Maneuvering Jointly from the Sea

By Captain Daniel W. Temple
  • We will have command, control, communication, computer, and intelligence (C 4 I) systems capable of supporting OMFTS. Because OMFTS will not be implemented until the delivery of the advanced amphibious assault vehicle (AAAV) and MV-22 Osprey aircraft—around 2010—we can assume that our current generation of C 4 I systems will be replaced or augmented by future systems capable of supporting OMFTS.
  • We will have the over-the-horizon maneuver capabilities needed to conduct OMFTS. This assumes that the AAAV and MV-22 Osprey will be delivered with the capabilities for which they were designed, and that the landing craft air cushion (LCAC) will have a service-life-extension program in place.

OMFTS is maneuver warfare at the operational level, where air, sea, and land are treated equally as maneuver media, based on combining emerging mobility with futuristic C 2 systems. This combination, executed by simultaneous, multidimensional assaults, will create superior tempo and unparalleled situational awareness. Maintaining this tempo will require a C 2 arrangement that treats air, sea, and land as an integrated battlespace and as a command platform that can provide continuous C 2 as units maneuver throughout this battlespace.

Unity of Command

One of the underlying principles in developing a C 2 arrangement is to establish unity of command among the forces that make up the organization. The first step in developing the C 2 arrangement for OMFTS is to begin with a list of design requirements—and no preconceived ideas. The Marine Corps concept papers on OMFTS and STOM list four vital C 2 requirements:

  • OMFTS "requires more intimate cooperation between forces afloat and forces ashore."
  • OMFTS "integrates all organic, joint, and combined assets."
  • OMFTS "is a marriage between maneuver warfare and naval warfare."
  • STOM "directly links maneuver at sea to maneuver on land."

Perhaps the best insight on the C 2 arrangement required for OMFTS is in the paper on OMFTS: "OMFTS treats the littoral as a single environment in which the cooperation of units on land, at sea, and in the air is based on a shared vision of what must be done, intimate knowledge of the capabilities and weaknesses of each type of unit, and an esprit de corps that transcends service identity or occupational specialty."

The operational tempo created by OMFTS must not be lessened by allowing C 2 to be phased ashore. Although forward C 2 elements may accompany the assault forces, the preponderance of C 2 facilities will have to be sea-based. Many opponents of OMFTS point to long-range C 2 as a critical vulnerability; however, consider the first assumption mentioned earlier.

A sea-based C 2 platform provides a familiar and reliable work environment capable of supporting the immense C 4 I systems of today and of the future. This centralized C 2 node will not be a critical vulnerability as long as we exercise redundancy by establishing alternate C 2 facilities on other ships within the amphibious task force.

The C 2 requirements for OMFTS are best fulfilled through a joint Navy-Marine Corps C 2 arrangement (a joint staff) under a single commander. Whether this commander is a Marine or a Sailor should depend on the situation. Viewing amphibious operations as the blue side and the green side has resulted in a common belief that "amphibious ships now serve merely as sealift, rather than integral elements of a single warfighting capability." One of the principles of OMFTS is to integrate "all organic, joint, and combined assets." To achieve this integration, we must reexamine the battle-tested relationship between the commander, amphibious task force (CATF), and the commander, landing force (CLF). Employing an amphibious force with a joint arrangement under a single commander creates two significant advantages: Synergy is increased through better unity of effort, and operational tempo is preserved by not having to phase control ashore.

The power of OMFTS lies in the coordination of its simultaneous assaults. These assaults must be guided by one vision—that of a single commander. Under the single-commander concept, compromises between the CATF and CLF are replaced by definitive guidance from a single commander. With all efforts aimed at a common objective, OMFTS will take on the advantages present in joint operations. Also, a joint Navy-Marine Corps C 2 arrangement will foster synergy by creating a permanent staff familiar with planning and executing amphibious operations.

High OpTempo Is Key

Achieving and maintaining a high level of operational tempo is imperative for the success of OMFTS. This tempo relies on a C 2 arrangement that offers transparent yet continuous and effective C 2 . Having a joint Navy-Marine Corps C 2 arrangement eliminates the need to phase control ashore and thus provides the control needed to execute OMFTS. In OMFTS, the present method of phasing control ashore is transformed into a more fluid and seamless C 2 arrangement. This offers greater flexibility, synergy, and control, thereby achieving another principle of OMFTS—"overwhelming tempo and momentum."

With the present emphasis on joint operations, it is nearly impossible to develop revolutionary doctrine, such as OMFTS, unless it applies to joint operations. OMFTS must be marketed as an integral part of joint operations. Part of the development of OMFTS will entail convincing our sister services that OMFTS is essential for future warfighting.

The concept of OMFTS under one commander has broad applications in joint operations. In small-scale conflicts or operations other than war, the role of OMFTS will be to support a joint task force. However, in a larger conflict or a major theater war where the Corps is employed as a forcible-entry force, this OMFTS commander should serve under the regional commander-in-chief. The Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF) publication states that "when forces from two or more services must operate in the same dimension or medium or there is a need to accomplish a distinct aspect of the assigned mission," then a functional component commander may be appropriate. In this situation, the OMFTS commander should be a functional component commander equivalent to the joint forces land, air, and maritime component commanders (JFLCC, JFACC, and JFMCC).

Because OMFTS and littoral warfare primarily are expeditionary in nature, the OMFTS commander should serve as the joint forces expeditionary component commander (JFECC). Creating a JFECC will not add another layer to the command structure, because the UNAAF publication states that "the functional component commander will normally be a service component commander." Creating a JFECC, however, will stress the importance of this manner (OMFTS) and medium (littoral) of warfighting.

While it will be at least 15 years before the AAAV and MV-22 Osprey are fielded fully, the Marine Corps must continue to develop OMFTS doctrine aggressively. As these weapon systems begin to enter the Fleet Marine Force (between 2000-2006), we must have OMFTS doctrine on paper and ready for testing. We should experiment with the JFECC concept now in Marine expeditionary units.

The success of OMFTS lies in our acceptance of new organizational structures and service doctrine. As B. H. Liddell Hart said, "The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is getting the old one out."

Captain Temple is the Commanding Officer of Company A, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion at Camp Pendleton. He wrote this article while a student at Command and Control Systems Course at Quantico.



Conferences and Events

2016 Coast Guard Academy Conference

Mon, 2016-10-24

US Coast Guard Academy

As part of The U.S. Coast Guard Academy 2016-2017 Leadership Lecture Series The U.S. Naval Institute presents Historical and...

Maritime Security Dialogue

Defense Forum Washington 2016

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership