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Dispersion: A Concept of Employment For Naval Aviation In Operational Maneuver 
From The Sea 

CSC 1999 

Subject Area - Aviation 


Title: Dispersion: A Concept of Employment For Naval Aviation In Operational 

Maneuver From The Sea 

Author: Major Mark G. Mykleby, United States Marine Corps 

Thesis: Naval air operations must be revised in order to support Operational 

Maneuver From The Sea (OMFTS). 

Background: Tempo will be the cornerstone of success for OMFTS. In order to 
maintain superior tempo, fire support must be generated at a rate proportionate to the 
MAGTF commander’s speed of operations and scheme of maneuver. Although advanced 
naval surface fire systems will be able to deliver accurate fires at extended ranges, these 
weapons will be ill-suited to provide timely and responsive close-in fire support for the 
ground maneuver elements due to their long times of flight (TOFs). Emerging naval 
surface fire systems will be more effective in the shaping of the deep and deep-deep 
battlespaces. As a result, aviation will continue to be the main source of fire support for 
the GCE. However, because OMFTS dictates that naval forces will remain over-the- 
horizon in order to counter future threat capabilities, traditional naval air operations will 
lack the responsiveness and flexibility required in the dynamic OMFTS environment. 

This is due to the time-distance problem associated with over-the-horizon flight 
operations and the “bottleneck” effect inherent to single deck flight evolutions. As a 
result, a new concept of naval aviation employment that focuses on timely and effective 
fire support must be adopted if OMFTS is to become a reality. 

Recommendation: The limitations of single deck flight operations can be overcome and 
responsive and effective fire support can be provided by dispersing naval aviation assets 
throughout an area of operations (AO). Aircraft can be dispersed at sea by forming a 
naval expeditionary force (NEF) from the assets of the carrier battle group (CVBG), the 
amphibious ready group (ARG), and future flight operation capable Maritime Preposition 
Squadrons (MPS). On land, dispersion is possible through the exploitation of new 
systems and technologies such as the Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-130J, and miniaturized 
munitions. By dispersing its air assets, a NEF can circumvent the restrictive nature of 
traditional seabased flight operations. More importantly, the synergy that will result from 
dispersing aircraft on land and/or on sea will provide the MAGTF commander with 
timely combat power that can be exploited at the time and place of his choosing. 

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j^ggg 2. REPORT TYPE 


00-00-1999 to 00-00-1999 


Dispersion: A Concept of Employment For Naval Aviation In 

Operational Maneuver From The Sea 









Marine Corps War College,Marine Corps Combat Development 







Approved for public release; distribution unlimited 






18. NUMBER 19a. NAME OF 



unclassified unclassified unclassified Report (SAR) 


Standard Form 298 (Rev. 8-98) 

Prescribed by ANSI Std Z39-18 


Table of Contents 


List of Figures.v 

List of 


Tomorrow's Battlefield.2 

Operations of the Future.4 

The OMFTS/Naval Aviation Paradox.5 

Is There A Solution?.15 

Making Dispersion a Reality.18 

Controlling Dispersion.35 





List of Figures 


Figure 1. Amphibious Ship Flight Ops.13 

Figure 2. CV Flight Operations (In Theory).13 

Figure 3. CV Flight Operations (In Practice).14 

Figure 4. Legacy Aircraft Turn-around Procedure.30 

Figure 5. JSF Turn-around Procedure.30 

Figure 6. C2 Infonnation Flow Chart.37 

List of Tables 

Table 1. Base Closure Probability Due to Enemy Fires 




Making Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS) a viable warfighting 
doctrine will require a significant change in how naval aviation is employed. Because of 
the ever-increasing capabilities of the future threat, OMFTS dictates that naval forces 
conducting littoral operations will have to operate at extended over-the-horizon ranges in 
order to enhance force survivability. The time-distance problem that will result from this 
over-the-horizon posturing and the procedural limitations of traditional seaborne air 
operations will impede the ability of naval aviation to provide effective aerial supporting 
fires to ground maneuver elements operating at the high tempo levels envisioned for 
OMFTS. Since aviation will remain as the Marine Corps’ primary source of fire 
support, any limitations or constraints imposed on its availability and responsiveness will 
degrade the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s (MAGTF) ability to accomplish its 

The intent of this paper, then, is to propose dispersion as a viable concept of 
employment for naval aviation in support of OMFTS. By dispersing, naval aviation can 
overcome the limitations that historically have diluted the effectiveness of single deck 
flight operations. Whether based at sea or on land, dispersed aviation assets will be able 
to operate with greater responsiveness and survivability than is possible using current 
naval aviation procedures. By capitalizing on new aircraft, emerging weapons 
technologies, and advanced command and control (C2) concepts, naval forces can make 
the dispersed basing of naval aviation assets a reality for littoral expeditionary operations. 
The resulting responsiveness and flexibility of naval aviation will provide the 


overwhelming combat power required to make OMFTS the naval warfighting doctrine of 
the future. 

Tomorrow’s Battlefield 

In the future, the Marine Corps will find itself involved in a wide spectrum 
of missions ranging from multi-nationally sanctioned humanitarian efforts to unilateral 
missions of national interest. Because 70% of the world’s population lives within 200 
miles of the ocean and 45% of the world’s population (2.5 billion people) lives in an 
urban environment, it can be deduced that the preponderance of these future missions will 
involve some form of littoral, urban conflict. The odds go up exponentially when one 
considers that by the year 2025, the world’s urban population will double to 5 billion 
people placing 61% of the world’s populace in cities. Moreover, of the 325 cities with a 
million or more people, two-thirds exist within the developing, unstable, and mostly 
littoral regions of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. 1 

These demographic statistics are significant to OMFTS for two reasons. First, 
since the preponderance of future conflicts will take place in the underdeveloped littoral 
regions of the world, expeditionary forces can expect little infrastructural support in 
terms of basing, logistics, and host nation cooperation. As a result, American forces will 
have to possess the inherent capability to support and sustain themselves throughout the 
entire scope of their operations. Second, if the prediction that future engagements will 
occur in the urban environment holds true, the MAGTF commander’s requirement for 
precise, proportionate, and responsive fire support will be greater than it ever has been 
before. Hotbed areas of the world will offer a range of conflict that includes civil 


disobedience, terrorism, unconventional “small wars”, and conventional combat. Often 
these varying degrees of conflict will occur simultaneously. In such an environment, 
non-state actors can dilute the combat power advantage habitually enjoyed by U.S. 
forces. The United States’ experiences in Haiti and Somalia are evidence of this. 
Moreover, although the United States will not face a Soviet-sized conventional force any 
time in the near future, it will have to face an array of relatively unsophisticated 
adversaries that possess advanced weapon systems and technologies made available by 
the ever-increasing world arms market. Transnational terrorists (groups similar to those 
organized by Osama Bin Ladin that transcend or ignore national boundaries) now have 
access to modern communications and transportation, global sources of funding, and 
training in modern explosives and weapons. As a result, these groups are becoming 
increasingly more organized and effective in countering the modem forces of advanced 
nations. Additionally, aggressive countries with adequate force structures will be able to 
develop effective conventional forces with the accompanying command and control (C2), 
intelligence, logistics, and combined arms capabilities that have been the trademark of the 
more advanced, power projecting nations of the world. Croatia’s Operation Storm 
showed that a relatively modest national defense force could be transfonned into an 
offensive-oriented combined arms task force in less than two years. In basic terms, then, 
the MAGTF commander of the future will face a diverse and capable threat in a complex 
operating environment. As a result, he will require fire support assets that are responsive, 

1 Marine Coips Intelligence Agency (MCIA), Marine Corps Midrange Threat Estimate - 1997-2007: 
Finding Order in Chaos , Defense Intelligence Reference Document, MCIA-1586-001-97, August 1997, 1- 

2 Ibid, 4. 

3 Ibid, 14. 


proportionate, and capable of surgically eliminating lethal adversaries while 
simultaneously reducing the risk to “friendlies” and collateral damage to civilians. 

