Neil Richardson on the Army/Marine Discussion

  "As for General McChrystal’s “new authority” that was evidently only obtained after “extensive negotiations among military lawyers,” I suspect the author was trying to address the tension that exists whenever higher headquarters seeks to employ for other uses some integral part of a subordinate tactical force." Assuming your guess is correct on aviation assets of MAGTF, well I don't think it is a strong reason to fight tooth and nail over it. A lot of my relations have served and are still serving in the Corps and I hear this all the time regarding MAGTF doctrine. Well to be honest, I think it's baloney. Every Marine (including my son) cites Guadalcanal as the reason for the sanctity of organic CAS component, but does the Corps think it's the only service that's ever been stranded by the Navy? There were over 80,000 Army personnel who were in much worse circumstances in the Philippines back in 1942. This is an institutional problem of the Corps. My experience is limited compared to Col.Lang and some others here, but I've seen similar arrangements in ROK in the 1970s and 1980s. Essentially the EUSA left the eastern sector to the Marines because they didn't want to have anything to do with helping to cauterize what likely would've been massive armored thrusts along the Uijonbu corridor if the KPA had decided to come down. This was repeated in 1990-91 during Desert Shield, when Checkmate and the JFACC were putting together air tasking orders. The Marines consistently ran obstruction against any efforts of coordination by CENTAF. Horner essentially told Glosson to let the Marines do what they want, because he didn't want the headache of going over to Schwarzkopf over and over again to nitpick what the Marines were doing. Dave

Deptula detailed how the Marines would repeatedly undermine CENTAF's development of the Master Attack Plan. (The MC staff would essentially list their primary targets that were unapproved by CENTAF as *secondary targets*. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that depending on who made the call, secondary would be struck rather than primary targets on any given ATO) Even if the Corps is distrustful of other services, one would think common sense would dictate that airspace deconfliction would take priority over service parochialism. The Corps has made a conscious doctrinal decision to rely more on tactical aviation as it decided to shortchange maneuver units of organic indirect firepower (On aside, while towed arty might work against third and fourth rate armies we've been fighting for the last few decades, I seriously doubt it would work against even a second rate ones such as the KPA. The days of towed artillery's survival against semi-competent adversary's counterfire have passed some time ago). You claim that this doctrinal force mix allows the Corps to rely on shorter logistical tail. I think that's fanciful thinking as I know that the 7th MEB didn't fully receive its fixed wing aviation component until early October 1990 despite the Corps repeated advertisement that it had deployed the first real ground forces in Saudi Arabia. The reason for this was the Air Force's refusal to prioritize Marine units transfer for tanker sorties. What's next? Will the Corps buy up its own organic air tankers for aviation wings? The whole reason d'etre of the Marine Corps is its expeditionary capability. I do appreciate the espirit de corps of the Marines as much as anyone, but there's a fine line between parochialism and doctrinal enthusiasm. AFAIC, those A-10 drivers were among the finest Army aviators whether they were Air Force or not. Plenty of infantrymen and tankers in 1991 and in 2003 would gladly buy these men drinks if they'd happen to meet them somewhere. And A-10 drivers are essentially orphans of the Air Force who always saw them as stepchildren. The Marines have always used the 1986 Omnibus Agreement to limit opcon of its air assets (WTF is "excess air" in high intensity ground operations?). Well, if the doctrinal soundness (or at least flexibility) of the Corps had foreseen that its armor component wasn't sufficient in Kuwait, perhaps they could've done without either the 1st British Armoured or the Tiger Brigade (Gen. de la Billiere forced Schwarzkopf to take the UK division away from the Marines in November 1990, because he felt they were doing their best to reenact Tarawa. In fact as LTG Bernard Trainor recounted Commandant Gray wanted to fire Boomer after a briefing in December 1990. Gray actually said "This is going to be another Tarawa. You are going right into their teeth."). That's why the Tiger Brigade were under tacon not opcon as the Brits weren't the only ones who were distrustful of the Marine Corps doctrinal efficacy in those days. Institutional parochialism hasn't been just limited to air assets. Just look at the whole SOC-capable nonsense. It took SOCOM decades to bring the Marine Corps to play ball. When we fight a capable adversary, our future force has to rely on our ability to leverage technological advantage through jointness of operations. Just think of an analogy to the interwar period when leading proponents of armored mechanized warfare were trying to overcome institutional obstacles. The Germans were successful in integrating major components (infantry, artillery, armor, engineer) into a very potent combat formation namely the panzer division. They also had their own RMA as radio communications advances were allowing superiors means of command and control. The Germans were fortunate that they had Guderian (who was originally a signals officer) and Erich Fellgiebel in working out the doctrinal details of achieving information dominance during mobile operations. However what is less well known is the fact that the British Army got there first, and could've easily maintained its early lead in mechanized combined arms operations. Their Experimental Mechanized Force exercises revealed all the future lessons of integration that the Germans fully exploited in the early years of Blitzkrieg. However, the British Army wasted this early and decisive lead for a number of reasons. Just as it had been the case in the US Army, the Reichsheer as well as the French army, service branch rivalries (infantry/artillery versus nascent armor as well as obsolescent horse cavalry) hampered integration. As Rommel noted the Brits never quite got the jist of combined arms operations as they continually repeated their mistakes of inflexible deployments of tank and infantry brigades. I'd like to think of the services as branches during the interwar period (Both infantry and artillery wanted to subordinate armor. In France, the doctrinal failure proved fatal. In the US Army the tank destroyer doctrine was the brainchild of the artillery branch. While it wasn't fatal, this decision probably cost a lot more lives especially in NW Europe.). Whether we are able to jointly operate to fully utilize *all* our assets will determine our status as the predominant military power well into the future.

