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--> 3 Force Deployment The Deployment Dilemma Rapid deployment of forces from CONUS, or from overseas bases, to their theater of employment is a tenet of the U.S. military strategy. The dilemma in executing that part of the strategy is both frustrating and simple: Speed is important, making air transport desirable; Marine Corps forces can be large and heavy, making movement by sea necessary (see Table 3.1). If the Marine Corps were to rely only on the fleet of amphibious ships to deploy its forces from CONUS, arrival in-theater would be slow, taking 30 days or more, because of the time required to move to embarkation ports, embark the troops, their equipment, and ammunition, and move to the theater of operations. Furthermore, only a small portion of the force could be transported at one time—significantly less than one of the four MEFs the Marine Corps maintains (three active and one reserve). Today, that dilemma is resolved in two ways. First, Marine expeditionary units, special operations capable (MEU[SOC]) are forward deployed with amphibious-ready groups (ARGs), providing almost immediate crisis response capability. Second, equipment is prepositioned aboard ships of the maritime prepositioning squadrons, which can be moved quickly from their overseas stations to the theater of employment. Marines are then transported by air to the theater, where they marry up with their equipment. The value of the forward-deployed ARGs is demonstrated regularly. It is they who are called upon routinely to rescue U.S. civilians from unstable situations in foreign countries, to deliver humanitarian aid, or to demonstrate by their
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--> TABLE 3.1 Representative Marine Air Ground Task Force Sizes (Current Force Structure, Not Tailored for Sea Basing) MEU MEF (FWD) MEF Personnel 2,800 18,800 54,600 Sq Ft Vehicle Stow 62,000 620,000 1,554,000 Cu Ft Cargo Stow 160,000 2,450,000 11,478,000 Total Vehicles 150 4,300 13,900 Tanks 4 58 62 Advanced amphibious assault vehicles 12 109 187 M198 howitzers 6 30 54 MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft 12 36 96 CH-53 helicopters 4 8 36 UH-1N helicopters 3 6 18 AH-1W helicopters 6 18 54 NOTE: Partial listing of vehicles shown above; vehicle numbers are approximate. MEU, Marine expeditionary unit; MEF (FWD), Marine expeditionary force (forward); MEF, Marine expeditionary force. presence and readiness the resolve and capability of the United States to intervene militarily in a crisis. The maritime prepositioning forces (MPFs), too, have demonstrated their value both in military conflicts, such as the Persian Gulf War, for which they provided the first substantial ground-combat forces, and in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Employment of today's MPFs, however, depends on having available in the immediate vicinity of the objective area both an airfield to receive the personnel and light equipment that are flown in and either a port for unloading equipment from the prepositioning ships or coastline suitable for over-the-shore logistics operations. Importantly, the arrival of troops and equipment and their assembly into combat-ready units require a benign environment, free from hostilities. Future military operations may not be afforded the luxury of convenient airfields and ports or benign environments. MPF 2010+ is a concept for exploiting the rapid deployment capabilities of maritime prepositioning without depending on airfields, ports, or benign conditions in the immediate area of intended force employment. The MPF 2010+ concept calls for four functions not provided by the current MPF: At-sea arrival and assembly of units, eliminating the need for airfields and ports in the immediate vicinity of the objectives; Reinforcement of the assault echelon of an amphibious task force; Indefinite sea based sustainment of the forces ashore; and In-theater reconstitution and redeployment of the force.
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--> These new functions are intended to create a "triad of new capabilities: fast deployment, reinforcement, and sustained sea basing":1 Fast deployment: Capability to deploy the combat-essential equipment for a MEU or similarly sized special-purpose MAGTF, along with a limited amount of palletized cargo; Reinforcement: Capability to deploy the equipment and 30-days' sustainment for an MEF (FWD); and Sustained sea basing: Capability to furnish a full range of logistics support, as well as the conduit to strategic bases through which MPF 2010+ will provide indefinite sustainment for an MEF. The timing of ideas on how to exploit maritime prepositioning is opportune. The leases for the ships now used to preposition Marine Corps equipment expire in about the year 2010. So the Navy and Marine Corps face a decision soon on what to do about replacing those ships, how best to design them, and how to use them. Center for Naval Analyses Study A mission area analysis is one of the key steps to take before making a decision about replacing the maritime prepositioning ship. The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) is conducting that analysis and has published two reports documenting the first phase of its effort. The first report, MPF 2010 and Beyond: Translating a Concept into Ship Requirements,2 outlines five conceptual ship alternatives for meeting future prepositioning requirements and sizes the lift requirements to be met by each alternative. The alternatives span a wide range of capability, reflecting alternative interpretations as to how the MPF 2010+ concept might be implemented from a strategic sealift ship, similar to the large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships now being procured, that has little aviation capability and little berthing or work space, to a mobile offshore base—a large, modular structure that could be assembled at sea to provide a C-17-capable air base, facilities for docking and unloading cargo ships, and ample space for storing supplies, maintaining equipment, berthing personnel, and providing medical and other services. The companion CNA study, MPF 2010 Ship-to-Shore Movement and Sea 1 Marine Corps Combat Development Command. 1997. "Maritime Prepositioning Force 2010 and Beyond," Quantico, Va., October. 2 Milano, Vito R. 1997. MPF 2010 and Beyond: Translating a Concept into Ship Requirements, CRM 97-103, Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, Va., December.
