Professional Notes

The airborne laser mine-detection system gives the squadron an exceptional contingency capability to support U.S. naval forces from any air-capable ship in the fleet. The system can detect and identify floating and moored sea mines.

"The Magic Lantern system has a very high accuracy rate," said Captain William Arnold, program manager for the U.S. Navy's airborne mine countermeasures programs. "If it says there's a mine, there's a mine."

Floating and moored mines are, by percentage, the most available types, and pose the greatest threat to military and commercial ships, especially in areas such as the Persian Gulf. "Since 1950, 14 Navy ships have been lost or seriously damaged by [such] mines, more than all other causes combined," Arnold said.

The Magic Lantern system uses a bluegreen laser and camera array to scan water from the surface down to a keel depth greater than that of any U.S. warship, correlating returns from multiple scans to identify mines with outstanding reliability. It is the only airborne mine countermeasures system able to sweep the entire upper column at and below the ocean surface, and the only one cleared for day and night operations. Accurate navigation data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) enables the SH-2G Magic Lantern crew to locate mines precisely, enabling a single ship or a battle group to avoid them during a transit. Disposal units can remove the mines later.

The squadron received two systems on 7 December and will get a third system in December 1997. One SH-2G assigned to the squadron served as the test aircraft for Magic Lantern tests at Panama City, Florida, in September. During operational tests flown by HSL-94 crews, system performance exceeded Navy specifications. Kaman Aerospace will modify five more squadron SH-2Gs to carry the minehunting system, and will support the deployed systems in the fleet; each standard 17-member SH-2G Magic Lantern detachment will be augmented with a Kaman technical representative.

The podded system replaces the magnetic anomaly detector on a strengthened hard point on the SH-2G's starboard side. The cockpit display in the helicopter's aft cabin provides the sensor operator with mine-detection symbology and real-time video imagery of suspected mine contacts. The ASN-150 tactical navigation system provides signals to the cockpit horizontal situation indicator, which enables the pilots to fly predetermined search patterns. A tactical decision aid assists aircrews in determining search patterns and analyzing post-mission data; the aid's software runs on a standard computer on board the helicopter.

The modified SH-2Gs use information from miniaturized airborne global positioning receivers that annotate contacts with precise navigation coordinates. With contact positions fixed, the helicopter crew can overfly mine contacts and direct other mine countermeasures assets or Explosive Ordnance Disposal units to the location. Mine contacts detected during a mission are stored on a data disk for post-mission review on the tactical decision aid.

HSL-94 routinely deploys single-aircraft detachments on board LAMPS I frigates crewed by U.S. Naval Reservists. In support of the Department of Defense's Total Force concept, the Reserve squadron plans to deploy with active-duty destroyers in 1997. The squadron also can operate the SH-2G from other ships ranging in size from small frigates to aircraft carriers. With Magic Lantern, the SH-2G can provide organic mine countermeasures coverage for carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, and ships steaming independently. Mine locations detected by Magic Lantern can be downloaded by the tactical decision aid for subsequent distribution to other units.

The airborne laser mine detection system augments the antisubmarine and antisurface warfare capabilities of the SH-2G LAMPS MK I detachment. System installation requires approximately four hours, and the system has extensive built-in test capability; additional support equipment is under development. All six HSL-94 Supersea Sprites are to be made compatible with the Magic Lantern System. In addition to the squadron's test cadre, additional aircrew will be fully trained to operate the system.

Lieutenant Commander Burchell , Public Affair Officers for HSL-94, is SH-2G Magic Lantern Project Manager at Kaman Corporation.

 

Minehunting SH-2Gs enter service

By Major General Edward Hanlon, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

"Magic Lantern truly represents the first new technology to be brought to bear in this area of mine countermeasures since the introduction of sonar. [Given] the SH-2G's ability to operate from every combatant in the fleet, HSL-94 will provide our naval forces' only deployment-contingency capability dedicated to finding moored and floating mines.

"Expeditionary warfare is the cornerstone of Forward…From the Sea,' and effective mine countermeasures is an essential element of expeditionary warfare. While it is true that there is no silver bullet for mine countermeasures . . . there is a new family of technologies that holds a great deal of promise. The airborne electro-optics technologies, ranging from various laser approaches to passive multi-and hyper-spectral systems, bring a number of potential benefits.

"One is speed. An electro-optics system operating from an airborne platform greatly enhances the rate mine reconnaissance. While other airborne systems are effective at detecting, classifying, and localizing mines, they cannot always cover as much area as an operational commander might require in a given period. Airborne electro-optics systems, not constrained by the slower speeds required to tow some of the fleet's existing systems, can operate at a considerably higher area coverage rate.

"Another benefit is safety. The men and women who today carry out airborne mine countermeasures missions have one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the naval service. Deploying large, heavy, complex mine countermeasures systems from the open rear door of a flying helicopter, towing those systems through the water, sometimes transferring the tow line in flight to a relieving helicopter, and then retrieving those systems is a challenging, serious, and dangerous business. Airborne electro-optical systems have the advantage of employing remote sensing so that they can carry out their mission without having to deploy towed systems.

"A third benefit is size—they lend themselves to deployments aboard a wide range of platforms—enabling the organic, real-time mine reconnaissance capability we desire.

"Finally, electro-optics technologies can expose mines in the very challenging surface and near-surface water regions, as well as bottom mines. These high-noise, high-clutter zones have always been a particular challenge for sonar-based mine detection, classification, and localization. Electro-optics technologies bring the promise of an additional capability in these difficult areas.

"During testing over the last 18 months, Magic Lantern has demonstrated that it is an effective counter to floating and shallow-moored mines. It has demonstrated a higher probability of detection, lower false alarm rate, and a greater area coverage in looking for and finding contact mines than any system available to the Navy today.

"One more note of singular importance about this technology and its inaugural introduction into the fleet by HSL-94. Our smaller total naval force requires that we fully embrace the fact that our Reserve forces are instrumental to our ability to achieve our national military objectives, and this requires that they have modern, capable equipment and the training to employ it.

"The Magic Lantern (Deployment Contingency) with HSL-94 puts our most modern, technologically sophisticated mine hunting laser system directly into the Reserves and demonstrates the pivotal importance we attach to the Reserve component. I can think of no greater vote of confidence in our Reserve forces."

EDITOR's NOTE: General Hanlon, Director Expeditionary Warfare on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, made these remarks (excerpted) at the roll-out ceremony.

 

The Silent Service Must Communicate

By Captain Kenneth Hart, U.S. Naval Reserve

Submarine support for carrier battle groups and other surface contingents is hardly new. In fact, the need for a high-speed submarine compatible with carrier battle groups was one of the arguments for developing the Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.

This role—originally called direct support, a term long familiar to infantrymen and artillerymen—envisioned the submarine working directly for surface fleet components. By the time the Los Angeles went to sea, however, the relationship had changed to a much less direct arrangement; the new term was associated support. Over the years, submarines and surface fleet units experimented with a variety of working arrangements involving varying levels of submarine control by the battle group. Changing threats have changed the names for such integrated operations, but they still involve a submarine working with surface and air units.

The breakup of the Soviet Union and Russia's lack of a blue-water presence anything like that of the 1970s and 1980s seem to suggest that the U.S. Navy controls the high seas. While that may be true for the moment, it is not something to be taken for granted; the submarine force must continue to maintain its unmatched capability for open-ocean, undersea warfare—a topic for another discussion.

Assuming that the high seas are secure, the Navy has focused attention on operations in littoral waters: closer to shore with restricted maneuvering space both laterally and in depth, difficult acoustic conditions, and proximity to shore-based threats. "Forward . . . from the Sea" recognizes a need for joint-service cooperation, and, in turn, requires submarines to become an integral part of the carrier battle group or other military forces involved in particular operations.

This has not been easy for the submarine force or the traditional battle group surface and air components. The submarine force, still referred to as the "silent service," has a long history of operating independently and covertly. Traditionally, submariners rarely transmit—many do so only in absolute emergencies. In addition, mutual interference, i.e., submarine navigation safety with respect to other submerged objects, including other submarines, and waterspace management (identification of waterspace for use of antisubmarine weapons), presented significant barriers to smooth integration of submarines into the battle group.