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9 Responses to Neil Richardson on the Army/Marine Discussion

  1. Question? Are the Marines using drone aircraft for whatever purposes?

  2. Neil Richardson says:

    “Question? Are the Marines using drone aircraft for whatever purposes?”
    I’ll defer to those who have current service experience, but to my knowledge yes they are. Essentially all US services have bet heavily on drone technology in ISR missions for the foreseeable future. SecDef Gates had to resolve a very sticky issue of allotting more UAVs in CENTCOM AO as the Air Force supposedly were lagging behind in fulfilling requests. I don’t know whether that has to do with their policy of officers piloting drones or not.

  3. mike says:

    WRC – The Marines had their own UAVs in Iraq, including Scan Eagle, Pioneer, Dragon Eye (now replaced by Raven). I believe that Scan Eagle is currently deployed in Afghanistan by the Marines and also by the Canadian Forces. I assume that at least some of the other models may also be deployed there.
    NR – I understood the A-10 was primarily a tank buster, and a very good one. Not sure why the AF dislikes it. What CAS roles has it played since 2004??

  4. Neil Richardson says:

    “I understood the A-10 was primarily a tank buster, and a very good one. Not sure why the AF dislikes it. What CAS roles has it played since 2004??”
    As you know the A-10s were the legacy of the Cold War when the biggest operational problem facing the Army was how to defend the FRG against Soviet OMGs (e.g., in the Fulda Meiningen Gap for us and the North German Plain for BAOR). If the unthinkable had taken place and the Warsaw Pact forces had initiated hostilities, the USAF top leadership didn’t think the A-10s would be survivable in SAM saturated V and VII Corps sectors. While it was very hardened against WP AAA (and you can look up some unbelievable photos of heavily damaged A-10s in 1991 that brought back grateful pilots), given its relatively slow speed A-10s would’ve taken heavier losses against SAMs and enemy fighters (so I’ve been told by AF friends). It takes an awful lot of resources to train AF pilots and the service leadership felt the best single seaters ought to fly air superiority fighters and later F-117s. And the Air Force’s primary mission is establish air dominance first and then try to deliver a knock out blow (this isn’t just a USAF thing as they go back to the early days of military aviation). CAS comes relatively low in the list of priorities for the service. However this doesn’t mean that the Army ought to get its own fixed wing assets for CAS (the Air Force did offer A-10s to the Army a while back).
    For a while the Air Force had used mostly National Guard squadrons to fly A-10s. Interestingly after 2000, there were a lot of really top notch pilots in NG squadrons who were flying A-10s who had logged a lot of combat hours in F-15s, F-16s and even F-117s. When SAM and enemy fighter threats aren’t present, A-10s are spectacular CAS aircrafts IMHO. They’ve been used continuously in Afghanistan AFAIK and I distinctly recall a Para Regiment officer who was very effusive with praise for A-10 drivers (while reserving some uncharitable comments for RAF Harrier pilots). From what I understand USAF plans to keep them in service for at least another twenty years with some very necessary upgrades. Back in 1991 A-10 drivers had used Maverick systems as field expedient FLIRs during night missions.

  5. Eliot says:

    “Not sure why the AF dislikes it”
    CAS is a support mission, no other way around it. Tactical air lacks the machismo that the fighter mafia is so fond of but perhaps more importantly the parochial appeal of Air Superiority, Strategic Bombing, and those other Air Power missions.

  6. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    The story of the procurement of the A-10 is well told in Robert Coram’s biography of USAF Col. John Boyd ( Basically, Air Force (as well as its USAAF predecessor) brass have disdained the ground support mission ever since the days of Billy Mitchell and Giulio Douhet. Boyd and his “Fighter Mafia” associates, especially Pierre Sprey, managed to force the GS mission-specific A-10 down the throats of the the service’s procurement bureaucracy, which has a history of procuring aircraft designed to do everything but typically end up doing nothing well, at costs far over budget and schedules far beyond original commitments. Boyd & Co. jammed another highly successful aircraft down the kicking and screaming brass’s throat during the same early 1970s time period, the F-16. That story is also in Coram’s book. As for the USAF’s procurement problems, nothing much has changed. See this article on the F-35 in a Counterpunch piece ( published last month by Chuck Spinney, another Fighter Mafia veteran.

  7. Old Gun Pilot says:

    The USAF has never cared much for the CAS role. Until the A-10 came along the USAF never purchased an aircraft designed under an Air Force contract for the CAS role. The A-10 was also the last AF bird designed from the ground up for CAS. The A-1, A-7 and F-4 were Navy/MC designs bought off the shelf with slight modifications for AF use. The F-100 which saw extensive use in Viet Nam was a fighter modified for the CAS role. The F-16 again was designed as an air superiority fighter which has been modified by the addition of hard points for the CAS role. The failure of interest by the AF in the CAS mission is one reason Army has relied so on it’s Attack Helos and the growth of that mission in the Army.

  8. Thanks to all who commented on my question! WWI was largely fought with landline technology. WWII with radio in use heavily for first time.
    So now will each of the services develop, maintain and operate their own UAV force and if so how will this be coordinated? How is it being coordinated with some evidence CIA and other orgs have their own UAV ops?
    And finally other than Israel, how are other countries progressing on UAV weaponary and recon?

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