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--> based Logistics Support,3 describes a detailed, scenario-based analysis of the capability of one of the ship alternatives to support the type of operation envisioned by the MPF 2010+ concept. In short, the scenario has the MPF ships, with the prepositioned equipment and supplies of an MEF (FWD) on board, embarking the personnel and fly-in equipment at an intermediate staging base, proceeding to the area of operations, and then reinforcing an amphibious task force that already has landed its embarked ground-combat element. The reinforcing operation consists of two task forces, launched and sustained from the MPF ships: one task force, composed of two infantry battalions and an artillery battery, which is moved by air to an objective 60 miles inland (85 miles from the ships) and the other, a reinforced mechanized battalion, which is moved by surface to the shore, from where it moves inland to the other objective. Only the ground-combat elements of the MEF (FWD), with minimal command and control and combat service support, go ashore. The fixed-wing component of the air-combat element is assumed to be at some unspecified base within supporting range. The assumptions and results of the analysis are instructive, suggesting some of the factors that might limit MPF operations. First, by assuming that personnel were embarked at an intermediate staging base, the scenario omitted the concept of "at-sea arrival and assembly" of the MPF. Second, air movement of the two infantry battalions to their objective 85 miles from the ships took 12 hours, the outer limit of the time assumed to be acceptable for the landing. The air movement used all available V-22 and CH-53E rotary-wing aircraft (no medical evacuation, logistics, or other operational missions competing for the aircraft) and was conducted in a benign environment (no enemy, adverse weather, attrition, or equipment malfunctions). Third, if the ships remained 25 miles at sea, it took 5 days to land the mechanized task force, an unacceptably long time. The slow landing was attributed to insufficient numbers of high-speed landing craft. To move the force ashore in a reasonable time (2 days), the ships had to close to within 4 miles of shore after the first day. The value of the CNA analysis was found to be much broader than the ship definition issue: By analyzing in detail one interpretation of the MPF 2010+ concept, it revealed some of the ambiguities, obstacles, and possible limitations to the concept. The committee made liberal use of that study. The committee discusses here, drawing largely from the CNA study, observations and recommendations related to composition of the prepositioned force, the MPF ship alternatives, and the need for high-speed landing craft. In the next chapter the committee deals with sea based sustainment. 3 McAllister, Keith R. 1998. MPF 2010 Ship-to-Shore Movement and Sea based Logistics Support, Volume I: Report and Volume II: Appendices, Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, Va., March.
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--> Maritime Prepositioning Force Composition Today's prepositioning force, an MEF (FWD), is a large, heavy ground force (see Table 3.1; aviation assets are not prepositioned). Although nominally one-third of a full MEF, it has nearly a full MEF's complement of main battle tanks and more than half of an MEF's complement of amphibious assault vehicles and artillery. If the Marine Corps moves toward a lighter, more air mobile force structure, prepositioning requirements for ships, trucks, and supplies could change dramatically. The extent to which over-the-horizon sea basing becomes the predominant mode of operation also could change prepositioning needs. For example, much of today's container handling and lighterage may be unnecessary, as may be the large field hospitals. In any case, the assumption that the prepositioned force designed for OMFTS will be the same as today's should be accepted only after careful assessment of future force design intentions. Reconstitution should also be considered in MPF force design. The committee believes that such assessment should be an integral part of OMFTS and MPF ship replacement planning. RECOMMENDATION: The Navy and Marine Corps should reassess the composition of prepositioned equipment sets as they consider future naval maritime prepositioning needs. MPF 2010+ Ship Alternatives One of the most-difficult-to-achieve new functions of the MPF 2010+ concept is the at-sea arrival and assembly of the force. The assumptions one makes about the availability and role of an intermediate staging base determine how difficult this function will be. If the goal is to be completely independent of overseas airfields (that is, to fly Marines directly from CONUS to meet up with the prepositioned equipment at sea), some seagoing platform capable of landing large, long-range, fixed-wing aircraft (e.g., C-17 transport) will be needed. A mobile offshore base (MOB),4 as now conceived, could meet such a need. In addition, a MOB could meet better than any ship alternative the need for an at-sea transfer point for resupply from tankers and container ships. Essentially, a MOB, once in place and assembled, could substitute for an overseas staging base for both deployment and resupply. However, the qualifier, "once in place and assembled," is important, for although a MOB could move or be towed into position, its speed of deployment would be slow, probably under 10 knots. For 4 The concept of a mobile offshore base is to apply the technology of large, offshore drilling platforms to the construction of a large, floating, stable base at sea. Modules would be self-deployable and capable of being linked together to create an airstrip large enough to load the C-17 transport aircraft. The concept is in research and development.
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--> that reason (plus its high cost and technical uncertainty), this committee has little enthusiasm for the concept of a MOB as a substitute for maritime prepositioning or sea basing ships supporting early-entry expeditionary operations.5 Nonetheless, if, in the future, U.S. naval forces must operate long distances from CONUS without the benefit of overseas ports or airfields, a MOB could be a valuable asset. RECOMMENDATION: If a goal is to deploy and sustain forces without dependence on overseas facilities, the Navy and Marine Corps should continue research and development of the mobile offshore base as an option for future naval capability. If suitable overseas airfields are available along the deployment route of the MPF ships, troops could be flown via strategic airlift to the airfields and then ferried to the ships by intratheater airlift. The transfer could be done by self-deployed distances—a feasible but hardly efficient process for a large force. A sea basing ship capable of handling fixed-wing aircraft, complemented by a new-design, fixed-wing, STOL transport aircraft that has a larger payload and longer range than the V-22, could satisfy the requirement.6 Other options are as follows: (1) the MPF ships, whatever their configuration, could delay their departure from their prepositioning home ports to await arrival, by air, of the Marine Corps contingent, or (2) the prepositioned ships, while en route, could be brought in to a roadstead or port (as the CNA study assumed) to pick up the troops and any equipment flown in. Either of these last two options would increase deployment time and may not meet the "at-sea arrival" feature of the MPF 2010+ concept. Clearly, deciding the importance to OMFTS of at-sea arrival and assembly, the size of the force arriving and assembling at sea, and the role, if any, for overseas facilities is essential to setting new MPF ship requirements. Of the conventional ship configurations, the most capable ship for the MPF 2010+ mission in the CNA's study has a large flight deck capable of handling fixed-wing aircraft, ample billeting space, state-of-the-art material- and container-handling capability, spaces for maintenance activities, a well deck for landing 5 Previous Naval Studies Board reports also have advocated a cautious approach by the Navy and Marine Corps to the development of a mobile offshore base (see Naval Studies Board, National Research Council. 1996. The Navy and Marine Corps in Regional Conflict in the 21st Century, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., and Naval Studies Board, National Research Council, 1997, Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000–2035, Volume 8: Logistics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.). 6 In 1963, an unmodified KC-130 F made 20 touch/go landings and 21 unassisted landings/takeoffs on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal . In 1961, preliminary studies of STOL modifications to the C-130H found that such a craft could transport 20,000 lb of cargo 3,500 miles, unrefueled, and land on an aircraft carrier unassisted in 430 ft; it could then, with 10,000 lb of cargo, take off unassisted in 625 ft and fly 2,000 miles without refueling. The safety constraint on operations was too little clearance between the aircraft's wing tip and the ship's island.
