The 1977 cover art for the Atari 2600 game: Air Sea Battle
The recent mantra regarding Air Sea Battle is that “it is not a strategy, it’s an operational concept.” If so, what is the concept? It seems predicated on improving interoperability between the Navy and the Air Force, but that’s just joint operations — what the Pentagon says its been doing for years.
Why the fancy name and media blitz?
Three U.S. Marine Corps CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron One Six Six (HMM-163) provides support during the Air show’s Marine Air-ground Task Force (MAGTF) demonstration in 2005.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced some of the possible effects of sequestration on the Department of Defense. Among the possibilities is the prospect of a Marine Corps with a strength of just 150,000 Marines, down from the current 202,000—a cut of more than 25 percent. Read More
Marine with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 12.2. US Marine Corps Photo
Marines are building on decades of experience in fielding responsive Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs)—embarked on board Navy Amphibious Ready Groups, (ARGs)—to deliver an even faster first punch.
The new Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response (MAGTF-CR), will operate in the Mediterranean to give the United States quicker response times to trouble in Africa and the Middle East. Instead of a ship-deployed force, the unit will be based around a company of infantry Marines, six MV-22 Ospreys, and two KC-130J Hercules fixed-wing aircraft. This is a surprising move for a Marine Corps that wants to return to amphibious roots. Read More
On Monday the Pentagon ceased production of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP), perhaps the most iconic acquisition program of the past ten years. The trucks were designed and built in response to the urgent need to protect service members in Iraq from the pervasive improvised explosive device (IED) threat. The vehicle went through five different iterations and the production lines produced 27,740 trucks. The total price tag came to $47.7 billion. For all the investment, what are we left with?
Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau in Kuwait in 2008. U.S. Navy Photo
The vehicle may be of use to the U.S. Army, but there is little place for the armored monstrosities in the Marine Corps. They are too heavy to be practical on the Navy’s amphibious warships. Marine Corps and Navy leaders rightly are concerned about the weight of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, so the weight issue is a red line for integrating the trucks into permanent service. Any MRAPs remaining on the Marine Corps rolls will most likely be stripped of their radios and mothballed.
Every defense document in recent years stresses the chaotic, unpredictable, and dynamic nature of present and future operating environments. Defense planners must be prepared to react to crises and problems that arise without warning. Everyone has heard the aphorism “If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” But what if your only tool is a Swiss Army knife? In that case, our ability to meet unpredictable problems becomes less of an issue. The flexibility of Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces make them the nation’s strategic Swiss Army knife. While they may not always be the best tool for every contingency, their forward-deployed nature frequently means they are the only tool available in times of emergency.
A landing craft air cushion enters the welldeck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) to reload Marines and equipment for a certification exercise. Sept. 2, 2012
U.S. Navy Photo
The latest paper by the Marine Corps’ Ellis Group describes just such a force. To be sure, this is nothing new. The Navy/Marine team has operated as the nation’s forward-deployed first responders for decades. Indeed, a chaotic and unpredictable operating environment should be familiar to sailors and Marines. Our crisis-response pedigree extends to the first American foreign war, against the Barbary pirates in 1801.