Operations of the Future 

OMFTS seeks to address this future operating environment. In order to counter 
the threat’s combat power potential, it is intended that naval and amphibious forces will 
remain over the horizon, exploiting the inherent mobility of seaborne forces. Capitalizing 
on new maneuver assets such as the MV-22 Osprey and the Advanced Amphibious 
Assault Vehicle (AAAV) as well as the already proven CH-53E and the LCAC, naval 
forces will move combat power ashore at any number of points along the enemy 
shoreline. As per Frederick the Great’s observation that “he who defends everything 
defends nothing,” OMFTS’s intent is to render the enemy force irrelevant by forcing him 
to defend a large area in the face of a naval force’s extensive mobility and deep power 
projection capabilities. 4 5 Moreover, the requirement to secure a traditional beachhead will 
be eliminated since assault forces no longer will move from ship to shore but will 
proceed directly to their objectives. This Ship-to-Objective-Maneuver (STOM) is what 
will generate the overwhelming tempo required for success on the future battlefield. 

Since tempo is sustained by effective logistics, it is logistics that will determine 
what is operationally possible/ The Marine Corps’ OMFTS supporting concept of 
Sustained Operations Ashore (SOA) correctly dictates that the logistics footprint ashore 
must be kept to a minimum. In order to accomplish this, the SOA concept proposes that 
“maneuver units will operate under a ‘logistics pull’ concept, drawing support from the 

4 Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC), United States Marine Corps Warfighting 
Concepts for the 21 st Century’ (Quantico, VA: Concepts Division, 1998), II-7. 

5 Ibid, VII-15. 


floating combat service support areas.” 6 Only priority items (fuel, water, food, and 
ammunition) will be provided to mobile forces ashore by seabased distribution facilities. 
In terms of the MAGTF’s ACE (Air Combat Element), the SOA concept envisions that 
naval tactical aviation assets primarily will remain seabased and only by exception would 
they operate from shore based facilities. By remaining afloat, it is postulated that the 
aviation logistics footprint can be eliminated as an operational hindrance. To make this 
work, all support requirements would be satisfied by maintaining a flexible and 
responsive organizational and intennediate maintenance capability aboard a resident 
aircraft carrier (CV) or amphibious assault ship (either an LHA or LHD). The SOA 
concept goes on to state that by effectively exploiting the maneuver space offered by 
seaborne operations, naval air operations can provide flexible and responsive fire support 
by moving closer to shore and reducing flight distances to MAGTF objectives. 7 

The OMFTS/Naval Aviation Paradox 
Unfortunately, when naval air operations are analyzed within the OMFTS 
construct, a challenging paradox comes to light. In order to counter the threat, naval 
forces must remain over the horizon; but, in order to support the high tempo of ground 
forces, naval aviation assets must move closer to the enemy coastline. As already 
mentioned, the enemy of the future will be ill-defined and unconventional, yet he will 
possess an impressive and lethal range of combat capabilities. The current trend among 
potential adversaries is to acquire advanced weapon systems such as anti-ship missiles, 
avionics upgrade packages for older aircraft, and inexpensive (yet effective) sea mines. In 
tenns of system capabilities, the Marine Corps could find itself facing an opponent of 

6 Ibid, 11-22. 

7 Ibid, TV-11 - IV-12. 


relative technological parity in the very near future. By integrating these new capabilities 
with a basic command and control system, an adversary could establish an effective 
littoral defense system designed to engage amphibious forces while they are still at sea. 
This means that naval aviation may not have the option of moving close to shore in order 
to support the MAGTF scheme of maneuver. 

Of these emerging capabilities, the surface launched anti-ship missile poses the 
most immediate threat to naval forces. Currently, there are more than ten potential threat 
countries capable of employing anti-ship cruise missiles. Most of these weapons are 
highly maneuverable, supersonic, sea-skimming missiles that are extremely difficult to 
target once launched. Their extensive effective employment ranges will require naval 
forces to increase their over-the-horizon ranges significantly. For example, the North 
Koreans have developed the AG-1 cruise missile based on the Chinese CSS-2, ft is 
postulated that this system is operational and possesses a range of up to 75 miles. In the 
Persian Gulf where the average width of the water is 100 nautical miles (nm) or less 9 , this 
type of weapon system would severely restrict the maneuverability of naval forces 
attempting to conduct flight operations, not to mention it would preclude the option of 
moving closer to the shoreline as a means of increasing aviation responsiveness. 

Commensurate with the increased effectiveness of surface launched threats, the 
increased capabilities of air launched weapons also pose a significant challenge to naval 
forces. As of today, there are thousands of older aircraft such as F-5s and MiG-2 Is in 
service throughout the world. These simple, reliable, and inexpensive aircraft can be 
armed with guns, rockets, bombs, air-to-air missiles, and guided air-to-surface missiles. 

8 Maj Jeffrey P. Davis, USMC, “Ship-to-Objective-Maneuver: Will This Dog Hunt?” Proceedings, August 


Additionally, engine, electronics, avionics, and weapons system upgrade packages 
currently are offered on the open market to increase their perfonnances to state-of-the-art 
levels. 10 The associated proliferation of sophisticated air-launched anti-ship weapons is 
of particular interest for amphibious forces. Aerospatiale has upgraded its 65 kilometer 
range MM 38/40 Excocet missile with technologies borrowed from the supersonic ANS 
missile and is now offering it on the open market. It is inevitable that the Russian 3M- 
80Ye “Moskit” (SS-N-22 Sunburn) missile will be available worldwide with its 
capability to fly a high-G, 2.5 Mach maneuvering flight profile at an altitude of ten 
meters or less against targets at ranges between 90-120 kilometers. 11 The significance of 
these weapons is not lost on the MCIA which points out that “the capability to launch 
sophisticated, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles from relatively low performance 


aircraft is one niche which is expanding rapidly making the U.S. advantage indistinct.” 
The force protection challenge these systems pose is illustrated in the fact that naval 
forces operating in the Persian Gulf have approximately 30 seconds to acquire, identify, 
target, and engage Iranian aircraft before they enter an acceptable “launch and leave” 
anti-ship missile employment envelope. What this means for future OMFTS operations 
is that over-the-horizon ranges will have to be extended even further in order to provide 
adequate stand-off protection and threat response time. 

An expeditionary force’s ability to maneuver close to a threat’s coastline will be 
limited further by the proliferation of mines. Simple, cheap, and easily obtained, mines 
promise to be an integral part of any potential adversary’s littoral defense system as 

9 Ibid, 31. 

10 MCIA, 26. 

11 Ibid, 25. 

12 Ibid, 50. 


evidenced by the fact that the world inventory of mines has increased by 50% since 
1991. 14 Recent history confirms their effectiveness. In 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War, 
an Iranian pre-World War I designed contact mine nearly sank the USS Samuel B. 

Roberts (FFG-58) in the Persian Gulf. During Desert Storm, the USS Princeton (CG-59) 
and the USS Tripoli (LPH-10) both sustained major damage after striking Iraqi mines. 15 
Even more disconcerting, mine technology is advancing and proliferating at an ever 
increasing rate. Within the next ten years, littoral defense mines designed with 
nonmetallic casings, oddly-shaped (non-cylindrical) casings, anechoic coatings (special 
coatings which absorb or diffuse sonar signals), and self-burial casings will be available 
on the open market. India already has developed and marketed a “smart” mine that 
selectively detonates when certain ships pass overhead. Costing a mere $20,000, this 
mine “combines acoustic and magnetic signature recognition fusing and can deploy for 
several hundred days.” 16 Taken in concert with other potential threat capabilities, these 
advanced mine capabilities will ensure that seaborne aviation platforms remain over-the- 

This leads to the second half of the OMFTS/naval aviation paradox. As 
previously mentioned, in order to support the MAGTF commander’s high tempo of 
operations, aviation launch platforms must move closer to the enemy coastline. 

However, survivability dictates that these high value assets remain outside weapons 
envelopes (i.e. over-the-horizon). The natural question to be asked, then, is “Can 
traditional single deck flight operations support the high tempo of OMFTS from over-the- 

13 Admiral Stanley Arthur, USN (Ret), lecture presented at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 
Quantico, VA, 26 February 1999. 

14 Jeffrey P. Davis, 32. 

15 Ibid, 32. 

horizon?” A careful analysis leads to the conclusion that they cannot. There are three 
main reasons for this. First, the physical characteristics of the littoral operating 
environment preclude the generation of high volumes of sorties from a single platform. 
The Persian Gulf, the Adriatic Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the eastern 
Mediterranean provide a small sampling of tomorrow’s potential littoral operating areas. 
Within these areas, oil platforms, commercial shipping, third party territorial waters, sea 
state, and adverse weather present continual impediments to fixed wing flight operations 
even in benign, low threat situations. In this environment, aircraft carriers find it difficult 
to obtain the adequate sea space required to launch and recover large volumes of aircraft. 
In the author’s recent Persian Gulf experience, an aircraft carrier could effectively and 
consistently launch and recover at most 30-35 aircraft in a given cycle due to limited 
steaming room. This means that 15-18 aircraft (many of which were support aircraft not 
assigned ordnance delivering missions) would be launched before 15-18 aircraft would 
be recovered. Carrier operations are restricted further since the carrier’s position must 
provide sufficient room for the rendezvousing and marshalling of launching and 
recovering aircraft in order to avoid penetrating the airspace of neutral third party nations 
as well as avoiding other military or commercial aircraft. Lastly, even if a ship’s captain 
has the maneuver room to launch aircraft en masse, he will be reluctant to do so since a 
carrier is most vulnerable to attack during launch and recovery evolutions. This is 
because a carrier must maintain a relatively steady heading in order to generate the 
appropriate winds over the flight deck for flight operations. As a result, the ship is in an 
extremely predictable position that facilitates enemy targeting and attacks. Presently, 

16 MCIA, 29-30. 


these issues pose significant planning and execution challenges to daily operations in the 
driatic Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. These issues will continue to adversely 
affect the sortie generation rate (SGR) capability and the operational tempo of naval 
aviation platforms supporting OMFTS. 

The second reason traditional single deck flight operations cannot support 
OMFTS operations from over-the-horizon is because of flight deck cycle times. A ship’s 
deck cycle is the amount of time between each scheduled aircraft launch and recovery 
period. Today, most aircraft carriers use a 1 !4 hour (1+30) deck cycle. A deck cycle is 
commenced with the launching of aircraft (this usually takes between seven to ten 
minutes). Once all the launching aircraft are airborne, the previous cycle’s aircraft land 
(this takes between ten to twenty minutes depending on the number of aircraft recovering, 
environmentals, etc.). The next thirty minutes of the deck cycle is committed to parking 
and moving the recovered aircraft in preparation for the next launch (“respotting the 
deck”), aircraft servicing and maintenance, aircraft reanning, and flight deck 
maintenance (catapults, arresting gear, etc.). For the final thirty minutes of the deck 
cycle, aircraft are started and taxied into position for the next launch. The important 
point to realize is that there is very little flexibility imbedded in the deck cycle. The 1+30 
time frame must be strictly adhered to since it is just enough time to accomplish the tasks 
listed above. If the deck cycle is interrupted, then the carrier will fail to maintain a 
smooth operational flow from launch to launch. Simply stated, under normal procedures, 
the number of sorties that are generated by a launching platform is not dictated by the 
abilities of aircraft, but rather by the aircraft carrier itself. 17 For example, assume that an 

17 The discussion concerning flight deck cycle times is based on the author’s personal observations from 
two six month aircraft carrier deployments. 


aircraft carrier has three Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) squadrons aboard and each squadron 
has seven aircraft on the flight deck (six available for operations and one as a 
maintenance spare or alert aircraft). Furthermore, assume that all of these aircraft are 
dedicated to supporting the MAGTF’s scheme of maneuver. Since the JSF’s sortie 
generation requirement for carrier operations is 4.0 sorties per 16 hour fly day during 
initial surge operations (days 1-7), the MAGTF commander can expect to have 72 
sorties available to him per day throughout his initial seven days of operations. While 
this sounds like an impressive figure, its value in terms of combat power begins to 
diminish when viewed in terms of sortie availability . Since the carrier’s deck cycle is 
strictly adhered to and not determined by the MAGTF’s scheme of maneuver, the 
MAGTF commander can expect to receive sorties (in this case, eight to ten sorties per 
deck cycle) as they are made available by the seaborne platform’s launch and recovery 
schedule. In other words, the MAGTF commander eventually will received sorties but 
they may not be in the volume he needs or at the time and place of his choosing. 

The third reason over-the-horizon single deck flight operations will not support 
the MAGTF in OMFTS is because over-the-horizon posturing creates a significant time- 
distance problem that negatively effects aircraft on-station and response times. Because 
aircraft will have to fly longer ranges to get to and from the battlefield, they will have less 
fuel available for target area operations. Once these aircraft depart the target area, there 
will be a significant delay in air support coverage since follow on relief aircraft must wait 
to launch according to the carrier’s deck cycle. For example, assume that a MAGTF is 
engaged in a mission 50 nautical miles (nm) inland while an Amphibious Ready Group 

18 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program Office, Joint Initial Requirements Document (JIRD) III , (Arlington, 
VA: JSF Program Office, 25 August 1998), 25-26. 


(ARG) built around a LHD is operating 100 nm off the coast. Any requests for air 
support will require aircraft to transit at least 150 nm before they can deliver fires. 
Assuming that the aircraft maintain an average airspeed of 420 knots ground speed (kgs) 
throughout the entire mission (an unrealistic assumption due to fuel consumption), it will 
take a section (two aircraft) 22 minutes to arrive at the objective and 22 minutes to return 
to the ship. If the LHD is operating on a one hour cycle, fixed wing assets will be 
available for approximately 16 minutes of tactical employment. What is most tactically 
significant is the fact that the MAGTF commander cannot expect to see any more fixed 
wing support for 44 minutes after the first section’s weapons impact their targets due to 
deck cycle times (Figure 1). In terms of modern ground combat with mechanized forces, 
44 minutes can be an eternity. Moreover, the above calculations do not account for the 
multitude of external elements that impinge on seaborne flight operations. Flight 
rendezvous, pre-mission in-flight refueling, and on-deck maintenance troubleshooting, all 
combined with weather and high sea state impediments, will limit air asset availability 
even further. To make this situation worse, the Marine Corps envisions that future ARGs 
will deploy with ten (10) JSFs, twelve (12) MV-22s, four (4) CH-53Es, and nine (9) 
“skids” (AH-ls and UH-ls). 19 Even if the CH-53Es and the “skids” are “farmed out” to 
the small deck amphibious ships (i.e. LPDs and LSD’s), this “12 and 10 mix” will cause 
the flight decks of LHAs and LHDs to be extremely crowded. This will serve to 
exacerbate the bottleneck effects and the sortie generation problems already inherent to 
single deck flight operations. 

19 LtCol Joseph Shusko, USMC, Aviation Program Analyst, Assessment and Acquisition Support Branch 
of Programs and Resources, HQMC, “JSF Concept of Employment Brief to CG MCCDC,” personal e- 


Amphibious Ship Flight Ops 


Enroute (420kgs) 
150nm=22 min 

On Station 

Off Station 

Enroute (420kgs) 
150nm=22 min 








Figure 1 

Flight operations from aircraft carriers (CVs) are even less responsive. 
Theoretically, assuming a 1.5 hour deck cycle, a 1.8 hour average sortie duration, and a 
16 hour initial surge fly day - , the MAGTF commander will have approximately 40 
minutes of fixed wing lire support every 90 minutes (this assumes that aircraft maintain a 
360 kgs profile throughout the entire flight in order to meet the longer 1.5 hour deck 
cycle) (Figure 2). 

CV Flight Operations (In Theory) 

Enroute (360kgs) 

Enroute (360kgs) 


150nm=25 min 

On Station 

Off Station 

150nm=25 min 










Figure 2 

Empirically, however, CV operations require longer flight rendezvous times and the 1.5 
hour deck cycle will necessitate pre-mission in-flight refueling (this is required to give 
each aircraft an adequate combat fuel package). As a result, carrier based aircraft 
operating under current procedures can, at best, offer ten to fifteen minutes of fixed wing 
fire support every 90 minutes (Figure 3). This leaves a 75 to 80 minute lapse in aerial 

mail, 28 January 1999. 

20 JSF Program Office, JIRD III , 25-26. 


fire support availability. It is important to note that these calculations still do not 
consider the weather, sea state, and sea space restrictions discussed previously. Also, the 
problems of coordinating the STOVL (Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing) flight operations 
of carrier-based Marine JSFs with traditional “cat and trap” (catapult and arrested 
landing) operations will hinder SGRs even further. 

CV Flight Operations (In Practice) 

Enroute (360kgs) On Off 

Launch Tank 150nm=25 min Station Station 








0+55 1+05- 


Figure 3 

Enroute Recover 
25 min 



In the final analysis, traditional naval flight operations conducted over-the- 
horizon will lack adequate responsiveness to support forces ashore. Although the JSF (or 
any other aircraft, for that matter) will be able to generate an impressive amount of sorties 
throughout a fly day, the launching platform’s inability to quickly generate a high rate of 
sorties will lead to inadequate support for ongoing ground operations. Traditional 
amphibious ship-based and carrier-based flight operations simply will fail to provide the 
“quick reaction, high sortie rates, [and] flexibility” that will be required on the future 
battlefield. The MAGTF commander must be able to expect effective and timely 
delivery of aerial fires as he needs them if he is to drive the fight against an increasingly 
capable enemy. 


Is There a Solution? 

Many of the concept papers included in The United States Marine Corps ’ 
Warfighting Concepts for the 21 st Century look to advanced naval surface fires as a 
possible solution to supporting Ship-to-Objective-Maneuver. Emerging technologies 
promise to give seaborne weapons the capability to engage a wide range of targets deep 
within the MAGTF commander’s battlespace. For instance, an extended range guided 
munition (ERGM) for the U.S. Mk45 five-inch naval gun with a 63 mn stand-off range is 
scheduled for delivery in the year 2000. The Navy currently is planning a demonstration 
to show the 50-270 mn targeting capability of the 155mm Vertical Gun/Advanced Ship. 
In 1995, an amphibious ship successfully test-fired the Anny Tactical Missile System 
(ATACMS) at targets up to 160 miles away. A more forward looking idea envisions the 
development of an arsenal ship or an arsenal submarine which would be equipped with a 

deep magazine of long-range precision-guided rockets and longer-range naval gun 


projectiles" . 

These new weapons, however, are better suited for shaping the deep and deep- 
deep battle than they are for supporting engaged ground maneuver elements. As the 
Advanced Expeditionary Fire Support Concept paper states, “there is a greater time 
sensitivity associated with fires in support of maneuver elements than there is with fires 
in support of battlespace shaping.” Because of the longer employment ranges and times 
of flight of these weapons, the time delay between fire requests and weapon deliveries 
could prove to be decisive. In the deep and deep-deep battle, this time delay holds 
relatively little significance. However, when engaging targets in close proximity to 

21 “Naval Strategy Executive Summary,” Navy Educational Website, downloaded from America Online, 1. 

22 MCCDC, VI-12. 


“friendlies” or in a dynamic urban combat environment, a delay of a few minutes can 
mean the difference between mission accomplishment and excessive casualties. In 
essence, while future naval surface fires may provide an outstanding battlespace shaping 
capability, they are unlikely to fulfill the critical requirement to “rapidly process fire 
requests, quickly engage targets, and deliver and sustain a high volume of fire” when 
directly supporting ground maneuver forces.' 

It would seem, then, that aviation will continue to be the fire support source of 
choice for amphibious operations. As previously discussed, however, single deck flight 
operations will fail to generate sorties with the responsiveness needed to support 
OMFTS. If the full combat power of tactical aviation is to be realized, airpower “must 
first escape its two-dimensional world of large parking ramps, taxiways, and runways” as 
well as the restrictions of single flight deck operations. In order to do this, naval forces 
must adopt the concept of dispersion. By dispersing, naval forces will reap two critical 
advantages: (1) increased survivability in the littoral enviromnent and (2) increased 
sortie generation rates. 

The idea that the dispersion of air assets enhances survivability is not a new one. 
In the late 1950s, the concept of “reactive movement” was conceived as a way to defend 
aircraft from the Soviet tactical nuclear threat. According to this concept, clusters of 
aircraft would conduct flight operations for several days from numerous, random, 
unprepared sites such as abandoned airfields or stretches of highway. A main base 
located in the rear would provide logistical and maintenance support for ongoing 

23 Ibid, VI-12. 

24 Mike Kiraly and John Bioty, The Importance of Basing Flexibility: Expeditionary Airpower for Full 
Spectrum Dominance, Anser Corporation study prepared for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, 
(Aldington, VA: The JSF Program Office, August 1998), 3. 


operations and subsequent overhauling and repairing of aircraft. Since only one-third of 
the surveyed sites would be occupied, enemy targeting would be reduced to a 
complicated shell game. This concept was first validated in a 1979 Defense Science 
Board study. Assuming that an enemy could attack each friendly air base with ten 
tactical ballistic missiles with a 50 meter circular error of probability (CEP), the study 
concluded that the more bases were dispersed, the less likely they were to be closed by 
enemy interdiction fires (Table l). 26 

Probability of Base Closure # of Alternate Launch and Recovery Sites 

0.18 3 

0.38 2 

0.65 1 

0.90 0 

Table 1 

The application of these results to seaborne aircraft platforms and OMFTS is obvious. 
Multiple ships maneuvering and conducting flight operations over-the-horizon will 
increase the complexity of the enemy’s targeting problem dramatically. Not only will 
“friendly” force survivability increase, but the battlespace tempo and initiative will 
remain in the hands of the MAGTF commander as the enemy hesitates during his 
engagement cycle. 

Dispersion also enhances sortie generation rates. By distributing air assets 
throughout a theater of operations, a commander can reduce the bottleneck effect of 
conducting flight operations from a single base and, therefore, increase his effective 
combat power through increased aircraft availability. Moreover, the debilitating effects 
of weather and sea-state can be reduced significantly by increasing the number of sites 
from which aircraft can launch and recover. The Marine Corps’ Gulf War experience 

25 Ibid, 5. 

26 Ibid, 7. 


confirms the conclusion that dispersed sites (particularly sites located close to the forward 
edge of the battle area) significantly improve sortie generation rates. - By cycling 
through forward operating bases (FOB), sections of Marine aircraft routinely launched 
from a main operating base (MOB), provided six combat sorties, and returned to the 
MOB in less than four hours. Harriers were able to produce as many as 150 sorties per 
day by launching up to four aircraft per minute and landing up to seven aircraft per 
minute at FOBs. 28 The Tanajib FOB achieved the highest SGR on 26 February, 1991, 
when it refueled, rearmed, and serviced 34 sorties in five hours." These numbers are 
significant in that they directly translate into effective and responsive firepower. It is not 
enough that aircraft are present over-the-horizon, they must also be operationally 
available to the MAGTF commander at any given moment. The Gulf War experience 
showed that dispersed, forward-based aircraft could surge as required to support ground 
force requirements. Moreover, it showed that flight operations do not have to be 
constrained by the limited sortie generation capacity of a single sea or land air base. In 
the most basic terms, dispersion gives the MAGTF commander the flexibility to employ 
aviation fires on demand based on his situation and scheme of maneuver rather than on 
the limited ability of an air base to make sorties available. 

