It’s time to stop the Marines from buying aircraft.

I’ll grant, strictly for the sake of argument, that the Marine Corps is a fine fighting organization.

But one thing they can’t seem to do is buy aircraft in a way that makes any kind of sense. At all. I can’t think of a single aircraft procurement program the Marines have run well since the UH-1N program. And that was mostly run well because the Twin Huey was first built for the Canadians. The Marines just bought what someone else designed.

The legacy aircraft of the Marines, the UH-1N, the CH-46E/F, the CH-53E, the AH-1W, and the AV-8B are all pretty much overdue for replacement.  But with the exception of the replacement for the CH-53E, the replacement programs have been a series of disappointingly expensive products that either offer less capability than other aircraft available off the shelf,  or “revolutionary” aircraft that are so expensive that they can’t be risked in combat, and don’t fit in with other aspects of the Marines.

The Marines currently plan to replace the UH-1N/AH-1W with the UH-1Y/AH-1Z.  What started in the mid-1990s as a relatively modest program to upgrade both aircraft has grown into a monstrosity that has all the expense of a brand new aircraft program, but no great leap in capability. Instead of upgrading the UH-1s, the modifications are so extreme, the contractor came back and got permission to build new airframes.

The CH-46 has provided well over 40 years of faithful service, and is assuredly due for retirement. But its replacement, the MV-22B Osprey is a fantastically expensive aircraft that has virtually no self defense capability, can only lift 24 Marines at a time, is very expensive to operate, and has such hot exhaust that the decks of the ships it is to operate from require extensive modification. During development, the MV-22 had a series of high-profile accidents that led many people to worry that it was a death-trap. I’m not too concerned about that. It is very normal for new aircraft to have a high accident rate as people learn to operate it. And it is almost certain to be safer than the tired old CH-46s it replaces. But that doesn’t mean the program makes sense.  And it appears that the Marines may be up to some shennanigans in trying to hide its true safety record. Any time you have to compromise your integrity for a procurement program, things are not good.

The replacement for the AV-8B is slated to be the F-35B, a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter program.  The problem with this program is that whereas if the Air Force and Navy had simply tried to come up with  a common airframe for the carrier based and land based variants, the tradeoffs would have been rather small. There’s a very long history of Navy aircraft working very well for the Air Force. See the F-4, A-7, and even the A-1 Skyraider.  But when you put the Air Force in charge of developing a Navy aircraft, you get programs like the F-111. Sure, the Air Force gets a nice plane, but the Navy gets screwed.  In the case of the F-35, you end up with something even weirder. The smallest partner of the program, the USMC, ends up driving so many of the requirements of the basic airframe that you just have to wonder what compromises were forced onto the other variants.  The entire F-35 program has been wrapped around the STOVL variant. It’s a lot easier to take a
STOVL design and design a conventional variant than it is to take a conventional plane and make it STOVL.  So what compromises had to be made for this? And aside from having a half dozen on each big-deck amphibious ship, when do the Marines operate their Harriers in a STOVL mode? They don’t.  They operate them from conventional airfields, just like any other plane, including their F-18s.  So we end up having to pretty  much double the development cost of the F-35 program, just so they can own a variant that doesn’t do as much as they other services, at greater cost? That’s stupid.

Now, I’m not saying the Marines should get out of the aviation business. At the tactical and operational level, they do a fine job.  And the Marine Corps has been organized and trained since before WWII to integrate ground, air, and logistics forces to produce the optimum balance of firepower and strategic mobility.

But they can’t figure out how to buy aircraft to save their asses. So what should be done? Well, all is not gloom. Despite very poor choices, there are readily available platforms that the Marines could adopt or adapt that would go a long way to recapitalizing their aircraft inventory, while spending as little as possible, freeing funds up for full procurement, training, operations, and maintenance. Let’s take a look at a notional replacement program for the Marine air fleet.

Legacy platform: UH-1N. Current replacement: UH-1Y. What should replace it: H-60 platform.

It isn’t like the H-60 hasn’t been operated at sea for the last quarter century. Blackhawk/Seahawk helos are currently in production, fully capable of being operated from all the amphibious platforms the Marines operate from, and would benefit from commonality of training, spares, and production.  Instead, the Marines have gone with a new production aircraft, with new construction prices, and all the associated development costs, and the lost decade of development time, to build a Huey that has characteristics similar to an early H-60. This is such a no-brainer, I’m amazed the Navy didn’t put its foot down and insist on the Marines buying H-60s.

