In Move 5 of Expeditionary Warrior 2010, our Red Team analysts told us how they would degrade, disable or attack the seabase.
1. It is harder to attack a seabase than it is a land base for your typical bad guy ground force.
2. The difficulty of attacking the seabase will cause opposing forces to attack the connector boats ferrying supplies and forces ashore and back.
3. OpFor will use bad weather and sea state to their advantage.
4. During HA or NEO, the OpFor will attempt to overwhelm aid distribution points, medical stations, evacuation points, etc., in order to show our inadequacy.
5. The trends of technology will make unmanned aircraft, vehicles and boats as well as anti-ship missiles smaller and cheaper.
6. Rumor or whisper campaigns counter to our efforts are more difficult to detect and counteract from a seabase.
7. U.S. forces will be continually filmed while ashore, for opportunities to show us as cruel, uncaring, inadequate, etc.
Based on these observations from the Red team, it would seem like we need to develop:
1. Seabase and connector force protection practices and craft.
2. Increase our ability to operate in rougher weather.
3. Develop international standards for connector craft.
Move 4: Stability Operations
After evacuating Americans in 2025, the country degraded into a low-intensity civil war, with opposing political parties, criminal factions and motivated radicals using violence against the government. Eventually, the government got the upper hand militarily, but still had a large refugee and infrastructure problem. The country requested help from the UN to feed refugees and enforce a tenuous cease fire.
Here comes the U.S. We have ponied up to lead the JTF under the UNSC charter. The mission is: assist the host nation’s government to assist displaced persons, create stability required to allow displaced persons to return to their homes and to allow the government to begin to provide basic services to its people again. We expect this effort to last a couple years until we can transition operations to the host-nation, UN agencies, and NGO’s.
First item, a Seabase is great, but it is expensive. Probably in a timeframe of two years, we would be looking at repairing and opening a port to allow shipping to tie-up and offload to support operations ashore.
Another point was force protection for the connectors. In supporting operations ashore for a prolonged time, you will spend a lot of resources to protect the seabase and especially to protect the connectors going back and forth to shore. Positioning the seabase farther off shore provides more security to the big ships, but also puts the LCU’s and LCAC’s at more risk with a longer transit (perhaps even out to 20 miles or more off shore). Quickly, we realized a need, not only for lots of connectors, but for lots of escort and security craft.
It made sense to keep your higher level medical support on ship. It made sense to keep a lot of command and control on ship.
We used the MPS and Army pre-positioned stocks to build up forces ashore and refugee camps, etc. We planned on resupplying the forces ashore primarily by shipping for the two year operation. We figured 90% or more of your supplies could be forecasted well enough, so that the slow speed of shipping would still be acceptable. Certainly in the beginning of the operation, the MPF ship you loaded two years ago in Blount Island is what you get, but perhaps a few months into the operation, your cargo ship can be specifically loaded in the U.S. or elsewhere to support your unit. Still, we liked the concept of keeping a light footprint on shore, and keeping your “Iron Mountain” of spare parts and supplies on ship. It’s just tough to make it work.
The MPF-Future (MPFF) has an “extra” big-deck amphib (LHA/LHD) with enhanced aircraft maintenance facilities. In addition, the LHA/LHD and MLP of the MPF-F will provide thousands of berths, so you could fly-in the Marines or Soldiers and truly base them on a ship, and ride or fly ashore to conduct operations.
Consideration was given toward taking a whole MPF squadron out of action to support this kind of stability operation. Is it worth it to take the MPF squadron and the ability to outfit a rapidly deployed force out of action to support a stability operation for which you really only need a portion of the MPF stuff? Again, selective offload of cargo is vital.
