Blind Man's Bluff
By Kenneth W. Harmon
A dramatic example of the danger of relying on visual identification of targets in tactical warfare can be found in the death of one of America's most beloved generals. On 2 May 1863, Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was accidentally shot by troops under his own command. Discounting the warnings of his staff, Jackson had decided to do some of his own reconnaissance at the Battle of Chancellorsville and lead a party forward. His words were: "There is no danger. The enemy is routed. Go back and tell Hill to press on." A few minutes later, Jackson's party turned back after being fired on by Union pickets. In the fading light of the spring evening, a North Carolina regiment, which was taking up position as ordered by Hill, mistook Jackson and his party for Union cavalry. In the ensuing fire, half of Jackson's escort was killed or wounded. Jackson himself was shot through both hands and his left arm; on 10 May 1863, he died from overwhelming complications of his injuries.
The weaponry of modem combat has advanced since then, but we continue to rely on visual identification of the enemy. This is true for every weapon—from the foot soldier carrying a missile to the guided-missile cruiser carrying Standard missiles. The principle of self-defense forces a trade-off between the consequence of error and the perceived threat. As a result, weapons are inevitably directed against targets of uncertain identity.
Failing daylight, battlefield confusion, overconfidence, and weapons capable of killing at ranges that exceeded the eye's ability to distinguish friend from foe cost the Confederacy one of its favorite sons.
Similar impediments limit the actions of the modem commander. In anti-air warfare (AAW), the problem of beyond visual range (BVR) identification has been addressed by use of the Mk XII identification friend or foe (IFF) cryptographic mode of operation. Improvements to this question and answer technique are expected from the next generation Mk XV IFF now under development. The problem of identifying the enemy, neutrals, and non-belligerents remains. Fratricide, though important, is not the only issue.
This discussion focuses on the problems of naval vessels attempting to identify aerial foes.
One hundred and nineteen years after the Confederacy lost Stonewall Jackson, the Royal Navy lost a ship, HMS Sheffield, in the Falklands Conflict. The incident resulted from a combination of errors and circumstances that ranged from technical shortfalls created by a spirit of parsimony to inadequate damage control. The elimination of anyone of these factors might have produced different consequences. British forces were handicapped by other significant factors—the lack of an airborne early warning capability, for one—but my intent is to discuss the role that innovations in combat identification could have played. A serious deficiency in the British target identification capabilities is manifest and contributed substantially to the Sheffield's loss.
The fatal assumption that the Argentinian air force was not likely to use its limited supply of Exocet missiles and perhaps was not even capable of launching the missile from the Super Etendard precipitated disaster.1 This classic error— underestimating the enemy's ability, or assuming best case advantage—was compounded by the Achilles' heel of surface battle group AAW: the inability to identify non-cooperative targets positively beyond visual ranges. For the purposes of this discussion, BVR means more than line of sight; it includes all-weather or night operational environments.
In the absence of positive identification of the Argentinean Super Etendard, the direction of British AA W defenses took a wrong turn shortly after the battle group's electronic support measures (ESM) detected the attacking aircraft's fire-control radar. Analysis of the motion, direction and position of the threat and the initial conclusions provided by ESM were juxtaposed with the false intelligence. The Super Etendards were dismissed as Mirage III interceptors or tactical strike aircraft and the possibility of an attack with Exocet missiles was not reconsidered. The turn-and-run posture of the Super Etendards was interpreted as pre-engagement when in fact it was post-engagement and two Exocet missiles were on their way to a special place in history.
A combat air patrol (CAP), consisting of several Harriers, was providing picket and (outer) air battle zone defense.2 A major role of any CAP is to provide long-range identification of targets for the next layer of battle group defenses; this is traditionally accomplished by visual identification of the aircraft in question. But the low altitude tactics used by the Argentineans, the lack of a British airborne early warning radar, and the position of the CAP made detection of the Argentineans largely dependent on luck—and little of that was to be had. The identification of the threat as a Mirage III was simply a very wrong educated guess.
If the algorithm used to fuse the data from various sensors and classify the threat posed by the detected targets had included a subroutine supported by a sensor capable of identifying the Super Etendard, the incorrect intelligence might have been questioned. Positioned on any one or preferably all of the ships in the middle area missile defense zone, the dual role of the missile screen-picket ship would have been greatly enhanced. Correlating a positive non-cooperative target identification of the Super Etendard with ESM, radar, and kinematic data would have supported an earlier decision for defensive action based on worst-case assumptions.
The lesson to be learned here is that the AAW target identification problem is significantly more complicated than merely separating friend from foe. The Sheffield was destroyed, not because the British failed to recognize the enemy, but because they failed to recognize what kind of enemy aircraft had emitted the fire-control radar signal. The battle group was thus prevented from employing effective countermeasures. Positive identification with resolution of the specific aircraft type might have caused the crew to respond to the fire-control radar emissions detected early in the engagement. Conceivably, one to two minutes might have been gained. Whether the battle group could have successfully defended against the Exocet is an argument worthy of further discussion.
Moving radar out of the world of shadows and into the light of day by exploiting characteristic modulation impressed on the waveform returning from the aircraft has been a long-standing dream of visionaries in the defense community.3 The object is to change the radar contact from an amorphous mass into a recognizable entity. This tantalizing concept is based on phenomena that have long been understood, and that have been the subject of extensive laboratory experimentation for many years. The concept employs an existing host radar linked to a new—and separate—non-cooperative target recognition processor. The link is transparent to the primary function of the host radar.
The biggest obstacles to deploying such a capability have not been technical. Rather they have been economic, coupled with the inertia of weapons designers and a poorly defined operational role for positive identification. In general, there has been a willingness to accept the gross category "foe," with its innate ambiguities, rather than to demand precise target classification. In developing systems to buttress defense in depth for the surface battle group, there has been an emphasis on extending the range of our missiles and enlarging the system's capacity to deal with saturation raids. Ironically, the increased sophistication of the weapons has resulted in such high unit cost that we cannot afford to waste missiles on low-value hostile targets, yet we have not given the fleet the means to discriminate targets with certainty without resorting to visual confirmation. This disconnect in goals is well-documented and has been a source of severe criticism.4 The affordability argument as it regards expending missiles has two dimensions:
- The cost in terms of the three-way trade-off between the missile, the target, and the launching ship
- The high-value contribution that can be made toward sustained tactical superiority during a hostile engagement
The latter dimension includes issues such as prioritizing targets by ranking threat potential, determining appropriate salvo composition—kinds and quantity of missiles directed at a single threat to raise the probability of a kill—and choreographing the ballet required to coordinate sensors and weapons fire.
The immediate availability of missiles to answer an evolving threat and the difficulties of replenishing expended missiles are two important related considerations. Through intelligent targeting, non-cooperative target recognition can significantly enhance the conservation of weapons while increasing the survivability of the weapons platform.
This is not to say that we are presently limited to visual identification as the only way to classify targets. Indeed, one of the factors inhibiting investment in the development of positive target recognition systems to solve the problem is a general willingness to accept the highly prized, but less than positive, data available to the tactical action officer from a variety of independent sources. These include electronic intelligence, electronic support measures, and visual identification by a picket ship or aircraft that subsequently maintains a constant track file and kinematics. Though each of these provides essential data to the tactical action officer, the common denominator among them all is ambiguity.
The primary disadvantage of intelligence data is the slow evaluation and response time, which makes real-time accuracy suspect.5 In addition, many ship drivers desire access to raw data, which gives them some degree of control over the filters that sift through the mountains of available information; this is usually not practical.
In spite of demonstrated capabilities, electronic support measures are plagued by ambiguous features that reduce efficiency:
- A bandit (incoming hostile AAW threat) must emit a signal before electronic support measures can detect or begin to identify the signal.
- In the worst case, when the signal reveals that an air-to-surface weapon has been fired, the only available defense is to deal with the weapon instead of the more desirable option of dealing with the launcher. Leakers—bandits that have escaped the combat air patrol—can and will proceed as far as possible without emitting detectable signals, by controlling electronic emissions (EMCON).
- The third point to be made is that a single ESM system's range and azimuth resolution are relatively poor. Some enhancement can be achieved through correlation of multiple system tracks on a given target. This requires precious time and can only reduce—not eliminate—ambiguity. Electronic support measures may actually confuse the air battle.6 The alternative, in the absence of a visual identification, is to engage all targets within an azimuth boundary representing the direction from which the hostile emission originated. In a "condition red, weapons free" environment, the tactical action officer may engage any targets that pose a threat and fail to respond with a high-confidence, cooperative, friend-identification signal. This approach may be extremely costly in terms of missile expenditure, and it has numerous other negative ramifications. In many scenarios, targets are not engaged on a one-missile for one-threat basis. Salvos of missiles are used to enhance the probability of kill for high-threat targets.
Classification and prioritization are possible on the basis of kinematics. Assumptions may be made by monitoring the behavior of a hostile air target over a period of time. Analyzing factors such as vectors, altitude, velocity, and changes in motion may provide some indication of the type of aircraft and its intentions based on known aircraft or weapons performance specifications. This is something that the tactical action officer does whether his approach is formal, intuitive, manual, or automated. In all cases, the logic used must be flexible enough to permit learning from accumulated experiences as the enemy reveals unexpected capabilities or tactics. The certainty of the assumptions made on this basis may be low, as can be seen from the grave error made by the British surface battle group in our example. A host of common tactical and technical devices may be used by an attacker to confuse a defender: a low altitude approach; standoff jamming; decoys; well orchestrated multiple aircraft diversionary maneuvers; and spoofing—imitating a commercial airliner—are just a few.
When the tactical action officer fuses the available sources of data, their collective value is usually much higher than anyone source's significance; the random assimilation of incorrect data, however, or undocumented wartime modes—new waveforms or signals in space, new aircraft performance capabilities—can cause the stream of assumptions to spin off on tangents and may result in highly unpredictable and potentially devastating consequences. The assumptions regarding friend identification are stabilized by the high confidence identification that the secure cooperative question and answer system offers to the decision algorithm. A similar stabilizing influence is needed to elevate the confidence of assumptions regarding identification of non-cooperative targets that are beyond visual range.
The introduction of a system capable of positively identifying and classifying foes would not eliminate the need for existing sensors. On the contrary, the addition of highly reliable foe identification data to the order of battle would greatly amplify the value of the data derived from the other sensors. For example, knowing—with a 99% probability of being correct—that a specific contact is a Super Etendard, a MiG-2S, or a Tu-22M makes any electronic support measure and kinematic data derived from observing its actions far more meaningful as tools for interpreting intentions. From a point defense perspective, coupling knowledge of what the target is with how it is behaving allows accurate timing of hostile events such as fire control system engagement and weapons release. Precision timing is an indispensable element in developing solutions for both hard-kill and soft-kill tactics. Timing, direction, and pattern are critical factors in the effective use of chafe to varying degrees, timing is critical for all point-defense technologies.
A radar modulation-based target recognition system has a degree of tactical immunity to obvious countermeasures—jamming, spoofing, and stealth, which is the popular term for reduction of scattering surfaces and return. The range performance of the host radar and the system's identification range performance are proportional. If a jammer is successfully directed at the host radar, an acceptable ratio is maintained for burn-through, and defense in depth allows a distribution of pickets equipped to detect non-cooperative targets beyond visual range, rendering eventual identification almost certain. Both self-screening and standoff jamming tactics cost the enemy—cuing the defenders to an imminent threat by jamming detection removes the element of surprise and indicates hostile intent. The source of the jamming signal becomes immediately vulnerable to detection, and serves as a beacon for home-on-jam missile guidance systems.8
On the other hand, jamming makes prioritization of targets even more critical. As leakers move through the outer air battle defense zone and into the missile defense zone, they become increasingly susceptible to detection and identification by picket ships equipped with positive target recognition systems. This permits them to discriminate between high threat, lower threat, and no threat—including decoy—targets by providing instantaneous identification of the airframe type.
It is reasonable to assume that an enemy would attempt to develop a spoofing capability to counter a positive target recognition system. The spoofer would attempt to deceive the system by emitting a signal that mimicked another type of aircraft. Though it may be feasible, such a capability has several significant vulnerabilities: both the spoofer and the genuine radar modulation are simultaneously discernible. Smart signal processing can identify both the false target and the threat and exploit the attacker's attempts at deception.
There are several ways to reduce the energy reflected by an airborne target and reduce the effective range of the host radar. These include:
- The shape of the aircraft
- Antiradar coverings
- Control by radio wave scattering
Advances in aircraft design have made radar detection and identification at long ranges increasingly difficult. But there is a cost-reducing an aircraft's susceptibility to detection often results in significant trade-offs in aircraft performance. It remains to be seen what effect this revolution in aircraft design will actually have; however, it is reasonable to assume a useful ratio of effective radar detection range compared to identification range will be possible even as new aircraft enter the inventory. It is also reasonable to assume that existing inventories of military aircraft will be around for a long time and civil aviation will not be affected by this change. The net effect of a positive target identification system depends on how it is used; both passive and active modes of operation are conceivable.
