Today's U.S. warfighting doctrine is joint. But it should be clear to everyone that when it comes to supporting Marines and soldiers on the beach, the U.S. Navy will fight in close only if there is little or no risk to its surface combatants—a condition likely to remain unchanged as long as the Navy continues to build fragile ships and rely on carrier-based aircraft to provide close fire support.
Yet naval surface fire support (NSFS) is essential for troops engaged in close combat in the littorals, and the 6 August 1997 General Accounting Office report on the subject to the Secretary of Defense included this indictment:
"The Navy admits that it currently has no credible surface fire support capabilities to support forced entry from the sea and inland operations by Marine Corps and Army forces."
With the demise of the arsenal ship, the Navy's contribution to jointness is the Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM)—although the Navy now refers to the projected Surface Combatant-21 (for the 21st century) as the "land-attack destroyer."
The ERGM program is a $2.1 to $4.8 billion effort to design, test, and field a new long-range five-inch gun that can deliver 19 pounds of explosives (using Global Positioning System guidance) at ranges to 63 nautical miles. The program calls for fitting each of 28 Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class destroyers with one gun.
The ERGM, however, fails to satisfy validated surface fire support requirements, according to Marine Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper. (Now retired, General Van Riper made the statement while on active duty; see "What the Marine Corps Really Needs . . . ," Proceedings November 1997, pages 71-72.) Following are some of the required surface fire support performance criteria that cannot be met by the ERGM/DDG-51 combination:
Responsiveness . A time span measured from receipt of call for fire to rounds on target. The requirement is 2 1/2 minutes. Doctrinally, the vulnerable DDG will stand about 30 nautical miles offshore while conducting fire support missions. Given a target ten nautical miles inland, well within the ground commander's area of influence, the ERGM's flight time alone will exceed this requirement—without considering the inevitable time delays when communicating over such distances.
Destruction Fires . The ERGM holds 72 XM-80 submunitions, which are ineffective against hard targets—tanks, for example—which means that it cannot meet the requirement for fires that result in 30% of the target rendered combat ineffective.
Neutralization Fires . This requirement stipulates that 10% of the targets must be destroyed or rendered combat ineffective; obviously, the ERGM cannot meet this requirement either.
Sustained/Subsequent Operations Ashore . The DDG's on-board storage capacity of only 250 ERGMs means that the platform cannot support sustained operations ashore without frequent resupply.
Volume . The DDG's single gun with a sustained rate of fire of ten rounds a minute cannot achieve the volume required—which is 54 rounds of dual-purpose improved conventional munitions of 155-mm or equivalent, a munition also effective against both light and hard targets. Given the small number of DDGs, the possibility of massing them to achieve the volume is remote.
High Explosive Projectiles . As General Van Riper wrote, "Precision/terminally guided munitions are needed, but not to the exclusion of inexpensive, volume fire munitions." The ERGM, ATACMS, and NTACMS all employ submunitions. In an operation where a force is trying to fight its way off the beach, it is self-defeating to litter the battlefield with munitions that have a significant, documented, dud rate.
To illustrate the inadequacy of the NSFS concept, compare the quantity and caliber of artillery assets assigned to major U.S. ground combat units. Marine Corps divisions include an artillery regiment equipped with 72 tubes of 155 mm (6.1-inch equivalent), and the division artillery assets of U.S. Army armored and mechanized divisions include 72 tubes of 155-mm. plus 18 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), each with 12 missile launchers—216 tubes. The combined total for an Army division is 288 gun/missile tubes of 155-mm or larger; in addition, the divisions could expect additional support from Corps-level artillery brigades.
The Navy maintains that fixed-wing close air support (CAS) aircraft and attack helicopters will make up any shortfalls in fire support. Marine Corps and Army doctrine, however, views these assets as augmenting artillery—not substituting for it. Artillery (or its naval surface fire support equivalent) has been called the "King of Battle" for many reasons, and history is replete with examples of those who either failed to appreciate or ignored its importance on the battlefield.
CAS aircraft and attack helicopters cannot replace artillery in the close fire support mission, because of:
- Long lead time. It takes too long to get there (mission planning, flight time, etc. Aerial refueling is a possibility, but very expensive in terms of resources and fails to achieve the required mass.
- Limited payload. The aircraft cannot carry enough ordnance.
- Limited time on station. The aircraft cannot loiter for any appreciable length of time.
- Vulnerability. Airborne platforms are extremely vulnerable to enemy weapons.
- Availability. Airborne platforms are constrained by weather—often just when you need them most.
Battleships are the only platforms, and will be for some time, that can answer all of the Maine Corps' surface fire support requirements—including the unfulfilled range requirement.