Finally, an extended land campaign is not a core competency of the Marine Corps, (please ignore current land war), so it is difficult for us to plan a two-year operation supported from ships, we’re not necessarily set up for that, MPF is not necessarily designed for that. The MPF-Future will have a capability to sustain operations ashore from the seabase for a prolonged time, but so far that concept is briefed, but not bought. Even if we do develop the MPF-F, it is an expensive way to support prolonged operations ashore of multiple MEB’s or BCT’s. Company-sized or smaller FOB’s supported from a seabase for a long period of time are conceivable.
We realized very quickly, we need the Army and we need a port. Marines have an attention span of about 6 – 7 months, so we don’t set up the chow hall or PX until the second rotation of Marines. The Army is much better at thinking in long-term deployments of large forces. Am I actually asking for a Soldier’s help?….Got to go to sick call tomorrow.
Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance
For background information on Expeditionary Warrior 2010, go to: https://www.mcwl.quantico.usmc.mil/ew.cfm. Sorry, only accessible for CAC users, we’re working on it!
Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance, 2022. After a couple years recovering from the 2020 severe flooding, the host country is hit again with an even more severe rainy season, requiring the international community’s help.
To answer a comment about the Marine Corps in 2022: The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is currently experimenting with something called Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations. Basically, in EMO, the lowest level independently operating Marine Corps unit will shift from a reinforced battalion, as we see in a Marine Expeditionary Unit, to a reinforced company. MCWL is experimenting with the additional comms, fire-support and transportation that will be needed to support platoons operating 40 miles from a ship, and 10 miles from each other. A Company Landing Team (COLT) is pretty cool, because it creates a small amphibious operations capability that could fit on one ship, potentially increasing the reach of U.S. forces around the world.
Another answer to a comment: There will be partners, and there will be other countries with competing interests. We have discussed the difficulty in relief operations if someone like an Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela brings a cargo ship or frigate and says, “We’re here to help.” The basic answer from the ambassadors, admirals and generals helping the game is: “It depends.”
The wargame is looking into the advantages and disadvantages of using a seabase in various scenarios, Move 2 requires a humanitarian assistance operation.
First of all: it’s all about relationships and agreements. The Embassy is key in starting an HA operation, the first thing the seabase commander needs to do is check in with the embassy. The HA operation needs to be run as truly a supporting operation to the host nation, and not a “we’re in charge” kind of operation.
Environment, to run HA, we need a benign environment, with no threat other than a few criminals and looters. HA won’t be effective if we need to attack the village before we bring in water. This is applicable from a seabase or not, but it was an interesting nugget from the gray hairs in the room.
Advantages of the seabase in HA: A HA operation will require a lot of heavy equipment. Water purification, power, road building, other engineering equipment is all heavy. Ships are great for transporting heavy stuff, and LCU’s, and LCAC’s to some extent are great for taking that heavy stuff ashore, where a port facility might be damaged. (Like Haiti in 2010)
Basing your HA operation from a seabase reduces your footprint ashore, which is good to reduce the support required ashore, and helps your security situation as well. (During tsunami relief in Thailand, the US forces kept only a couple dozen on shore at night.)
But there are disadvantages to a seabase too: A seabase is slow to respond, in comparison to human suffering. A seabase will not be there in time to be a first responder and tend to the dying or bleeding. In fact, a seabase may not even be there to prevent suffering or death from a lack of water or food in the first 72 hours. During the wargame, we looked at a week to ten days as a reasonable window in which we could respond to a disaster with a seabase. So, the seabaase won’t be there first.
Another disadvantage to a seabase is a reduced effectiveness if the ship-to-ship connectors cannot mate up to all ships in the base. Currently, the Army and the Navy both have ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore connectors, as well as our own service MPF ships. The connectors need to work together. Maybe only buy one LCU for the whole DoD, or one LCAC; commonality, incredible concept.
