Thursday, August 03, 2017

Up-Gunned But Not Up-Marined

The Navy and Marine Corps exercised a reinforced amphibious ready group that combines a Marine reinforced battalion (a MEU) and its amphibious ships with surface warships that can protect and support the troops:

The U.S. Navy has put its up-gunned expeditionary strike group concept into practice within a realistic war-fighting scenario, with allied surface combatants joining an amphibious ready group, or ARG, and its embarked Marines for a major exercise off the coast of Australia.

The Bonhomme Richard ARG was joined by a surface action group, or SAG, made up of the U.S. destroyer Sterett and four Australian frigates at Exercise Talisman Saber 2017, which saw American and Australian forces carry out two major amphibious landings at Australia’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

The expeditionary strike group is getting close to the marine expeditionary battle force I mentioned back in 2000 (see article starting on p. 38) that added warships to an amphibious ready group. It was just a tangential reference with a mention of supporting ships for the ARG (the editors stripped out the graphic that I used to illustrate the concept in lieu of words to stay within the word limit of the contest). I filled in that hole by describing the force here (on my original site preserved here):

The Marine Expeditionary Battle Force (MEBF) itself is a force designed to get a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, including heavy firepower, into a battle quickly. The MEBF is built on the forward deployment of an Amphibious Ready Group's (ARG) Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Navy combat ships. The concept relies on sailing prepositioning ships (SPS) becoming an integral part of the ARG with the airlift power of the Air Force linking the whole brigade-sized unit across global distances. The vulnerability of prepositioning ships either anchored or sailing alone is reduced by having the protection of the warships of a Surface Action Group (SAG). The MEBF can put the Marine battalion landing team ashore as it would now, while unloading the equipment for the balance of a brigade from the SPS which will marry up with personnel carried to the theater from the United States or Okinawa by the Air Force.

This is the graphic:

Not that my idea of adding warships to the ARG was unique. In my defense, in the earlier days of the Internet, information wasn't nearly as available and I was unaware of the Navy experiments with doing exactly that. But it made sense to me.

The part missing from the modern ESG is the equipment for reinforcing units. That at least was a unique contribution in my article:

One answer is steaming prepositioning ships. Taking the concept one step further, sailing with an amphibious ready group (ARG) will protect prepositioning squadrons. As ARGs rotate to homeports, prepositioning ships could unload weapons and vehicles for maintenance before sailing again. Such squadrons travelling with ARGs will allow the Marines to reinforce landings rapidly. Two battalions plus brigade assets either in the United States or on Okinawa could be combined with LAV variants and heavy equipment to support an embarked expeditionary unit. One battalion and brigade assets could be on immediate deployment notice while a reserve battalion would have longer to prepare for movement.

My idea was to get a full Marine brigade on the ground quickly with just a battalion forward deployed with the expeditionary battle force.