During World War II, the Germans developed and fired the "Arrow" projectile from a 12.2-inch smoothbore variant of their KSE railroad gun; the Arrow weighed 300 pounds and had a maximum range of more than 100 nautical miles. During the 1960s, Gerald Bull's Space Research Corporation organization and Naval Ordnance Station Indian Head developed and fired a 745-pound discarding sabot projectile from an ex-USS Iowa (BB-61) 16-inch barrel more than 40 nautical miles. Test data indicated that the projectile had a maximum range of more than 50 nautical miles.
In the 1980s, the Advanced Gun Weapon System Technology Program developed a 16-inch projectile weighing 650 pounds with a maximum range of 100 nautical miles. Fitted with Global Positioning system (GPS) guidance—like the ERGM—it would be cheaper and exponentially more lethal than the ERGM.
Existing battleships, equipped with vertical launching systems instead of box launchers, could carry three times the number of Tomahawks—96 instead of 32. Former battleship weaponeers believe that this number could be increased to 128. The numbers of the battleship's 16 Harpoon missile canisters can be increased and upgraded to carry 32 AGM84E Standoff Land Attack Missiles (SLAMs), making these battleships the most lethal surface strike combatants in history.
Installing vertical-launch NATO Sea Sparrows would improve significantly the ships' defense against Silkworm/Seersucker and Exocet antiship missiles out to eight nautical miles
Yet despite the superior performance and survivability of the Iowa -class battleships, the Navy prefers to use thin-skinned DDGs to perform the NSFS mission.
The battleship is superior to any surface combatant for performing the mission. Shooting missiles (at a cost of $500,000 to $1.5 million each) rather than shells would soon bankrupt the U.S. in a prolonged war.
According to a 20 March 1996 Navy memorandum, battleship reactivation costs are $10 million each and $67.9 million apiece to operate annually (see Figures 1 and 2); these costs, however, are twice the estimates provided by experienced battleship officers.
Where is the wisdom in spending $2.1 to $4.8 billion to develop 28 long-range, ineffective guns, when that same money could reactivate four Iowas with 36 16inch guns and 48 5-inch guns), operate them for at least ten years, and mass-produce a more effective long-range 16inch projectile?
Aircraft carriers require enormous expenditures for aircraft and personnel, and consume prodigious quantities of fuel and warehouses of spare parts. Proficiency in naval aviation depends on almost continual flying and this costs a fortune. Since 1991, the U.S. Navy has lost between 30-40 F-14 fighter aircraft valued at more than $1 billion—enough to operate ten battleships for a year.
Since 1941, the Navy has lost 11 aircraft carriers and no one has advocated their retirement—even though, as Lieutenant General William Odom, U.S. Army (Retired), put it: "Aircraft carriers are the most expensive way to deliver a bomb to a target." Yet during this same time, not one battleship has been lost at sea against the enemy. Major caliber naval guns are much more economical and effective than aircraft for surface fire support see (Figures 3, 4, and 5).
These five charts, taken together, clearly demonstrate the battleships' cost effectiveness. They cost less to operate than carriers; deliver more tons of ordnance than carriers; and deliver it more cheaply. In times of "rightsizing"—doing more with less—the battleship is a winner. The 16-inch guns have the most effective munitions and can attack the entire spectrum of conventional targets, from personnel to tanks to concrete bunkers (see Figure 5). Off-the-record, Marines of all ranks want the battleships reactivated.
Germany's Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, writing on 10 June 1944 in the midst of the Allied campaign for Normandy, stated: "Our operations in Normandy are tremendously hampered, and in some places even rendered impossible by the . . . effect of the heavy naval guns.... so immense that no operation of any kind is possible in that area." During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese government paid the battleship their highest compliment—they wanted her out of the war. In 1969, the U.S. had identified a North Vietnamese Army corps command post located seven stories underground in the 5th Marines area of operations in I Corps. Hundreds of sorties by B-52s and other aircraft were flown against it without success. The USS New Jersey (BB-62) fired 12 rounds of 2,700-pound armor-piercing shells and destroyed the target in less than one minute.
The North Vietnamese charged that the New Jersey 's presence was hindering the Paris Peace Talks and demanded that she leave the war. Senator John Warner (R-VA), then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, stated that he was ordered by the White House to deactivate the ship as a condition for negotiating at the Paris Peace Talks. We had at least four aircraft carriers prosecuting the war and only one battleship. Yet, it was the battleship that had to go.
General Creighton Abrams, U.S. Army, Commander, U.S. Forces Vietnam stated that the B-52 bomber and the battleships (both considered obsolete) were the two most cost-effective weapon systems used [in Vietnam].