Making Dispersion a Reality 

Can dispersion work within the constraints of the OMFTS operating 
environment? On the one hand, traditional single deck air operations will fail to meet the 
MAGTF commander’s tempo and response requirements. On the other hand, traditional 
fixed land based air operations will prove to be too cumbersome to support and too 

21 Ibid 9. 

28 Ibid, 29-30. 


vulnerable to protect. “If airpower is.. .to be responsive to the [commander], in the next 
conflict it must provide him with options, not problems.” The arrival of new 
technologies and systems and the adoption of a new naval employment concept will 
make dispersion possible and provide the commander with options. By exploiting the 
advanced mobility, maintainability, and lethality of emerging systems, the MAGTF 
commander can transcend the limitations imposed by contemporary naval air operations 
by using all the basing resources available to him within an area of operations (AO). 
Depending on the threat level and the littoral infrastructure, naval forces can choose to 
operate from naval platforms, austere land bases, or a combination of both. Regardless of 
the basing option, the basic goal is to provide the commander with “lethal air assets that 
can be moved and dispersed at any time, to be massed at any place to destroy, neutralize, 

-5 1 

or delay any target, and to attack as many times as necessary.” 

The first option, basing from naval platfonns, is most in keeping with current 
Marine Corps warfighting concepts. As pointed out in the SOA concept paper, the size 
and vulnerability of the logistical support footprint can be reduced significantly by 
conducting aviation operations exclusively from seaborne platforms. Dispersing assets 
afloat, however, will require a significant increase in the number of flight decks from 
which to launch and recover aircraft. In order to increase the number of flight decks, the 
way in which naval forces deploy must be revised and, more importantly, more aviation 
capable platforms must be procured. 

The easiest and most immediate step that can be made toward making dispersion 
a reality is to merge the assets of the CVBG (Carrier Battle Group) and the ARG into a 

29 Ibid, 34. 

30 Ibid, 48. 


single Naval Expeditionary Force (NEF). Traditionally, because of aircraft 
incompatibility and mission disparities (i.e. “blue water” versus “brown water” missions), 
CVBGs and ARGs have deployed simultaneously but have operated as separate entities. 
As a result, both carrier and amphibious fixed wing operations have been hamstrung by 
the disadvantages associated with single deck flight procedures. The basic commonality 
of airframes within the Navy and the Marine Corps and the rise of littoral operations as 
the preeminent naval mission make the merging of ARGs and CVBGs into a single NEF 
the logical progression of naval force structure for the OMFTS environment. By 
combining assets into a single NEF centered around an aircraft carrier, the number of 
platforms from which aircraft can operate doubles (assuming that the ARGs deploy with 
a single LHD or LHA). More importantly, the resulting synergy of fire and command 
and control effects will increase the combat power available to support OMFTS. 

Combining the ARG and CVBG into a single NEF is only the first step. More 
platforms must be added to the NEF’s list of basing assets. New flat deck amphibious 
ships that are cheap, simple, and capable of performing intennediate level (I-level) 
aircraft maintenance should be procured so that each NEF can deploy with at least three 
aviation platforms (one carrier and two amphibious ships). Similar in concept to the 
escort carriers of World War Two and the Korean War, the NEF’s two amphibious 
assault ships could deploy with a squadron’s worth of STOVL JSFs that are fully 
integrated into the resident carrier’s command and control system and operational 
evolutions. While primarily serving as main bases for resident JSF units, these “escort 
carriers” could also serve as auxiliary bases for non-resident STOVL JSFs that need fuel, 

31 Ibid, 46 . 


immediate maintenance, or rapid turnarounds for follow-on missions that fall outside 
their host deck’s cycle times. Moreover, the additional deck space provided by spreading 
the NEF’s air assets among these ships will alleviate the deck congestion that would 
result from the current “12 and 10 mix” plan for amphibious assault ships. 

Along with these “escort carriers,” maritime prepositioning ships (MPS) should 
be utilized as additional basing assets. As the Marine Corps’ Maritime Prepositioning 
Force 2010 concept paper states, 

Maritime prepositioning ships will be multi-purpose in nature and provide facilities 
for tactical employment of assault support aircraft, surface assault craft, advanced 
amphibious assault vehicles, and the ships’ own organic lighterage in conditions of at 
least sea state three. Further, the ships’ communications systems will be fully 
compatible with the tactical command and control architecture of the ATF 
(amphibious task force), allowing access to the advanced capabilities and shared SA 
which will be available in the future. While future maritime prepositioning ships will 
not have a true forcible entry capability, they will possess the versatility to reinforce 
the striking power of the ATF. 

Although not specifically mentioned, JSF operations from MPSs is just as viable. Small 
detachments of support personnel could conduct rapid and flexible JSF flight operations 
from MPSs even while major logistical evolutions are underway in support of the 
MAGTF. The only required design feature for future MPSs is that they be able to 
support a 450’ vectored thrust takeoff. There would not be any requirement to add 
hangar or large maintenance facilities since all major aircraft maintenance could be 
performed on one of the three available flat deck platforms. 

Dispersing at sea will support the intent of OMFTS. Not only will the NEF be 
more survivable, but its overall logistics footprint will be minimized significantly by 
having numerous seaborne platforms capable of conducting aircraft refueling, reanning, 

32 MCCDC, III-6 - III-7. 


and repairing. Furthermore, dispersing at sea will reduce the NEF’s reliance on strategic 
tanking assets since there will be more indigenous NEF ta nk ers available to conduct 
refueling operations from numerous platforms (these assets include S-3s, F/A-18Fs, and 
MV-22s [assuming that it is configured with the refueling pod that is under current 
debate]). This will be crucial to conducting future expeditionary operations since U.S 
forces will not always be able to rely on Gulf War levels of host nation support or U.S. 
Air Force aerial refueling augmentation (70% of USN strike flights required land-based 
USAF tanker support to complete their missions during the Gulf War ). 

Most importantly, dispersing at sea will increase the NEF’s ability to generate 
sorties from over-the-horizon. Naval aviation will still be hindered by the time-distance 
problem inherent in over-the-horizon operations as well as by the limitations of deck 
cycles, steaming space, and weather. But, by staggering the deck cycle times of the 
NEF’s various aircraft platfonns, the MAGTF commander will have more sustained air 
coverage than is possible using traditional procedures. As seen by the data presented in 
Figures 1 through 3, a section of aircraft using traditional launch and recovery procedures 
can provide approximately ten to fifteen minutes of air support to a GCE engaged 50 mn 
inland. Assuming that a NEF has four seaborne launch and recovery sites available (one 
carrier, two L-class ships, and one MPS), it would be possible for seabased aircraft to 
provide at least 40 minutes of coverage every hour with no external support. Using an 
aggressive organic tanking plan, this time could be increased even further by ten to 
twenty minutes. 

33 Richard G. Davis, Decisive Force: Strategic Bombing in the Gulf War, Air Force History and Museums 
Program (Washington, DC: GPO, 1996), 21. 


The second and most responsive form of employing aviation in support of 
OMFTS is operating from dispersed, austere land bases. Not only would aircraft be 
closer to the supported units, but the effects of weather, sea state, and limited sea 
maneuver room would be virtually eliminated. However, the Marine Corps’ SOA 
concept discourages austere basing since “it subjects personnel and equipment to many 
vulnerabilities and increases the strain on the combat service support system.” 34 This 
mindset is a product of past littoral operations and exercises where Harriers could provide 
only limited combat power at an extremely high logistical cost. Because future systems 
will enhance aircraft lethality and supportability, austere basing should rise as the 
preeminent mode of employing a NEF’s air assets. A recent basing flexibility study 
prepared for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office found that a STOVL type aircraft 
that is “easily maintainable [and] operating from dispersed, austere bases near the front 
lines, without the need of extensive ground support, will be able to generate greater 
number of sorties [than aircraft operating from other bases]. This translates into more 
bombs on target, quicker. Commanders will .. .benefit by receiving the responsive air 
support they need, along with the added benefit of economy of force.” In other words, 
the MAGTF commander can receive unprecedented combat power and responsiveness 
from dispersed land-based aircraft for less logistical cost than is possible today. 