Legacy platform: AH-1W. Current replacement: AH-1Z. What should replace it: AH-64.

The Cobra has been a fine attack helicopter. Earlier versions were the very first designed for purpose attack helos. But what benefit do the Marines get from the Zulu that they wouldn’t get from a navalized Apache? Again, you lose out on the cost efficiencies of scale with a standardized airframe. For what the Marines are paying for Zulus, they could buy just as many Apaches.

Legacy platform: CH-46. Current replacement: MV-22B. What should replace it: Either the S-92, the CH-47 Chinook, or nothing.

The Marines medium lift, indeed, the core of the Corps aviation, the CH-46, needs to go. Not because the Phrog is bad, just that it is worn out. It is slow, has a small payload, and a short range.  The current replacement, the MV-22, is fast, has a good range and a decent payload. But, depending how you count it, it costs about $44 million for just one. And it is  a maintenance hog.  Can we really afford to spend half a billion dollars for one squadron of helos?  And that speed comes with some real problems. For instance, there is no helicopter escort capable of keeping up with it. So there’s no fire support.  And because of its unique configuration, the Osprey can’t really mount much in the way of self defense.  So we are buying an incredibly expensive aircraft, that costs a lot more than others to operate, that can’t go into any areas that might be defended.  Where is the advantage there?

As for replacement aircraft, there’s several options. One is the Sikorsky S-92, which is something like an H-60 on steroids. This would give the Marines a medium lift helicopter with similar capabilities in terms of payload, while sacrificing speed for lowered cost. It would also benefit from commonality with the H-60 series.

Another option is to just not operate medium helicopters at all. The Army model for air mobility uses light transports such as the H-60 and heavy transports such as the CH-47. The Marines could well opt to remove the CH-46s from their air wings, replace them with a combination of H-60s and a few more heavy lift helos such as the CH-53.  One problem here  is that the Marines already face something of a shortage of CH-53s, with the next generation not slated to join the fleet until 2015. My solution? Buy the Chinook. The CH-47 is technically a medium lift helicopter, coming in somewhat under the size of the CH-53. And while it is somewhat larger than the -46, a decent number could still  fit on the deck of an LHD or LHA(R), and still provide greater lift capability than the dozen or so CH-46s a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron would provide.  And while the Chinook is slower than the Osprey, it isn’t all that much slower. Plus, it can carry more than twice as much payload.  So for a given period of time, say three hours, at a given distance from the ship, say 75 miles, you’d actually end up moving more Marines ashore with 10 Chinooks than you would with 10 Ospreys.  And don’t forget, the Chinook costs less upfront to buy, and less to operate.

Legacy platform: AV-8B. Current replacement: F-35B. What should replace it: F-35C, F/A-18E/F, Nothing.

The Marines have a long, long history of providing their own fixed-wing close air support for their ground troops. They were among the very first folks to figure out that CAS was a tough mission, and find ways of doing it well. They were certainly among the first to demonstrate that CAS was a great combat power multiplier, engaging targets that they didn’t have the artillery to engage.  But much of Marine fixed-wing air has been subsumed into the greater maw of Navy Air, with Marines routinely providing F-18 squadrons to Navy carrier air wings, not to provide CAS, but because the Navy faces a severe shortage of fighters.  Practically the only Marine jets still fulfilling their historical role of dedicated support to ground troops are the Harriers. But even they find themselves not just supporting Marines on the ground. Harriers are routinely tasked to support Army and foreign coalition troops. And they rarely operate from anything other than fixed airbases that are fully capable of supporting regular fixed wing aircraft. And likely as not, if the Marine on the ground in Afghanistan today calls for air support, he’ll get it from the Navy or the Air Force.

So do we sink several billion dollars into the STOVL variant of the F-35 (which can’t, BTW, operate from the Navy’s regular carriers) just so 8-10 can go to sea with each Marine battalion? Or do we equip the Marines with the carrier capable F-35C to provide the fixed wing air support for the Marines? Do we equip them with the currently in-production F/A-18E/F Superhornet that the Navy is buying?  Or do we do away with Marine fixed-wing air and allow them to concentrate on rotary-winged air mobility?

The Marines have consistently displayed an inability to wisely spend the acquisition dollars granted to them for their aircraft. When will we stop this?

36 thoughts on “It’s time to stop the Marines from buying aircraft.”