In 2022, we assumed MPF ships have a ramp (Vehicle Transfer System) that they can roll vehicles to another ship or floating dock. We also assumed a ship called a Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) exists. An MLP will be able to accept the rolling vehicle from the VTS/MPF ship, and will have a lot of deck space for docking LCAC’s and LCU’s. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/mlp.htm
This link might answer some ship and connector questions:
Afternoon. Move 3
Move 3: Non-combatant Evacuation Operation
The situation ashore has deteriorated. The assassination of the opposing political party’s leader has thrown the host nation into an armed conflict between the government and the opposing party. The embassy has requested military assistance to evacuate non-combatants.
The combatant commander has assembled a seabase composed of Joint High Speed Vessels, a Mobile Landing Platform, MPF ships (T-AKE and LMSR’s), and a MEU on a 3-ship ARG. Once they decide who’s in charge, we conducted the NEO in this game, with command and control functions staying on ship. Amphibious big decks and carriers have great communications capabilities and flag staff spaces, so they were very useful for this move.
The majority of American and allied nation citizens that are to be evacuated live in a port city, so evacuating by sea, as slow as ships may go, was seen as a good option. This also reduced crowding in the few airfields that are still serviceable after a few seasons of flood.
A couple ships we will have in 2023, the Joint High Speed Vessel, and the Mobile Landing Platform were invaluable in conducting the NEO. The JHSV was used to ferry evacuees to a nearby port with a working airport. The MLP was used in much the same manner. The JHSV can carry a few hundred (in seats and troop berthing) for a matter of hours. The MLP can carry upwards of 1,100 for a matter of days (troop berthing) if it didn’t carry soldiers or Marines into theater.
During the NEO, we didn’t see as much a need to play nice with others as we did in the previous HA move, we saw the NEO as a clear mission that U.S. forces would conduct, and U.S. forces would be in charge of the U.S. evacuation of U.S. citizens.
Another invaluable tool for the NEO was the ability to connect the shore to the ship, and not have to rely on a serviceable port. Again..we are operating from a multi-billion dollar seabase with state-of-the-art aircraft and communications, and the most useful tool was the 65 year old LCU! It’s tough to carry people on an LCAC, and it’s tough to carry thousands of people on helos. LCU’s to the rescue!
In general, the seabase was very useful in the NEO, but it was a stepping stone in the evacuation process. You can’t just impress the evacuees to be a new crew of the ship, we’ve eventually got to get them home, and the evacuees will probably want to go faster than 15 knots across the ocean. So using the seabase’s ships as ferries and a base of operations was valuable, but it didn’t complete the whole mission by itself, we’ll need to get the evacuees to an airport.
Stay tuned, tomorrow we will conduct stability operations from a seabase.
Expeditionary Warrior 2010 is a joint, multinational wargame designed to test the concepts of seabasing. Refer to: https://www.mcwl.quantico.usmc.mil/ew.cfm
Sitting through the obligatory classes prior to the seabasing wargame. To save you the few hours and the line to the head during breaks, here are a few nuggets:
-Seabasing is a national capability. The Corps gets is feathers ruffled when we hear this, but the fact is the Army has significant equipment already pre-positioned and they are buying some Joint High Speed vehicles, to connect MPF ships and ports.
-The current 30-yr shipbuilding plan just released with the QDR will realize an amphibious fleet of 29 – 33 ships as the years go by. Both the Navy and Marine Corps agree that it takes 38 ships to lift 2.0 Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB). To further complicate matters, current USMC units have more vehicles than the tables of organizations of 10-years ago; it won’t all fit on the ships, even if we did have 38.
-USMC (and Army) equipment has gotten much heavier and larger in the past 10 years, and will continue to do so. This will make amphibious ships too heavy, and with the larger vehicles needing to be in the upper vehicle stowage areas just to fit, the ships are too top-heavy. As a telling illustration:
Old Vehicle: M151 Jeep: 3,000 lbs.
Currents ships designed around: M998 Soft-door HMMWV: 5,000 lbs
Currently used on the ground: Up-Armored HMMWV: 7,600 lbs
Future vehicle, Joint Light? Tactical Vehicle: 22,000 lbs
Current Helo ships are designed around: CH-46: 13,000 lbs
Future Helo: MV-22: 47,000 lbs
Current V/STOL attack aircraft: AV-8b: 25,000 lbs
Future V/STOL attack aircraft: JSF (F-35): 46,000 lbs
This is a huge problem that we haven’t really been faced with in combat operations yet. How to fit current Marine forces on a ship? There are a few smart guys crunching the numbers to examine the Gear Left On the Pier (GLOP).
The first move of the game comes this afternoon, we’ll see how this seabasing thing works
Move 1: Steady State Operations from a Sea Base
For background material on Expeditionary Warrior 2010, refer to https://www.mcwl.quantico.usmc.mil/ew.cfm
To answer a question from an earlier blog about “What is a seabase?” and “How does this work with MPF?”
A seabase is a collection of ships and capabilities at sea. It basically provides an airfield, a port and a logistics base through the collection of ships and other tools. So in real terms, you put some MPF ships together with a carrier and LHA/LHD, add some well deck capability with LPD/LSD’s and there you have a seabase. Now anyone who has been a part of a Navy surface combatant group knows that at times it is easier to swim to another ship than it is to get a ride there, or have a phone call with anyone on another ship. So you can see quickly, that a key element of a successful seabase is ship to ship, and ship to shore connectors. In addition to that, you will need to surgically extract the cargo you want from the densely packed MPF ship. So when the MPF ship goes to support a humanitarian assistance operation, you will want to leave the armored vehicles, but take out all the tents, generators and water purification units. It is projected that in 2020, the time for Move 1 of the wargame, the U.S. will have a selective cargo offload capability, as well as improved connector capabilities.
So in Move 1 of the wargame, the U.S. and its coalition partners are supporting a nation like many in the world. There is little to no infrastructure, the national government has little or no ability to improve the lives of its people or provide basic services, and laws mean very little. The reason the seabase was deployed to the area was to support the government to rebuild infrastructure and prevent disease following an unusually severe rainy season.
A seabase is good for humanitarian assistance because it reduces the footprint ashore and the amount of support you need to bring ashore for yourself. That’s great, and it was proven in the aid provided to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
For the seabase capabilities we envision for 2020, we are planning on the ability to pull the bulldozer and generator out of the hold on the MPF ship, and deliver them with an LCU or LCAC. We don’t have that capability yet, but we’re working on it. Currently, when you unload the MPF ship, you need to unload it all until you see the equipment you want, then you need to put all the stuff back in the same order.
The seabase is not a great answer to everything however. In Move 1, we want to provide a persistent presence ashore to assist rebuilding and disease prevention. A seabase is not really great for that, you can’t really build situational awareness or relationships while you are 40 miles or more off shore. A seabase was seen as being a good platform to deliver heavy equipment, and some logistics capabilities not provided in the host nation, like refined fuels, medical supplies, etc.
Move 2 and 3 tomorrow: send your questions.
This is LtCol Roger Galbraith, USMCR, packing my seabag for a notional deployment to a seabase for exercise Expeditionary Warrior 2010.
Expeditionary Warrior 2010 is the Marine Corps sponsored Title X wargame that will exercise a notional seabasing capability as envisioned in the year 2025. The exercise will require participants to assemble a seabase, and use its capabilities to conduct humanitarian assistance, security, and combat operations. The exercise will raise questions about how a multi-national, multi-platform seabase will coordinate operations among its member ships, units and nationalities. The purpose of the game is to use the notional scenario to show abilities or gaps in policy, functions and interoperability in the use of the seabase.
Follow me as I serve as a member of the amphibious task force staff and comment on what the weather, the sea, and opposing forces are doing, and what the assembled seabase will do, or try to do in response. The exercise runs Monday, February 22nd to the 25th. I’ll be providing a post for each game move, the game will have about two moves a day.