During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) recorded gunnery engagements using the ship's Pioneer remotely piloted vehicles On several occasions, the Wisconsin opened the engagement with a single spotting round. Before subsequent adjustments could be made, the Iraqis (recorded on tape) fled the target area, waving white flags/t-shirts—anything—skyward toward the circling RPV in an effort to surrender rather than face absolute certain death from a concentrated salvo from the Wisconsin's main battery. The April 1992 Department of Defense Report to Congress on the Gulf War confirmed the battleships' importance in the Gulf.
Iran's Silkworm missiles and its acquisition last year of Chinese Houdong fast attack boats with C-802 missiles, means that only battleships can now safely risk providing a naval show-of-force in the Gulf. The missiles could sink or put out of the fight most of our surface combatants, but they could inflict only superficial damage on a battleship.
Although carriers can contribute to the close-support missions, big-gunships can do it better and cheaper—and they can reach out to long ranges. Of all the targets struck by air in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, with a loss of 1,067 aircraft and many air crews, 80% could have been destroyed by the battleships' 16-inch guns without endangering American lives or aircraft.
Accomplishing the mission comes first, but taking care of the troops is an inherent responsibility of command. Senior military leaders are responsible to their subordinates to ensure their safety by taking every possible advantage when conducting military operations. Clearly, this is not happening. A leading promoter of the ill-fated arsenal ship has referred to battleship proponents as "whiners." This is not a game, however. This is not about losing a round of marbles on the playground. We're talking about lives.
The Navy's most effective arsenal ship and Surface Combatant 21 (SC-21) already exist. They are battleships mothballed in Norfolk, Virginia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Bremerton, Washington. The Navy should begin immediately the nine-month process to reactivate the Iowa (BB-61) and the Wisconsin (BB-64).
Naval Fire Support Plans
By Floyd D. Kennedy, Jr.
While few weapon systems can match the area devastation wreaked by multiple battleship broadsides, other gun systems can be far more efficient in taking out point targets. Under development are two such enhanced gun systems that can fire guided rounds to extended ranges: the 5-inch/62 Mk 45 gun modification and the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS). At the same time, Navy research into electro-thermal chemical guns has terminated though it continues to monitor the exploration of that technology by the Army and Defense Special Weapons Agency.
The 5-inch/62 Mk 45 gun modification lengthens and strengthens the 5-inch/54 Mk 45 gun system to handle the Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM) which uses a coupled Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System guidance system and is fired at higher energy levels than standard rounds from the unmodified gun. Both the 5-inch/62 and the ERGM are in Engineering and Manufacturing Development (E&MD), the gun having entered in December 1995 and the ERGM in July 1996. Last summer, Naval Surface Warfare Division tested components of the gun system to ensure that sufficient energy levels could be generated within acceptable pressure levels. The tests were successful, as were component tests on the ERGM. Initial operational capability for both the gun and the round is planned for 2001.
The VGAS is a new-start program in fiscal year 1999. Its design includes one or more 155-mm or larger gun barrels fed by an automated, high-capacity magazine with a family of guided projectiles. It will have a new fire-control system and will receive targeting information from the Naval Surface Fire Support Warfare Control System currently under development. Program plans call for Milestone I, entry into the program definition and risk reduction phase, in late fiscal year 1999 for competitive prototype contract award in early fiscal year 2000. Milestone II, entry into E&MD, is projected for late fiscal year 2002 or early 2003. The first of the DD-21 class is scheduled to enter service with VGAS in fiscal year 2008.
Consolidate Our Mobile Command Centers
By Lieutenant Danelle Barrett, U.S. Navy
The Navy's deployable shore-based command centers—the Mobile Ashore Support Terminal (MAST) II and the Mobile Integrated Command Facility (MICFAC)—are rapidly deployable, self-contained facilities that extend sea-based command, control, and communications to Naval Component Commanders based ashore as part of Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs).
The service has had mobile communications units since the late 1970s, but only within the last ten years has the emphasis been placed on making them capable command centers. Although intended for use within a joint task force, these units have roles in other sea-to-shore evolutions: logistics, special operations, and humanitarian missions. Fleet commanders and the Mine Warfare Command rely on the MAST II and MICFAC to support their communications requirements ashore where assets often are unavailable.
Over the years, however, their capabilities have not kept pace with the technology used in other shore-based command centers. Coming up with the funds to upgrade them will not be easy; eliminating some facilities and consolidating the others at a central location ready to deploy could generate the savings required to keep them mission ready.