  1. But much of Marine fixed-wing air has been subsumed into the greater maw of Navy Air, with Marines routinely providing F-18 squadrons to Navy carrier air wings, not to provide CAS, but because the Navy faces a severe shortage of fighters. Practically the only Marine jets still fulfilling their historical role of dedicated support to ground troops are the Harriers. But even they find themselves not just supporting Marines on the ground. Harriers are routinely tasked to support Army and foreign coalition troops. And they rarely operate from anything other than fixed airbases that are fully capable of supporting regular fixed wing aircraft.”

    Beware assuming all the next wars will look like this one. Dangerous set of assumptions you make. The US Army, in any way, shape, or form pointing fingers at USMC aviation is a hot one. How’s that “Air-Land Battle Doctrine” working out for ya?

    Against an opponent that can bring to bear combat power roughly equivalent to ours (or exceeding ours), we will re-learn many of the lessons you are ignoring here.

    “And likely as not, if the Marine on the ground in Afghanistan today calls for air support, he’ll get it from the Navy or the Air Force.”

    Yeah, and that’s a problem. Ask any Marine Grunt who’s been deep in it whether he prefers USMC air or some USAF or USN dumbass who thinks CAS is beneath a fighter jock. Seamless they are NOT.

  2. URR, I was hoping to hear from you. If you don’t mind, would you tell me what community you were in?

    And I’ll address your other concerns shortly.

  3. I’m hardly assuming that the next war will be a permissive environment like the current one. Indeed, I was a strong proponent of the F-22 precisely because I’m concerned that we will face a mid to high intensity conflict in the near future.

    As to AirLand Battle Doctrine, it works pretty well. The closest real world test was in Desert Storm. While the execution wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t bad. ALB is a sound doctrine for dealing with a mechanized, maneuverable opponent by integrating the fires of air and land components. Remember, ALB isn’t a doctrine for CAS, but rather a doctrine to integrate the BAI effort to support the corps and army commander’s scheme of maneuver. CAS was always assumed to be the last priority for air assets under ALB.

    You sneer at the concept of the Army buying aircraft. To be sure, the Army has egg on its face, especially the RAH-66 “no engineer left behind” program, but also the RAH-70 program. What should have been dirt simple wasn’t.

    But I cannot for the life of me understand the thinking behind the Marines decision to “reinvent” the Huey and the Cobra when they could buy off the shelf aircraft for less, and still achieve an improvement in capability. I can only presume that all other programs were sacrificed at the altar of the Osprey, in the sure and certain knowledge that they’d get enough money to make something out of the H-1 upgrade program.

    The Marines decision to forego SuperHornet procurement also meant that they would lose their dedicated EA platform currently in the EA-6B when that legacy system is retired. Will the F-35B suffice in that role? I doubt it.

    As to control of CAS in theater, Marine doctrine states that the Marines will control their own fixed-wing air assets. But that’s a lie, and has been since about 1968. The JFACC is always gonna be an Air Force officer, and he’ll always insist that Marine Air fall under the JFACC, not the JFMCC. That’s the Air Force doctrine, and has won out in practice ever since Vietnam. So why do we continue to lie to ourselves? I’m not saying that’s the best way to do business, just that it IS the way the business is run.

  4. Brad,

    I happen to be one of the rougueishly handsome and rare breed of high birth known as Marine artillery. A fire support guy.

    Couple of things:

    One of the reasons we tend to try and upgrade legacy platforms is footprint. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you have to embark something. People can say what they will about amphibious operations not being practical any longer, but those folks will have ignored much of recent history.

    http://blog.usni.org/2009/05/25/amphibious-operations-2000-2009/
    http://blog.usni.org/2009/05/25/amphibious-operations-1990-1999/

    I will also tell you that the arm-wrestling with the JFACC is a perpetual thing in joint warfighting. The JFACC is given SPARE sorties, but does NOT subsume USMC f/w air. The number of sorties considered spare directly relates to USMC activity on the ground. Sometimes it is the preponderance of USMC f/w missions, sometimes it isn’t any. As for Marine air falling under the JFACC, that just isn’t so. Didn’t happen in Vietnam, Desert Storm, AFG or Iraq. Happened in NONE of the Joint Exercises, CPX or full-scale, and none of the operations, that I have been around. The Corps fights as a combined arms team. Even the most thick-headed USAF zoomie has been forced to acknowledge that. And USAF close support is NOT USMC close support. No way, no how.

