After Bold Alligator 2011 - last year’s successful large scale, synthetic amphibious training exercise – we incorporated the lessons learned and quickly began planning for Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12).
BA12, tentatively scheduled for early in 2012, will be the largest amphibious exercise conducted by the Navy and Marine Corps in the last ten years. While planning is ongoing, it currently includes:
-An Amphibious Task Force (ESG-2) consisting of two Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs—7-8 ships) and a Naval Beach Group (NBG)
-A Marine Expeditionary Brigade-sized Landing Force (2d MEB) consisting of a complete Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a Regimental Landing Team (RLT), a Marine Air Group (MAG) and a Combat Logistics Regiment (CLR)
-A Carrier Strike Group (CSG-aircraft carrier, carrier air wing, 3-4 surface combatants)
-Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships
-Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) forces
-Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) forces
-Joint supporting forces
-Coalition amphibious, landing, and MCM forces
As the list of participants indicates, an amphibious mission of this size is not simply the purview of the amphibious forces and the Marines—it is a joint, multi-national, and naval endeavor requiring the full attention of the Fleet and Marine components at both the operational and tactical levels of war. Projecting power from the sea is a NAVAL core competency. Integrated forces conduct of operations from the blue water, into the seaward side of the littoral, and ultimately to the depth of objectives ashore.
There has been a great deal of recent commentary on whether we have seen the end of large-scale amphibious operations. However, this was exactly the state of affairs before the Korean War in 1950, before the Falklands conflict of 1982 and before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Each of these crises required planning for and, in two cases, executing large scale amphibious assaults. Especially in this volatile era, we cannot know with certainty that we will not have to gain access to an operational area to project and sustain a sizable landing force ashore. The adversary will probably not be a conventional military, but state or non-state entities with competent anti-access and area denial “hybrid” capabilities—that can disrupt our operations at sea, in the air, and on land. The Navy and Marine Corps have the legislated responsibilities to be able to conduct these operations.
At its core, BA12 is a training exercise to ensure that the units presently assigned to USFF and Marine Corps Forces Command have the capability to plan and execute these operations—how we do this with the forces we have today.
In June 1944, allied forces carried out two large amphibious operations on opposite sides of the globe. The Overlord invasion of France, and the Forager operation to seize the Marianas were similar in many respects. The building blocks of aircraft, ships, and ground forces were all generally the same. But these two operations were also significantly different in operational and tactical organizations and approaches. These differences were shaped by the unique environment of each operation. Our future amphibious operations will likewise have to adapt our basic tactical elements to operate in new and innovative ways.
In this spirit, BA12 is also an experiment. It is not an experiment in the sense of testing new technologies or equipment, but in the broadest sense of the term. Hearkening back to the Fleet Battle Experiments before World War II, where the Navy and Marines developed the tactics and techniques that carried our forces across oceans and onto foreign shores, BA12 will provide an opportunity to combine our current capabilities in new ways to address the challenges we face. Revitalizing our amphibious competencies does not mean conducting the operation as we did in 1942, 1950, 1990, or even 2000, but how we would do it now, with the current joint and naval operating concepts.
All the best, JCHjr.