Some background is necessary. MAST II's first iteration, MAST I, was developed by the Naval Command and Control and Ocean Surveillance Center, Research and Development Division, and used in 1993 by United States Naval Forces Central Command during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. Four upgraded versions—MAST II units with expanded communications capabilities—were delivered in 1995, one to each of the numbered fleet commanders. Three more MAST IIs were delivered to the Reserve Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare (MIUW) commands and three additional units are scheduled for delivery. The Reserve MAST IIs provide surveillance and early warning capability as part of the Mine Warfare Command's coastal and harbor defense mission. All equipment is configured in two air-conditioned 1 foot X 26-foot tents that rely on generators and environmental control units specially engineered for MAST II. A single C-130 can carry the unit and six assigned personnel.
MAST II capabilities include:
- Ultra-high frequency (UHF) satellite communications
- UHF/very-high frequency (VHF) line-of-sight radios
- International Maritime Satellite (INMARSAT-A) communications
- Secure voice radio and secure telephones
- A computerized projection system
Operators and watch personnel use the Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS) on a local area network to view the theater tactical display and read record messages. JMCIS terminals also are used to transmit and receive operational notes to forces afloat via UHF satellite communications.
The MICFACs, larger and more capable than the MAST IIs, evolved from the Ashore Mobile Contingency Communications (AMCC) vans and the Fleet Mobile Operational Command Centers (FMOCC)—later renamed Joint Maritime Operations Command Centers. Central Command's naval component got the first facility in December 1995 as replacement for its AMCC vans. Since then, each of the numbered fleet commanders and the Commander, Mine Warfare Command, have received one of the new facilities, which are intended to accommodate larger or extended operations ashore.
The new facilities provide MAST II capabilities plus high data rate connectivity for Internet systems, digital telephone lines, and one wideband secure voice circuit. In addition, they have the capability to program telephone lines, high-frequency (HF) radio circuits, plus the capability to handle record messages, secure facsimile transmissions, and receive one commercial satellite television channel. Super High Frequency (SHF) systems using equipment almost identical to that used on major platforms were added in 1996.
A MICFAC is housed in three towable vans:
- Technical control van
- Commercial satellite receiver and repair equipment van
- Command center
The command center van expands to three times its road transportable size when in place and provides space for 12 operators; power and environmental control units accompany the vans. The vans are connected by both coaxial and fiber optic cable, which allows for increased flexibility to expand the networks as operational requirements dictate and provides a measure of redundancy if one of the two links fails. A MICFAC and its nine assigned personnel require one C-5 or two C-17 aircraft to deploy.
Although the both units boast impressive capabilities, serious limitations exist. Neither can process special compartmented information (SCI) intelligence data because of lack of both equipment and personnel. This prevents these units from meeting their original intent of providing complete support to the commander ashore. Both units have the software to process the General Service Joint Deployable Intelligence Subsystem (GenSer JDISS) for non-SCI intelligence data. Without total access, specifically to Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) which carries special intelligence video teleconferencing and JDISS, the Navy must rely on setting up close to an Army or Air Force Tactical SCI Facility (TSCIF) to gain access to these data. Although the ideal scenario is to collocate with an existing TSCIF at the Joint Task Force headquarters, it is optimistic to assume that this will always be an option.
Experience has shown that MAST II and MICFAC's most serious limitation is their lack of system interoperability with the Army, Air Force, and Marines. In 1991, the original charter did direct development and fielding of a comprehensive mobile shore command system to provide the Navy with an interface to joint component commanders; present capabilities, unfortunately, still fall short of this vision. As the link between the joint task force ashore and the ships at sea, MICFAC is capable of basic communications with most of the ships, but is not properly prepared to operate in a joint environment without equipment augmentation and additional technical expertise.
The SHF system is a prime example of these shortfalls. The Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) operating in the SHF band provides the high data rate circuits that connect major headquarters and deployed units to supporting rear elements. The Navy MICFAC's low data rate SHF multiplexer, however, is not compatible with equipment being installed at DISA's Standard Tactical Entry Point (STEP) sites, which are used by ground mobile forces as their SHF downlink points. This incompatibility will limit individual MICFACs to linking their tactical SHF only with "Navy unique" STEP sites—and force the naval component commander to compete for accessibility and bandwidth with the increasing number of afloat SHF platforms. In some areas, this could mean access to a single downlink site. The addition of compatible high data rate multiplexers in MICFAC would not only increase flexibility and interoperability, but would allow for higher data rate transfer, necessary for such systems as JWICS video teleconferencing.