How much responsive combat power can be generated? Consider a division 
(four) of JSFs operating 50 nm from the MAGTF’s ground elements. Assume that the 
MAGTF is facing an attack from a mechanized force that is 15 kilometers distant and 
comprised of 95 tanks and 105 other vehicles spaced 25-50 meters apart and moving at 

34 MCCDC, IV-12. 

35 Kiraly and Bioty, 48. 


30 kilometers per hour (kph) (i.e. thirty minutes from close contact). While on deck at 
their refueling and reanning site, the JSFs receive initial target cueing data via LINK-16 
from airborne platforms such as JSTARS, AWACS, or other JSFs already conducting 
missions (air-to-air or air-to-ground). Once launched, the JSF pilots refine this 
information with their onboard targeting systems and create a detailed tactical situation 
overlay. This overlay includes friendly positions, enemy vehicle type identifications, 
column dimensions (to include the number of vehicles and their speed of advance), and 
significant terrain features (such as high ground and road networks that indicate probable 
routes of advance and likely chokepoints). Once this information is processed and 
targeting assignments are issued throughout the division via intraflight data link (IFDL), 
the JSFs engage the highest priority targets as dictated by the MAGTF commander. 
According to the JSF Operational Employment Support Concept, a JSF carrying six 
CBU-105s can achieve approximately 24 kills against mechanized targets in this type of 
situation even if the enemy disperses. For this scenario this means that four attacking 


JSFs could eliminate a total of 96 enemy vehicles or nearly half of the attacking force! 

Of equal significance is the fact that the JSFs could be delivering ordnance in less than 
ten minutes of receiving initial targeting information simply because they are positioned 
close to the fight. If the ground forces had to depend on over-the-horizon, seaborne 
assets they would, at best, receive support in 25-30 minutes. In simple terms, this 
difference in time equates to the enemy being engaged ten kilometers away from friendly 
forces instead of when they are in close contact. 

36 The Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, Joint Strike Fighter Operational Employment Support Concept 
(JSF OESC), (Arlington, VA: The JSF Program Office, 1998), 4-21 - 4-24. 


Can the NEF sustain dispersed, land based air operations? As the United States 
Marine Corps Warfighting Concepts for the 21 st Century points out, “Tempo is tied 
closely to logistics. Logistics sets the bounds for what is operationally possible.” 

Simply put, aircraft will have to have a place to operate from and they will have to be 
refueled and reanned. Historically, these elements have been the cause of the ACE’s 
large logistics footprint. During the Cold War, Soviet planners knew that “the air base 
was the Achilles heel of [western] airpower.” The typically large and cumbersome 
bases required to support combat air operations were easily targeted, difficult to defend, 
and logistically expensive to maintain. Moreover, the weight of these large aviation 
logistics packages run contrary to the basic tenets of OMFTS. If these large, prepared 
airfields were no longer a requirement, then force commanders could enjoy a greater 
range of basing flexibility and survivability at less logistical cost. An Israeli Air Force 
(IAF) study came to the same conclusion after it determined that if takeoff distances were 
less than 1200 feet, the number of suitable jet airfields within Israel could be increased 
from eleven to forty. 

Fortunately, expeditionary operations have been a matter of focus for the 
development of new systems such as the JSF, the KC-130J, and new munitions 
technologies. Despite the proposal that “Marine air seabased to the maximum 
extent possible,” 40 it has been recognized that ground forces must “increasingly take 
advantage of sea-based fires and seek shore-based fire support systems with improved 





Kiraly and Bioty, 46. 
Ibid, 9. 

MCCDC, IV-11. 


tactical mobility [emphasis added].” 41 As a result, the Joint Strike Fighter Master Plan 
has embraced the concept that aircraft basing flexibility “provides the foundation for 


forward basing which, in turn, increases responsiveness.” 

With this in mind, the JSF is being designed to possess two key attributes: (1) 
mobility and (2) maintainability. These two characteristics will provide the MAGTF and 
Joint Force commanders with a devastating and responsive weapon system that can 
satisfy their full-dimensional mission needs from any location within the battlespace. 

The source of the JSF’s mobility is its STOVL capability. The ability to launch and 
recover from a variety of surfaces and sites will be the basic cornerstone of effectively 
employing the JSF throughout the breadth of the littoral battlespace. Consequently, the 
Marine Corps’ JSF variant is being designed to meet the following minimum 

(1) The USMC STOVL JSF will be capable of executing a 500’ Short Take-off 
(STO) from LHAs, LHDs, and aircraft carriers on a tropical day with 10 knots 
of operational wind-over-the-deck (WOD). From this type of launch, the JSF 
will have a minimum combat radius of 400 nm. (The UK STOVL variant 
minimum is a 450’ ski jump STO and a combat radius of 450 nm.) 

(2) From austere sites, the USMC desired minimum is for the JSF (loaded with 
two 1000 pound JDAMs and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs) to be able to operate 
within 1200’ on wet AM-2 matting with 15 knots of crosswind. Following 
launch, the JSF must fly a 50 nm Close Air Support (CAS) mission and return 
150 nm to a sea-based platfonn. Additionally, the JSF will be able to execute 

41 Ibid, 1-19. 

42 Kiraly and Bioty, 15. 


a Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) for all STOVL missions when operating 
from any U.S. standard, two lane, asphalt road 43 
Because the JSF will have these capabilities, the MAGTF’s options for land basing 
aircraft will be numerous. In situations where host nation support (HNS) is available or 
where the threat permits, classic FOBs or Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) 
using AM-2 matting could be established. In situations that logistically or tactically do 
not permit such sites, road and highway networks could be used to support JSF 
operations. Since 27% of the world’s countries have limited point-to-point connectivity 
with all-weather roads, 55% have good national road infrastructures, and 18% have well 
developed national all-weather highway transport systems, 44 the use of road networks 
should be one of the MAGTF commander’s primary aircraft basing options. With a 
detailed Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), a menu of operating sites could 
be created from those locations deemed suitable for JSF operations. From this menu, 
sites could be activated as required to support the ongoing NEF mission. By capitalizing 
on the JSF’s STOVL and austere basing capabilities, the MAGTF can take the first step 
toward breaking away from the inefficient traditional methods of generating airpower 
from the sea. For the MAGTF commander, this translates into timely and responsive 
combat power that can be positioned virtually anywhere within the NEF’s battlespace. 

The JSF’s maintainability will prove to be the crucial element to sustaining 
dispersed air operations. From its conception, the JSF has been designed to reduce the 
number of required support personnel, streamline the maintenance action process, and 

43 JSF Program Office, JIRD III, 36. 

44 MCIA, 55. 


increase the number of combat turns per maintenance action. 45 By incorporating new 
technologies and management tools such as single stack avionics, self-bleed hydraulics, 
advanced Built-In-Test (BIT) systems, and advanced troubleshooting and maintenance 
procedures, the JSF promises to be 2.5 times more reliable than current aircraft. 46 The 
following is a brief description of the key elements of the JSF’s general support concept 
that will make this increased reliability and maintainability possible. 

(1) The Prognostics and Health Management System (PHM) - Known as the 
“brain of the support concept,” 47 PHM allows the JSF to perform self¬ 
diagnostics in order to identify aircraft discrepancies even while airborne. By 
identifying faults early, maintainers on the ground can proactively start and 
rehearse maintenance actions before the aircraft recovers. 

