Tag Archives: HIMARs

Santa, C-130s, and isolated Pacific resupply

The U.S. Air Force, operating in conjunction this year with the Japan Self-Defense Force, just wrapped up the 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop, tossing out 3,200-pounds of humanitarian aid from the back of a moving Herky bird in 64 bundles over the course of a week to eagerly awaiting communities in Micronesia.

A bundle is airdropped from a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, onto Kayangel, Republic of Palau, during Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 10. By using low-cost low-altitude airdrop procedures, the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force were able to deliver humanitarian aid across the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

To be sure, it is a feel-good operation. Something to be proud of. Winning hearts and minds. 

However, keep in mind that such drops are real-world training for these same Western Pacific-based C-130 units should they be needed to, say, handle low-key resupply for isolated company-sized Marine rocket batteries dropped off on random atolls with little infrastructure but within range of Chinese maritime assets.

Speaking of which, this year’s OCD was the first that saw bundles dropped on Peleliu.

For those keeping track at home, Peleliu was, of course, a hard-won strategic pin in the map on the push towards Okinawa and the Philippines in 1944-45. The historic island currently has a population of about ~400 locals and the WWII-era airstrip, seen towards the end of the OCD video, is in pretty rough shape.

That beat-down airstrip doesn’t negate the fact that places like Peleliu are getting important once again. Maybe important enough that C-130s ought to be practicing cargo drops there. Oh wait. 

The Hard Way

Official caption: “Members of a Marine rocket platoon tote their equipment over rough Bougainville terrain to the front lines. During this campaign, the first in which land-based rockets were used by the Leathernecks, both rockets and portable launchers were transported in much the same manner that machine guns were moved into position. Hdqrs No. 71,129, Dist List 2-4, 2-1445, USMC Photo”

Keep in mind that is a 60-pound barrage rocket, in 100-degree weather, at 99-percent humidity. NARA 127-GR-84-71129

Of note, after using hand-carried 7.2-inch demolition rockets in the Guadalcanal campaign, the Marines elected to utilize truck-mounted M8 4.5-inch rocket batteries in Iwo Jima, dubbed “The Buck Rogers Men.” 

In a sense of “everything old is new again,” the current thinking in the Marines is to use little groups of rocket and missile-equipped landing teams for area denial and sea control across isolated atolls and jungles of the Western Pacific in the event of a conflict with the PRC. The more things change…

Navy getting back into the LST business…?

When it came to amphibious warfare across a 60-year-run from 1942, when USS LST-1 was completed, through 2002 when USS Frederick (LST-1184) was decommissioned, the beachable tank landing ship was a key part of putting troops and material ashore for the U.S. Navy-Marine team.

Bougainville Operation, 1943-1944. USS LST-449 loading equipment and supplies from a Guadalcanal Beach for her journey North to Bougainville, in November 1943, soon after Marines landed there. Note the LST’s camouflage and truck in foreground bearing “Cub 9” markings. Photographed by Major W.A. Halpern, USMC. USMC Photo 79815

However, the arrival of the fast air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC) in the 1980s– which allowed for over-the-horizon attacks in which heavy trucks and armor could be landed– made the beachable LST obsolete in the eyes of Big Blue-FMF. This led to the shedding of the LSTs in favor of the big-well-deck LHA/LHD and enlarged dock LPDs, thus keeping the Navy off the beach for anything larger than a 200-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU)– which can fit in the well deck of a big phib.


A landing craft, utility (LCU) assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), lowers its ramp to unload a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, as part of a simulated amphibious raid, at Kin Blue, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 14, 2019. This simulated amphibious raid marks the first time that HIMARS have been inserted by landing craft, utility, demonstrating the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to conduct combined-arms maneuver from amphibious shipping. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)

Whelp, with the move by the USMC to dump their seven companies of main battle tanks, three bridging companies and 16 of 21 155mm howitzer batteries in favor of fielding 21 (14 new) rocket batteries to be fielded by three new “Marine Littoral Regiments,” it seems an ideal means to land such units may just be an LST.

Only you don’t want to call it that, of course.

