For a guy that doesn’t use salty nautical terms like “port”, “starboard”, “ladder”, “hatch”, or “abaft” in everyday conversation, XBRADTC has an exceptional grasp of Navy stuff.
His post over at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid, on the LCS(L), Landing Craft, Support, Large (The “Mighty Midgets”) highlights the ingenuity and adaptability that allowed the US Navy to fight and win the Second World War across the world’s great oceans.
As we turn our defense focus to the Pacific from our current and recent wars, many of the same challenges and lessons from the Second World War in the Pacific are as applicable today as they were from 1941-45. One of the sentences that jumps off the page of Brad’s post is this one:
What was needed was close in fire support for the last stretch of the run in to the beach. The Navy had actually foreseen the problem, but had totally underestimated the scale of fire support that was needed.
Seems there is not much new under the sun. Among the most misunderstood aspects of the massive amphibious effort in the Pacific War was that commanders has few qualms about landing on a fortified beach. While Tarawa and Iwo Jima tend to be the images in the mind’s eye of that war and that time, those were by far the exception rather than the rule, and then almost always by sheer and grim necessity. The vast majority of the landings conducted in the Southwest Pacific Area by MacArthur’s forces in New Guinea and New Britiain and the Admiralties, and a large majority of those in Nimitz’s Central Pacific, aimed at landing in lightly defended or undefended places to project power ashore.
Today, we look at the Pacific, and see the same expanse of water, the same limited basing available, similar issues and problems as were facing planners in the 1930s. There are many who dismiss entirely the need to project power across a beach as a means of theater entry, or who believe such can be conducted by seizing a port or an airfield, or by administrative means (JLOTS), apparently without any enemy resistance, or ability to impact our efforts. The US Navy has been rather intransigent in its belief that no such projection capability is required, or is in fact, feasible. Hence, the statement from CNO Admiral Greenert, making an interesting juxtaposition with Brad’s observations, above:
The third factor favoring a focus on payloads is the changing nature of war. Precision-guided munitions have reduced the number and size of weapons needed to achieve the same effect. At the same time, concerns for collateral damage have significantly lowered the number of targets that can be safely attacked in a given engagement. The net effect is fewer weapons are needed in today’s conflicts.
While empirically true regarding accuracy and effects, the cost of those precision munitions and the lack of redundancy of the platforms and systems to launch them, point once again to there being a far greater need in the actual practice of combat for such weapons than the Navy seems to believe (or admit to) in peacetime. (That we would jeopardize success of a major military operation for failing to prosecute high-value targets adequately out of fear of collateral damage, is much more our own folly of “lawfare” than any inherent requirements for fire support.) As for the ever-predicted change in the nature of war, that chimera will once again be disproved in the next war, as it has been in every war past.
Brad’s post should be instructive to those who would wish to continue building Littoral Combat Ships that are not intended to survive combat in the littorals. We had it right once, when the lessons were front and center in our collective military experiences. How far we have wandered.
h/t Brad and Sal
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- On Midrats 22 November 2015 – Episode 307: Our Own Private Petard – Procurement & Strategy with Robert Farley
- Leveraging our military relationships on the homefront
- Bring your voice once more unto the breach