    As for the ALBD, we will have to agree to disagree. The US Army was sold a bill of goods, and it has gotten worse over the decades. In an age where air fires are thought to dominate, the dividing of the pie is based on air supremacy and not air superiority. Air supremacy will include reduction and neutralization of RED AAA systems and weapons. That is one hell of a laundry list to come ahead of CAS in the priority list.

    In Desert Storm, Iraq had next to no Air Force. And the AAA systems were numerous but outdated, particularly the C2 systems. Against an opponent where such is not the case, betcha dollars to donuts that you run out of sorties before you run out of targets, well before answering calls for CAS from the guy on the ground.

  5. By the way, nice job on the Rachel Ray photo montage. I thought I was the only one who would let her peel my carrots.

  6. I happen to be one of the rougueishly handsome and rare breed of high birth known as Marine artillery. A fire support guy.

    Great. A cannon cocker.

    One of the reasons we tend to try and upgrade legacy platforms is footprint. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you have to embark something. People can say what they will about amphibious operations not being practical any longer, but those folks will have ignored much of recent history.

    The standard, IIRC, for LHA/LHD is one CH-46 has a spot factor of 1.0, with other aircraft expressed in relation to that. Again, IIRC, an MV-22 has a factor of 1.5. I can’t imagine the spot factor of an H-60 is much higher than that of a UH-1Y. Plus, each LHA/LHD is already routinely deploying with a quartet of MH-60S for SAR and Vertrep, because the ‘phrogs and -1N Hueys just aren’t up for it. I’m fairly convinced you could squeeze a 1-for-1 substitution of ‘hawks for Hueys on board. I think the same would apply for a navalized Apache. I’m not trying to minimize the issue of embarkation. I know it is a real factor (and you cannon guys weren’t always popular with your M198s and prime movers). Replacing the Osprey with the Chinook would be a different matter, as I suspect they have a spot factor closer to 1.8 than 1.5 (presuming they would get a rotor fold system). I suspect that a Chinook would still have a somewhat smaller spot factor than a CH-53 (which is why I didn’t recommend an air component of just H-60s and H-53s). Still, I think you’d come out ahead on lift if you went from 12 Ospreys to 10 Chinooks.

    And I’m certainly not saying amphibious warfare (or expeditionary warfare, if you will) is passe. There’s certainly a place for it. If I had my druthers, the Marines would be out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and instead serve as the nations forward deployed contingency force while also serving as the nation’s strategic reserve. As I see it, they should be the national “doorkicker” force, gaining US forces entry into theaters. Having them fight in established theaters is a waste.

    As for the JFACC battles, you are incorrect:

    http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/books/1968/index.cfm?page=0487

    The Air Force owned MC fixed wing air, and gave back to the MAGTF commander what the Air Force thought they should have. And they’ve done so in every operation since then. Pretty much the only time it doesn’t work that way is under an ARG that generates its own air-plan. As a practical matter, the AF bails back most of the sorties to the MAGTF for pre-planned CAS (or what have you) and usually the MAGTF retains divert/scramble authority.

    The Corps fights as a combined arms team. Even the most thick-headed USAF zoomie has been forced to acknowledge that. And USAF close support is NOT USMC close support. No way, no how.

    No argument here. The Marines are organized, equipped and trained, both doctrinally and tactically to operate this way. And they pretty much have to be. They are too light to operate any other way. And I’m not writing an apologia for USAF CAS. There are a lot of people that are unhappy with the support they get from the zoomies. Word I’m getting is that the order of preference is MC, then Navy, then Brits, and then, and only then, AF. I just don’t think the Marines can buy aircraft worth a damn. They operate them just fine.

    As for the ALBD, we will have to agree to disagree. The US Army was sold a bill of goods, and it has gotten worse over the decades. In an age where air fires are thought to dominate, the dividing of the pie is based on air supremacy and not air superiority. Air supremacy will include reduction and neutralization of RED AAA systems and weapons. That is one hell of a laundry list to come ahead of CAS in the priority list

    I would respectfully suggest that you misunderstand ALBD then. Under ALBD it was understood that CAS was the last priority, and that ground units should not expect it. Instead, the JFACC and the JFLCC would work to coordinate deep strikes in order to influence the timing of when second and third echelon forces would arrive in a units AO. Army units have a much greater organic fire support capability than Marine units. For instance, whereas a MarDiv has 3 battalions of 155, an Army heavy division would have 3 battalions of 155, a battalion of MLRS, and very often have an additional brigade of artillery either attached, OPCONed, or in Direct Support. At corps and army levels, it was even greater. That doesn’t even count the attack helicopter element. Whereas the Marines view the attack helo as primarily a CAS weapon, the Army viewed the attack helo as either a deep strike weapon for BAI, or alternatively, a manuever element for operations deep in the enemy’s rear area. Again, the point wasn’t to provide CAS, but to shape the battlefield for the corps and division commander.

