Category Archives: USMC

Anti-Ship Missiles for more than just the surface combat Navy

EXOCET MOBILE COASTAL battery uses four vehicles: a TOC, sensor unit, and two four-missile firing units, to put 8 AShMs on shore. It requires just 16 men. A similar concept could be used for the Naval Strike Missile or others. 

One of the facets of the current reboot of the Marines is that they are hanging up all of their armored (tank) battalions and a lot of their (tube) artillery batteries to field small and highly mobile expeditionary warfare missile batteries that would subtly appear on, say a forgotten backwater atoll, and control the sea around it for 100 miles or more in every direction. The nascent Marine Littoral Regiments are still being fleshed out, with an experimental unit formed in Hawaii last year. Nonetheless, LBASMs, or Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles, are on the menu.

Moving forward with the concept of more (anti-ship) missiles in more places, Big Blue is also weighing putting containerized Naval Strike Missiles on otherwise lightly armed ‘phibs of the “Gator Navy.”

“We have these magnificent 600-foot-long, highly survivable, highly LPD 17s,” said MGen Tracy W. King, director of expeditionary warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. “The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship. It’s not from the aspect of using them as a strike platform; it will drastically increase their survivability if the enemy has to honor that threat. My intent is to ensure that my desire to increase the lethality of LPDs doesn’t interfere with [Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Paul] Schlise’s efforts to increase lethality on LCSs.”

Finally, there is the concept (thanks for the tip, Philip), recently covered in the USNI’s Blog by LT. Andrew W. Corwell, U.S. Coast Guard, of the puddle pirates adding some batteries of coastal defense cruise missiles to their mix.

Fielding CDCMs provides the Coast Guard with a one-two punch as the service pivots to counter near-peer threats. First, CDCMs would provide the Coast Guard with a credible deterrent to potentially adversarial naval forces. Strategically located near major ports on each coast, a battery of U.S. Coast Guard CDCM Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) could defend against naval surface threats and be postured to respond to emergent homeland defense missions requiring more firepower than typically found aboard Cutters. Being road mobile would complicate adversarial targeting during a major conflict by enabling the CDCM batteries to operate from both prepared and field expedient positions along the coast while simultaneously providing the ability to surge additional missiles and launchers along anticipated threat vectors.

Second, the CDCMs would offer the Coast Guard an organic, rapidly deployable option to increase the lethality of cutters supporting combatant commanders. Designing the TELs to fit inside the hangers of Legend-class national security cutters (NSC), or the soon to be delivered Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters, integrate with the cutter’s fire-control systems, and fire from their flight deck would greatly increase the ability for cutters to contribute in a war-at-sea scenario, offset shortcomings in desired increases to U.S. fleet strength, and align with distributed lethality concepts.

And to tell you the truth, it all makes sense. The porcupine theory.

Little Groups of Marines

Ten U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command teamed up with the U.S. Navy for a three-month deployment aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), returning to Little Creek this week. The SPMAGTF-SC detachment provided the 1,500-ton Burlington, officially a noncombatant manned by civilian mariners of the MSC alongside a USN commo team, with an embarked security team, providing force protection for the deployment.

This is the type of tasking that little groups of Marines will increasingly see in the future, no longer just the stuff of the “Gator Navy.”

Of course, it is something of a case of everything old is new again, as the Marines for something like 220 years regularly provided small dets on surface ships for security/gunnery/landing force missions. Back in the day, ships as small as gunboats, sloops, and frigates often had Marines aboard, although the practice was trimmed back to cruisers, battleships, and carriers by the 1920s (with a few notable exceptions).

The Marine Detachment, gunboat USS Dauntless (PG-61) – mid-1942

The last Marine Carrier Dets, useful for guarding admirals, performing TRAP missions, and keeping an eye on “special munitions” (aka nukes) were disbanded in 1998.

Ready for Action, 77 Years Ago Today

Official caption: “PFC Kenneth C. Crowley, USMC, Plymouth, Mass., crouches behind a log on the first day of action on Cape Gloucester. A few minutes after this picture was made, he advanced with his unit and helped knock out a Japanese pillbox. Hdqtrs No. 72489. Marine Corps Photo.”

Note Crowley’s M1 Garand– which the Marines had only been issuing for about a year at this time–, extra bandoliers of clipped 30.06 ammo, and camo helmet cover. NARA 127-GR-85-72489

The 1st Marine Division hit the beaches at Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943, fighting Iwao Matsuda’s Imperial Japanese Army’s 65th Brigade to annihilation over the course of a three-week campaign in thick jungle, suffering 1,300 casualties in the process.

While there are three Crowleys listed from Massachusetts as having died in WWII while serving with the Department of the Navy, none are the above-mentioned Kenneth.

Harrier Carrier, 1976

As we did Warship Wednesday on a Monday this week, try these historical maritime shots on for size, taken 44 years ago today.

Official Caption: “USS GUAM (LPH-9) Operating with Marine AV-8A Harrier VTOL aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea, 9 December 1976, she drew these planes from USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT for her goodwill visit to Kenya.”

Note the four airborne Harriers in a diamond formation, flown by VMA-231 “Ace of Spades” squadron Marines, and at least five more on deck. Catalog #: USN 1169189

Guam, a 17,000-ton Iwo Jima-class large amphibious transport (helo), commissioned 16 January 1965 and had already been extensively used by the Navy, first off the Dominican Republic in the intervention there, then in the space program.

Importantly, she had served between 1971 and 1973 as the Interim Sea Control Ship, derived from ADM Elmo Zumwalt’s idea for a 15,000-ton light carrier equipped with Sea Kings for ASW and Harriers for self-defense/anti-shipping, which made her ideal for embarking the V/STOL craft once again in squadron-quantity in 1976.

USS Guam (LPH-9) Underway in the Indian Ocean, off the east coast of Africa, on 9 December 1976. Her crew is forming KENYA 76 on the flight deck in conjunction with her visit to Mombasa, Kenya for the celebration of that nation’s independence. Adams-class destroyer USS Claude V. Ricketts (DDG-5) is steaming in company. Guam is shown carrying 13 AV-8A Harrier jet aircraft and two Marine CH-53D helicopters on her flight deck. FDR had deployed with 14, meaning one Harrier is either airborne or below-deck. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, Photographer: PH3 Greg Haas, Atlantic Fleet Audio Visual Command. NH 107675

Guam would go on to serve off Somalia and in the first Gulf War, then was decommissioned and stricken on the same day, 25 August 1998, and disposed of as a target three years later.

As for the accident-prone AV-8As, derived from the original British Hawker Siddeley aircraft, the Marines purchased 102 AV-8A and 8 TAV-8A models between 1971 (just two years after the Harrier GR.1 entered service with the RAF) and 1976, later replacing them with the larger, marginally safer, more advanced, and more American-built McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II in the mid-1980s.

Which brings us back to the Aces of VMA-231, who are still flying the Harrier today, one of the few who are.

Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 231 “Ace of Spades” AV-8B+ at Boca Chica Field, NAS Key West, Dec.1, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Danette Baso Silvers

Forging a Marine, the Garand Way

The saying goes is that “you join the Army, you join the Navy, you join the Air Force, but you become a Marine.”

With that in mind, check out this circa 1961 training film, Making of a Marine, featuring recruits at MCRD Parris Island with M1 Garands, an interesting time capsule of “carrying yesterday’s rifle tomorrow” as the M14 had been officially adopted four years earlier and the M16, ushered in with Vietnam, would be inbound in roughly the same amount of time. 

Keeping Warm, Operation Newton edition

53 Years Ago Today:

Official Caption: “3rd MarDiv, Vietnam, 3Dec67, L/Cpl Hagarty, GH & L/Cpl Rose, HF flammen with ‘C’ Co. 1st Battalion, 4th Marines help each other with their gear on Operation Newton.”

Photo by PFC Shackhail, Marine Corps A193874, via NARA 127-GVB-204-A193874

Of note, the M9A1-7 flame pack weighed upwards of 50-pounds when full, but allowed a range of 130+ feet when using thickened fuel. Add to that the M-1955 flak vest (10-pounds), M1 helmet (3-pounds), web gear, boots, canteens, sidearm, grenades, patrol rats, et. al. and multiply it by the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, and you realized just how warm Cpls. Hagarty and Rose were, even before the pilot light is lit.

Frozen Chosin at 70

Take a minute sometime in the next couple of weeks to remember the Marines– along with Navy Corpsmen and U.S. Army troops— who were trapped in what could be called the Chosin Pocket along the Changjin Reservoir in North Korea.

But today, we do not remember the Chosin as a pocket that was surrounded and reduced, because, well, the Marines “attacked in another direction” and broke the hell out.

“First Division Leathernecks Counter Fire with Fire When Attacked by Well Entrenched Chinese Reds During the Division’s Heroic Breakout from Chosin.” 7 December 1950. Note the WWII tropical “frogskin” camo, of little use in Korea in winter, along with an M1919 LMG and an M1903 Springfield, the latter likely a sniper rifle Marine Photo 127-N-A5434, taken by Sgt. F. C. Kerr, via NARA 

Devilbirds of the Caribbean

An original Kodachrome showing a downright beautiful nine-ship formation of Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bombers from Marine Scouting Squadron 3 (VMS-3) “Devilbirds” in flight near the Virgin Islands, circa late 1943-early 44. As they are slick, with no ordnance or drop tanks, this was probably a training flight or photo-ex.

Note the distinctive grey-blue-white Atlantic Theater camouflage on the aircraft. NHHC 80-G-K-14310 

The VMS-3 Devilbirds scheme is particularly popular with scale modelers, primarily because of this fantastic reference image.

Based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Bourne Field, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, during the entire course of its existence, the squadron logged patrols from 1934 to 1944. Included among them were flights on 11-14 May 1942 to circumvent the expected escape attempt of the French Fleet for Guadaloupe.

Overall, good duty if you could get it!

As noted by Wiki:

There were three Marine Scouting Squadrons prior to World War II; however, VMS-3 was the only squadron to retain the designation. The squadron served in Haiti from 1919 through 1934 and then spent its last ten years at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. During World War II they were the only Marine Corps squadron to operate east of the United States. They began the war flying the Grumman J2F Duck, transitioned to the Naval Aircraft Factory/Vought OS2N Kingfisher, and at the time of deactivation were flying SBD Dauntless dive bombers.

Other Marine SBD squadrons, dubbed VMSBs, were very active in the Pacific, especially in the Philippines campaign.

200,000th M17/M18 Delivered to DOD

Sig Sauer has been trucking right along with deliveries of the Modular Handgun System pistols– the full-sized M17 and more compact M18– since 2017 and just announced they have delivered the 200,000th such 9mm sidearm to Uncle.

Of note, the M17 and M18 are in use by all four Pentagon-reporting service branches and some 451,586 are on the schedule.

The MHS system is a P320-based platform, featuring coyote-tan PVD coated stainless steel slides with black controls, utilizes both 17-round and 21-round magazines, and are equipped with SIGLITE front night sights, removable night sight rear plates, and manual safeties. The M18 is shown in the foreground while the M17 is in the back. (Photo: TACOM)

More in my column at Guns.com.

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