Wednesday, November 05, 2014

So Our Navy Will Get a Third Ground Force?

What the Hell? The Army wants the coastal defense mission to be considered relevant in the developing Air-Sea Battle concept to defeat Chinese power close to China? Just be the friggin' Army!

Oh good grief:

Secretary Hagel recently made waves in Army circles by suggesting that the Army leverage its missile forces to resume the old mission of coastal defense.

In this brief, CSBA Research Fellow Eric Lindsey argues that Army missiles forces can do far more than defend coastlines. By enhancing its land-based anti-air, anti-ship, and surface-to-surface strike capabilities, he says, the Army could field a forward-deployed anti-access/area-denial force that would deny adversaries sanctuary and freedom of action and help the Army deter and prevail in a wider spectrum of conflict.

The Army has trouble enough getting the Air Force to provide fire support, so the Army wants to divert its fire support assets to help the Navy?

I know, defense budgets are tight and Air-Sea Battle is the key to appropriations victories--don't forget your anti-access/area denial lingo! This type of problem is nothing new for the Army.

But even though our casualty averse leaders don't want to admit it, the Army has plenty of traditional core mission possibilities in Asia if the worst happens and relations with China hit the fan:

[The] idea that the Army and Marine Corps have no missions in the Pacific is nonsense. Saying South Korea can handle North Korea, so we don't need troops there; and then saying we won't be marching on Peking, so there is no mission at all, is nonsense.

Since I recently submitted a paper on this issue, I won't go into it too much. But I've already noted that the South China Sea is a perfect mission for those Australia-based Marines. Alcohol-poisoning, indeed. A very clever line, but useless for strategy.

And I can think of more than a handful of missions for a 5-division ground force from Russia in the north to India at the other end of that arc. Keep going west from there and you get to CENTCOM, of course. I'd never argue we have no potential ground missions there.

Yes, we aren't going to march on China's capital. But there are plenty of missions for small and medium-sized armies on and near the continent of Asia.

And including ground forces in our Pacific pivot has nothing to do about trendiness. I want enemies to worry about our excellent and victorious Army and Marine Corps showing up to deal with them. And I want our friends to have the warm feeling of protection when pondering that Army and Marine units could deploy or fight at their side.

These land missions in Asia fit into the Army's mission:

The Army’s mission is to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders. ...

And naval warfare is not inherently low casualty, as I note in this unrelated post. We only think it is because we haven't faced a real navy in combat since World War II:

We don't like to admit it and rarely practice what we do if a carrier goes down, but they can be sunk. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles. They can be sunk by relatively cheap missiles guided by relatively cheap surveillance assets.

We like to think of land warfare as casualty intensive and air and naval warfare as cheap in lives. But lose one carrier battle group in the middle of the ocean and we could lose more sailors in one day than we lost in the entire Iraq War on the ground over years.

I do like the idea of ground-based anti-ship assets--missile, rocket, or tube artillery. And if the Army can provide some without too much cost, I'm not against it.

But why doesn't the Marine Corps provide this capability if the Navy needs it so badly?

And if the Marine Corps can't be persuaded to carry out this mission because they are too busy focusing on their core missions, why can't the Navy's ground force take care of the mission?

Yes, the Navy has its own "army," reborn in Iraq (quoting Strategypage here):

The new U.S. Navy has, in two years built a new ground combat force, staffed by 40,000 sailors. This is NECC (Navy Expeditionary Combat Command), which is capable of operating along the coast and up rivers, as well as further inland.

If we aren't going to commit ground forces to war anytime soon, NECC riverine warfare units will not be sent into combat. I dare say that the Navy could use some of their 40,000 "army" to equip coastal defense units with those missiles, rockets, and artillery that the Army or Marines could provide.

Perhaps if the frigate-class alternative to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is modular (and the LCS itself with its own modularity), a ground unit-package would allow our small ships to deposit Navy coastal defense units on small islands in the East China Sea, South China Sea, or on the shore of major allies.

As an aside, I'm fully on board the critique of the LCS which emphasizes speed over survivability and lethality:

I find it amusing that one defense is that survivability is also not getting hit rather than just construction design. With physical survivability so low for the LCS, just what helps them avoid getting hit? Their speed? Get real. Going fast increases the likelihood of being spotted by some sensor or another. And the LCS isn't going to be faster than aircraft, missiles, or helicopters.

And deployed in green or--God forbid even more--brown waters, the LCS will face lots of land-based threats like aircraft, helicopters, missiles, mines, shore-based artillery, tanks with cannons far bigger than the LCS carries, plus small submarines and numerous armed small craft. It is insane to send the LCS into that environment.

No ship can be fast enough to evade the weapons launched against them.

And I'd be remiss in self promotion if I didn't note that anything that gets more modules out there could support rapid expansion of the fleet by making Modularized Auxiliary Cruisers cheaper to outfit.

But I digress (as I can!) .

Come on. It's bad enough that the Army has aspired to be a second Marine Corps to preserve their budget. Now the Army is to be a second Navy, too? Look out Coast Guard, is all I'm saying.

If our Army is so eager to be anything but our nation's army, just who wins our wars ashore?