(2) The Joint Distributive Infonnation System (JDIS) - In basic terms, JDIS is an 
all inclusive datalink system that pennits the real-time dissemination of 
information between individual aircraft, the Maintenance Department, and 
Current Operations. While airborne, PHM transmits aircraft status 
information to JDIS. This information is automatically sent to the squadron 
Operations and Maintenance Departments. If maintenance is required, JDIS 
automatically initiates the necessary parts requisitions and provides the 
necessary information so that Maintenance Control can schedule maintenance 
and send a recovery crew to the appropriate aircraft recovery location. 
Meanwhile, Operations can enter the aircraft’s next required configuration via 

45 JSF Program Office, JSF OESC, 2-6. 

46 Ibid 

47 Ibid, 2-6. 


JDIS thereby giving ordnance personnel adequate time to prepare and stage 
weapons for the aircraft’s follow-on mission. 48 

(3) The Integrated Combat Turn (ICT) - The ICT is what puts this advanced 
information into action. With JDIS information, maintenance crews can 
properly position themselves with the appropriate repair parts and equipment 
before the aircraft lands. Once they have access to the aircraft, the ICT crew 
can turn an aircraft around in far less time and with fewer people than is 
currently possible with legacy systems. The ICT operation will allow a three 
man weapons loading crew and a two man maintenance crew to reconfigure 
and turn a JSF from a Deep Air Support (DAS) mission to a Defensive 
Counter Air (DCA) mission in less than thirty minutes. This means that a 
pilot could recover from and debrief a completed mission and then brief and 
launch on a completely new mission all within 45 minutes. 49 This rapid 
turnaround cycle is made possible by the JSF’s advanced design and safety 
improvements. Because of these improvements, the basic tasks of refueling, 
rearming, and repairing can be completed simultaneously (i.e. in parallel) and, 
as a result, the reactive and inefficient nature of traditional sequential turn 
around cycles are eliminated (see Figures 4 and 5). 50 

48 Ibid, 4-24. 

49 Ibid, 4-12. 

50 Ibid, 3-4. 


Legacy Systems (Reactive/Sequential) 

Figure 4 

JSF (Proaetive/Parallel) 

Figure 5 

(4) The “Maintenance Box” - The “maintenance box” is the area required to 
conduct JSF maintenance. According to the JIRD III, this box should be no 
larger than 60 feet long, 43 feet wide (38 feet for a CV), and 20 feet high. All 
maintenance activities will take place within the confines of this area. These 
activities include weapons loading, turnaround maintenance, propulsion 
system removal and installation (R&I), ejection seat R&I, and Low 
Observable (LO) panel and surface restoration. 51 The ability to conduct all 
major organizational level maintenance actions within such a compressed area 


lends itself nicely to the concept of dispersion and to limiting the landward 
logistical footprint. 

The net result of these advanced concepts and systems will be the dramatic reduction of 
the aviation support footprint. In terms of dispersion, this reduced footprint is critical to 
exploiting and sustaining the mobility and lethality that is inherent in the JSF. By taking 
advantage of the JSF’s full range of capabilities, the MAGTF commander will guarantee 
himself a responsive and devastating source of fire support. 

Finding places for the JSF to operate from will be the easy part. Getting 
maintenance crews, fuel, and ordnance to the aircraft will be the true challenge of 
dispersed land operations. Fortunately, the KC-130J will be an asset that can deliver all 
three simultaneously to the MAGTF commander just about anywhere on the battlefield, 
day or night. Designed with expeditionary operations in mind, the KC-130J will fly 35% 
farther, cruise 9% faster, and take off in 28% less distance than current aircraft. These 
performance enhancements make the “J” capable of delivering 57,500 pounds of fuel and 
24,000 pounds of personnel, ordnance, parts, and support equipment to a 2800 to 3300 
foot unprepared landing site (this assumes that the KC-130J is based 500-nm away). 

Once on the ground, the “J” will be able to conduct rapid ground refueling (RGR) four 
times faster than is currently possible. This equates to two JSFs being refueled 
simultaneously at a rate of 300 gallons/2040 pounds per minute per aircraft. Moreover, 
the KC-130J’s internal and external Night Vision Imaging System compatible lighting, as 
well as its own inherent night vision capability, will enable JSF support operations to be 
conducted virtually around the clock. Finally, while on deck, the aircraft can allow its 

JSF Program Office, JIRD III, 27-28. 


propellers to windmill freely even as its engines run in a low speed ground idle condition 
know as “Hotel” mode. This will not only offer greater safety for ground personnel and 
aircraft, but it also will allow the “J” to maintain a launch-ready status for the rapid 


extraction of support teams should the tactical situation deteriorate. 

Admittedly, 57,500 pounds of gas and 24,000 pounds of cargo does not seem 
adequate to support and sustain flight operations as they are understood today. Under 
nonnal contemporary procedures, this amount of support would arm and fuel 
approximately four F/A-18s for only one sortie each. This assumes that all 24,000 
pounds of cargo lift is consumed by ordnance thus leaving no room for maintenance 
personnel, equipment, or parts. The JSF, however, is not a Hornet. The fact that a five 
man team can perform a complete ICT, to include the loading of ordnance, means that 
only a fraction of the “J’s” available 24,000 pounds of cargo will be consumed by 
maintenance personnel. Also, the JSF’s Prognostics and Health Management system will 
eliminate the need for extensive tool kits, parts packages, and support equipment since 
pilots will be able to identify significant systems failures airborne and proceed back to 
one of the major support ships for repairs vice recovering at an austere site. Because the 
JSF’s maintenance footprint will be so small, more room for fuel, weapons, and site 
security personnel will be available on each KC-130J. 

Advances in weapons technology will contribute greatly to sustaining austere air 
bases. Of particular worth are the advances in Miniaturized Munitions Technology 
(MMT). Realizing that “to constrain [the JSF] design to 1940 bomb bodies and 1970- 
1980 weapons guidance kits would be shortsighted and limit the return on investment in 

52 Maj Andrew M. McHugh, USMCR, ‘‘KC-130J Operations From an Austere Base,” brief provided by 
Marketing Manager, Marine Corps Programs for Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, Winter 1998. 



the JSF weapon system,” the U.S. Air Force has taken the lead in developing a new 
class of munitions that will be able to service targets in three major target groups: Attack 
Operations (hardened targets), Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), and 
Armor/Interdiction. 54 Weighing only 250 pounds and measuring a mere six inches in 
diameter and six feet in length, the Miniaturized Munitions Technology Demonstration 
(MMTD) effort has proven that a small 50 pound explosive warhead can hit targets with 
an average 1.3-meter accuracy and penetrate up to six feet of reinforced concrete. 55 As 
of right now, a JSF should be able to carry six to ten of these munitions. In effect, this 
will double the number of targets that a JSF could engage or destroy with current general 
purpose weapons. 56 Moreover, because of its accuracy, versatility, and limited size, this 
weapon will be ideally suited for future urban operations where a wide array of targets 
must be engaged while minimizing collateral damage and rubble effects. In the end, the 
reduced weight and smaller size of MMT weapons will equate to more air-to-air and air- 
to-ground weapons being delivered by a much smaller aircraft support footprint. 

Finally, the value of KC-130J sustainment operations can be enhanced by 
intelligently managing fuel allocation. Since JSFs will be operating in close proximity to 
frontline fighting, fuel consumption rates per sortie should drop significantly. As a result, 
it would not be necessary for each JSF to launch with a full fuel tank on each mission. 
Taking 5000 pounds of gas during the RGR evolution 57 would be enough for a JSF to 
transit 50-75 nrn to the target, react to any threats, deliver ordnance, and return to the 

53 JSF Program Office, JSF OESC, 1-15. 

54 “Miniature Munition Capability: Miniaturized Munitions Technology Demonstration (MMTD),” FAS 
Military Analysis Network, downloaded from America Online, 8 October 1998, 3. 

55 Ibid, 1-2. 

56 JSF Program Office, JSF OESC, 4-38. 

57 This assumes that 2000 pounds of fuel remains in the aircraft after landing. Therefore, the aircraft’s total 
fuel weight at takeoff would be approximately 7000 pounds. 


launch site for rearming and refueling. With 57,500 pounds of gas available, a single 
KC-130J could sustain eleven JSF sorties using this procedure. The number of 
supportable sorties will go down significantly, however, should it become necessary to 
divert assets from an austere site to a JFACC or NEF air-to-air mission since these 
missions require full fuel loads. 

Inevitably, sustaining these operations will depend on how quickly the KC-130Js 
can be cycled into the dispersed sites. Since operations will be constrained by limited 
aircraft and limited crews, austere base support will be reduced to a planning and 
scheduling drill. Some of these planning difficulties could be overcome by incorporating 
an inflight refueling capability into the “J”. KC-130Js could extend their support 
timelines twofold by receiving fuel airborne and then returning to an austere site. 
Lockheed Martin has made this a viable option for the aircraft but, as of yet, the Marine 


Corps has not decided to purchase this capability. 