    While the Army wasn’t always satisfied with the AF efforts in Desert Storm, the Air Force, for the most part, held up its end of the bargain. That they weren’t as effective as they had claimed isn’t evidence of an attempt to ignore the Army, just an inherent limitation of airpower. And yes, to some extent, the Air Force will always try to claim they will win every war by themselves, and try to fight their own little war without having to rub shoulders with the lesser beings in the other services. But if you fire enough Chiefs of Staff, even the Air Force will play along.

    Again, under ALBD, CAS was a luxury. If a ground commander could reach a target with his organic fires, it was his target, and he shouldn’t expect the Air Force to hit it. That wasn’t the Air Force telling the Army “no”, that was the Army trying to get the most bang for the buck out of airpower. ALBD was fully on board with the AF view of interdiction. But what they tried to do was to make sure the interdiction plan meshed with what the ground force commanders needed, and for the most part, that worked well.

  7. I’d give a H-60 a footprint of about 1.3 compared to a H-1.

    From Wikipedia:

    UH-60:
    # Length: 64 ft 8 in (19.75 m)
    # Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.35 m)
    # Height: 17 ft 2 in (5.2 m)
    # Disc area: 2,262 ft² (210 m²)
    # Empty weight: 15,200 lb (6,895 kg)
    # Loaded weight: 17,758 lb (8,055 kg)
    # Useful load: 6,684 lb (3,031 kg)
    # Max takeoff weight: 21,884 lb (9,927 kg)

    UH-1N:
    # Length: 41 ft 8 in (12.69 m)
    # Rotor diameter: 48 ft 0 in (14.6 m)
    # Height: 14 ft 5 in (4.4 m)
    # Disc area: 1,808 ft² (168.0 m²)
    # Empty weight: 6,000 lb (2,721.5 kg)
    # Loaded weight: 10,500 lb (4,762.7 kg)
    # Useful load: 4500 lb (2038.0 kg)
    # Max takeoff weight: 10,500 lb (4,762.7 kg)

  8. I’m not even gonna look up maintained man hours per flight hour, but I’ll bet Chinooks are lower than Osprey’s (though there is a significant difference between the way NavAir and Army do maintanence.)

    And the LHA(R) has always seemed stupid. I can count well decks and LCACs, but you’d think they’d at least have room for one to dock, if only to move heavy stuff.

  9. I’m a little fond of the A-10 myself. As a practical matter, once a plane goes out of production, it can’t be brought back. The only exception to that I can think of is the U-2.

    I’m pretty sure Republic destroyed all the original tooling and jigs. And designing carrier compatibility into a conventional aircraft usually doesn’t work well. You’re supposed to start with a carrier capable design and then fly them from land.

  10. “The Air Force owned MC fixed wing air, and gave back to the MAGTF commander what the Air Force thought they should have. And they’ve done so in every operation since then. Pretty much the only time it doesn’t work that way is under an ARG that generates its own air-plan. As a practical matter, the AF bails back most of the sorties to the MAGTF for pre-planned CAS (or what have you) and usually the MAGTF retains divert/scramble authority.”

    Ahh, the Westmoreland temper tantrum. In 1968, it was Westmoreland’s lack of understanding of the responsibilities of the supported unit in establishing communications with the DASC. Which, according to General Anderson, neither Westmoreland nor the Army units wanted to hear.

    Since then (there WAS no JFACC in 1968), it has hardly been the case that the JFACC takes the Marine f/w air. I have been a Division FSC, and worked in MEF-level fire support on many occasions. I have seen stars almost come to blows over the issue. But the JFACC has never owned Marine air outright.

    I also disagree with your assertions regarding ALBD. Especially the part about the organic firepower. A Marine Division fights as a part of a MAGTF, meaning its air component, both RW and FW, is included.

    Tell you what. Next time there is a full-on fight between US forces and a comparable enemy, I will let you quote the part of ALBD where CAS is a luxury. I am sure company and battalion commanders in contact will be thrilled to know that.

  11. I also disagree with your assertions regarding ALBD. Especially the part about the organic firepower. A Marine Division fights as a part of a MAGTF, meaning its air component, both RW and FW, is included.

    I plead guilty to an imprecision of language. I meant to say organic and supporting artillery or other ground based fires. It is precisely because the Marines have fixed wing CAS that they can operate with less artillery. As I mentioned though, Marines tend to view attack helos as CAS, whereas doctrinally, the ALBD counts atk helos as a maneuver force, to execute deep strike missions (tho not necessarily past the artillery fan), as opposed to providing fires in direct support of a ground maneuver commander. And to an extent, the Marines treat fixed wing air much as call-fire artillery, which ALBD didn’t.

    And while company and battalion commanders have become accustomed to having all the CAS they need on hand in Iraq or Afghanistan, ALBD, which was the doctrine for fighting in Western Europe, generally focused on the division and corps commanders requests for fixed wing air.

    ALBD (FM 100-5 Operations) has been superseded, but the essentials of it in terms of fighting a near-peer mid-intensity conflict haven’t changed that much, despite a lot of mush in the current version of Operations.

  12. Just to elaborate on the above:

    The responsibility of ensuring that FACs from non-USMC units had radios compatible with USMC aircraft for terminal control fell to Westmoreland’s HQ (MACV). Ditto the ability to interface with IIIMAF DASC.

    Westmoreland disliked the Marines and the feeling was mutual. I would submit that this, and not any particular doctrinal issue, was the cause of the problem in Jan-Feb 1968.

  13. “It is precisely because the Marines have fixed wing CAS that they can operate with less artillery.”

    Bingo. Dedicated CAS. We still have to be able to get places, and cannon tubes take up a lot of embark space.

    My assertion regarding the ALBD and its descendents, is that a likely enemy, especially WP-style enemy, is going to be tube-heavy. Artillery in large numbers, and a great number of large-caliber mortars (120, 160, 240mm). I can tell you that even with a GS or R battalion of artillery and an MLRS Bn, there are likely not enough firing units for the number of planned and opportunity targets in a division zone.

    The Army may not think of their RW assets as CAS right now (the idea that it is maneuver and can seize objectives or occupy ground is a dubious one), but in a fight rich with RED FS units, employing RW (and a much larger number than estimated FW) in the CAS role is inevitable.

  14. URR, the deep strike doctrine for attack helos never envisioned seizing or holding terrain. It did however, act in a maneuver role much like a cavalry raid. They would strike, gather intel, and withdraw to friendly lines. And this was integrated into the scheme of maneuver in a way that indirectly supported the ground commander.

    For instance, a heavy brigade would reasonably be tasked to stop a WP MRD. The problem was, they tended to face three or for motor rifle divisions. The Soviet problem was to get all the divisions into the fight, which they were restricted from doing by terrain. So they generally planned to attack en echelon. A deep strike (or fixed wing strike) wasn’t designed to destroy the second or third echelon, but rather to delay and attrit them. This would give our heavy brigade commander time to reset his defense after the first echelon. Having reset, he would be reasonably well placed to destroy the other echelons in detail, rather than having no breathing space after the first echelon.

    And I think we may be talking past one another a bit in terms of what is CAS and what is BAI. Generally, a counterbattery mission by helos or fixed wing that was not terminally controlled would not be considered CAS, even if it went through the CAS request system. That would be BAI.

  15. Happy New Year XBrad! Lot to digest here, but since I was at DaNang fall67-fall68 I’ve got a lot to chime in about the USAF TACC/DASC and USMC TADC system and their integration after Tet and Operation Naigara at Khe Sanh. Will come back in the New Year on this subj here.

  16. VX, always good to see you.

    My expertise in CAS is pretty much limited to pulling out a plastic card and reading the 9-line. But I have read a couple different accounts of the “single manager” issue in Vietnam. I’d love to hear your take on it and other matters.

  17. Ahh the Osprey. As a 14E (who sees most aircraft as targets 😉 I followed that bird fondly.

    I loved that bird, but given recent events, I’m starting to embrace the S-92. The USAF needs it, the Marines need it. The V-22 is fine for special ops, maybe ASW, but transport? gunship? No way.

    The over the shore landings are a good idea, but given the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is gonna get cancled, UltimaRatioRegis don’t you think it’s time the USMC joined the h-60 crowd?

    the H-1 is dead. Yes I get the foot print, but the H-92 and H-60 aircraft are the best fit for the 21st century. The V-22 is very vulnerable, I don’t think it would last against the newer AAA or manpads.

    As to the F-35, it’s all or nothing. Sadly, the S-300/400 series SAMs and S-27 clones mean that anything non-stealthy will be dead the first days of a real war against a nation not living in caves. The Marines need it bad.

    Legacy fighters will die by the dozen. The F-22 and F-35A will have to plow the road but even then their may be problems. Jarheads need close air support that is their own, the AF and Nav Air are gonna be *busy*.

    The Marines could invest in F-35B’s that are on carrier decks, but where is the room? Another option would be a low-tech aricraft but it would need a Navy or Air force escort.

    The JSF is a soup sandwich, but it’s all we gots.

  18. Brad,

    I get the deep strike role for the helos, and as employed by Army aviation, it makes sense. Ground commanders sometimes have a less than realistic view of those capabilities when the attack helos are considered “maneuver”. Doctrinally, I have seen them attempted to be assigned as a “main effort”. This gets dicey, as the helo missions are much more like the WWII fighter sweeps performed in the ETO. Yes, they can gather intel, yes they can destroy targets, yes they can even exert some temporary control of terrain. But they are vulnerable and lack staying power.

    As for joining the H-60 club, I don’t know. The Navy is replacing their H-46, and is fielding the MCM version, Marine One is now a 60. I think it will be inevitable once there is a sufficient parts block at NAVAIR.

  19. Gents you do realize that the UH-60 is sized more to replace the V-22 rather than the UH-1Y. Also the CH-47 is a better size fit in comparison to the CH-53 rather than the V-22.

    Usage of those aircraft also fit with my assertions. The CH-47 is used as a heavy lift helicopter in Army service, the UH-60 is the medium lift helo.

    One question. The V-22 in USMC service is attacked as being a waste. SOCOM is purchasing the same aircraft yet I never hear any complaints, comments etc about what they should be using instead.

    On a side note the AH-64 was used in the deep strike role in Iraq during the opening invasion and they got seriously mauled. That part of the Air-Land Battle doctrine did not stand up to the test.

  20. The Marines do already operate the VH-60N in HMX-1, but it isn’t used as the primary Marine One. That still falls to the VH-3D. The H-60 is a bit too small for that role. It’s used most of the time for lesser officials, or overseas.

    As to deep-strike in Iraq, that’s true. They were used very effectively in that role in Desert Storm, but in the ’03 invasion, the Iraqis had updated their doctrine with a very effective counter. My atk helo bubba discussed that here: http://tinyurl.com/ye27jno

    As to the CV-22 in AFSOC, they pretty much didn’t have a choice. The MH-53’s were tired. And there wasn’t a replacement in sight. The AF wasn’t a big fan, but were basically being told by Congress that they could have the CV-22 without losing something else out of the budget, or they could have nothing. Which would you choose? If the AF thought the CV-22 was all that and a bag of chips, why have they tried for years to run the CSAR competition? (which is a terrific example of the politicization of procurement).

  21. Well starting with the CSAR comp, the Air Force has been asked why they don’t choose the V-22 for the mission and they always beg off by talking about rotor down wash. Also from what I’ve read from the AFSOC they’re thrilled with the V-22 and see it as the logical successor to the MH-53. Additionally they retired it early so that they could get more V-22’s faster. Did ya know that they’ve increased the buy of the airplane? As a matter of fact they’re pushing some production slots from the Marines in order to fill there squadrons as fast as possible.

    I’m no expert but during Desert Storm, the AH-64 was never employed in the classic deep strike role. They operated with A-10’s, AV-8B’s and other coalition aircraft during the “turkey shoot on the highway” but never in the deep strike role.

    As far as the H-60 being used by HMX-1…they also use VH-53’s and did use VH-46’s. Size has nothing to do with that particular mission. The President has often been seen climbing out of a H-60 when necessary. Size wise it competes with the NH-90 which is definitely marketed as a medium helo. In every brief I’ve ever seen it has been marketed as being a replacement for the CH-46…every one. Why even the Navy replaced their 46’s with H-60’s that place it firmly in the medium camp.

    And lastly (I don’t want to clog up your blog…I’m enjoying it) the Marines attempted to make the Apache ship “compatible”…once NAVAIR got finished chopping up the proposal and making changes to make it safe, they ended up with a very expensive airplane. Congress forced the upgrade of the AH-1…it wasn’t a Marine Corps decision.

