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Big-deck carriers, the backbone of our blue-water navy, are under attack. Admittedly, the blue-water navy was designed to sink the Soviet fleet and conduct deep air strikes against the Soviet homeland. With its focus shifting to littoral warfare, the Navy is now faced with justifying both the carrier and its blue-water capabilities. The central problem is that the Navy must operate in a new, complex arena, with tools and tactics that were designed for a different kind of war. Critics of our blue-water carriers have already launched their attack. For example, the Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled “Navy Shifts From Carriers,” which implies that . . From the Sea” means carriers are less viable and perhaps no longer needed. A
Marine Corps colonel argues that we should rename them “CV amphibs” and employ them as part of the amphibious fleet.
Whatever the answer is, we must be careful not to discard or deemphasize tools that have served us well during our premier blue-water navy era. As we shift to a brown-water navy, it is critical that we—the Navy and
Marine Corps team—do a better job of articulating the carrier’s role by examining which of its current strengths lend themselves to maneuver warfare along the littorals- If we do not, budget cuts may pare down the carriers and their associated capabilities to a point well below out needs for conducting maneuver from the sea.
Maneuver From the Sea
to operate at a quicker tempo than the enemy. In fact, tempo itself becomes a weapon.
The commander hopes to operate at a quicker tempo than the enemy through the use of three concepts:
^ Main effort means unifying all possible efforts to achieve a decision. _
^ Mission-type orders enable commanders to operate independently in a rapidly changing environment.
^ Surfaces and gaps refers to avoiding enemy strengths,
0r surfaces, and exploiting enemy soft spots, or gaps.
These concepts, however, must be applied with a thorough understanding of the operational art, which assigns leaning to each tactical outcome, successful or not, to •Achieve a strategic objective.
Clearly, these maneuver warfare principles apply to ground combat, as illustrated most recently by the refunding success in Operation Desert Storm. One can v'sualize the result of using these concepts by watching news clips of Marine Corps tanks and light armored vehicles rolling toward Kuwait City. But visualizing maneuver for aviation units is not so easy. As a result, air still struggles for acceptance as a maneuver element.
Air’s Role in MAGTF Warfare
A Marine Corps forward air controller putting a strike on target exemplifies the Marine Air-Ground team concept. To be a major player in maneuver warfare at sea, the Navy needs to start making that ground-to-air connection, along with the carrier-to-air connection.
these missions can be accomplished with less risk to our pilots by using cruise missiles. In supporting littoral warfare, the carrier may come to exist for the care and feeding of air- superiority fighters, with everything else becoming secondary to that."
Shifting Naval Air Ashore
Undoubtedly, Navy aviators should be relieved to find that they still have a carrier-based mission in littoral warfare. But, winning air superiority up and down the coastline is not enough; more is needed from the blue air wing. It must also make a major contribution in achieving a tactical decision, since carriers exist to support the ground objective of the MAGTF. The carrier can also provide close air support (CAS). It may be called on to shift Navy air ashore to a land base for both the CAS and air superiority roles.
Once air superiority has been established, the economy- of-force principle dictates that only a minimal level of blue air should remain allocated to this mission. The remaining blue air should be integrated with green air, to observe the principle of mass ashore. The goal is to place the greatest weight of combat air power in support of the ground scheme of maneuver. This speaks for a potentially controversial two-part rationale for the Navy’s procuring the F/A-18. The first priority is the need to establish an air shield. The second is to shift control of air assets to the MAGTF as soon as possible since, in almost all situations, it is the ground battle that will be decisive.
Integrating Navy and Marine Air
Solving this integration problem will require new training patterns. A start would be to change Navy and Marine Corps squadron deployment patterns, to achieve better cross training, but much more is needed.
The second integration problem is that “. . . From the Sea” dictates that maneuver warfare will be used. All elements of the MAGTF—air and ground—will follow the doctrine of maneuver warfare. Navy air simply has not had time to get on board' Flying their Navy planes well shooting down enemy aircraft, and hitting targets is important, but not enough. Naval aviators must be soldiers, too. To achieve this goal, blue aviators must learn to think and ad differently.