In the final analysis, dispersed air operations will have to be phased to coincide 
with the support requirements of ground operations, the ability of the NEF to sustain 
operations throughout the battlespace, and the prevailing environmental conditions of the 
AO. When the MAGTF’s focus of main effort calls for a surge in fire support, the NEF 
should exercise its austere land base capability. During periods of ground consolidation, 
aircraft should flow back to their parent ships or bases in order to repair aircraft and rest 
crews. During periods of bad weather, aircraft should move to areas where weather 
effects are minimized. In other words, dispersing air operations within the littorals 
should not be viewed as an “either/or” proposition. Dispersion should be seen as a range 

58 McHugh. 


of options that the MAGTF commander can choose from in order to best complete his 
mission with the assets he has available. 

Controlling Dispersion 

The traditional method of “pushing” infonnation to pilots via an Air Tasking 
Order or radio communications will prove inadequate as the ability to generate and 
receive information increases throughout all echelons of the MAGTF. A decentralized 
command and control system based on unfettered information access will be the key to 
focusing the combat power of dispersed aviation assets within the NEF’s battlespace. 
Conceptually, the MAGTF command element would act as the conduit for information 
distribution, filtering out noise (i.e. unnecessary data) and distributing a common 
operational picture (COP) to subordinate elements. At the same time, theater 
surveillance, reconnaissance, and ordnance delivering platforms would inject real-time 
and near real-time (NRT) information into the system for processing and dissemination 
(see Figure 6). As a result of this two-way sharing of information, the commander will 
be able to focus the efforts of the MAGTF as a synergistic whole to maintain and exploit 
the high tempo that OMFTS generates. The goal of such a command and control system 
will be to arm subordinate elements with the commander’s intent and a COP so that they 
can execute the “intuitive decisionmaking” that yields the “speed and agility [that] create 
the ‘initial condition,’ allow [Marines] to preserve the initiative, and force the enemy to 
react by design to [Marine] actions.” 59 Simply stated, units will not have to wait for 
information and direction to be “passed”. They will act in accordance with higher intent 
and drive changing situations to exploit enemy weaknesses as they pursue mission 


The JSF will be an ideal element of this “access-based” command and control 

system. According to the JIRD III, the JSF will have the minimum capability to “have 
the linkages and associated bandwidth to pass and receive timely information, to include: 
broadcast (e.g. threat updates, weather), command and control direction (e.g. target 
information), inter/intra flight datalink communications, FAC communications, and 
aircraft status reporting information.” 60 Tactically, this means that the JSF, whether 
airborne or on deck, will be able to upload pre-planned mission data that is stored in the 
aircraft or download new information that is available over the “information net”. The 
goal is to provide the pilot with unambiguous and easily assimilated on-board and of- 
board real time information that will facilitate the rapid generation of sorties and increase 
the survivability and lethality of each aircraft. 61 For the MAGTF commander, this will 
equate to the rapid and efficient day or night delivery of effective ordnance on his highest 
priority targets. 

It is important to note that the JSF will not be just an information “sponge”; it will 
be an information provider. As Metcalfs Law states, “the power of a network increases 
as the square of the number of nodes in the network.” ~ With its IFDL capability and 
LINK-16 connectivity, the JSF will be an invaluable node in the MAGTF C2 network. 

By utilizing the JSF’s cockpit recorder with split screen playback function, pilots will be 
able to provide near real-time bomb impact assessments (BIA) to the MAGTF 
commander so that he can make immediate targeting and asset allocation decisions (i.e. 
restrike requirements). Moreover, the ability of the JSF’s systems to simultaneously 

59 MCCDC, IV-12. 

60 JSF Program Office, JIRD III, 15. 

61 Ibid, 15-16. 


“paint the air picture,” monitor the ground situation, and transmit tactical data via a 
secure joint data link will give the MAGTF an all inclusive battlespace situational 
awareness (SA) asset. As espoused in Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski’s Network 
Centric Warfare (NCW) theory, it is this linking of sensor, engagement, and infonnation 
grids that creates the condition necessary to allow “shooters to engage targets more 
rapidly and exploit emerging opportunities in the battlespace.” In other words, the 
linking of grids and the accessing of information will be what allows dispersed aviation 
platforms to mass their destructive effects at unprecedented levels of responsiveness and 

Information Flow 


*Common Aviation 
C2 System 

Figure 6 

62 Leslie West, “Exploiting the Information Revolution: Network-Centric Warfare Realizes Its Promise,” 
Sea Power, March 1998, 38. 

63 Ibid, 39. 



Two major obstacles stand in the way of making dispersion a reality. The first, as 
always, is money. The cost of building a “dispersion-capable” fleet will be high. The 
naval services would be far better served if more LHD/escort carrier type ships were 
procured instead of “ground attack” ships such as the DD-21. As previously mentioned, 
the long range weapon systems that would be incorporated into such a ship will not fulfill 
the close battle fire support needs of the MAGTF commander. Aviation, on the other 
hand, can provide responsive and effective fires across the entire range of the battlespace 
as well as satisfying the counter-air needs of the NEF and MAGTF. Regardless, 
developing a class of escort carriers and JSF compatible MPSs will require a significant 
budgetary investment that may outstrip public perceptions of necessity. Furthermore, 
energy and dollars must be allocated to sustaining the current fleet of flat deck ships 
(CVNs, LHAs, and LHDs) so that they will be available and functional for OMFTS 
operations well into the 21 st Century. The second obstacle, the Navy’s inevitable 
reluctance to alter the nature of its deploying forces, will be far more difficult to address. 
The idea that CVBGs and ARGs ought to be merged into NEFs that directly support 
dispersed air operations may appear as a direct challenge to the preeminence of the 
carrier battle group as the nation’s power projection tool of choice. 

Still, the naval services are progressing toward OMFTS as their future warfighting 
doctrine, and the ability of traditional carrier operations to support this doctrine is 
severely limited. The emotional attachment to classic “tailhook” aircraft and “cat and 
trap” flight deck operations should not override the fact that the evolving nature of 
warfare necessitates a change in how air power is generated from the sea. The reality of 


future littoral operations is that naval forces will have to remain over-the-horizon in order 
to counter future threat capabilities. If the limitations of seaborne air power are “fairy 
dusted” away with conceptual jargon, then the Marine Corps will be setting itself up for 
failure in future operations. An assessment of traditional single deck naval air operations 
leads to the conclusion that they simply cannot generate enough timely and responsive 
fire support to satisfy the high operational tempo envisioned for OMFTS. Dispersion is 
the best practical means of solving the responsiveness problem and making OMFTS a 
viable doctrine for the 21 st Century. If the commitment to dispersion is not made today, 
then OMFTS will remain as a warfighting doctrine in theory but never will rise as a 
warfighting doctrine in practice. 




Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle 


Air Combat Element 


Area of Operations 


Amphibious Ready Group 


Army Tactical Missile System 


Bomb Impact Assessment 




Close Air Support 


Command and Control 


Circular Error Probable 


Aircraft Carrier 


Carrier Battle Group 


Deep Air Strike 


Defensive Counter Air 


Extended Range Guided Munition 


Forward Air Controller 


Forward Anning and Refueling Point 


Forward Operating Base 


Host Nation Support 


Israeli Air Force 


Integrated Combat Turn 


Intra-Flight Data Link 


Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield 


Joint Distributive Infonnation System 


Joint Force Air Component Commander 


Joint Initial Requirements Document 


Joint Strike Fighter 


Amphibious Assault Ships 


Low Observable 


Marine Air-Ground Task Force 


Marine Corps Intelligence Agency 


Miniaturized Munitions Technology 


Miniaturized Munitions Technology Demonstration 


Main Operating Base 


Maritime Prepositioning Ship 


Network-Centric Warfare 


Naval Expeditionary Force 


Near Real Time 


Operational Maneuver From The Sea 


Prognostics and Health Management System 


Rapid Ground Refueling 


Removal and Installation 


Situational Awareness 


Sortie Generation Rate 


GLOSSARY (Continued) 


Short Take Off 


Short Take Off/Landing 


Ship-to-Obj ective-Maneuver 


Short Take Off/Vertical Landing 





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