We don’t need two Armies #military

“In fiscal year 2010, the Marine Corps consumed only 8.5 percent of the defense budget, yet provided 31 percent of the nation’s ground operating forces, 12 percent of its fighter and attack jets and 19 percent of its attack helicopters.”

So says the Commandant. Little of it doing what the USMC was designed for; amphibious operations. Hopefully, budget cutters will notice this distinction.

via Inside Defense-USMC Plans To Cut 15,000 After Iraq, Afghan Wars #military

Via Inside Defense (subscription)

USMC Plans To Cut 15,000 After Iraq, Afghan Wars

The Marine Corps has solidified plans to shed roughly 15,000 personnel from its ranks after its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are completed, eliminating three infantry battalions, one artillery battalion and associated headquarters elements while investing more in the service’s cyber and special forces capabilities, according to Pentagon officials.

Gates or no, budget woes or no, the mission of the USMC needs to be redefined

The following article from Forbes gets it right on a lot of accounts and then falls on its face in the last paragraph.

“Unfortunately, all these machinations have little to do with the increasingly lethal warfighting environment in which Marines will have to operate in the future. Policymakers are correct in forecasting that America’s littoral adversaries will become more capable, but they are dangerously complacent in assuming Marines will be able to respond by waiting far out to sea until it is safe to go ashore. Sometimes the other parts of the joint force won’t show up. Sometimes defenders will be hard to defeat. And sometimes landing operations will be too urgent to delay. On those occasions, the Gates plan would have Marines moving ashore in vehicles much less survivable than the system the defense secretary wants to cancel. Which means that in his effort to free up Marine Corps money for other purposes, Secretary Gates isn’t just killing a program. He will probably end up killing Marines.”

No matter what floating vehicle you send toward the beach, it will face a firestorm of new and old tech weapons if the area isn’t prepared by precision fire support. No kind of EFV will solve this issue. In any event, the USMC hasn’t practiced an amphibous operation in any size in years. So why is this so important? And, the USMC does not need to be doing the job of a second land army.

The Commandant is wrong about air power #military

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is in trouble with it’s fighter roadmap. Too bad we don’t have the right leadership in the form of the top Marine to understand what is going on.

Gen. James Amos, the new commandant of the USMC, tries to justify the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant for the USMC and in doing so comes up with weak arguments and even cliché.

Don’t believe him. He is wrong.

Let us look at some of the arguments he brings forward in trying to sell the USMC F-35B to the American public.

First he brings up the obvious, the USMC (just like other services) will have to make some tough budget choices soon.

But the most important weapon system for the USMC isn’t an aircraft or ship. It is the Marine. Without taking care of that to the utmost, there is no reason for a United States Marine Corps.

The F-35 is not that critical for the reason why America needs the USMC.

The Commandant says there is no plan-B with the F-35. This is not true. The USMC has done great things well before 1974; the year the short take-off and vertical landing Harrier came into service.

The Commandant is also wrong about sea power. Flat-deck amphibs carrying a small handful of limited-use heavy fighters is nothing more than a target that has to be protected to the nth degree because it carries lots of Marines. These class of ships are not and never can; rise to the performance of a dedicated aircraft carrier. The Commandant’s argument about amphibs being a mini-aircraft carrier in the traditional sense is wishful thinking. These amphibs in any serious war need real aircraft carriers, land-based air-refueling assets, AWACs and other purpose-built aviation support in quantity. Marine amphibs are fine for carrying helicopters, boats and Marines and that is about it. They are not aircraft carriers the way the Commandant would hope his audience believes.

Treat the following quote from the Commandant with as much contempt as needed. It makes no sense.

“If the F-35B doesn’t make it, for whatever reason, then our nation is going to have only 11 Navy aircraft carriers with fifth generation airplanes, instead of 22 (ships).

Worse is the Commandant doesn’t mention important things like the fact that there isn’t a deck that will take the F-35, and that it will need 7 tons of gas for every sortie. This is even more trouble when discussing the cause. That being the fantasy of having these aircraft close to enemy lines using their alleged STOVL ability; where they would be a huge logistics and force protection drain. Enemy mortars and artillery could put these over $200 million apiece white elephants into so much junk at a bare base.

Here is another point when discussing air power issues, the Commandant is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

“The forecast is we save a billion dollars a year just by having one kind of airplane instead of three different kinds,” he said. “We ended up putting all of our money and all of our hopes into the F-35B.”

Jesus on an EFV we are in trouble.

The top brass in the USMC need to alter their attitude and realize it isn’t all about them. Marine fast jet air power flying from big aircraft carriers–of which there will be plenty of parking space—will offer the fast-jet firepower needed. That is most likely; something in the form of a Block II Super Hornet.

The Commandant also ignores UAVs/UCAVs in the style of what Army Aviation is doing today, and; precision artillery.

One air power event where the Marines shine is the recent fielding of the Harvest Hawk multi-functional C-130. Given the rest of the USMC air power roadmap, we can only see this as fluke in planning.

It is now time for the USMC to change and get their air power act together. Stop wasting America’s money on stupid pet theories. We can’t afford them and we can’t afford the kind of flawed thinking Gen. Amos proposes. It will be interesting to see if his kind of leadership—not having a plan-B and all—can adapt to the dying sounds of gold-plated and faulty weapons programs.

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Smart platform for the Marines (or anyone) Harvest Hawk H/T @alert5

This is a very useful platform for useless dirt wars. There are still some smart people to be found in the DOD.

A multi-functional C-130; tanker, cargo, ISR, shooter.

The KC-130J “Harvest Hawk” of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), has all the same capabilities of a KC-130J “Hercules,” but the Harvest Hawk carries four Hellfire and 10 Griffen GPS guided missiles and houses an infrared and television camera.

Its mission is to provide close air support, conduct intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance missions and find improvised explosive devices.

“This aircraft is not traditional – yet,” said Maj. Marc Blankenbicker, a fire control officer for the Harvest Hawk.

There is only one Harvest Hawk operating in Afghanistan, and it is used to fill the gaps where coverage from other aircraft isn’t available; it operates in a role similar to that of an F/A-18, explained Blankenbicker, who is originally from Avon, Conn.

Though the Harvest Hawk only began its first deployment in October, it has already had its first weapons engagement Nov. 4.

“We supported [3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment] in Sangin when they were in a fire fight,” said Blankenbicker. “We shot one Hellfire missile, and the battle damage assessment was five enemy [killed in action].”

What will allow USCM tac-air to survive?

The U.S. department of defense budget is going to get smaller. How will USMC tac-air survive all of this?

USMC tac-air can save itself; today; by declaring that they want to procure the Block II Super Hornet. This aircraft has everything the USMC needs to provide fast-jet support for their operations. It is a buddy tanker; it is compatible with USMC KC-130 tankers and offers wonderful capability; especially in its two-seat F variant. All of this is available today; off the shelf at an affordable price.

The F-35B STOVL program is too risky. It takes money away from other parts of the Marine Corps. Why try and field a faulty weapon system and then have other parts of the Corps that do the important work starve for funds?

The USMC Harrier can be made to fly into the 2020s with proper maintenance. This means that unlike the U.K., USMC STOVL fighters are not going away tomorrow. Even with that; it is time to walk away from the STOVL mission for high-dollar fast jets.

Most fire-support for the USMC comes from traditional aircraft carriers, traditional land runways, artillery and attack helicopters and not always from the USMC itself.

It is time for USMC leadership to stop their ridiculous spending splurge on faulty and gold plated weapon systems. Stepping away from the F-35 program would be a good start.