The Pentagon's Defense Information Infrastructure document mandates that new systems and upgrades focus on joint operations. The key tool is the Common Operational Environment provided by the Global Command and Control System (GCCS)—which MAST II and MICFAC presently lack. GCCS-M (Maritime), also known as JMCIS-98, is scheduled for installation in each of the MICFACs by the end of fiscal year 1999; but, while GCCSM provides a common operational picture, it does not possess the same functionality as a GCCS terminal and lacks access to other tools such as the Joint Operational Planning and Execution System databases for joint mission planning.
Greater joint voice capability also would provide major benefits. Presently, the facilities have no organic tactical switch capability allowing access to wideband secure voice networks such as the High Command Nets and must rely on the SHF downlink site for entry into these important circuits. To connect at the deployed location with Army or Air Force equipment, the MICFAC needs a tactical switch signal processor or similar device.
Other limiting factors to MAST II and MICFAC's assets include:
- The lack of video teleconferencing capability
- No means to receive and process tactical electronic intelligence (TADIXS-B or tactical related applications broadcast) and tactical link or near real-time contact data
In addition, each facility requires an extremely high frequency suite to alleviate its almost complete dependency on UHF for communications with smaller ships and to provide more secure anti-jam communications with operational commanders at sea.
Though they do not require the same comprehensive communications capability as a MICFAC, MAST II units are being left behind as commanders rely increasingly on high data rate connectivity. In network centric warfare, MAST II's lack of SHF capability significantly diminishes its effectiveness and desirability. INMARSAT-A is presently the only organic means of transferring electronic mail or outgoing record messages, and is not reliable for establishing and maintaining secure high data rate connections.
While they need additional capability, it is important not to lose sight of one of the primary reasons behind their compact design: rapid deployment. The impact of incorporating additional capability on mobility, set-up time, and transportation costs must be weighed carefully. Additional systems must be in chosen with regard to their compact size, increased speed, maximum durability, and contributions to jointness.
Plans for modernizing these unit include funds allocated to address some of the less costly deficiencies (i.e., Link11 and HF capability for two of the MAST units, and additional routers for four of the MICFACs). These upgrades, however, fall far short of perceived requirements because of funding constraints. As a result, some fleet commanders have augmented their units with equipment funded locally. Local procurement achieves quick improvement but the loss in standardization among the units degrades the ability to plan upgrades on a Navy-wide level and diminishes the interchangeability of the units.
Given the declining capabilities relative to requirements—along with decreased funding—continuing to support and upgrade these units is questionable when the carriers and flag ships already possess the communications capabilities to fulfill all of a naval component commander's operational requirements. If the commander remains afloat, only token Navy representation would be needed at joint task force headquarters. A small cadre could rely on the GCCS-COP for the naval tactical picture at the headquarters, leaving the responsibility of providing the connectivity with the Air Force or Army. The Navy needs to consider carefully whether the operational benefits of upgrading the MAST II and MICFAC outweigh the substantial overhead necessary to maintain them.
Most MAST II and MICFAC units are deployed only rarely, and then for short durations. Last fiscal year the most active MAST II and MICFACs, those assigned to Central Command and the 5th Fleet, deployed five times for a total of approximately 20 weeks. Units from some of the other fleets also deployed for exercises and contingency operations, but some units did not deploy at all. Based on this record and the unlikelihood that that four or five contingencies requiring these units will occur simultaneously, consolidation would yield major benefits.
If centrally based, the number of MAST II and MICFAC units could be decreased to five and three, respectively. Collocation with Air Force units of similar character at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma would provide easy access to air transportation. Units could be moved from a central United States location to a contingency location in almost the same amount of time it takes them to deploy today because few MAST II and MICFAC units are collocated with air cargo units. Centralizing all MAST II and MICFAC funding, parts inventory, and personnel at one command would reduce manning and administrative overhead while increasing efficiency. Systems upgrades could be accomplished for far less cost than is the case today, when teams must be dispatched to Hawaii, Bahrain, and Sicily. Systems engineers would be able to control standardization; essential for phased replacement and new installation planning. Funding for spares could be reduced as there would be fewer units to maintain. This would alleviate the existing challenge units face in an environment where funding for spares is so limited that each unit receives a minimum. Spares are not supplied for high value parts involving the most critical systems. Failed components must be returned for repair.
A centralized approach would sustain a more modest mobile command-and-control program for the Navy but would keep the units in step with technology and operational requirements. The only alternative to the centralized approach is to infuse significant funds into the program as it exists today, an option that does not seem likely. Without a more economic centralized approach or additional funding, the units will gradually lose pace with technology and become obsolete. The Navy will be left with 12 marginally capable units, but none that can meet the demands of the forward-deployed naval warfighter in the 21st century. Lieutenant Barrett is the Senior Navy Fellow at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Fairfax, Virginia. She established Naval Central Command/5th Fleet's mobile C41 Systems division and deployed as officer-in-charge of MAST II and MICFAC on several exercises in 1996 and 1997.
Rethinking Crew Coordination in F/A-18E/F Squadrons
By Major Todd R. Standard, U.S. Marine Corps
The imminent arrival of the two-seat F/A-18F has brought up—again—the subject of back seat mechanization and air crew training requirements for a multimission aircraft. Unfortunately, the Navy—again—has lagged in adapting air crew requirements to changes in technology and today's fiscal environment
From the onset of earlier two-seat F/A18D development, crew-coordination issues have produced standardization and proficiency problems. If we fail to address these issues, the F/A-18F will be upon us and the fleet will not be ready for it. While precision air-to-ground weapons delivery is the ultimate objective of a strike fighter, it accounts for a relatively small amount of time on any given mission. Most of the time is spent air-to-air, the focus of this article.
The sheer numbers of weapons and sensors in multirole aircraft has made achieving and maintaining proficiency a different problem than it has been in the past. Without unrealistic increases in flight time training opportunities, it will be difficult to exploit these weapons fully, let alone improve crew coordination. Yet our intention is to continue to do business in the F/A-18F the same way we did in the F-4, A-6, F-14, and the newer F/A18D. Today's F/A-18D employment shortfalls primarily result from marginally proficient air crews operating in inefficient roles.
Marine Corps F/A-18C and D pilots presently have the same Military Occupational Specialty designation. The resulting flexibility in pilot assignment comes at a cost, however, and the price is lack of standardization. First-tour pilots in two-seat squadrons receive less hands-on sensor training than their single-seat counterparts because of the requirement to train weapon systems officers (WSOs) on the same systems, within the same flight time constraints as their single-seat counterparts. Accordingly, air crews in the two-seat community require additional time to reach and maintain a certain level of individual proficiency. Discussions with Fighter Weapons School instructors and aggressor pilots have substantiated the claim of differing levels of proficiency (with equivalent flight time) in the C and D communities.
Studies indicate that current and projected sensor availability and automation through 2005 dictate a second crew member to maximize the capabilities and survivability of the aircraft—but only for specific missions. A second crew member always should increase survivability in the low-altitude, high-threat environment because of an increase in visual lookout capability. In simulations, however, performance differences between single and two-seat crews disappeared as sensor automation increased.
My research revealed no studies that compared performance differences between single and dual-seat aircraft in low-to-moderate tasking environments, even though these conditions are the most common. Allowing the pilot to maintain full control of the navigation, communication, and weapons systems under these conditions would eliminate the inefficiencies inherent to task sharing. Control of a specific sensor would be relinquished (task shedding) only at standardized or specifically briefed points during a mission. The Marine Corps to date has ignored the more desirable concept of task shedding as a crew-coordination option. Although increased crew-coordination training might alleviate the problems inherent in task sharing, it would come at the cost of reduced individual proficiency. The solution requires stepping away from paradigms developed in older crew-coordinated airframes.
To standardize the entire F/A-18 community (Es and Fs), we must identify training objectives that build upon current and projected aircraft capabilities. They should optimize individual crew capabilities and increase overall efficiency and mission effectiveness.
The first requirement is to understand individual cockpit responsibilities. Because of modern aircraft design, cockpit layout, and system improvements, it may be a fundamental error to coordinate all tasks. When shared responsibilities indeed enhance effectiveness, it is logical to train to this standard. But if coordination is emphasized simply to provide each individual something to do, resulting in decreased efficiency, increased complexity, and less situational awareness, then we are on the wrong track.
Questions must be answered:
- Are there fundamental responsibilities for each air crew? Must crew members be capable of performing fundamental tasks independently—taking into account modern aircraft design, required situational awareness for mission accomplishment, and mission complexity? Indeed, are there baseline responsibilities upon which crew coordination builds?
- Are there measures of effectiveness to help determine overall efficiency? Can these be used as tools around which fundamental responsibilities can be defined and evaluated? Crew coordination above some baseline will enhance aircraft performance, define roles logically, and standardize F/A-18 employment and training for both the F/A-18E and F.
Determining a common baseline is the key. Various measures of effectiveness must be defined to allow an objective evaluation of roles and responsibilities. These measures also may be used to define an employment doctrine. Based on the doctrine, training programs can be developed that focus on the fundamental responsibilities of the pilot below the baseline and crew responsibilities above it. Where does fundamental end and complex begin? Once this is determined, proper and proportional training can become the focus. The split is the baseline. The following issues affect baseline determination:
- Single MOS for single-seat and two-seat F/A- 18 pilots
- Pilot situational awareness
- Evolution with advancing technology
The Navy's F/A-18E/F community may decide to mirror the present Marine Corps policy in which a pilot may be required to switch between single-seat and two-seat (crew-coordinated) cockpits. This transition must be considered each way, E to F and F to E. This is a primary requirement for standardized pilot accountability and responsibilities. If pilots are trained to handle 100% task loading, another crew will only enhance them.
