The Troops Ashore Deserve Better Fire Support
By Major Tracy A. Ralphs, U.S. Army Reserve
"Battleships proved to be extremely valuable during Desert Storm. Without the battleships, there would have been no-[naval gunfire support]." -Admiral Stanley Arthur, U.S. Navy, Commanding U.S. Naval Forces during Operation Desert Storm
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."