Fw: LCU-F - PROCEEDINGS Magazine article 'pdf'
- Thumb-fingered.Punched the wrong ‘button’ there...So, instead of using 12 LCU-Fs and 3 LCACs - brought into the theater with those three ships (ARG) - to pump across the surface in one First Wave up to 2600-ton of vehicles, people and gear - you propose to just fly-in the MEU of the MARINES ?
You’d figure, someone would have thought of that...
Susanne Altenburger, PB&F
Why fly tanks ?
And where would you land them ? Friendly heavy-duty airfields near the ‘theater’ ?
And how would you avoid announcing your intentions, your numbers, caliber, capabilities ?
Amphibious fleet-assets – some 30 ships ranging from 16,000ton to over 40,000 tons fully loaded – are designed to carry ‘everything’ aboard, incl. Marines in order to then deliver them via LCU, LCAC and/or perhaps LCU-F. They may do so for years and never get to ‘pull the trigger’ - beyond exercises.
Currently they could have 8 ‘ARGs’ deployed at any one time.
Plus the carriers, destroyers, subs etc.
Current policy is for the Navy and Marines to ‘fly in’ at most 10% of the force-weight, i.e. folks, lighter supplies, a field-piece or two, a truck or two etc. and that only from the LHD-flat-top and the LPD/LSD helo-pads – not from halfway around the world.
The Navy can indeed deliver ‘slowly’ at 20 kts+ a great many tons of assault power to just about anywhere on the globe.
With LCU-F the First Wave could max out at over 2600 tons to land concurrently.
There are occasionally situations where flying in the heavy stuff is necessary. We just about flew the wings off the C-5A fleet immediately after the ’74 Israeli/Egypt war resupplying the Israeli army with new armor. Most of theirs was destroyed in the tank battles immediately after the crossing of the Suez canal. It also is not widely reported that a lot of our heavy equipment in A-Stan was flown in on chartered Russian aircraft. Happily, they are escorted/accompanied by two or more US personnel to make sure the hatches stay closed and the black boxes arrive intact.
I am sure you are aware that the US Army is the biggest proponent of US Air Force strategic lift capability. The Air Force itself is more interested in spending it’s budget on other missions. You are correct in understanding the limitations of strategic airlift. Heavy duty airfields, friendly hosts, cheap booze, etc. are all more or less necessary.
The “cube-square” load limitations of aircraft are also a factor. I once did a rush job on a “momma hatch” for an attack sub that was in overhaul at Pearl Harbor. The hatch would give the sub the capability to host special ops vehicles. We planned to fly it out in a C-5 but forgot to check the cube-square load limits on the C-5 cargo deck. Imagine our surprise when the load master told us the hatch couldn’t be loaded aboard as it would likely crush through the bottom of the aircraft! Too much weight concentrated in too small an area. Aircraft can be fussy about what they carry.
Regarding current policy for the Navy and Marines…. I think it is shaped more by the limitations of their aircraft than any aspect of their war fighting doctrine. The only load carrying aircraft in the fleet have some major operational constraints. All helos are dead meat if there are fast movers in the opposition. We ran evaluation exercises at Nellis in ’77 &’78 and pretty much showed that helos can’t survive serious attack by fixed wing fighters. We even had helo drivers who would try to hover in volcanic craters to avoid attack but the F5’s could still drop their gear and pitch down for a kill shot, and then pop up over the rim. When a helo meets a fast mover, the best thing he can do if he can’t land, is to turn head on into the attacker and under fly him. That makes his gun run quicker and minimizes IR for missiles.
All this to get to the point that Marine airlift has to have air superiority of the area they want to operate in and land on. And with the proliferation of man pad SAMs in the last thirty years a defending force may tear hell out of a helo assault even without fast movers in the air for support.
So, with limited airlift capability it is natural that the Marines must land ninety percent of their force and logistic tail over the beach. But this is not ideal, especially when current lexicon is shifting more towards “littoral” action. What the Marines need (in addition to vessels like the LCU-F for improved seaborne assault) is a heavy air assault vehicle that can operate off the mother ships. There are going to be missions where the main force will want/need to stay 150 miles offshore and send in a heavy armored force to an objective 100 miles inland. Asymmetric warfare will take on a new flavor when the US Marines can land a company of tanks with supporting troops and arms 100 miles inland to kick ass and take names. And with the ability to leave the same way they got there.
And the guys heading towards the beach on your LCU-Fs will be happier knowing that there is already a real covering force in place to make sure there are no surprises in those hills beyond the beach.
Where is the little landing craft/patrol boat you have been building for the past two years? I have lost track of it in MAIB and wonder if you launched it yet? The evolving Windermere/Container Boat concept is looking rather nice.