Even the most highly trained crews rarely will have the same intentions simultaneously. In fact, much training is dedicated specifically to a single mission variable: crew intent. Anything less than instantaneous intent decreases efficiency, which may range from mere annoyance to disaster. Any inefficiency, however, especially in fundamental operations, is undesirable, Could training time now spent synchronizing crews be used better if fundamental roles were established allowing a refocus of training goals and objectives?
In most instances, it is the pilot's situational awareness that determines the success of the mission. How this is obtained should be efficient and consistent throughout the community. Procedures should optimize each crew member's tasks, minimize confusion, and emphasize the pilot as the primary focus of situational awareness information; the WSO should endeavor to enhance this fundamental reality. This does not mean that in more complex operations (above the baseline) each air crew does not have an independent role in which each is 100% responsible for certain tasks. Crew capability is the F/A-18F's greatest asset. In a complex mission, independent tasking is imperative. But invoking crew coordination below the baseline generates only confusion and complexity.
Aircraft design and weapons capabilities must be considered before determining the baseline. The F/A-18F is a new system; it was not designed to be employed as an F-14 or an A-6. Its distinctive capabilities allow for a wide variety of highly complex, crew-dependent missions. While earlier aircraft design limitations required a second crew member, an F/A-18F pilot is capable of assuming most of the conventional strike fighter roles and responsibilities alone. These technological improvements in the F/A-i 8F are desirable, because they allow for a more rapid processing of information, and the reduction of personnel in the decision-making loop.
Specifically, they permit pilots to assimilate information rapidly, transmit time-critical information, and make instantaneous decisions as the situation dictates. In most instances, pilot real-time interpretation of sensor presentations is the fastest and least confusing method of obtaining situational awareness. Such skills are a fundamental requirement for modern strike-fighter pilots. A pilot incapable of performing up to an aircraft's baseline mission environment should not be flying that aircraft. Rather than complicate or cover up these basic pilot responsibilities with crew coordination, we can best employ the platform by holding our pilots accountable for fundamental skills.
Clearly, the goal of air crew training is the efficient management of task loads. The objective of an effective pilot/WSO team is shared task loading instead of inefficient task sharing. The WSOs should not perform operations simply because they had to perform them in earlier, less capable platforms.
Baseline training for F/A-18 pilots (Es or Fs) should include formation flight, communications, and radar employment. These fundamentals become the starting point for crew responsibilities. In all baseline operations, a pilot in the two-seat F/A-18F must be as efficient as a single-seat F/A-18E pilot, and vice versa. The F's additional crew member can provide increased visual lookout, system backup, and additional sensor management. On more complex missions (multiple/complex weapons delivery, forward air controller [airborne], etc.), the WSO becomes critical to mission accomplishment. The pilot should, however, at a minimum perform the three fundamental operations.
What follows is an analysis (pros and cons) of a flight of two Marine Corps two-seat F/A-18Ds operating below the baseline in an air-to-air environment in accordance with standard operating procedures (taken from an actual squadron document):
- Lead aircraft pilot controls communications and radar.
- Wingman's WSO controls communications and radar.
- Any change of lead results in corresponding change in communications/radar control from pilot to WSO.
- Pro: Formation flight is a fundamental piloting skill. A second crew member operating radar and communications would allow the pilot to focus 100% on this task.
- Con: Technological advances in the F allow pilots to manage sensors required in this scenario as efficiently as WSOs. The transfer of sensor/communications authority requires the WSO to be trained at this fundamental level.
Pilots transitioning from Es to Fs would have little difficulty adjusting to the communications/radar task-shedding to the WSO. Pilots transitioning from Fs to Es, however, might find the increased workload overwhelming. What is assumed to be a fundamental skill in the E community would put F contemporaries at a serious disadvantage. Additional training would be required for pilots making the F to E transition.
Determining when and what tactical decisions are to be made, and how to employ the radar, are time-critical. Success demands proper timing and execution, as well as minimal communications, to gain and maintain situational awareness. A section of aircraft not properly synchronized will find it difficult to handle even the most basic scenario. Synchronization of a section of two-seat aircraft depends not only on synchronization between the aircraft, but also between the crew in each aircraft. It is obvious that synchronization problems could increase as the number of crew in the critical decision making loop increases. The problem also increases dramatically when the complexity of lead changes is factored in.