The Navy has begun looking for a Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) to land cargo/vehicles with the following characteristics (bold added by moi):

*Minimum 5,000 ft2 (1,860 m2) vehicle and cargo stowage space (8,000+ ft2 preferred) on weather deck or with access to weather deck capable of handling static deck loads up to 450 psf, and with at least 13.5 ft (4.1 m) clear overhead or open overhead and a 5-10 MT crane to facilitate cargo and small boat handling.
*Habitability for US Navy crew of approximately 30 + surge capacity for additional 43 Marines or Sailors supporting 11 day missions without replenishment
*Minimum 14 knots Sustained Speed with full cargo load
*Minimum 3,500 nm operating range
*Single point off/on load to beach (e.g. beachable)
*90,000 gal. cargo fuel storage

The design would be fielded fast, preferably by 2023, with commercial and existing designs considers.

Such a ship would be significantly larger/faster than the Navy’s current 200-ton/8-knot LCU 1627-class, and closer to the Army’s 1,100-ton/11.5-knot Runnymede-class (LCU-2000) large landing craft. The Runnymedes are essentially smallish LSTs in all but name, able to carry 350-tons of cargo or 24 20-foot TEUs (96 Quadcons) with a self-deploying range of 6,500nm.

U.S. Army Spc. Michael Breneman signals to a Japan Ground Self Defense Force light armored vehicle during an on load evolution aboard U.S. Army Runnymede-class landing craft utility USAV Coamo (LCU 2014) at Commander, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, July 27, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Specialist Kristopher S. Haley)

As a harbinger of just such a thing, the Marines tested HIMARS missile trucks on an Army Runnymede for the first time last November. 

Everything old is new again.

LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943

Buck Rogers Men

One of the more unusual units that hit Green and Red Beaches on Iwo Jima 75 years ago this month were the Marines of the 1st Provisional Rocket Detachment, assigned to the 4th Marine Division, and the 3rd Provisional Rocket Detachment assigned to the 5th Marine Division.

Dubbed the “Buck Rogers Men” by other Marines, the weapon of choice for these rocketeers were seemingly humble one-ton International Harvester M2 4×4 trucks, made dangerous with the addition of racks for M8 4.5-inch HE barrage rockets.

“ROCKET BARRAGE— Hit and run rocket fire was the order when these Marines of the Fifth Division loosed a barrage at the enemy on Iwo Jima. Being mobile, the units used hit-and-run tactics so that the enemy could never get an exact fix on their positions.” USMC Photo.

While the Army used the same 38-pound fin-stabilized rockets in Europe, they did so typically from the 60-tube Calliope launcher mounted on an M4 Sherman tank or massed batteries of the smaller towed 8-tube “xylophone” launcher.

The Marine version used a six-tray slotted rack, each capable of holding six rockets, which was lighter than the Army’s tube system and provided 36 rockets at the ready. Operators would fire the unguided rockets from a control box while dismounted and the vehicle had an M2 .50 caliber Browning for emergencies.

As Col. Joseph Alexander notes in his USMC History Division text, Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima:

A good crew could launch a “ripple” of 36 rockets within a matter of seconds, providing a blanket of high explosives on the target. This the infantry loved—but each launching always drew heavy return fire from the Japanese who feared the “automatic artillery:”

Using early “shoot and scoot” tactics to avoid return fire, the rocket men learned to fire a salvo or two max, then rapidly displace.

“The nearby infantry knew better than to stand around and wave goodbye; this was the time to seek deep shelter from the counterbattery fire sure to follow,” noted Alexander.

“FIRECRACKERS—A Marine rocket truck empties it’s launching rack of projectiles as it lays a barrage on Japanese positions on Iwo Jima. Being mobile, the rocket units used hit-and-run tactics during the operation, so that the enemy could never get an exact fit on their locations.” USMC Photo.

Nonetheless, the two detachments fired more than 30,000 rockets in the six weeks of the Iwo Jima campaign, often launching single rockets to clear suspected enemy positions.

Today, the old Buck Rogers Men are ably represented in the Marine’s new M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which uses an M1140 FMTV truck frame to tote around a half-dozen MLRS M270A1 rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile. As with the Iwo trucks, the system weighs a good bit less than the Army’s comparable MLRS system. Further, it can be used while aboard a ship, such as an MSC vessel or even a merchant taken up from trade, and in conjunction with over-the-horizon targeting such as provided by an F-35.

HIMARS, still a truck with some rockets on the back, ready to land at a beach near you