We’ve posted a lot of videos showing fast mover operations from aircraft carriers at sea, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen from the cockpit how the Marines do it with Harriers on big deck amphibs.
Category Archives: marines
Landing aboard a carrier is much different than a conventional landing ashore, so carrier aviators spend a lot of time practicing. But before they go to sea, they practice ashore, mimicking as closely as possible the carrier environment, in a routine known as Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP), or “bouncing.”
Similarly, the AV-8B and F-35B use a unique approach to landing aboard the Navy’s big deck amphibious warfare ships of the LHD and LHA classes. The normal routine is to make an approach from astern of the ship, but offset to parallel the port side. When alongside the desired landing spot, the jet then slides sideways to starboard until it is over the landing spot. Only then does it descend vertically, and then simply taxies out of the way for the next jet.
In order to train for this, MCAS Yuma, AZ actually has an auxiliary field that is shaped and marked like the deck of an LHD, and pilots routinely practice there.
Say what you will about the pros and cons of the program, but it certainly is interesting to watch.
The really cool thing about this blog is that I can share my vacation photos, and no one seems to mind too much.
The official name of the museum is Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, and the docent was kind and indulgent to the nerds in our little group. (Engineers can’t help it.)
We got to stick our heads in the bomb bay of this B-25.
TimActual had a comment on the Marine air assault on Hawaii:
I have never understood why the Marines like to use BIG targets to carry troops.
And that air assault looked pretty casual to me. We were always taught to get everything off the LZ ASAP, birds and men.
As to why the Marines tend to choose somewhat larger helicopters than the Army, I alluded to that years ago in a post on the Chinook.
The Army, as it evolved its air assault doctrine, saw infantry troops (as part of a combined arms team with artillery and aerial fire support) delivered directly upon the objective. One key doctrinal issue that wanted to address was unit integrity. They wanted to ensure that the basic unit, the rifle squad, was delivered intact. That meant the optimal assault helicopter would carry an 11 man rifle squad, which, from the UH-1D on through to today’s UH-60M, is just what seating is provided, if not always the actual lifting capacity. Between three rifle squads, a weapons squad, and the platoon headquarters, four helicopters could lift a single assault platoon.
The Marines, while they might have liked to embrace the same philosophy, faced two challenges the Army did not. First, they were far more constrained in terms of manpower. Unlike the Army, with the majority of its aviators being warrant officers, the Marines aviators are all commissioned officers. Given that the total number of commissioned officers available to the Marines was set by Congress, they couldn’t afford as many helicopter pilots as the Army, especially considering the numbers needed to fly the Marines fixed wing aircraft.
The other, bigger issue was simply one of space. The Marines are a seagoing force. That means they have to be embarked on ships, and even the largest of ships for amphibious operations have severe constraints on the total numbers of aircraft they can operate.
The carrying capacity, both in weight and in volume, increase faster than the actual size of an aircraft. That is, an aircraft twice as large as another can reasonably be expected to carry not twice as much, but three times as much. It didn’t take long for the Marines to realize that two CH-46s, carrying 25 troops each –that is, a Marine rifle platoon- took up a lot less deck space than the 4 or 5 UH-1s it would take to lift a platoon. As an added bonus, it would take only half as many pilots, not to mention the numbers of enlisted aircrew, and maintenance personnel.
The Marines did understand the risk involved, namely that losing one aircraft had a much greater impact, particularly in terms of lives potentially lost, and also in terms of unit integrity. If a platoon loses a squad, it might theoretically still be able to function. But losing half a platoon most certainly renders it combat ineffective.
That same size issue, known as the spot factor, also influenced the size of the MV-22B, which accomodates 24 troops, in a spot factor little bigger than a CH-46. In that case, you’re trading an increase in size for an increase in performance, rather than capacity. It’s a tradeoff.
As to TimActual’s comment on using the CH-53E itself, that’s also somewhat influenced by the confines of amphibious shipping. The MV-22 is fine for landing the initial waves. But there are only so many available aboard a ship. And the embarked Marines simply must have a certain number of the larger CH-53s aboard to move things like artillery. But they aren’t always doing that, so they are occasionally available for the lift of troops.
As to expeditiously moving off the Landing Zone, it should be remembered that Marine doctrine (and really, Army as well) is to conduct the landings away from known enemy positions. The aerial movement is simply the first stage of maneuver, leading to the dismounted movement to either a defensive position, or the line of departure for the assault. One should not dally on the ground, or disembarking the helos, but neither is tripping off the back ramp a good idea because one was unduly rushing.
Making the rounds yesterday was the news that the Marines slapped a court martial upon a young Marine simply for posting a biblical verse at her workstation.
A Marine thought she was just doing what others she worked with did; she decorated her work station. In her case, Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling printed out some quotes that gave her encouragement and taped them to her computer.