The active mode of identification lends itself extremely well to the operational concept of a positive identification radar advisory zone/strike support ship (PIRAZ/SSS). The PIRAZ/SSS occupies a lonely station on or beyond the outer edge of the middle area missile defense zone; one of its missions is to make positive identification of airborne targets, which today means visual identification of non-cooperative targets. In the future, a PIRAZ/SSS equipped with a positive target recognition system could provide early identification and pass target data to the surface battle group via links 11 and 14. This is a powerful complement to the surface battle group's airborne early warning system.
The strong suit of a positive target recognition system is its capabilities in very low intensity conflict. Typically, the enemy in such conditions has enormous advantages: political priorities inhibit appropriate responses; friendly or neutral shipping and aircraft contribute to the clutter on combat information center displays; and the intentions of any given unidentified aircraft or vessel are often unknown. Long periods of mind-numbing boredom for the on-station forces are interrupted by brief episodes of genuine peril that call for instantaneous response. This leads to dangerous confusion; a positive target recognition system can offer a reliable basis for decisions.
According to an eyewitness account, the approach of an unidentified aircraft during a recent experiment with a positive target recognition system in the Gulf of Oman caused what one participant described as "panic" in the combat information center. A combat air patrol was not immediately available and the commander was on his own. The system subsequently identified the aircraft and reason prevailed. The neutral identification was later visually confirmed as a Soviet aircraft by an F-14; action directed at it would have had grave consequences. The positive target recognition system's identification of the bogey made the tactical action officer's job considerably easier.
Ongoing efforts to upgrade hardware and software for major combatants equipped with systems such as the advanced combat direction system (ACDS) and the Aegis system present an opportunity to introduce a major advancement in positive enemy identification into a fusion process that now relies heavily on ambiguous data. Adding a radar modulation-based positive target recognition processor to existing shipboard radar systems should be a high priority. Without it, we have a choice between "shooting in the dark" or playing a game of "Blind Man's Bluff."
1M. de Arcangelis, Electronic Warfare: From Tsushima to the Falklands and the Lebanon Conflicts (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press Ltd, 1985), p. 245.
2D. and C. Miller, Modern Naval Combat (New York: Crescent Books, 1986), pp. 196-197.
3M.I. Skolnik, Introduction to Radar Systems (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1980), pp. 434-438.
4U .S. House of Representatives, Committee on Government Operations, Identification of Friend or Foe in Air Warfare—A Capability Long Neglected and Urgently Needed (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985), pp. 8-9.
5LtCol R.E. Fitts, The Strategic Electromagnetic Conflict (Los Altos, CA: Peninsula Publishing, 1980), p. 37.
6Ibid., pp. 234-235.
7Arcangelis, op cit, p. 250.
8R. J. Schlesinger, Principles of Electronic Warfare (Los Altos, CA: Peninsula Publishing, 1961). p. 16.
Mr. Harmon is the project manager for the Ships Advanced Radar Target Identification System at the Naval Electronic Systems Engineering Activity, St. Inigoes, Maryland. He has worked in the Identifications Systems Division since 1981.
Coming Loose at the Seams
By Lieutenant Carey Matthews, U.S. Navy
Quieter Soviet submarines have sent the U.S. Navy scrambling for better equipment to find them. The P-3 Orion is on its way out and the Navy is counting on the P-7 A to join the fleet in the mid-1990s as its replacement.
The P-7A resembles the P-3, but there are upgrades throughout-new engines, fly-by-wire controls, a bigger bomb bay—that will make it significantly different from the Orion.
Its ability to find submarines, however, will be quite similar to that of the latest P-3Cs since it will carry the same Update IV antisubmarine warfare system. This system has not operated extensively to date but seems a marked improvement over what we have. Unfortunately, it will suffer from the same problems in the P-7A that it has in the older Orion—the computer, which is the heart of the system, will fail.
P-3s have long used sonobuoys to track submerged submarines and P-7As will use the same tactics; the challenge is to sort out all of the information provided by the sonobuoys. There is so much noise in the water from so many sources other than the submarine, and so many buoys providing that information, that those operating the detection equipment in the aircraft depend on a computer to help them maintain the big picture.
Ideally, the computer will be ready when needed but, in practice, things rarely work that way. In nearly three years of P-3 tactical flying, I can recall only a few occasions on which the computer worked for the duration of the flight. Similarly, I can recall only a few flights without a host of other nagging computer-related problems. Pilots from other P-3 squadrons with similar computer systems consistently report the same problems.
The fleet realizes that the 1960s-vintage P-3 computer is neither very modem nor very capable compared to today's technology, and numerous Naval Institute Proceedings articles have addressed the problem of getting current technology into the fleet. Nevertheless, we fly with what we have. The technology that goes into the P-7A will no doubt be obsolete by the time it goes to sea. Short of divine intervention, we have to adapt to the procurement system and the limitations it forces on us. We should learn how to make the best of the situation.
The P-3 computer, when working, does a good job of helping to manage sonobuoy information; it just breaks too often. Why? The answer is not complex.
The P-3 vibrates. The computer, its connectors, wiring, and circuit boards are subjected to that vibration; they shake loose. The majority of patrol plane flights are non-tactical. Many P-3 flights are spent on pilot training, cross countries, maintenance checks, parts runs, air shows, and other duties. On each of these flights, the computer and its related equipment is just along for the ride. It struggles with each landing, each patch of turbulent air, and each high angle-of-bank turn. P-3 computers seldom break when they are new because everything is still tight. It takes a few years to work everything loose and the P-7A will look good initially.
On pilot training flights, the three pilots on board will frequently log a combined total of more than 30 landings. Not all of them will be airliner-smooth. Over the life of the plane, each piece of equipment back in the fuselage will be subjected to a tremendous pounding. The planes in my squadron are all more than 12 years old. After all they have been through, it is small wonder their computers fail.
The failures are often relatively minor but even these are tedious to fix. On tactical flights, patrol squadrons bring along an in-flight technician, whose job is to fix the equipment when it breaks. For computer malfunctions, he will typically fix the equipment not by performing major computer surgery or soldering something back together, but merely by reseating it. This simple but time-consuming process involves a difficult search for a loose circuit board or connector, which must them be pulled out and reseated. This works nearly all the time; the part has not failed but has merely shaken free and no current is flowing from point A to point B.
These problems are not unique to tactical flights since the computer is also used for navigation; but only on actual missions is the equipment required to function at peak performance. A complete preflight will have the equipment working fine, but after running for awhile, the connectors will get hot and expand—then the problems will begin.
