Tag Archives: expeditionary fast transport

Access Denied: A New Role for the Marines in the WestPac

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear

Gen. David H. Berger, who celebrated his 40th anniversary in the USMC and is currently serving as the Marine’s 38th Commandant, wrote an excellent piece in this month’s Proceedings on the subject of “Stand-in Forces,” the pared-down direction the service is going towards in which they can (quietly) seize and hold forward areas with small units to deny access to larger sea forces.

From Berger’s piece:

Small, lethal, low signature, and mobile, stand-in forces (SIF) are relatively simple to maintain and sustain, designed to operate across the competition continuum within a contested area as the leading edge of a maritime defense-in-depth. Depending on the situation, SIF may include elements from the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, special operations forces, interagency forces, and allies and partners. This last element is the most critical: every aspect of these deployments must be carried out in close partnership with host nations and partners. Whenever U.S. forces operate in a host nation, they must do so with the full involvement of that nation in conceptualizing and executing the overall mission.

The main ideas behind the SIF concept are deceptively simple. First, find a potential adversary’s people and things (such as weapon systems, sensor systems, submarines, etc.) in a given area, and then track them at a level that facilitates targeting by fleet or joint weapons until they leave that area. This finding and tracking effort starts as soon as the possible target is identified and continues at every point along the competition continuum. Next, SIF must be hard for a potential adversary to find by maintaining a low signature, moving frequently and unpredictably, and using deception. If armed conflict begins, use knowledge of the adversary to help the fleet or other elements of the joint force attack quickly and effectively, blind the adversary, and deny him maritime areas to disrupt his plans and force him to move into other places where SIF and the fleet have an advantage.

Stand-in forces’ enduring function emerges from these straightforward ideas: win the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight in support of the fleet and joint force—and do so at every point on the competition continuum.

The full piece, which is a good read, is here.

In very related news, the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), which recently proved capable of hitting a target in a SINKEX at least, is set to become operational in 2023 with the newly formed 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. Basically, a pack of Naval Strike Missiles on a remote control JLTV truck platform, the unmanned launcher can be landed by LCAC, LCU, or the planned new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) LST design as well as (likely) by the CH-53 or C-130.

Naval News talked to the USMC about the NMESIS system, including this gem on why it is remote controlled.

Naval News: Why is the launcher “unmanned” ? Is it because it is intended to be controlled by company (i.e. small) sized Marine units ? Or is it because NMESIS is intended to be deployed on remote islands or locations with no human operators on those islands?

USMC: The launcher is remotely operated in order to enable a smaller, more expeditionary deployable capability. Additionally, remote firing position increases personnel survivability. Marine crews are still expected to be in the vicinity to provide security for the systems.

Food for thought.

A Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher, a command and control vehicle and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are transported by a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion from Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, out to U.S.S. San Diego, Aug. 16, 2021. The movement demonstrated the mobility of a Marine Corps fires expeditionary advanced base, a core concept in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 efforts. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units came together from across 17 time zones as they participated in Large Scale Exercise 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Luke Cohen, released)

Curious Craft from Austal

Mobile, Alabama-based Austal USA, builder of the Navy’s Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF)– which have gotten good reviews– and the Independence-class littoral combat ship– you know, the class of LCS that kinda-sorta works– released these interesting artist depictions of future designs without much context or details.

The company was recently given a $44 million contract from the Navy to develop one of its EPFs as an autonomous surface vessel, so keep that in mind.

This appears to be a larger version of the EPF with a huge 96-cell VLS section, a concept that could be a budget arsenal ship. A Tomahawk raft, if you will. The Spearheads use 40~ man crews. 

Speaking of arsenal ships, this looks to be a larger version of the company’s 58m OPV, stretched to add a long (strike length?) 32-cell VLS section. Note the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) designator on the hull and the airborne sensor off the stern. Besides the VLS, the only other armament visible is four M2 .50 cal mounts. The small number of liferafts hint at accommodations for a tiny transit or combat crew. 

Odds are, this is an autonomous design for ISR purposes

Look at this sweet trimaran. Envision a 53-foot container that can hold anything from ASMs to IRBMs or a mine-hunting det, which would make sense if the design incorporates a composite hull. An MCM LSUV, if you will. 

Austal One of Five in Running for Navy’s New Expeditionary LSTs

Austal– who has been making 417-foot Independence-class littoral combat ships (the ones that actually kind of work) and 337-foot Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel at their U.S. location in Mobile, Alabama– is one of the companies that has been greenlighted to work up plans for the Navy’s new Light Amphibious Warfare (LAW) ship, envisioned to shuttle around little groups of Marines around contested Pacific atolls and islets to give China heartburn in time of conflict there.

Via Austal:

Austal Limited (Austal) (ASX: ASB) is pleased to announce Austal USA has been awarded a concept studies and preliminary design contract by the United States Navy (USN) for the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program.

The USN’s new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). The Navy envisions the first LAW being procured in FY2023.

LAW will provide US Naval forces a manoeuvre and sustainment capability to conduct littoral and amphibious operations. The medium-sized landing ships are expected to be approximately 60 to 120 metres length overall (LOA) with an ability to embark at least 75 US Marines with approximately 370 – 740 square metres of cargo area to transport the Marines’ weapons, equipment, and supplies to the beach or austere ports.

Austal USA is one of five companies approached by the US Navy to develop LAW concept designs, with a follow-on option for preliminary design. A single shipyard is expected to be down-selected for a detailed design and construction contract by the end of the third quarter of CY2022.

Austal Limited Chief Executive Paddy Gregg said the contract allows Austal USA to continue developing LAW designs to meet US Navy requirements and further strengthens the company’s position to construct steel ships for the US Navy in the future.

“Austal USA is well placed to pursue this Light Amphibious Warship opportunity, with a proven capability to deliver multiple naval shipbuilding programs and new steel manufacturing facilities now under construction,” Mr Gregg said.

“The Austal USA team will continue to develop their concept designs and ultimately provide a highly capable and cost effective LAW solution for the US Navy.”

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.