Pilots must achieve situational awareness to employ a weapon successfully. In a two-seater, pilots can do this by monitoring external radio communications, monitoring the internal communication system (ICS), or by monitoring the radar and other displays. High-speed intercepts require timely, accurate communications between the aircraft and controlling agencies. Chatter on the ICS can cause confusion and delays. A WSO controlling the radar/communications uses the ICS to provide the pilot with information for weapon system employment. A pilot monitoring his displays efficiently, however, can minimize this need for ICS transmissions. The result is that an aircraft designed to give situational awareness to either cockpit, freeing the other to visually clear and protect the formation, now has both crew members' heads in the cockpit.
What happens during repetitive, instantaneous lead changes that inevitably occur during an air-to-air engagement when the wingman at some point becomes the lead and then, perhaps, relinquishes it as situational awareness diminishes? The inherent complexity of this scenario, one that all pilots must master, is made exponentially more complex by radar/communications shifts between cockpits. The new lead pilot must shift rapidly from a passive to an active gatherer of information. Most breakdowns in overall crew effectiveness occur as a result of this shift.
An objective evaluation leads inescapably to the following conclusion: Pilots should be responsible for fundamental aircraft operations—radar, communications, and formation. The results will be the same for any fundamental operation that falls below the baseline: point-to-point flights or basic air-to-ground deliveries. Below the baseline, the F/A-18F should be employed just like the F/A-18E. In an identical scenario, however, the second pair of eyes in an F obviously can increase the aircraft's survivability. The role of visually clearing the aircraft is important, and yet it receives little attention—even though it is the bandit you do not see that kills you. This solution will standardize the community, maximize pilot situational awareness, and, most important, will ensure more effective aircraft.
The classic argument against this conclusion—that the WSO is underemployed—has prevailed in the F/A-18D community. As a result, D squadrons have adopted detailed task sharing below the baseline that has caused proficiency and standardization problems. U.S. Navy F/A-18F squadrons will suffer the same degradation if they follow suit.
A final point for review comes straight from an F-ISD crew coordination tactical SOP: "During emergencies, it is important that pilot intentions are not delayed or confused by the inter-cockpit communication or air crew coordination breakdowns," which acknowledges that emergencies will remain primarily the pilot's responsibility. All of our training reflects this truth. Why, then, does the same not hold true for fundamental responsibilities in tactical or administrative situations? Is it any less important that " . . .pilot intentions are not delayed or confused," while conducting an interceptor simply talking to an air traffic control agency? Our training emphasis must focus on establishing a baseline to reduce or eliminate delays/confusion caused by breakdowns between crew members.
The baseline approach to defining training yields the following observation concerning community-training goals: Fundamental missions (below the baseline) are the pilot's responsibility regardless of airframe, and training throughout the community should reflect this; complex missions (above the baseline) are heavily back-seat dependent—and training should reflect this.
Implementing a WSO training program would maximize the combat effectiveness of the F/A-18E/F community, but flight proficiency would suffer. Replacing WSOs with a smaller number of pilots, or using a reduced number of warrant officers as WSOs, would resolve this issue
Replacing WSOs with pilots would reduce long-term personnel costs and increase air crew proficiency. Pilot staffing levels in squadrons with F/A-18Fs would have to be increased, but overall air crew staffing levels would decrease significantly. The elimination of non-pilot training and the overall reduction in staffing levels would offset the costs associated with the increased number of trained pilots. An all-pilot squadron would increase the training available to all air crew, while still allowing the benefit of a second crew member for high task-loading missions. The training increase would be produced by the availability of back seats, which could be occupied by instructors.
Opening the WSO field to warrant officers also would reduce long-term personnel costs. WSOs could focus throughout their careers on weapon system employment without the distraction of following a path to command. This focus would provide highly proficient air crew for the high task-loading environment.
The final issue is standardization within the entire F/A-18E/F community. While a squadron exclusively composed of F/A-18Fs is an option, viewing the F as an E+ supports the rationale for a mix of Es and Fs in composite squadrons. This would standardize fleet training and greatly reduce software costs. Operational flight programs for today's F/A-18s are updated every three years for hundreds of millions; an F/A-18F with a significantly different flight program than the E will increase these costs.
For an all-pilot squadron, an aft cockpit mechanized with hand controllers configured as front cockpit controls would maintain proper habit patterns and eliminate the need for aft seat mechanization specific training. The establishment of composite squadrons of F/A- BEs and Fs staffed by properly trained pilots, or a pilot and warrant officer mix, would be a difficult decision, but it would benefit naval aviation.