The techniques for achieving on- target accuracy are important, but in maneuver warfare the reasons targets are hit in relation to the ground activity become paramount. Operationally, we need a fluid process that allows blue aircraft to shift rapidly to support green operations and just as quickly shift back to their primary mission of air superiority. At present, we cannot do this.
Navy support of the MAGTF should not be construed as a call for a "CVN Gator.” Navy air’s primary mission is to maintain air superiority throughout the operation. This will require the majority of the carrier’s assets to be blue air. The carrier remains a Navy asset that is responsible for gaining air superiority, while developing and improving its capability of flying close air support missions for the MAGTF.
^Melissa Healy, “Navy Shifts From Carriers,” Los Angeles Times, 3 October 1992- Coi. Michael O. Fallon, USMC, “Gator Aid: A Solution to the Amphibious Lift Problem,” Marine Corps Gazette, April 1992, p. 7.
Capt. John Schmitt, USMC, “Understanding Maneuver as the Basis for a Doctrine,” Marine Corps Gazette, August 1990, p. 99.
‘Ibid., p. 99.
’Maj. R. Scott Moore, USMC, “The Art of MAGTF Warfare," Marine Corps Gazette, April 1989, p. 25.
“Ibid., p. 28.
William S. Lind, “Maneuver Warfare and Marine Aviation,” Marine Corps Gazette June 1985, p. 14.
sWilliam S. Lind and Maj. James P. Etter, USMC, “Questions for Marine Aviation,” Marine Corps Gazette, June 1985, p. 14.
“Lind, “Maneuver Warfare and Marine Aviation,” p 63 '"Ibid., p. 61.
"Charles E. Myers, “Time to Fold ’em,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1991, p. 40. i!Meyers, p. 39.
Commander Pierce is assigned to the Marine Corps Doctrine Command at Quantico. His previous assignment was as executive officer of the USS Dubuque (LPD-8). He has a master’s degree in national security affairs, strategic planning, from the Naval Postgraduate School.
ground commander’s intent, they will quickly act on their own initiative, because they will understand the results that are needed for the ground battle’s success.
This concept allows an aviator to attack immediately an enemy force or fixed installation, even without orders, if doing so will contribute to success on the ground. Allowing aviators the freedom to act on their own initiative can be successful only if they learn to think like their ground counterparts. This approach is quite different from more traditional, centralized aviation command-and-con- trol systems.
Perhaps illustrating air’s role in maneuver warfare would help us visualize air as a maneuver element. Consider the case in which air’s focus of effort is the unit that is spearheading the ground effort. As soon as the air commander learns that our ground units have achieved a breakthrough, he quickly orders—without waiting for permission from superiors—use of his air assets to block the movement of enemy reserves beyond the ground commander’s vision. Air’s rapid, independent response places the enemy in a combined-arms dilemma. If the enemy postures to counter one element of the combined arms force, he may become vulnerable to the other’s capabilities.
In this instance, if the enemy moves his reserves against our breakthrough, then the reserve units will be forced to move rapidly, which usually means in column, on roads. Such movement in turn makes these roadbound units vulnerable to air attack. If he chooses not to move his reserves that way, then the advantage goes to our rapidly maneuvering ground forces. Moreover, if the enemy delays in making his decision, the delay itself could prove decisive in this fast-paced maneuver battle. As a result, the ambiguity and confusion generated by this dilemma can bring about the enemy’s defeat by impairing his cohesion, so essential to maneuver warfare.
Critical Need for Air Superiority
Supporting the MAGTF may in time become the principal reason for the existence of carriers. Since the ground battle is decisive in littoral operations, all efforts, including those of the carrier, must be focused on it.
If we are to achieve a successful ground decision, then the carrier’s initial role is to support ground operations by attaining air superiority over the objective area. This will ensure that enemy air cannot attack our ground forces—either while they are still on board amphibious ships or after they have landed. Thus, the carrier’s mission is to provide fixed-wing high-performance fighters to seize control of the skies.
This is a change from the blue water situation in which the strike mission—strategic bombing of important fixed installations—was the carrier’s key role. In littoral warfare, however, until fighter aircraft attain air supremacy, nothing else of significance can be accomplished. Supporting this concept should be our primary rationale for deciding which aircraft we need on board the carrier.
