quite enough to carry two. Two brigades happened to
be the size of the Marine feint during the Gulf War."You could not stage an
amphibious invasion of Iran. You couldn't stage an amphibious invasion of North
Korea," said Baker, the former naval intelligence analyst. "God knows, you can't
invade China."

Only 2 brigades, or about 5000 troops out of almost 200,000! I knew this all along but it is just now sinking in, that in no way could we stage a major amphibious assault on the scale of World War, which is what this magnificent fleet of warships was designed to perform. This current number is far smaller than the British landing forces (11,000) that retook the tiny Falkland Islands which we mentioned in the previous posting.