But while others were allowed to keep their decorations, Sterling was ordered by a supervisor to take hers down. Why? She had posted Christian scripture verses, including a slightly altered one from Isaiah 54:17, reports The Christian Post:
How about no. First, Sterling has already been court martialed. And convicted. And had her appeal denied. What Sterling is currently doing is attempting another appeal, again using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a basis to overturn her conviction. Good luck with that. I get why The Liberty Institute would join this appeal- it’s what they do. And ordinarily I’m on board with their goals. But this is an extremely weak case, and a not at all sympathetic client.
Sterling was most certainly not court martialed for posting biblical verses. She was court martialed for a variety of charges, essentially for disobeying lawful orders. From that IJR article linked above Mike Berry of The Liberty Institute:
“Restricting a Marine’s free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional. If a service member has a right to display a secular poster, put an atheist bumper sticker on their car or get a Star of David tattoo, then Lance Corporal Sterling has the right to display a small Bible verse on her computer monitor.”
But that’s just it- it is not her computer monitor. It is the United States government’s computer monitor. And like it or not, the government gets to decide what you can or cannot tape to its property. Therefore, the order to remove the verse (which, by the way, she never even told her chain of command was a religious statement) was lawful and proper. And as the appeals court noted when it comes to what is or is not a lawful order:
Military orders are presumed to be lawful and are disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril.
The appeals court does a fair analysis why Sterling has no claim under RFRA. RFRA is not a magical incantation that allows one to do whatever one wishes, neither in the civilian world, nor most certainly in the military.
Furthermore, Sterling was also charged with and convicted of multiple counts of failure to obey lawful orders in regards to changing into the proper uniform of the day, and of failing to obey lawful orders to hand out passes for a function on post.
You can read for yourself the appeals court decision here.
Reading between the lines just a little, Sterling certainly appears to me as one of those (fortunately rare) members who simply thinks the rules that apply to others don’t, or at least shouldn’t, apply to her. They say that as a leader, you spend 90% of your time on 10% of your people. And it is apparent that she was one that simply existed to suck up leadership’s valuable time, as opposed to contributing to the unit accomplishing its mission.
This isn’t the F-35B’s first trip to the boat. The first suitability testing is to work out the mechanics of simply flying on and off the ship. This round is how to operate, in terms of sortie generation, deck spotting and timing the cycles, integrating with the rest of the ship, and seeing just how the concept of operations to fight from the ship works in the real world. This is one of the final steps before actually sending a squadron or detachment on a real deployment. The lessons learned here will be used to draw the template for that upcoming deployment.
A couple years ago, URR had a nice post on the Marine Corps shift to the 120mm rifled mortar system known as the Expeditionary Fire Support System. Basically, it is a rifled 120mm mortar, its associated ITV prime mover, and the associated ammunition caisson and its prime mover, another ITV. General Dynamics, the prime contractor for the system, put together a nice little marketing video. Lots of shooty, even some splodey.
There’s a major, major difference between the Marine EFSS and the Army’s own 120mm smoothbore mortar systems. And it’s not really so much the guns themselves. It’s the organization of fire support assets.
A Marine Division has three infantry regiments, and an artillery regiment. The Marines have elected to replace their light 105mm howitzers in the artillery regiment with the EFSS. That means the division’s artillery will lose significant range, but will also gain a much greater ability to land early via vertical envelopment using the MV-22 Osprey, and that the small size and light weight of the EFSS will allow battalions and batteries of fire support to move quickly right behind the supported infantry regiments and battalions. It is a fairly bold shift, but the Marines probably know better than I what their fire support requirements are. One other major impetus for shifting to EFSS is that space on amphibious shipping for artillery is incredibly tight. EFSS has a very small footprint, which makes finding space for it much easier. Or rather, not taking up as much space as a conventional 105mm artillery battery frees up space for other vehicles and equipment the Marines really want to bring along, but previously had no footprint for.
The Army, by contrast, doesn’t have the same shipping and footprint constraints. Further, the Marines have, historically, only operated in division or larger sized formations since World War II. The Army, by contrast, has always had (at least theoretically) the ability to field corps and field armies. And each of those formations had their own artillery to reinforce the fires of divisional artillery. For instance, today, each Brigade Combat Team has its own Field Artillery Battalion, to support its maneuver battalions. The division headquarters controlling the BCT might well have a Fires Brigade attached to effectively double the artillery available. In the Marines, there simply isn’t any artillery above the division level.
In the Army, 120mm mortars belong to the infantry and combined arms* battalion commander, in the form of a mortar platoon organic to each battalion. That is, they are not an artillery weapon, but an infantry weapon, one of many supporting weapons organic to the maneuver unit.
Both the Army and the Marines have smaller mortars, 60mm and 81mm, that are infantry weapons, belonging to the rifle company or the infantry battalion, though how they are distributed differs in detail, if not in effect.
*Combined Arms Battalions are the maneuver battalions of Armored Brigade Combat Teams, and consist of a battalion with two tank companies, and two Bradley mechanized infantry companies.