Seabasing Nuggets   


Expeditionary Warrior 2010 is a joint, multinational wargame designed to test the concepts of seabasing. Refer to:

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 

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.

Posted by LtCol Roger Galbraith, USMCR in Marine Corps
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  • MrCurious

    I understand how seabasing can reduce a military footprint during humanitarian efforts, but what happens when the Marine Corps is asked to answer Amercia’s 911 call?

    It seems like selective off-loading can be extremely time-consuming. How long will it take to set up for an assault?

  • Fester Clock

    I have two thoughts at work here:

    First, the idea that “the Seabase is not a great answer to everything,” is true. I contend however that the Seabase is indeed an optimize-able (sic) capability across the ROMO today and for 2025.

    A window of opportunity may be closing. Haiti does demonstrate a seabased example, but communicating that seabased philosophy and value to the American public may not be as understood as it could be.

    I think this blog is a good example of how the importance and the value proposition of Seabasing can be discussed openly and with credibility. Thanks for doing this LtCol. Roger Galbraith.

    I had the pleasure of observing Expeditionary Warrior 08 two years ago, and this year’s Title X wargame appears to be just as dynamic. I found EW08 fascinating. The lab has been wargaming Seabasing for the past few years and EW10 appears to again stretch critical thinking in this area.

    The flexibility of the Seabase alone gives the combatant commander a significant advantage; not to mention its muscle and its lethality. In fact, if you take the Marine Corps’ six core competencies, it’s clear that the Seabase can map to every bullet…and it’s supposed to. Why? Because its strategic thinking, and probably pretty close to tomorrow’s reality.

    Marine Corps’ Six Core Competencies (V&S2025)
    1. Persistent Forward Naval Engagement
    2. Integrated Combined Arms
    3. Forces and Specialized Detachments for Service with the Navy
    4. Joint Forcible Entry From the Sea
    5. Complex Expeditionary Ops
    6. Lead Joint and Multinational Ops and Enable Interagency Activities

    I am told that the basic purpose of the seabase is to position joint or coalition forces, in particular Marines, forward from the sea, through the littorals, to affect situations that occur throughout the Range of Military Operations. Makes sense to me given that we live on a water world, America is a maritime nation; that most of the megacities of 2025 are in the littorals. Consequently, those dense populations centers will certainly need attention for humanitarian crises and for combat.

    The Seabase, I think, is a bridging capability and a philosophy that will mature into space-based operations from, let’s say: “Spacebase Dunham.” I don’t think it would be wise to separate space platforms. One would have space vehicles all over the place…that may be inefficient. So I don’t think separating the strength and flexibility of a Seabase is wise either. However as technology continues to enhance weapons accuracy and speed, the Navy and the Marine Corps may need to take a close look at Seabase defenses, too.

    Second, I think that the potential efficiency, lethality, flexibility, and muscle of enhanced company operations from the seabase is a large part of how the Corps will respond or fight in the near future. EW10 should continue to feed good intel in discovering the challenges of Seabased operations as well as uncover surfaces and gaps in how to execute Seabased operations.

    Considering the types of operations the Corps will likely face, it’s important to keep its amphibious capability sharpened, and keep pure its from-the-sea ethos. Marines, from the Seabase, are a combatant commander’s most capable, and most immediate asset available to take action across the ROMO.

    Yet, to be able to apply foresight with preparation for conflict in the form of enhanced MAGTF operations, able to operate with effect from the Seabase, is not only practical, but also innovative in its simplicity, and just plain smart.

    In V&S2025, Gen. James Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, said:

    “Create Joint Seabasing Capabilities. We will improve our ability to cross wide expanses of ocean and remain persistently offshore at the place and time of our choosing. Joint force commanders depend upon the sea as both maneuver space and as a secure base of operations to overcome anti-access capabilities. Our approach to both challenges is called Seabasing. Seabasing provides an initial port and airfield afloat in the area of operations that minimizes the reliance on ports and airfields ashore. Though the sea base must be protected, it is the ideal method for projecting influence and power ashore in either a discrete or overt manner. This can be done in support of security cooperation activities, humanitarian assistance, adversary deterrence, or while executing major combat operations.

    “Seabasing will achieve a robust capability to support joint operations ashore in an era of anti-access and area denial constraints. The ability to project power from sovereign bases and minimize the footprint of our joint forces ashore provides numerous benefits. The ability to conduct at-sea transfer of resources, for both ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore purposes, is a key enabler for deploying, employing, and sustaining joint forces from the sea.”

    It’s good to see the Marine Corps so focused on Seabasing.