Submarines have been depth-charged by friendly destroyers and bombed by friendly aircraft since early in their service at sea. Historical accounts from World War II submarine patrols clearly demonstrate a concern about detection and prosecution by our own forces. The concern remains valid today, and detailed procedures for waterspace management are established to preclude such attacks, often referred to as blue-on-blue engagements. In exercises, I have watched opportunities to sink an enemy submarine—allowable under the waterspace management in effect—forgone because of concern by the prosecuting aircraft for a potential blue-on-blue engagement. Failure to prosecute the attack resulted from a heightened sensitivity to the issue and a lack of thorough familiarity with the waterspace management guidelines.

Although rare, friendly submarines are attacked from time to time during exercises and these events get a great deal of attention. Waterspace management can be complex in a multi-dimensional and rapidly changing environment. Constant attention to ensure both protection of friendly submarines and vigorous prosecution of opposing submarines is the price.

Prevention of mutual interference has become more of a factor because submarines now operate close to battle group surface units and other friendly submarines as a matter of course. The use of towed arrays and other towed bodies by surface units, for example, requires coordination and planning by the battle group. In a dynamic situation, the coordination must be handled in real time. Inability to reposition friendly units because of communication problems, at the very least will hamper efforts to complete a task and could result in failure to perform the assigned mission. If they are to be an asset and not a liability, submarines must be fully integrated with the battle group.

Battle group command and control of assigned submarines remains a complex problem. For many years, the submarines were controlled directly by the submarine operating authorities, which included, for example, Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (ComSubLant); his Pacific counterpart, ComSubPac; and, in the Mediterranean, ComSubMed. Safety concerns and lack of submarine operating experience within the battle group resulted in hesitation to transfer tactical control and tactical command of the submarines from these commanders to the battle group. Although tactical control of supporting submarines was commonly transferred to the at-sea commander, concerns about mutual interference and waterspace management led the submarine commanders to retain tactical command.

As a result, battle group commanders were understandably reluctant to employ submarines in any meaningful role, and usually relegated the boats to the peripheries of the operation, typically far out in front of the advancing battle group.

Today, littoral operations require a much closer working relationship and much more coordination. To solve the command-and-control problems, ComSubLant routinely has been transferring tactical command of assigned submarines to battle group commanders. This has required additional measures to ensure the safety of the submarines and the level of coordination required to work together in an integrated and effective manner.

The silent service would rather listen than talk—but communicating remains the key to successful employment of submarines in an integrated role. In the battle group exercises with which I am familiar, submarines that communicate have been most effective.

The Battle Group Information Exchange System (BGIXS), which uses dedicated battle group satellite communications, has proved effective for submarine command and control in a combat scenario. I served as Submarine Element Coordinator on a recent exercise, and the Antisubmarine Warfare Commander gave release authority to me on messages to the submarines using the system. This proved vital in facilitating communications with the submarines and coordinating with other assets to prosecute the diesel submarine threats. It gave us the capability to establish submarine havens—changing them as needed—and led to numerous successful attacks on the enemy diesels by both friendly submarines and supporting air assets. The BGIXS II system, now in service, provides even more versatile communications between the battle group and assigned submarines on a real-time basis.

To improve battle group-submarine coordination, senior active-duty submarine officers have been detailed full time to the battle group staffs, and active-duty junior submarine officers have been detailed to the destroyer squadron staffs. In a typical battle group organization, the destroyer squadron commander will be assigned as the Antisubmarine Warfare Commander and the Surface Warfare Commander. (The term antisubmarine is being replaced by undersea. More recently, some battle groups have combined the undersea and surface roles in the title of Sea Combat Commander.) The submariners have been a real plus in integrating submarines into the battle group.

Even so, the dynamic problem of command and control during a fast-paced multi-dimensional exercise remained; the Submarine Element Coordinator and his supporting Submarine Advisory Team were created to address the problem. In addition to the full-time staff personnel, these teams are augmented for high-tempo operations by submarine-experienced officers and enlisted personnel specifically trained for these duties in the Naval Reserves. The coordinator reports directly to the Sea Combat Commander and the advisory team maintains a fully manned command-and-control watch. The teams provide a source of on-the-spot submarine expertise.

The Atlantic Fleet has three reserve units in place to provide trained personnel for battle group exercise and deployment commitments. The program's success has resulted in funding sufficient to double the size of existing units in the Atlantic Fleet; the Pacific Fleet is considering such units.

Some have criticized these actions, but my experience with battle group operations involving submarines has been favorable. 1 Battle Group Commanders and Sea Combat Commanders have been made fully aware of the various mission capabilities and employment of assigned submarine assets. They are keenly aware of the problems involved in integrating submarines into the battle, but they are pleased to make the most of a submarine's capability. The submarine commander may be hard pressed to keep up with all the tasks the battle group would like him to accomplish.

The additional benefit brought to the battle group by the embarked submarine advisory teams is the ability to respond to ad hoc questions about situational impacts on submarine operations. These "what if?" questions are frequently posed and can usually be answered promptly by the submarine-experienced team.

While managing waterspace and preventing mutual interference remain complex problems that continue to evolve, dedicated watch standers have bridged the gap and brought the submarine into full partnership with the battle group.

1 See "The Battle Group Commander's Most Unused Asset: The Submarine." by Lt. Michael Dulas, USN, The Submarine Review, October 1995, pp. 98-103.

Captain Hart , whose reserve billet is Commanding Officer, Submarines Atlantic Battle Group Support Unit 106, Norfolk, Virginia, is the Technical Coordinator in the Office of the Secretary of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. While on active duty, he served in the USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) and the USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642).

 

Cyclones and the Coast Guard Fight the Drug War

By Lieutenant (junior grade) J. Mark Sedwick, U.S. Coast Guard

My Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDet) recently deployed onboard the USS Cyclone (PC-1), a proud member of the Special Warfare community, during counternarcotics operations in the Caribbean Sea. We spent four weeks onboard and came away with a unified opinion: the vessel is an ideal platform for counternarcotics operations, and this one was manned by an exceptional crew.

Cyclone -class coastal patrol ships traditionally work with Navy SEALs, and their crews are comfortable with small-boat evolutions in all types of sea conditions, a basic requirement for working with Coast Guard LEDets. The vessel's speed and maneuverability permit her to respond to cued intelligence or the more traditional LEDet mission of closing and querying vessels of interest. During the past eight years Coast Guard LEDets working from Navy platforms have racked up an impressive number of drug seizures, including some of the largest maritime interdictions in history.

During the early years of the program, drug smugglers paid little attention to U.S. Navy ships transiting the Caribbean and Florida Straits because they knew the Navy was prohibited from taking law-enforcement action. Many smugglers were unpleasantly surprised to see the Coast Guard Ensign hoisted up the yardarm of the Navy ship as it shifted tactical control to the Coast Guard. After suffering numerous seizures and arrests to the Coast Guard-Navy counternarcotics efforts, the drug smugglers now count the Navy among their most feared enemies.

The success of Coast Guard-Navy efforts in drug interdiction quickly led to other successful joint operations in the Persian Gulf. Coast Guard LEDets continue to enforce U.N. sanctions in the Adriatic Sea and Persian Gulf operating from our Navy ships and also from NATO warships.

Because of the frequent operations with SEALs, the Cyclone 's crew was flexible and adapted well to the demands of the counter drug mission. The majority of our boardings took place at night, which increased the danger in lowering and recovering the small boat. The crew performed boat lowering and recovery evolutions flawlessly and remained vigilant during the lengthy boarding operations. My team and I were reassured to see the Cyclone standing by on the horizon while we were conducting a high-risk boarding of a suspect vessel.

We were impressed with the 170-foot patrol craft's sea-keeping ability and found that the berthing and storage space in the after SEAL compartment fit our requirements. The crew welcomed us aboard and were very enthusiastic about performing the law enforcement mission. The Cyclone 's speed and maneuverability are ideal when responding to cued intelligence. Her small size, compared to other Navy warships, made deceptive lighting a particularly effective way to conceal her identity. She routinely transited corridors used by drug smugglers for air drops and approached pick-up points virtually undetected.

Several challenges remain, principally with regard to strategy. Using the Cyclone in this manner took the Coast Guard detachment away from its traditional mission of remaining well offshore and questioning suspicious northbound contacts. All warships have the authority to conduct right-of-approach inquiries under the international doctrine of Right of Visit, which allows warships to close other vessels (except other warships) to ask routine, administrative questions to determine the vessel's nationality and status.

The Navy commanding officer and Coast Guard officer-in-charge make any initial recommendation to board a northbound contact that fits the potential smuggler criteria. If the Joint Interagency Task Force East concurs with the recommendation, the Navy vessel is directed to shift tactical control to the Coast Guard and the boarding commences.

The sequence of events may require several hours—which is one of the main reasons detachments should be positioned well offshore. If they are positioned near the territorial seas of other nations, the time to ask right-of-approach questions and the lengthy process necessary to shift tactical control to the Coast Guard to conduct boardings is severely limited, if not compromised.

Procedural changes may be needed to streamline this process if the Cyclone -class vessels are going to be used close to shore, where, as demonstrated in Operation Support Democracy off the coast of Haiti, they seem ideally suited. Diplomatic overtures to Caribbean island nations, which routinely claim 12-mile territorial waters, are necessary to obtain permission to enter their waters while pursuing the small, fast vessels used extensively by smugglers to ferry narcotics dropped by air into territorial waters.

Recent advances by the drug smugglers necessitate faster, more maneuverable platforms such as the Navy's Cyclone combatants and Coast Guard's 110-foot patrol boats. Based on my experience, the Cyclone s are a welcome and much-needed addition to the drug-interdiction arsenal.

Lieutenant Sedwick is the Officer-in-Charge, Law Enforcement Detachment Echo 5, in Baltimore, Maryland. He has served on five counterdrug and two Desert Storm deployments.

 

Flying in the Littorals? Better Bring a Lawyer

By Lieutenant Lawrence K. Zelvin, U.S. Navy

You are supporting an exercise against country X's fast patrol boats. To complete the mission, you must fly close to—but not into—country Y's territorial waters. No problem, you say; your ship's air controller will be watching every move to keep you 12 nautical miles from all landfalls, and you will back him up, using your aircraft's radar and integrated Global Positioning System.

The mission goes well; you find your targets and engage them. Shortly after your triumphant return to mother, however, you get an urgent call from the skipper: Country Y just reported that your aircraft strayed into its territorial airspace. How did this happen?

There is a common perception in the fleet that, as long as U.S. aircraft stay 12 nautical miles from land, they will never violate another country's territorial claims. Some exercise commanders even add an additional 3-nautical mile buffer to the standard 12-nautical mile limit for insurance. Unfortunately, in some littoral waters, even 15 nautical miles will not be enough to keep you clear of an international incident. Ever hear of baselines?

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on 10 December 1982, is the international agreement that stipulates the way national boundaries, or baselines, are set at sea. (International Law for Seagoing Officers, published by the Naval Institute, pages 356-357, also applies.)

The United States neither signed nor ratified the U.N. convention, but, in March 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced that the United States accepted the balance of interests reflected in many provisions of the Convention, including the navigation provisions. President Bill Clinton signed the Convention on 7 October 1994, subject to the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate; that body will debate it beginning 1997.

In any event, the Convention defines "normal" baselines as follows: "Except where otherwise provided in this Convention, the normal baseline for measuring the breadth of the territorial sea is the low-water line along the coast as marked on large-scale charts officially recognized by the coastal state."

This means that nations "normally" set their territorial claims based on the low-water mark of their coast. The question is: How far out can a country claim territorial waters from this low-water mark? According to Section 2: Limits of the Territorial Sea, Article 3: Breadth of the Territorial Sea of the Convention: "Every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from the baselines determined in accordance with this Convention."(Various nations claim 3, 4, 6, 12, 20, 30, 35, 50, and 200-hundred nautical limits from their baselines. The U.S. government recognizes only the 12-nautical mile limit as stipulated in the Convention.)

Simple enough, but if our fictional aviator ensured that he was 12 nautical miles offshore at all times, how can country Y say the crew strayed into its territorial waters? Perhaps you are unfamiliar with "straight" baselines?

Article 7 of the Convention discusses them and their role in setting territorial limits: "Straight Baselines—In localities where the coastline is deeply indented and cut into, or if there is a fringe of islands along the coast in its immediate vicinity, the method of straight baselines joining appropriate points may be employed in drawing the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured."

In other words, do not be lulled into believing that if you stay 15-nautical miles away from land at all times you will be in the clear. Many countries whose geography includes archipelagoes, islands, or indented waters have arbitrarily established internationally recognized points delineating where their baselines will be plotted (some of these points are far from land). As a result, a crew may need to remain 20 to 25 nautical miles offshore. Where can you find these straight baselines? The best answer is your ship's quartermaster or judge advocate general (JAG) officer.

The Department of Defense Maritime Claims Reference Manual (DoD 2005.AM) lists baselines recognized by the United States. This manual, available from the quartermaster or JAG, is organized by country and delineates the peculiarities of each country's national limits as well as its baseline points referenced to latitude and longitude. It would seem that all you have to do is look up the countries, plot the baseline points, and draw 12 to 15-nautical mile boundary from the U.S.-recognized border. Sounds simple enough.

Most baselines, however, run for hundreds of miles and involve several hundred reference points. How do you track all these points in the air? The best way may be to plot the farthest baseline points and remain 12 to 15 nautical miles outside them.

Air controllers on board ship should have the baseline points plotted in their Navy Tactical Data System for reference while monitoring aircraft. When flights must be conducted near two nations with different limits—e.g., Sweden: 12 nautical miles; Norway: 4 nautical miles—ask the staff JAG how to interpret the correct baseline between the two or plot the worst-case scenario.

While none of us would ever intentionally violate another nation's territorial claims, an inadvertent incident is likely in littoral waters without a full understanding of straight baselines. Reviewing the Maritime Claims Binder will make your brief longer—but not nearly as long as the time required to send an Operational Report-3 to the world, saying that you may have made a mistake.

Lieutenant Zelvin , an SH-60B aviator, is the Officer-in-Charge of HSL-42 Detachment 8.

 

First Tomcat LANTIRN Squadron Proves Concept

By Lieutenant Willard C. Burney, U.S. Navy

On 28 June 1996, the Jolly Rogers of Fighter Squadron (VF)-103 flew on board the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) with the most lethal F-14s in the U.S. Navy. The squadron was the first to deploy with the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared at Night (LANTIRN) system, developed by the U.S. Air Force, and night-vision goggles (NVGs).

The added capabilities made the Tomcat a true day/night precision strike fighter, a welcome new option for the carrier air wing in the face of a changing threat.

Tomcats remain the Navy's premier air-superiority aircraft, but have become involved increasingly in the air-to-ground role. With their speed, long range, and heavy payload, Tomcats are the perfect self-escorting strike fighters. Initially limited to dropping unguided "dumb" bombs, VF-103—then known as the Sluggers—began dropping 1,000-pound laser-guided bombs (LGBs) in the spring of 1994, depending on A-6Es and F/A-18s to laser-designate the targets; the LANTIRN system has given the Tomcat its own lasing capability.

The F-14 system is a self-contained pod, carried on one of the aircraft's right shoulder stations, which combines a laser-designator and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) that allows the crew to locate, designate, and deliver precision-guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy. While the system on the F-14 is similar to the dualpod system used by the Air Force's F-15E Strike Eagle, it incorporates a Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial measuring unit that gives it the most stable and precise laser spot of any system available today. This, combined with the F-14's large 8-inch by 8-inch programmable tactical information display, makes it the most capable LGB delivery system in the U.S. inventory.

In a coordinated effort with private industry, Fighter Wing Atlantic and the Jolly Rogers took the idea from concept to deployable fleet asset in less than 18 months. Off-the-shelf technology and a creative approach to the operational evaluation process made it possible.

The squadron worked closely with a Lockheed Martin team that adapted the existing F-15 system into a single, stand-alone pod that required minimal interface with the F-14 weapon system. Bypassing the red tape involved in the standard evaluation and appropriation channels, the squadron did nearly all of the fleet-level testing. The result was a success; the process should be considered as a model for bringing such equipment into the fleet.

The Enterprise arrived back in Norfolk on 20 December 1996. The system held up well throughout the cruise despite the harsh flight-deck conditions in the Persian Gulf and the rigor of carrier and fighter operations. We deployed as a super squadron with 14 F-14s, six LANTIRN pods, nine LANTIRN-configured aircraft and five Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System aircraft, and experienced only seven LANTIRN failures in more than 460 sorties.

VF-103 also was the first Atlantic Fleet F-14 squadron to deploy with NVG-capable aircraft. In the air-to-air arena, they improved our mutual-support capabilities and provided a limited capability to identify bogies visually at night. When paired with the FLIR, they were a real boost to situational awareness when delivering air-to-ground ordnance at night, an area where the F-14 has had little capability until now. In addition, the combination of LANTIRN, NVGs, speed, loiter time—and two sets of eyeballs—made the F-14 an ideal choice for the forward air controller (airborne) role.

During the cruise, we flew a 600-nautical-mile (round trip), unrefueled, self-escorted strike on four pinpoint targets to a bombing range in Israel. The mission, conducted as part of Exercise Juniper Hawk, resulted in all opposing aircraft destroyed and direct hits on all targets. Of particular interest, the Tomcat is the only aircraft in the Navy inventory capable of launch and recovery with the 2,400-pound GBU-24 laser-guided bunker penetrator that was so successful in the Gulf War. Considering the GBU-24's $600,000 price tag, this bring-back capability is especially important. Final clearance is imminent.

These new capabilities will help Tomcats fill some of the void created by the retirement of the A-6E. While lacking the Intruder's all-weather radar bombing capability, LANTIRN-configured F-14s will be able to carry out many of the missions that would have gone to the A-6s, picking up the slack until newer F/A-18E/Fs enter service.

The Tomcat is quickly becoming the multi-mission workhorse of the fleet. Forging ahead and breaking new ground with LANTIRN and NVGs, the Jolly Rogers are bringing the old bones into the next century.

Lieutenant Burney is a Radar Intercept Officer with VF-103. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991.

 

Marine Raiding Craft: Who's Minding the Helm?

By Captain Peter Baumgarten, U.S. Marine Corps

In the 1980s, General Al Gray brought Marines new ideas that were molded into concepts, staffed, and executed with a flurry of activity. Many development-procurement process steps were skipped to ride the tidal wave of change—which many viewed as exactly the way the Marine Corps should operate. The most tangible product of this period was the refinement of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU[SOC]) deployment program that increased capabilities dramatically.

The changes enhanced Marine Corps capabilities to provide a lightning-quick contingency force. Staffs trained for overthe-horizon operations; battalions entered expanded training cycles focusing on amphibious raids, non-combatant evacuations, and tactical recoveries of aircraft and personnel; and force reconnaissance companies trained in close-quarters combat for hostage rescues.

The small-boat raid capability, last employed by the Marine Corps under the vision of Colonels Evans Carlson and Merritt Edson in World War II, was resurrected. In the spirit of the Gray revolution, a MEU(SOC) small-boat raid program was developed in a matter of months. After somewhat limited research, small boats and their requisite equipment were bought from civilian vendors. Existing training staffs were converted to instruct coxswains and navigators, and employment and maintenance procedures were implemented on the fly. The new capability allowed a MEU(SOC) commander to insert clandestinely a lightly armed, company-size element from over the horizon for a variety of missions.

Since then, however, the small-boat raid program has not progressed as planned. A long-term concept and a permanent support structure do not yet exist. Although Marines have improvised an effective capability, the program has failed to advance because no one has reconciled the dissimilar views for the future.

Today, as individual units set individual goals, operational employment varies greatly. Most important, the principal voices responsible for providing direction—the actual operational units—have been drowned out. Without a unified vision developed by operational units, the program will wither in a fiscally constrained future. Only by creating a specialized unit within each Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) can the MEU(SOC) small-boat raid program achieve the required unity of effort.

Creating such a specialized organization might seem unrealistic, but the personnel structure exists. The Special Operations Training Groups in each Marine Expeditionary Force have the billets for a small-boat raid training unit, but the capability has not been exploited. The II and III MEF groups conduct limited small-boat training, augmented with support from outside commands such as the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Atlantic. The I MEF group does not conduct small-boat training, relying instead on the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific, at the Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California.

Although these expeditionary groups are responsive to the MEFs and provide superb instruction, they have become the focal point of small-boat expertise within the Marine Corps. They cannot, however, provide the concept for future small-boat raid operations. That direction must emanate from the operational units: the MEFs. Disbanding the training programs at the expeditionary groups and transferring their personnel structure and expertise to the MEF training groups would create an ideal operational voice to resolve the existing small-boat problems in training, employment, and procurement.

Training problems stem also from a number of loosely related small-boat instructional units. The five small-boat raid training locations have common instructional threads, but their course content and quality vary greatly:

  • Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Pacific, conducts a ten-day course for small-boat raid company Marines; it is not taught at any of the other four locations.
  • The II MEF group conducts its own specialized course, which focuses on the interoperability of the components of a small-boat raid company.
  • The III MEF group trains its small-boat scout swimmers in helicopter casting techniques that are not recognized as a requirement by the other schools.

We need standardization. A single unit within each MEF training group can unify training by working with its counterparts in the other MEFs to revalidate requirements, analyze performance standards, and review course content to provide graduates with standard, high-quality instruction.

Another concern is the variety of visions of MEU(SOC) small-boat employment espoused by various units. The differing views have led to a misunderstanding of small-boat capabilities that adversely affects the ability of a MEU(SOC) to perform at its maximum level. West Coast small-boat raid operations, for example, often are conducted with waterborne movements from distances more than 30 miles over the horizon, while East Coast operations normally originate within 10 miles of shore. This fundamental difference must be resolved.

The failure of the MEFs to provide a unified operational voice in small boat issues has affected more than training and employment. The visionary void has been filled in the recent past by the unique and sometimes narrow views of training and maintenance personnel. Although input by training and maintenance personnel is necessary to determine the direction of the MEU(SOC) small-boat raid program, their priorities must not supersede those of operational units. In no area has this problem been more disastrous than in the procurement of small-boat equipment.

Despite strong opposition in some sectors, a twin outboard-engine system was fielded quickly without thorough operational evaluation by MEF units—and the consequences were predictable. In June 1995, after two years of frustration with the new equipment, a small boat conference outlined the material deficiencies of the engine system and declared it operationally unacceptable after millions of dollars had been spent. Unfortunately, the blame fell squarely upon the MEFs. Without a strong voice and a consensus, they had allowed the wrong people to analyze and fill their perceived requirements.

It is a complicated process. Although the concept of an operator-led small-boat raid program may sound practical, a conflict between the MEFs may result. Simply centralizing small-boat raid training, employment, and procurement concerns within the MEFs will not solve all the problems of the past. Direction will not appear magically; it must be created by a consensus of the three MEFs. Failure to do so could put us back at the start.

We may need an honest broker. In the early 1990s, it became apparent that the Rigid Raiding Craft's (RRC) size and lack of versatility restricted its effectiveness. In 1992, II MEF ceased RRC training and deployment. Although I MEF soon followed suit, training and maintenance continued on the West Coast. Why? Because no common vision existed. It was not until after an inquiry by the Commandant in early 1995 that a plan for the disposition of the craft was put in place. An honest broker could have solved this problem—and the obvious honest broker is the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

The Command's Coalition and Special Warfare Division, which handles MEU(SOC) issues within the Marine Corps, can provide guidance to help the MEFs address present small-boat employment and future operational requirements, while assisting the MEFs in reaching agreement on new equipment.

The Command's Training and Education Division, which has been instrumental in helping develop common standards for small-boat-related special skills training for coxswains and maritime navigators, can resolve training issues. This division could work with the MEF units to revalidate all training standards, performance steps, and conditions of employment for all aspects of MEU(SOC) small-boat raid operations.

These changes will not come about easily; entrenched bureaucracies resist change, and there are other issues. Major concerns regarding facilities, budgetary restraints within the MEFs, and personnel stability within the Fleet Marine Force must be addressed.

Regardless of these obstacles, each MEF needs a team to drive home its views on small boats. Only when the MEFs become the predominant force in the arena will a unified vision emerge.

Captain Baumgarten commands Company B, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, at Camp Pendleton, California. 

 

 
 

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