When the computer crashes, you can bet that it will be at the wrong time. You will either be in contact with a submarine or close to gaining it. When the computer fails, your attention will then be split between the submarine and the on-board problems. Given the difficulty of tracking quiet targets, any lapse of attention away from the submarine usually translates into a lost contact.
Crews train to perform with a degraded computer in an "off-line" mode but it is difficult to transition from a full to a degraded system. Typically, a crew will attempt to fix the computer before switching to the off-line mode of operation—and this is when most contacts are lost.
Does the Navy intend to fly the P-7A only on tactical flights? No. The P-7A will be subjected to the same lifestyle as the P-3. The computer package back in the fuselage, no matter how advanced or capable, will be subjected to the same stress as its predecessor. There may be better insulators, sturdier frames, and stronger connectors, but eventually the computer will give in to the more powerful force of time in the landing pattern.
There is a solution and it will not require an overhaul of the Navy's procurement system. Make the computer's essential pieces modular for quick installation and removal. By making all of the key pieces removable, squadrons can fly the P-7A on non-tactical flights without subjecting the computer to the shock wear of repeated landings, turbulence, and vibration. There are many advantages to this approach. Today, either the plane is flying and maintenance on the computer must be deferred, or the maintenance is being done and the plane cannot fly. With modular units removed for flights on which it is not required, both sides—operations and maintenance—win.
Admittedly, installing essential computer units prior to each flight would require considerable time and more manpower. The payoff would come in fewer man-hours spent fixing problems . But even if the man-hours to remove and reinstall the equipment were the same, aircrews would benefit from a more reliable system when they needed it.
In addition, equipment originally designed to be modular would be easier to remove when it did fail. For the aircraft, reducing the load it carries in the tube during a bounce flight might not be a dramatic weight savings, but over the life of the plane it will make a difference.
This proposal is not a quick fix to solving the Navy's current ASW problem. Rather it is a solution to a nagging problem in the P-3 that will surely show up in the P-7A. If we repeat the same engineering mistakes, we can have something as exotic as a Cray supercomputer crunching numbers but if it cannot provide the information we need at a critical moment, we might as well use a crystal ball to find the submarine.
The Navy is committed to the Update IV computer package for the P-7A. If the decision is made to install modular units in a redesign of the Update IV, there will be ample room to update the P-7A with the cheaper, smaller, and more powerful computers now being developed. Submarines are going to keep getting quieter. If we want to find them, we will need equipment that continually evolves to stay ahead of the game.
Designing the P-7A to accept modular equipment will make the inevitable scrapping of the Update IV system less expensive. There are numerous reasons not to have a permanently affixed computer in the P-7A. We should use the best equipment now available for the plane, but we should demand that it be modular. The results will be worthy of the rest of the aircraft.
Lieutenant Matthews is a Patrol Plane Commander assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP)-46 at NAS Moffett Field, California; his squadron recently returned from a deployment to Japan.
Diving in the Persian Gulf
By Commander Michael S. Baker, Medical Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve; Commander Harold K. Strunk, Medical Service Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve; Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Donald Weightman, U.S. Navy
Scant information on the hazards to diving in the Persian Gulf has been published in the United States although the U.S. Navy has operated in the region for many years.
In an attempt to describe the problems, the authors pooled their experiences, which include deployment with active duty naval assets and extensive civilian sport diving with the local branches of the British Sub-Aqua Club.
The major hazards to divers come from the environment and the dangerous marine life. The region is one of high ambient temperatures, high humidity, and the water is very warm during the summer. Dangerous marine life includes sharks, venomous sea snakes, and sea wasps (jellyfish). Lionfish and moray eels present hazards and even the coral is dangerous.
Overall heat effects: The increased heat load of a hot environment may adversely affect deployed personnel. Combined with physical activity, sleep loss, and change in rations, heat stress may dramatically degrade performance.
Temperatures in the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf may reach 130 Fahrenheit (54.4 Centigrade) in the summer. Combined with the high humidity often experienced in the Gulf, this can lead to heat stress and heat stroke. Sun and heat exposures also result in other disabling conditions, such as sunburn, severe heat rashes, miliaria, and psychiatric stress.
The importance of physical fitness in preparing troops for deployment into high temperatures is recognized, but even fit troops require a period of acclimatization of 10 to 14 days. Regular rest periods, supervised water intake to avoid dehydration, and sufficient rations help to prevent these problems.
The importance of hydration in excess of thirst demand cannot be over-emphasized. The troops must be taught the necessity of maintaining their body water and supervised by officers and senior enlisted personnel in order to prevent injury. Unacclimatized troops can lose 1.5 liters per hour and the acclimatized troops 2.5 liters per hour during bursts of strenuous activity in a very hot environment. An average loss of 1 liter per hour is common. Performance can be degraded as much as 25% by a loss of only 1.5 liters of body water.
Heat injuries during diving: There is very little scientific data published regarding the hazards of warm water diving. The authors, however, have found that dehydration while diving in areas such as the Persian Gulf is accelerated by the very high temperature of the surface waters. Temperatures on the surface as high as 96 FO (35.6 CO) were recorded during August 1988.
The relatively shallow waters of the Gulf, where the bottom is often only 200 feet, respond very quickly to seasonal changes in temperature. Wet or dry suits are needed for the winter months when the waters are uncomfortably cold but these suits are intolerably hot in the summer months. Protective clothing is necessary; coveralls or jeans with long-sleeved shirts are more practical, and gloves are required. The problem becomes evident when one calculates the diving profile for 40 minutes of work performed on an air dive at a depth of 150 feet: the diver would have a minimum decompression time of 57 minutes. The first decompression stop would be at 30 feet for 5 minutes; the second at 20 feet for 19 minutes; and the third would be at 10 feet for 33 minutes (see Figure 1). These decompression stops plus the ascent times in addition to the temperature of the air supplied to the diver means that the diver may have a "cooking time" of almost one hour in hot water. Temperatures of 86 F° (30 C°) at depths of 60 feet have frequently been recorded in the Gulf (see Figure 2).
Figure 1: U.S. Navy Standard Air Decompression Table
Bottom Time (min)
Time to 1st Stop (min:sec)
Decompression Stops (feet)
Total Ascent (min:sec)
Figure 2: Temperatures Measured on 29 July 1988
LAT: 26 53.5 N. LON: 50 41.2 E
From: U.S. Navy Coastal Systems Command, Panama City, Florida
A diver using closed-circuit, mixed-gas, underwater breathing apparatus faces even greater danger. A dive to 150 feet for 40 minutes will require 92 minutes of decompression starting at 50 feet for 7 minutes, 40 feet for 20 minutes, 30 feet for 21 minutes, and then 22 minutes each at 20 and 10 feet (see Figure 3). The diver using this apparatus at least carries it with him, and thus avoids the even higher temperature of inspired gas—which can reach 127 F° (53 C°) on the surface. The diver's air supply should be shielded from the sun prior to the dive, to reduce heat absorption. An already tired diver, who is probably somewhat dehydrated, will thus be forced to spend a considerable length of time in very hot water for his decompression stops. The Royal Navy has many years of diving experience in the Persian Gulf and has published guidelines reflecting that experience (see Figure 4).
Figure 3: Closed Circuit Mixed-Gas UBA Decompression Tables
0.7 Atmosphere Absolute Constant Partial Pressure O2 in Helium
Bottom Time (min)
Time to 1st Stop (min:sec)
Decompression Stops, Stop Times AT (min)
Total Ascent (min:sec)
Figure 4: Guidelines
1. Shelter the standby diver from the sun.
2. Shelter the breathing apparatus from the sun.
3. Dive in light coveralls or other lightweight protection when in shallow waters.
4. Limit dive time when in shallow and hot water (15 minutes for hard work, 20 minutes for moderate work, etc.)
5. Good pre-dive hydration.
6. Shelter and cool recompression chambers to prevent unacceptable temperatures during treatment.
No serious heat injuries are known to have occurred while the authors were in the area. This is probably related to the excellent fitness levels of deployed personnel, the briefing that emphasized overhydration, and rapid acclimatization by personnel to the environment.
Hazardous marine life in the Persian Gulf: There are three major hazards in the Persian Gulf from marine life:
- Venomous sea snakes
- Extremely toxic sea wasps (jelly fish)
No reports of injuries from any of these hazards are known by the authors to have occurred in the Persian Gulf during recent diving operations. Incidents with local inhabitants are well-documented, however, and form the basis for the information reported.
Coral is another hazard to divers in the Gulf worth mentioning. Most of the shoreline of the Gulf is shallow, sandy beaches, and the bottom varies from sand to mud. Numerous reefs are charted, though, and these are usually built upon coral formations. Cuts and scrapes caused by coral are highly infectious due to the bacteria injected under the skin. Without proper cleaning and dressing, these cuts are slow in healing.
It is always wise to wear protective footwear when diving. Thick-soled neoprene booties, or high-top canvas shoes that fit comfortably into fins work best. These will afford protection when walking across reefs. The reefs and islands in the Gulf are low, sandy, treeless, and covered by scrub brush. They are inhabited by birds and are infested with ticks and mites above the high water line. These insects carry a wide variety of infectious diseases of which medical personnel should be aware.
Sea snakes (family Hydrophidae): Sea snakes are found throughout the tropical seas, usually in shallow coastal waters. They are not particularly aggressive, but they do have short grooved fangs near the front of the upper jaw and are venomous.
The bite is rarely painful, but the venom is neurotoxic and more potent than that of a Cobra. The snakes have difficulty biting as their jaws are very narrow. The greatest number of snakes are found in Al'Uqair, Tarut Bay, and Muharraq Bay. The Hydrophis cyanocincuts is frequently encountered; it has a pebble-grain skin, and a series of dark bands or rings around the body. The snakes are often found resting on underwater pipes and ledges. There are nine types of sea snakes in the Gulf, and all are poisonous.
Treatment of a sea snake bite is similar to that first aid provided for snake bites occurring on land. The victim should be kept quiet. A venous tourniquet above the bite wound (if it is on an extremity) is indicated to slow flow upstream. The venous tourniquet should not be so tight as to stop arterial inflow, but only tight enough to impede venous and lymphatic return. Be prepared to support ventilation and circulation.
The key to treatment of venomous sea snake bites is the antivenin. It is available from Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Australia and a single vial costs $422. Shelf life is 1.5 to 3 years depending on the date of actual harvesting. Commonwealth Serum Laboratories address is 45 Poplar Road, Parkville 3052, Melbourne, Australia, telephone 061-3389-1911.
Sharks: Several species of dangerous sharks inhabit the Persian Gulf. Great whites, hammerheads, and tiger sharks have all peen identified in these waters.
Most sharks tend to attack surface swimmers, which they identify as easy prey; they rarely attack submerged divers. Often they will nudge a victim with their snout to see if it is a safe prey, and then will circle back to attack.
No documented injuries due to sharks were known to the authors during the relatively short period of diving operations in the Persian Gulf. Although it is always dangerous to swim in ocean waters where sharks are present, divers can work safely if they remain alert, do not dive alone, avoid murky water, and try to keep the reef at their back.
Sea wasps (jellyfish or Cubomedusan): Stings from jellyfish rarely cause anything other than local swelling of short duration. The sea wasp, however, has been responsible for deaths worldwide because of the venom in the nematocysts. Death from stings of the sea wasps can occur in as little as three minutes.
Sea wasps are dome shaped, and sometimes reach a height of 10 inches, although they are usually much smaller. During the warmer months, they are abundant in coastal waters. Wearing protective clothing when diving is the best protection against jellyfish stings. Minimize the exposed skin surface as much as possible, and always wear gloves.
The following strategy has been developed to treat jellyfish stings, and is probably appropriate in the event of an encounter with a sea wasp. First, and quickly, the nematocyst should be inactivated by rinsing the involved area with a liquid that has a high alcohol content, such as rubbing alcohol. The application of meat tenderizer (papain) at this stage may also be effective. This can be mixed in solution with water and kept ready in a spray bottle.
The residual tentacles then should be removed by coalescing them with a drying agent, such as flour, baking soda, or divers' talc. The paste is then scraped from the skin with a blade. The wounded area should be rinsed with basic solutions, such as baking soda or ammonium hydroxide, to neutralize the toxins, which are often acidic.
Other dangerous marine life is present in the waters of the Persian Gulf. The beautiful cone shell contains a highly toxic barb in its shell. The ornate and delicately colored lion fish (Scopaenidae pletois) has 21 venomous spines protruding from its body. Moray eels (family: Muraedinae) are antisocial and are usually found in holes in the reef. Sting rays (Dasyatidae) are often seen along the bottom and they have a poisonous barb on their long, whip-like tail. As with sea snakes, all of these are best left alone.
Conclusions: Recent geopolitical events involving the countries bordering on the Persian Gulf have brought about a marked increase in diving operations in this area to preserve the sea lanes of communication.
There are numerous hazards to those who are diving. These include the hazards of the environment as well as those of the indigenous marine life. Injuries, however, can be avoided by proper training, indoctrination, and diving gear. Overhydration cannot be overemphasized; maintain good physical fitness and observe regular sleep and rest cycles.
Henry, C. D. "Heat Stress and Its Effects on Illness and Injury Rates," Military Medicine, Volume 150, 6:326-329, 1985.
Hubbart, R. W., "An Analysis of Current Doctrine (U.S. Army vs. Israeli Defense Force) and Further Prevention and Treatment of Heat Casualty Resulting from Operations in the Heat," Commanders' Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, October, 1978.
U.S. Navy Diving Manual, Volume I, Naval Sea Systems Command (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office List, 1980-83).
Personal Communication, Surgeon Captain J. R. Harrison, Operational Medical Services, Royal Navy.
Salah, S. "Panorama of Saudi Arabia" (Singapore: IPA/Tien Wah Press Limited, 1978).
Strunk, H. K., "Guidebook of Infectious and Communicable Diseases and Other Health hazards of the Arabian Peninsula", U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1984.
The New Science of Skin and Scuba Diving, Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1980).
Auerbach, P. S., A Medical Guide to Hazardous Marine Life, Jacksonville, FL: Progressive Printing Company, 1987).
Moore, W. C., "Near Fatal Jelly Fish Sting," U.S. Navy Medicine, 72:22, February 1981.
British Sub-Aqua Club Diving Manual, (London: Eyre and Spottiswood Limited, 1979).
Commander Baker is chief of surgery at Contra Costa County/Merrihew Memorial Hospital in Martinez, California. Commander Strunk is Regional Manager, Hospital Relations. Blue Shield of California. Master Chief Weightman is the Branch Head, Diving Human Factor Analysis at the Naval Safety Center, Norfolk, Virginia.
New Era Tactics
By Lieutenant Commander James Stavridis, U.S. Navy
Tactics, the procedures and techniques for handling forces in battle, are the lifeblood of a navy. Today's U.S. Navy is poised to enter a new era that will present both challenges and opportunities for refining our tactical approach to war at sea. Failure to adapt may mean more than just a "bloody nose" in the turbulent global security environment of the coming decades.
Tactics encompass the application of techniques of surveillance, firepower, and communications, as well as the positioning, maneuvering, and employing of large groups of forces—what the Soviets are fond of calling "operational art." The U.S. Navy's current tactical approach to the maneuver of larger groups of forces includes a variety of concepts.
One of the most important ideas is the employment of a coordinated warfare commander concept for controlling forces at, the battle group, force, and fleet level. Warfare is divided into functional components (ASW, antiair warfare, antisurface warfare, strike warfare, electronic warfare, etc.), each directed by a senior commander or coordinator. They are brought together under the overall direction of a battle group commander. Within the warfare areas, individual commanders or coordinators are responsible for each of the basics—scouting/antiscouting; firepower/counterforce; and command and control command and control countermeasures—pertaining to his warfare area. The ASW commander, for example, is responsible for finding enemy submarines, attacking them, and running the associated communication circuits. The line can be fuzzy, however, in that he is not responsible for destroying missiles fired from submarines—counterforce activity is the responsibility of the antiair warfare commander. Underlying the concept of functional warfare commanders is a general notion of division based on rough geographic areas: each of the warfare commanders sets up inner and outer defense zones, or scouting and killing fields.
Generally, naval forces are structured around either carrier battle groups (one carrier, six to eight surface combatants , and logistic support ships) or battleship battle groups (one battleship, four to six surface combatants, and logistic support ships). For smaller tasks—showing the flag, individual exercises, and contingencies—smaller surface action groups can be employed. Our attack submarines tend to operate with a high degree of independence. Land-based maritime patrol aircraft support the forward deployed groups. Amphibious Readiness Groups are composed of groups of amphibious ships (five to seven amphibious ships and an afloat Marine Expeditionary Unit), and occasionally operate in company with either carrier or battleship battle groups.
The U.S. Navy has employed these basic tactical approaches since World War II. They have served us well, but we must recognize that they are basically an extension of the fleet tactics we employed in the Pacific campaigns of that war. The real issue today is the value of this tactical culture in the face of changing technology and threat.
We must reexamine the underlying premises of our tactical approach for several reasons.
- First, the fruits of successful procurement programs funded during the Reagan defense recovery of the early 1980s are in the fleet now, or will be there soon. They are Ticonderoga (CG-47)- and Arleigh Burke (DDG-5l)-class cruisers and destroyers, LAMPS MK III helicopters, F/A-18 fighter-attack aircraft, improved Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class submarines, Tomahawk cruise missiles, Wasp (LHD-1)- and Whidbey Island (LSD-41)-class amphibious ships with their associated air cushion landing craft (LCACs), Avenger (MCM-1)-class minesweepers, Tagos antisubmarine surveillance ships, and a host of others. In order to take full advantage of these tremendous warfighting capabilities, our tactics must keep pace. The full combat power of any system can be unlocked only through systematic attention to its use in a wide variety of tactical scenarios. The discovery and use of such technological leverage is the essence of good tactics.
- Second, the 1990s will be an era of dwindling defense budgets, although a great deal depends on popular perceptions of threat levels. Fighting better with the systems we already have will allow us to stretch our defense dollars. Therefore, tactics will become increasingly more important.
- Finally, our philosophical opponent is also entering a new era. The Soviet Union is assembling a truly high-quality, blue-water navy built around such superb platforms as Kiev and Tblisi carriers, Kirov battle cruisers, Slava cruisers, Sovremennyy and Udaloy destroyers, and Oscar and Akula submarines. Other regional powers are likewise building forces capable of presenting tactical challenges to the U.S. Navy to a degree we have not seen before. India, for example, may be operating relatively capable carrier battle groups by 2000. The technology required to produce nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons is increasingly available to second and third tier powers. Cruise missiles, advanced submarines and ASW technology, space surveillance—which can be purchased commercially—advanced avionics, smart air-to-air missiles, and improved materials for propulsion and power generation, are all within reach of potential adversaries. If we can no longer fight stronger with superior technology, we must fight smarter with better tactics.
We often overlook the impact of specific technological advances until actual combat occurs, then scramble to adapt our warfighting approach to the new technology. The tactical employment of carrier air power in World War II is an example. The same is true today. Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost, the recently retired Chief of Naval Operations, cited five specific areas that offer the promise of high technological leverage and may have a lasting effect on the conduct of war at sea in his fiscal year 1990 testimony before Congress:
- Space—TheNavy is the leading tactical user of space products (surveillance, intelligence, navigation, meteorology, etc.) among all the armed services today, and plans to expand its activity in space and the use of such products. Tactics must be developed to deal with the increasing potential of scouting from space, as well as command and control issues.
- Radio-Electronic Battle Management—Commandand control systems are the mortar that holds together the bricks of our tactical war effort. In an expanded maritime battlefield, where platforms, sensors, and weapons routinely operate hundreds or thousands of miles apart, radio-electronic battle management will be crucial for scouting, antiscouting, firepower, counterforce, and command and control. Beam weapons and other exotic uses of the electro-magnetic spectrum may not be far away and should be examined for their tactical import.
- Submarine and Antisubmarine Warfare—The tactical role of submarines will increase over the coming decades. Already involved in strike warfare, they may one day be fully integrated into all aspects of battle.
- Stealth-Low-observability may be the single most important element of the future maritime battlefield. Stealth is, of course, not a single magic cloak, but a widely related group of technologies encompassing reductions in platform, weapon, and sensor signatures through various techniques. It will not make objects on the battlefield invisible—merely more difficult to detect, target, and defend against.
- Long-Range Precision Cruise Missiles—Althoughvariants of the Tomahawk are already extremely precise, we have not developed fully the tactics to take best advantage of this increased accuracy. Further improvements in precision, payload, observability profile, and speed will call for even more tactical adjustment.
Advances in each of these technological areas will have direct impact on both our broad tactical approach and our specific combat techniques, yet we have done little thus far in response to these changes. We must move forward to improve our tactical capability across the spectrum of warfare in response to changes in both threat profile and available technology. In order to accomplish this, we should:
Elicit tactical innovation from the fleet: The best people to develop new tactical approaches are fleet operators. There are loosely interconnected responsibilities between a wide variety of tactical nodes in the fleet today. First is the fleet itself, in wardrooms, bridges, and combat information centers. Second, the afloat staffs, which work on the ships and direct fleet activity, are in a superb position to ponder larger-area tactics. A step removed from the afloat staffs are the shore staffs, including the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CincPacFlt and CincLantFlt), as well as the various commanders. All tactical thought in the fleet should be moved forward through tactical notes, messages, proposed tactical memos, changes to naval warfare publications, and articles and professional notes in Proceedings. All of this must be actively encouraged by commanders at every level.
The best tactic in the world is of little use if it stays within the skin of a ship. Ideas must be communicated to be valuable and should not be withheld out of inefficiency, fear of contradiction, or lack of interest in enhancing the fighting capability of the ship at the next pier. The fleet must get involved. Wardroom tactics committees must hone ideas in the laboratory of fleet operations and then communicate their findings to the fleet.
Network existing centers of tactical thought: New tactics can be developed in what might loosely be called the tactical training network. This includes such organizations as Tactical Training Group Pacific and Atlantic; Strike University in Fallon, NY; Surface Warfare Development Group in Norfolk, VA; Fighter Weapons School (Top gun) and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School in San Diego, CA; Submarine Development Squadron Twelve in New London, CT; the Center for Naval Analyses in Washington, D.C.; and others. In keeping with the Navy's decentralized approach, each of these schools works many tactical problems on its own, often developing superb new tactical ideas. While some interaction occurs, this could be done more frequently to develop better coordinated tactics and to move the problem ahead.
It may be time to systematize the development process more thoroughly at the shore-based sites. The Navy staff in Washington, D.C., or fleet commanders working together should coordinate this. The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Naval Warfare (OP-07, formerly OP-095) could initiate a coordinated overview of our tactics.
Use a multi-disciplinary approach to the development of tactics: We need to rely on a diverse mixture of disciplines—history, technology, and analysis—in our approach to tactics. The problem is that such a collection of skills is difficult to maintain in one organization, let alone in any single individual. This is one explanation for the relative paucity of tactical naval thought over the past decades. Our tactical centers must approach the development of tactics with a blend of these normally disparate disciplines.
Make tactics a stated top priority across the Navy: The call for placing tactics above the many other priorities a ship, submarine, or squadron faces is not new; but given the confluence of new threats, advanced technology, and the other ideas discussed herein, the challenge seems closer today. This must be a top down and a bottom up commitment.
We must encourage the study of tactics by offering tangible rewards, both professional and monetary, for tactical innovation; sponsoring conferences examining our tactical process; publishing tactical notes, newsletters, and messages by a wide variety of organizations and commands; encouraging both unclassified and classified articles on tactics through contests and competitions; and encouraging enrollment in correspondence courses offering tactical insight—such as the Naval War College's off-campus seminars on naval operations and tactics. These efforts should be directed at all officer ranks and senior enlisted in tactically-oriented rates.
The following are only some of the new ideas in fleet tactics which need to be explored.
Organization of battle groups—Weneed to reexamine and perhaps revalidate our basic battle group composition and organization. One of the key issues to decide is the appropriate mix of surface combatants operating with an aircraft carrier and a battleship. Another is the relationship of several carrier battle groups operating together with either a battleship battle group or an amphibious readiness group. Today's approach just might be the best. On the other hand, a careful analysis may reveal a better one.
Command and control of battle groups—Ourbattle groups are generallyorganized by warfare specialty—i.e., anti air warfare assets under an antiair warfare commander. We may want to consider alternative arrangements that take advantage of the increasing fusion of functions on the expanded maritime battlefield of the future.
Transition from cruising tactics to battle tactics—In the shadow zone of undeclared hostilities, commanders are often faced with the need to develop tactics that are effective in cruising situations—no overt hostilities—yet permit instant transition to full battle situations. Flexible tactics that can make the transition instantly with people on station and machines ready to put ordnance on target are needed. Examples include tactics that permit active surveillance and scouting with firepower at the ready, such as U.S. battle groups and surface action groups routinely encountered in the Persian Gulf tanker escort operations.
Coordination of firepower capability—Asopportunities for the use of coordinated firepower increasingly become available through new weapons systems, effective coordination will be at a premium. Good examples can be found in the areas of strike warfare and ASW.
Integration of stealth capability—Manytactical problems and opportunities will emerge as stealth platforms and weapons enter the fleet in the late 1990s. Now is the time to refine our tactical thinking regarding how to use A-12, the advanced tactical aircraft—which will be stealthy—with non-stealthy aircraft in strike warfare, such as the E-2, or the advanced tactical support aircraft, the S-3, or the F/A-18. In addition, we must explore the implications of non-stealthy weapons fired from stealthy platforms.
The integration of these and other new technologies into usable tactics may be our Navy's greatest challenge as it approaches the 21st century.
Commander Stavridis earned a Ph.D. in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Diplomacy and is currently serving as the executive officer of the USS Antietam (CG-54).
Equal Opportunity Exists in the Corps
By Major John P. Curry, U.S. Marine Corps
In September 1987 the Commandant of the Marine Corps convened a task force on women to examine comprehensively the progress of women in the Marine Corps. One of the issues the task force dealt with was the perception that female officers in the Corps have not enjoyed the same opportunity for command as their male counterparts. When the findings of the task force proved inconclusive, it recommended that a careful statistical analysis of command opportunity be conducted at the Headquarters Marine Corps level. The results of that analysis, prepared by the Manpower Analysis Branch of the Manpower Department, are surprising.
Based on data for unrestricted officers commissioned between 1 October 1975 and 30 September 1983, there is no difference in the opportunity for command afforded male and female officers in the Marine Corps. In those military occupational specialties (MOSs) that both men and women can hold, women have a rate of obtaining command of 14.2%, and men have a rate of 13.3%. The difference of .9% between these rates is neither meaningful nor statistically significant.
Dealing with the inevitable concerns about "lying with statistics", requires some history about women in the Marine Corps, some background in the analytical technique and underlying assumptions, and an understanding of limitations in the data.
Perceptions regarding command opportunity seem partially supported by annual equal opportunity assessment counts. But these counts do not provide an accurate picture, because assessing the opportunity for command requires waiting long enough for people to have had the opportunity, and it requires including the experience of those who have left. In looking at all second lieutenants, we would find very few, if any, commanding officers. We might then conclude that this group of officers has no opportunity to obtain command. Conversely, every general officer currently in the Marine Corps has been a CO, so we might conclude that their opportunity was 100%. But both of these conclusions contain major flaws. Second lieutenants have not had enough exposure, and the general officer population lacks information about those members of their year groups who have left the Corps.
Comparing the opportunity afforded men and women requires using complete groups of officers who began their careers at the same time (in the same year group). Then their overall experience can be examined at some time after they have had the opportunity for command. If the groups were treated equally, one can infer that they were afforded the same opportunity. To conduct the analysis, information related to the billet assignments of each person in the year group is required. Most officers in the Corps are familiar with the master brief sheet that summarizes our fitness reports. The billet title shown on this sheet is captured when the fitness report is submitted and stored in the automated fitness report system. This is the only automated source of information regarding billet experience. Unfortunately, because of the way the data base was built when the automated system started, it does not contain the fitness reports for all members of year groups before 1976. This, taken with the change in the rules of the game, made the 1976 year group the best starting point for the analysis.
Moreover, before 1976 women were not routinely assigned to the Fleet Marine Force. Instead they were assigned in the Supporting Establishment and then, until 1977, usually only in Women Marine Companies. The experiences and behavior of women accessed under the old rules of the game may have been substantially affected when the rules changed in 1976-77.
Because the focus of the study was command experience at and above the company level, the analysis stopped with year group 1983. This ensured that the youngest members of the last year group would have had at least four years of exposure at the time of the analysis (September 1988). The survivors from year group 1976 had all nearly completed their tenures as captains, and some were in their first years as majors. The survivors of year group 1983 had all nearly finished their entire tenures as first lieutenants.
Three final analytical considerations must be addressed. First, restricted officers were excluded from the analysis because, with few exceptions, restricted officers (limited-duty officers, warrant officers) should not be COs. Since their opportunity ought to be zero, they should be excluded so as not to skew the results.
Second, the MOSs that women cannot enter must be excluded from the analysis of opportunity. This has caused difficulty for a number of reviewers. The concern arises from a belief that most company-level command billets are found in MOSs that women cannot hold and that, in fact, women have less opportunity. But the fact that women have no opportunity to command an infantry company is not the issue. Suppose, for example, that there is only one type of command billet available, CO of an infantry company. A male aircraft maintenance officer has no opportunity to command an infantry company. The same is true for any female captain in this year group. Now add an infantry officer from the same year group to this comparison. His opportunity to have commanded an infantry company was likely to have been 100%. The men, therefore, experienced a 50% opportunity for command; the woman experienced a 0% opportunity. One could then conclude that the woman was treated differently as a matter of gender. But this would be wrong. Her lack of opportunity, just as that for the male aircraft maintenance officer, arose from the condition of the MOS, not the condition of gender. The Marine Corps Manpower Analysis Branch study addressed only whether male and female officers are treated differently because of gender. To do this correctly, the comparison must be between men and women only within the MOSs both can hold.
Finally, only an officer's primary MOS was considered. Billet MOSs were not taken into account. The only quality required of the billet was that it be a command billet.
Table 1 summarizes the findings for experience as a CO, which in this study means all billet titles indicating command of at least a company level unit. The rates show that men and women have the same opportunity for command. Table 2 summarizes the data for experience as an executive officer. Although not explicitly requested by the task force, this was done to compare the stepping-stone opportunities afforded men and women. In this case, while women lag the men by 2.6%, their average months in billet are about equal. In addition, when data for individual year groups were examined, a pattern appeared: In earlier year groups, 1976-80, the rate for women is equal to or ahead of the men, while in year groups 1981-83 the rate is slightly behind. Men, it seems, get their XO experience a little earlier, but women catch up later. Confirming this will require replicating this effort in two to three years to see if the pattern continues.
Table 1: Command Experience Among Year Groups 1976-83
Total Months in Billet
Rate for CO
Average Months as CO
Table 2: Executive Officer Experience Among Year Groups 1976-83
Total Months in Billet
Rate for XO
Average Months as XO
Table 3: Commanding Officer and Executive Officer Experience In MOSs Closed to Women Among Year Groups 1976-83
Number with Billet
Total Months in Billet
Average Months in Billet
Table 3 repeats the above efforts for men in MOSs that women cannot hold. While this does not alter the earlier assertion that direct comparison between women officers and these officers in MOSs closed to women is invalid, we can compare the opportunity afforded the two groups of MOSs. This table may also allay any remaining concerns that the data were selected to prove a point. As one can see from Table 3, MOSs closed to women provide less opportunity for both CO (11.1% versus 13.4%) and XO (12.5% versus 15.3%) than those in which women serve. The data presented here lead to one conclusion: The Marine Corps succeeds at treating male and female officers equally with respect to opportunity for command, although admittedly, the opportunity is small for everyone. This conclusion holds for all year groups for which we have sufficient data. This report recommends replicating the work in two to three years to see if present conditions hold for post-1983 year groups, and to see how the survivors of year groups 1976-78 are treated as they continue their careers.
Major Curry is a manpower operations analyst at the Manpower Analysis, Evaluation, and coordination Branch of the Manpower Department, Headquarters Marine Corps.