The deep battle is no longer the carrier’s primary mission. Although destroying or damaging critical deep targets, such as enemy airfields, may still be important,
Concentrating on tactical excellence rather than numerical superiority, “maneuver” derives from a simple concept: creating and exploiting advantage as a means for defeating an opponent quickly, effectively, and economically.3 The goal is to shatter the enemy’s cohesion through a series of rapid> violent, and unexpected actions that create a situation with which he cannot cope.
As a basis for a doctrine, maneuver is not captured in a single act, nor even in a consistent way of acting. Rather, it is manifest in a mental approach to conflict that recognizes the inherent value of quickness.4 Based on a decentralized philosophy of command, maneuver warfare seeks
"For Marines, the operational art is MAGTF warfare, whatever the size of the MAGTF. ’5 The MAGTF exists for the purpose of rapidly deploying on order and fight- fog on arrival. A unique aspect of the MAGTF is its aviation combat element (ACE). No other fighting force combines air and ground elements under one commander. The MAGTF structure enables its commander to designate either a ground or air focus of effort, greatly expanding his ability to shift between dimensions as the tactical situation dictates.
The Marine Corps is expanding the role of the ACE as an integral maneuver element. The ACE would con- tfoue to provide several types of traditional air support, including deep air strikes, interdiction, close air support, and air superiority. Also, as a maneuver element, the ACE would exploit breakthroughs, conduct pursuits, screen flanks, act as the MAGTF reserve, or even control terrain. These missions would be accomplished by a combined- arms team of fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and ground nnits under the ACE commander.6
Being an arm of the MAGTF requires aviators to have a thorough understanding of ground warfare—just as thor- °ugh as that of ground officers. It also requires a decentralized command-and-control system that enables them t° know implicitly which targets to attack quickly and which merely to threaten.7 These changes are significant. Understanding ground warfare enables pilots to support not only the ground force itself, but also the ground commander’s scheme of maneuver. This allows the ACE to support ground combat beyond the range of the ground commander’s immediate vision, especially when he is in foe attack.8 .
Mission-type orders give pilots flexibility in deciding
To make the MAGTF operation work, Marines may have to borrow Navy air capabilities from time to time. But, simply shitting blue air to a MAGTF commander is not always the answer. An air-integration problem exists at both the tactical and operational level. Tactically, the problem stems from the fact that there is a separation in both thought and deed between blue air and green air. Operationally, the process for shifting blue air to the MAGTF is ill-defined.
Two reasons exist for the integration problem. First, the air-superiority mission for which they both train notwithstanding, each service concentrates on different types of missions. Blue generally focuses on deep strategic strike and interdiction bombing. Green concentrates mainly on close air support, antitank operations, and air-to-air combat over the battlefield. Blue trains to hit fixed targets, and green trains to hit moving targets. Although blue acknowledges the importance of the close air support mission, the profiles currently practiced by Navy air could be effective only in a limited battle scenario.12
“• • • From the Sea” describes the concept of maneuver from the sea as the tactical equivalent to maneuver warfare on land. The Marine Corps has translated maneuver warfare on land into doctrine, as noted in FMFM'
 Warfighting. The impact of Warfighting has altered the way the Marine Corps intends to employ its war-fight in? tools. While the Navy has not had the time to translate “maneuver from the sea” into naval doctrine, the impact of the Navy’s shift to maneuver warfare will undoubtedly alter the way that we employ the carrier and her capabilities.
Unfortunately, the carrier’s potential impact has gone unnoticed since most of the discussions on maneuver warfare have focused on ground combat. This shortfall could have tragic consequences, for maneuver warfare demands that all assets be used proficiently.
Correcting this oversight should be an immediate priority. We should start right away by studying the Marine Corps’ successful efforts in unifying the maneuver warfare missions of both air and ground forces. Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) warfare is their answer for adapting maneuver warfare concepts to both air and ground operations. We must extend this adaptation to include Navy air. How well we extend it may determine the extent of the carrier’s role in littoral warfare.
Where to look for targets and in gaining clearance to at
tack the targets they think are important. Guided by the