    Just like the Assault Breacher Vehicle was developed to fill Marine Corps needs but has recently found favor with the Army (ya’ll will be getting 170 of them), I favor cross pollination when it makes sense. But the thought of just adopting US Army aircraft whole sale (same applies to Navy or Air Force aircraft) just makes my blood run cold. I luv the fact that we all wear US flag patches but each service has a core mission. Assault from the sea requires unique equipment at times. Aircraft are one of those unique mission items.

  22. I’m no expert but during Desert Storm, the AH-64 was never employed in the classic deep strike role. They operated with A-10’s, AV-8B’s and other coalition aircraft during the “turkey shoot on the highway” but never in the deep strike role.

    Wrong. The corps aviation brigade of the 7th Corps would execute a deep attack on the corps objectives for the next day. The purpose was to attrit and fix the divisions that the corps would attack the next day. And they were for the most part very successful at it (and it should be noted, the corps cavalry regiment would locate those targets for the CAB). That’s straight up ALB doctrine, and it worked fairly well.

    As far as the H-60 being used by HMX-1…they also use VH-53’s and did use VH-46’s. Size has nothing to do with that particular mission. The President has often been seen climbing out of a H-60 when necessary.

    That’s true. HMX-1 uses the aircraft best suited for the particular mission. But I don’t want to give the impression that the H-60 was the replacement for the VH-3. It isn’t. That’s why we went through the whole VH-71 nightmare (which is a good example of the trouble of having two different agencies buying a platform, and no locking in the requirements before the contracts are signed).

    …the Marines attempted to make the Apache ship “compatible”…once NAVAIR got finished chopping up the proposal and making changes to make it safe, they ended up with a very expensive airplane.

    I seem to recall that, and I’ve always suspected that there was some bureaucratic shennanigans there. I’m pretty sure NAVAIR put together a wish-list of stuff designed to make it too expensive to build. Some family members in USMC aviation share that impression.

    As for the ABV, for some reason, the Army has not placed a lot of emphasis on armored engineering vehicles for some time. For a long time, that was because they didn’t want to spend the money on M-1 hulls for anything but M-1s. But lately, there’s been a surplus of tank hulls. And once the Marines paid for the development of the ABV, why not just buy off the production line? It’s cheaper that way.

    The Marines have been stuck buying other services aircraft for a long time. And it has served them well. The sad fact of the matter is that the return on investment for the money expended has not been sufficient to justify letting the Marines buy their own aircraft. I mean, $44 million dollar helicopters? No thanks.

  23. I agree completely. While the Harrier and Huey have served us well, the options you mentioned would be the most logical replacement choices. I personally see no problem with adopting the Apaches and Blackhawks and fitting them to the USMC purpose. I thought when the Osprey debacle began that it may have been a backlash reaction to having to use all the Army and Navy hand-me-downs with regard to almost all our other gear. Just one man’s opinion.

    Dadtomany
    USMC 86-93

  24. Don’t get me wrong, I love the CH-47 idea, but I’m pretty sure that the rear rotar mast is just too tall to fit below decks on our current Gators. Course they can’t work on the engines of the V-22 below decks either because they need to open up the props…but the MC probably dismissing that little detail.

  25. Xbrad,
    I concur with your suggested replacements, in general, but might make the allowance for MarineAir hooding out for some of the F-35B variants for their assault ships.

    I agree that their requirements have driven a lot of the aircraft’s design points, as well being responsible for overruns in the development cost and timeline. But the conventional variants of the F-35 will enjoy some enhancements that may otherwise have been “optimized” away in the engineering process.

    Simply put, the extra room and takeoff-weight margin that delecting the lift fan will afford will mean more gas and room for later upgrades that might not otherwise have been provided for. Will it be worth it in the long run?

    Time will tell. God only knows, and He ain’t tellin’!
    Great post that I didn’t see until today when you linked it in the comment’s at Lex’s.

    My Regards

    1. Bob, the B model is STILL dragging the whole program down a black hole. I’m willing to sacrifice it. Will the Marines face challenges if it is cancelled? Well, won’t all the services face challenges if the whole program goes under?

      And I don’t think the value added by a handful of jets on the big deck phibs is worth it. If you take that reason away, there’s no reason they can’t operate SuperHornets in their place- cheaper, now.

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