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--> craft, and so on. Not surprisingly, the most capable sea basing ship has much in common with today's large amphibious assault ships (LHA and LHD), though built to commercial rather than warship standards. That similarity suggests a confluence, in the future, in the design of amphibious assault and maritime prepositioning ships, permitting a single, efficient design that satisfies both missions. RECOMMENDATION: In long-term planning for future amphibious shipping, the Navy should consider the feasibility of a common ship design for assault, prepositioning, and sea basing missions. That similarity further suggests that, in the near term, perhaps the fleet of amphibious assault ships already in service could be used more than now envisioned in implementing the MPF 2010+ concept. Today, except for the amphibious-ready groups that are forward deployed, deployment of amphibious task forces from CONUS is slow because before deploying the ships must move from their home ports and then embark the Marines, their equipment, and ammunition. If the ships were to deploy on short notice without Marines embarked, perhaps taking only landing craft and any helicopters that could be flown on while the ships were en route, they could meet up with the deploying MPF ships and provide the command and control and the aviation and landing craft needed for the MPF operation. Using "empty" amphibious assault ships in this manner would allow the new ship requirements of MPF 2010+ to be met by the lower-capability and lower-cost alternatives postulated by CNA. Amphibious ships used in this manner would not, of course, be available for deployment of additional Marine Corps units. The committee believes that the idea is worth exploring before deciding MPF ship requirements and design. RECOMMENDATION: Before deciding future maritime prepositioning ship requirements, the Navy and Marine Corps should explore the feasibility of using rapidly deployed amphibious warfare ships to facilitate landing maritime prepositioning forces. High-Speed Sealift The problem presented by the deployment dilemma is how to move large, heavy forces long distances quickly enough to meet military deployment needs. If ships could travel fast enough, prepositioning, with its problems of separate troop deployment, tactical assembly, and force landing, would not be necessary. The Army, facing the same deployment dilemma as the Marines Corps, has stated a requirement for high-speed lift of its heavy forces and is exploring nontraditional ideas, such as lighter-than-air craft and high-speed ships. The Navy actively researched fast-ship technology in the 1970s but recently has been
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--> more cautious, observing commercial developments but showing little enthusiasm for new initiatives of its own. Current technology can produce only moderate improvements in speed and provide only modest payload capacity and moderate range, at a high operating cost. Current fast ships operating commercially are primarily in passenger and car ferry service over short ranges. None is in transoceanic service, although several companies have plans for transoceanic ships in the 40-knot range. At a recent Navy workshop7 that explored the state of fast-ship technology, the consensus was that near-term technology promised ships of about 50 knots, 5,000-mile range, and 10,000-ton payload, or 50 knots, 10,000-mile range, and 5,000-ton payload, and that over the next 10 to 20 years at the same speed, a 10,000-mile range and 10,000-ton payload should be achieved. The near-term figures do not yet give enough range to substitute for prepositioning. However, as future combat forces become lighter, high-speed sealift will become more attractive. The long-term prospect of fast ships should not be discarded. High-Speed Landing Craft One of the limitations revealed by the CNA analysis is the inability of the landing craft that likely would be available in an MPF operation to land the force in a reasonable time. A recent logistics war game conducted by Marine Corps Combat Developments Command had the same finding. Two assumptions drove those results: (1) the force landed was large and heavy (e.g., 58 tanks and 1,700 other vehicles in the CNA scenario), and (2) the MPF ships remained over the horizon, 25 miles from shore. At that range, only the high-speed landing craft (air cushion), the LCAC, is of much use, and it can transport only one main battle tank at a time. The Navy's lighterage, floating causeway sections, is so slow as to be useless at that distance, and other landing craft are slow enough to be of only marginal use. If the goal is to land or reload a large, heavy force, similar to today's prepositioned MEF (FWD), from over the horizon, a substantial increase in high-speed landing craft capability will be needed. One option is to ensure that more LCACs are at hand. This could be done by prepositioning them on or with the MPF ships, for example, on a sea barge (SeaBee) ship. It also could be done by rapidly deploying additional amphibious assault ships, as the committee already has suggested. Alternatively, a new-design, high-speed, high-capacity landing craft could be developed. (The Navy is evaluating concepts for an advanced 7 Kennell, C., Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, and D.R. Lavis, Lavis and Associates, High-Speed Sealift Technology Workshop, October 21–23, 1997, results and conclusions from Post-Workshop Analysis outbrief at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, West Bethesda, Md., March 25, 1998.
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--> landing craft, the LCU(X)). The Naval Studies Board has previously suggested a need for a high-speed landing craft (a sea sled) to complement the LCAC.8 The more recent analyses and war games have reinforced these earlier judgments. RECOMMENDATION: The Navy should investigate the design and development of a high-speed, high-capacity landing craft to complement the landing craft (air cushion) (LCAC). 8 Naval Studies Board. 1997. Technology for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, 2000–2035, Volume 8: Logistics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Representative terms from entire chapter: