14 September 2011

Bold Alligator 2012 Update

We are making good progress in our planning and preparations for Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12) and are on track for execution in Jan-Feb 2012. As I described in my last update, BA12 is an exercise focused on our Navy-Marine amphibious mission, but is not limited to only our amphibious forces – an ESG-MEB landing is a Fleet operation that requires the full range of Fleet capabilities. Sea control and air superiority are absolutely critical to successfully carry out an amphibious landing in a hostile environment.
History has shown us time and again that these conditions must not only be attained in the littorals, but they must be maintained throughout the entire engagement. And while we would like to execute an amphibious landing as a sequential evolution – setting and maintaining conditions, followed by the ship-to-shore maneuver – we cannot count on our ability or the pace of operations to allow us to execute such an optimal plan – being able to rapidly and effectively respond to the operational situation is critical. Our adversaries today (including non-state actors) are capable of employing a range of hybrid (low and high tech) tactics to disrupt our missions and threaten our forces afloat. For this reason, we must be ready and stay ready to fight at sea as we are conducting the ship-to-objective movement.
In this vein, the participation of a full Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in this exercise, as well as other Navy strike, air superiority, and sea control capabilities, is vital to fully train the force to perform this large-scale, complex and demanding mission. It is imperative that our Naval forces understand the requirements of both sides of the equation. Navy-Marine Amphibious forces must understand how the CSG and other elements of the Fleet operate and accomplish their mission. Conversely, our non-Gator communities must understand how the amphibious task force and landing force plan and execute their operations, what support they require, and when they require it.
For those of you who have been working through the BA12 reading list I transmitted to the Fleet earlier this year, you’ve read about some of the common challenges we have faced when executing an amphibious operation. In fact, some of the most controversial tactical wartime decisions have historically surrounded the relationships between the Sea Control forces (primarily Aircraft Carrier Task Forces) and the Amphibious Force.
  •  Fletcher, Turner, and Vandegrift at Guadalcanal Aug 1942
  • Spruance and Mitscher at the Marianas (Philippine Sea) Jun 1944
  • Halsey, MacArthur and Kinkaid at Leyte Gulf Oct 1944
These examples are just a few of the more prominent cases from our history that generate heated debate about the proper relationships and roles of Sea Control (Aircraft Carrier) and Power Projection (amphibious) forces when the situation drives choices between the two in terms of risk and mission priority.
More recently, the coordination problems between the three UK Task Force commanders in the 1982 Falklands conflict, the Carrier TF, the Amphibious TF and the Landing Force, reflect many of the same issues.
The Falklands conflict is well covered in the three “Core List” readings from my reading list; however, I also want to bring your attention to two other items from the list, both written by Col. Theodore Gatchel USMC (ret) a former instructor at the Naval War College. The first is his book, At the Water’s Edge; Defending against the Modern Amphibious Assault (USNI Press, 1996). In describing the difficulties of defending against amphibious assault in the 20th century, Gatchel makes it clear that successful defenses began at sea. He also highlights that amphibious operations have and can be conducted while a threat still exists at sea. We just need to be prepared for it.
Gatchel’s other entry I want to highlight is Eagles and Alligators; An Examination of the Command Relationships That Have Existed Between Aircraft Carrier and Amphibious Forces During Amphibious Operations (Naval War College, 1997). In a brief, yet comprehensive monograph, Gatchel provides all the “models” of how naval forces were organized to conduct amphibious operations, along with the examples and pros and cons of each approach. He poses five basic questions that we should consider as we organize the fleet for these operations:
  • What is the lowest level of command at which a single individual has control of all the forces required to accomplish the mission?
  • Is the accomplishment of the immediate amphibious mission the primary concern of the individual who controls all the assets need to accomplish the mission?
  • Is the commander responsible for the overall mission located where he can monitor the progress of the operation, first hand, and personally influence the outcome of the battle if necessary?
  • Does the Commander responsible for the overall mission have a staff capable of dealing with the complexities of both carrier operations and amphibious warfare?
  • Does the air control system in use allow carrier aircraft to support the landing adequately?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post – an ESG-MEB landing is a Fleet operation that requires the full range of Fleet capabilities. I believe that everyone at Fleet Forces (HQ staff and subordinate commands), regardless of whether or not you are directly involved in the exercise, can benefit from taking the time to read one or more selections from the reading list. With the exercise just a few short months away, there is no better time than right now to be studying hard and applying what you know.
All the best, JCHjr


Anonymous said...

Intuitive set of questions exposing core issues we must understand with both force capacity and authority limitations in today's operations. My first cut and look forward to stimulating a dialogue with your readership.

1) What is the lowest level of command at which a single individual has control of all the forces required to accomplish the mission? SECDEF's desk due to force capacity limitations, authority limitations and UCP boundaries. Tactically, it once was an O-6 ARG/MEU CDR. Operationally, a 1-Star JTF, Strategically, the COCOM with a feeble attempt at solving the imperative interagency problem.

2) Is the accomplishment of the immediate amphibious mission the primary concern of the individual who controls all the assets need to accomplish the mission? I think this question exposes the mismatch between the tactical and operation imperative of establishing a beach head and the over all strategic authorities necessary to accomplish the long-view mission. The capabilities and authority to use these capabilities are overly centralized from the battlefront to the Pentagon--enabled by the unharnessed power of the digital age still in the infancy stage of management. COCOM's these days are forced into the GFM, RFF, GRF processes to gain the forces necessary for a CONPLAN and plagued by the timing of a SECDEF Orders Book to plan.

3) Is the commander responsible for the overall mission located where he can monitor the progress of the operation, first hand, and personally influence the outcome of the battle if necessary? Location is entirely dependent on the bandwidth to monitor the battlespace and the culture of our leaders ability to lead without oversight. What happens when satellites are destroyed, fiber cables are fractured? Do we have leaders that can adapt and operate without the consent of a muted COC? This one cuts to the core of our diminished ability to operate independently. Ref Nelson and Adm King's serials.

4) Does the Commander responsible for the overall mission have a staff capable of dealing with the complexities of both carrier operations and amphibious warfare? Yes, if the Commander is willing to delegate and trust those subordinate Commanders to operate within the complexities of Carrier and amphibious warfare operations. Culture of Trust and accountability enforcement comes to mind. Authority, Responsibility and Accountability must be properly aligned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5) Does the air control system in use allow carrier aircraft to support the landing adequately? This question cuts to the core of how the TACRON, Green Crown, ACC and JFACC work together. What is doctrine, business rules when factoring in the ATOs of the ARG, CSG, ISR, Strike, Global Strike, NATO, Coalition forces flying inside the same JOA?

Great questions that will never be adequately answered and vetted to solutions without Exercises like Bold Alligator. These experiences will become extinct without well documented Lessons Learned!!! The investment in Bold Alligator has tremendous value inside and outside the Navy lifelines. Please find a way to forward to the COCOMs. V/R JR

Anonymous said...

The first poster has done a great lead-in to discussions. I'd like to add some additions for consideration with reference to his posting.
1)& 2); We used to consider one of our major strengths in battle, that the on-site CO's had full autonomy to operate "in the best interests of the Queen", in this case the Navy/his ship. while the Russian Bear was hampered by rigid command and control from Moscow that could only make the decisions (sorta like we now operate)?
3) Are ships and staffs prepared to operate in the 'eyes out' scenario of no direct comms to BG, pentagon, or white house? How many HF circuits does each ship have? Are the RMs & ETs capable of tuning HF Couplers on their own or do they need RMC techs onboard to show them how?
If we had to fall all the way back to using morse code, anyone left that knows how? They haven't taught it in Navy schools now for decades and usually only ham operators listen for those signals anymore.
4)& 5) We have integrated our staffs, but tactically we haven't done cross training to the degree that we can multi-task staff members to cover all joint warfare...which causes staffing bloat. Compare WW II staffs which were multi-tasked as well, the only difference these days is we have more "unionization" and specific service doctrine for operating which ensures job security.
Should be a fun exercise. I would suggest a two day period of 'eyes-out' operation and see how all levels of command handle the drill.
Retired 0-6

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

JR and Retired O-6, thanks so much for your thoughtful responses and the "gray matter stimulation" they both provoked!
Your participation justifies the time and effort expended to keep this Blog going.
As you can see from the BA12 reading list, there is a great deal of material available to chew on while contemplating the execution of a complex amphibious operation that will present challenges to our ability to gain and sustain access to the Area of Operations, our ability to project Marine combat power ashore and our ability to maintain the requisite sea and air control for the duration of the operation.
For those who would like a shortened version of the reading list that still highlights all the tough C2 and operational issues presented by any significant amphibious operation, I'd strongly recommend focusing on the books I've recommended on the Falklands campiagn written from the perspective of the Royal Marine ground force commander, the Royal Navy amphibious force commander and the Royal Navy Strike Group commander - these three books are each well-written, direct and honest in presentation and thought-provoking in content. Well worth the time taken to read them! All the best, JCHjr

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the previous posters’ calls for exercising initiative and looking at expected communications limitations. To pursue this, however, we need to completely understand the basis for successful decentralization and “C4I denied” execution. The foundation is the common understanding of tactical naval operations and the mission at hand across the entire force. Trust enables decentralized initiative—but trust is not built by merely employing competent commanders. Those commanders must know one another: through association in training and active operations, through common doctrine and tactics, and through a unified understanding of the commander’s intent, objectives and concept of operations.

Nelson developed this through sessions with his “band of brothers.” King stated as much in his April 1941 Serial:

“4. (a) Initiative means freedom to act, but it does not mean freedom to act in an offhand or casual manner. It does not mean freedom to disregard or to depart unnecessarily from standard procedures or practices or instructions. There is no degree of being ‘independent’ of the other component parts of the whole -- the Fleet.

(b) It means freedom to act only after all of one’s resources in education, training, experience, skill and understanding have been brought to bear on the work in hand.

(c) It requires intense application in order that what is to be done shall be done as a correlated part of a connected whole -- much as the link of a chain or a gear-wheel in a machine.”

BA12 is very much a “voyage of discovery” in simply developing the basic “standard procedures, practices or instructions” relating to operating such a large amphibious, strike, MCM, etc. Fleet in pursuit of a unified set of campaign objectives. The next step is to ensure these lessons are promulgated to promote common understanding across all the Navy and Marine Corps (because the next large amphibious operation will use both Atlantic and Pacific Fleet and Marine forces).

As we contemplate comm-denied operations and encouraging initiative in this exercise, we need to ensure that we have first set the necessary foundation of common understanding across the entire NAVAL force.

Col. Phil Ridderhof USMC

Anonymous said...

Admiral Sir,
I would like to add some perspective from a Marine company grade officer regarding our return to our amphibious roots. I am an Assault Amphibian Officer, with four years of experience working with the Gator Navy from the Atlantic and Pacific as well as a MEU. I have dedicated a lot of personal study to amphibious operations, particularly surface ship-to-shore operations, over the past four years. I am excited about the Navy-Marine Corps team return to its amphibious roots and am glad to see our senior leaders so involved in the strategic aspects. I have no doubt we are headed in the right direction as a military to conduct forcible entry on foreign soil and logistics over-the-shore from a sea base. On the small unit level and on the individual knowledge level (both Navy and Marine Corps) I feel we lack in the understanding of the actual tactics of amphibious operations, I am specifically referring to the assault phase of the operation. This is understandable, of course, given the 10 years of war and the lack of MEB-level exercises for ten years. The only exercises that have been regular throughout the Marine Corps have been MEU-level, which in terms of ship-to-shore movement is a much smaller beast to conquer. One can argue in MEU-level operations much of the TTPs found in NTTP 3-02.1 “Ship to Shore Operations” is not needed. The Navy and Marine Corps has grown accustomed to support only one battalion landing team (BLT) going ashore. This “BLTitis” is evident even in my community, which gets more amphibious training than most Marine units; we rarely train to anything bigger than on AAV platoon and one ship. The NTTP 3-02.1, although not perfect, needs to be read and implemented.

From a company grade officer’s perspective, here are some trends that I have noticed on both the Blue and Green side that I think needs to be addressed with Junior/Company Grade Officers and small units in order to foster a top-up approach to bringing us back to our roots and to also open minds, build ideas, and develop the leaders which will be needed in the next few years to modify and develop doctrine and re-invigorate our amphibious mission.
1. There is a tendency to brush off tactics in NTTP 3-02.1 “Ship-to-Shore Operations” as outdated.

2. There is a lack of understanding of the duties and responsibilities of organizations and billets which are key to ship-to-shore movement (i.e. Primary Control Officers, Boat Group Commanders, TAC-LOG, etc). I believe on the Navy side that Primary/Central Control Officers and Boat Group Commanders should be a qualification just as OOD, TAO, CICWO. For example, there is a tendency to just call the small boats in the water during ship-to-shore movement “safety boats” and place all Junior Officers on a boat bill rotation as “boat officer”. Their true billets should be that of “Boat Group Commander”. They need to have the knowledge and understanding of the tactics and the plan and be able to make the necessary calls to keep landing craft organized, deal with emergencies, and keep the landings moving fluidly.

Anonymous said...

Continued from above post:

4. The surface ship-to-shore movement is dependent on radio. In the AAV community, we fully understand that once in the water, communication is usually gone. The non-radio signals listed in NTTP 3-02.1 are rarely used and mostly unknown by Sailors and Marines. Even if they were, most units do not carry the proper equipment anyway. Some TTPs are outdated, but for the most part they are useful. The use of flags and boat paddles to mark landing craft, waves, and key leaders in the water is necessary, especially with 60+ landing craft in the water and 6+ ships. The extensive light signals and nautical flags will help identify certain ships (i.e. marking the casualty receiving and treatment ship for any small boat carrying casualties). The beach markings and unload point markings will facilitate easy offload.

5. Information management is key. There needs to be one information manager for the entire Amphibious Force. There should be one way to disseminate documents to ALL personnel involved. Leaders and key billet holders should not have to sift through several emails, presentations, documents, radio messages, and notes from a teleconference to find the information needed. For example, all of the landing plan documents (an appendix to an operations orders) should be sent in an official message (in something like an .pdf), signed by the CATF and CLF, to all personnel involved in the planning (through a medium such as an email distribution list). These personnel include everyone from ships CO’, operations officers, assault craft unit leaders, AAV unit leaders, combat cargo officers, etc… With this planning being centralized plan only approved by CATF and CLF, there is no need to send documents like this down the chain of command like usual messages from higher.

While the ultimate solution is to change curriculum at schools where this has been written out, create mobile training teams to train units, and continue to conduct exercises such as BA; the immediate solution is to ensure commanders are stressing this at all levels. They need to show that it is important, train at small unit levels, and ensure it is being practiced all the time, not just during large scale events like BA. One suggestion, I may add, is that small guide books and smart cards be made and distributed to certain audiences that will help guide Marines and Sailors. An example I found is from 1943 titled “Skill In The Surf: A Landing Boat Manual” (you will find it on the internet if you search the title) which was a graphics-filled guide to ship-to-shore movement for Navy landing craft crews.
By no means do I feel that anyone I have encountered has intentionally neglected proper ways of doing things, the lack of experience across the fleet and 10 years of land war is to blame. I am very excited for Bold Alligator 2012, I only hope I am home in time to observe it. Thank you for your time sir.

Very Respectfully,
1st Lt W. S. Jagoe, USMC

Anonymous said...

This one got cut out:

3. Landing Plan Documents as prescribed by doctrine are not being used. Primarily, the ever popular Power Point presentation with flashy graphics, SIPR/NIPR emails, excel spreadsheets, and imagery software are now used in a hodge-podge manner to disseminate information in pieces from both Navy and Marine units. While this method does push information as it develops in an effort to over communicate, a method good for current operations in a changing battlefield, there should be a methodical and standardized way of planning a future amphibious operations. Furthermore, many do not understand how the documents work and have never used them before, therefore they are not used. Even in the Dawn Blitz 2011 AAR, this lack of understanding is mentioned.

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

1st Lt Jagoe, USMC, first I'd like to say thanks for taking the time to give me such a detailed post that contained so much useful information.
As an Assault Amphibian officer you have a real advantage as far as practical knowledge goes and it's clear you've devoted considerable time to the study of this critical aspect of your profession. I hope you can get more of your peers to get engaged and start sharing information and ideas as well. We need to hear from you!
One comment you made really sticks with me and that's the issue of "BLT-itis". To be totally naval, I'd rename it "ARG/MEU-itis"; the ARG/MEU has certainly been our focus for many years and that's why it's so important to set our sights higher in BA12 and return to our expeditionary naval roots.
Your specific practical recommendations are very good and I'll be reviewing them with my Fleet Marine officer - Col Phil Ridderhof.
Thanks again for taking the time to post your thoughts.
All the best and Semper Fidelis, JCHjr

Anonymous said...

Admiral, I have to additional questions:

Will the Littoral Combat Ship play any role in Bold Alligator 2012? How do you see the LCS being employed in the future of amphibious operations? Given its speed, flexibility, and the quantity that will be available (I read 55 was the goal, with 20 initially contracted?); I see it as a vital asset to bridge the gap between the lack of the ideal number of amphibious ships and what congress is authorizing. With the EFV out of the picture, OTH surface assaults are out of the question. We will require amphibs to drop us 5,000 yards off the coast. With that we lack firepower in the water (lack of stabilized weapons, no more rocket boats, less NSFS, no more amphibious tanks such as the LVT(A), etc.), we will need more support near shore. LHDs/LHAs obviously like to stay OTH and provide LCACs and aircraft. The LPDs/LSDs can drop us off and stay off coast, but need standoff. Several LCSs staying close in with the assault echelon could provide several services: security and limited fire support with its 30mm, fire support with 57mm, anti-air protection of the assault waves with CIWIS or RAM, provide "lilly-pad" for helo operations, CASEVAC platform, act a secondary control ships, or provide C2 capability for the landing force. LCS will bring the flexibility to put our eggs in several baskets (such as special ops, recon elements, logistics, intel assets) and relieve some of the operational pressure on the amphibs. Even just having several LCSs added to the force could have a psychological effect on the enemy. Having 15 ships (6 being LCSs near shore) versus 8 in a MEB operation projects more power and could potential turn the tides of the enemy force.

Second, will MPF shipping be involved in BA12?

Thank you for your time sir,
Capt Jagoe

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

Capt Jagoe, thanks for the follow-up comment and congratulations on your promotion. You’ve obviously given much thought to the unique versatility LCS brings to the fight and I appreciate you sharing your ideas with me.

LCS will not have a role in BA12. BA12 is an east coast and coalition exercise, and our two active LCS ships – FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE – are both stationed on the west coast. As soon as we have LCSs available to us for Fleet operations they will certainly have a role in these types of exercises, as we still have much to learn about the many unique capabilities this class brings to the fight. As with any of our ships, she will evolve and adapt to employ her capabilities in ways we have not yet thought – much like the Spruance-class destroyers we built with guns, ASROC and torpedoes that were firing Tomahawks from VLS launchers by the time they were decommissioned. Therefore, now is the time to study hard and make full use of every opportunity (exercises and deployments) to learn and fully unleash her latent capabilities.

Regarding your second question, we will indeed be integrating MSC ships into the exercise to fully simulate sustainment and reinforcement of the AE. Currently, we have five ships participating:

- 2 x T-AOs
- 1 x T-AVB
- 1 x T-AK
- 1 x T-AKE

The two T-AOs will provide underway replenishment of fuel; the T-AKE will be used for selective resupply; the T-AVB will provide intermediate-level maintenance capability to the ACE; the T-AK will be used for amphibious bulk liquid transfer system (ABLTS) ops and transport (among other things).
Thanks again for the follow-up questions and sharing your thoughts on LCS.
All the best, happy birthday to the USMC and Semper Fidelis, JCHjr

Anonymous said...

As the Navy spent the last decade adapting to a war fought in-land and in the desert, the Navy’s role was redefined to, say the least, yet out of this new identity in the battle-space innovations and evolutions have occurred, as all know and understand. Specific to this essence are some of the capabilities of the Riverine community. Even more specific to that end, is the JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) capabilities of the Riverine community. Interestingly this capability of naval JTACs in conventional doctrine appears to have either been absent or overlooked in the past, regarding Amphibious abilities. Respectfully, this absence may highlight the nature of our present forces evolution considering that conventional naval forces were never trained as JTACs before IOF and the establishment of the Riverine Squadrons. With this said, Rivron JTACs are trained predominantly to conduct terminal attack control of CAS, but are also trained as NSF spotters, UAV/UAS operators, ISR elements, CAS planners and fire support subject matter experts for their commands. As such they could be deployed in amphibious operations as extensions of the many players involved in these evolutions, such as the TACC, SACC, MAGTF, CLF, FSE, DASC, FSCC, JFACC, NGLO, ASOC, etc. all depending on the operation and how it is structured. Though this is the case, JTACs are barely mentioned in most of the Joint Publications outside of the Close Air Support publication, and are never specifically referenced as a tool for employment by amphibious commanders. Admittedly I am not privy to all governing references so it may be out there under unit specific guidance, yet with this all said, has this capability of the Riverine force been considered and worked into BA12 planning and execution, if not for actual practice of these capabilities, at least to consider a naval solution to possible gaps in the amphibious battle-space?

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr USN said...

Thanks for your interest and comment. The integration of our NECC forces into amphibious operations - actually all Navy operations - is indeed an important topic. We have learned a lot from our recent experience supporting land campaigns; now we must put those lessons into practice to fully utilize our unique NECC capabilities, such as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, as part of the Navy - Marine Corps team in littoral environments.
To answer your question, Riverine forces are deeply involved in the planning and execution of BA12. In fact, a large contingent of expeditionary forces including three Riverine detachments equipped with several craft including a Riverine Command Boat (RCB), two Maritime Civil Affairs Teams, an Intel Exploitation Team and a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Air Detachment will form the core of a Task Force, commanded by RIVGRU ONE's Commodore, to support the operations of amphibious shipping and the USMC landing team throughout the exercise. Riverine JTACs will support Close Air Support (CAS) missions and spot for Naval Surface Fires (NSF) throughout the exercise. JTACs will also man watch stations within the Supporting Arms Coordination Center (SACC) and Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) to ensure that their capabilities are understood and properly employed. This interaction is just the start of a better understanding of how and where to most effectively use our JTAC capability in future operations. Thanks again for the comment and please stay engaged; we need our sharpest minds working on this exercise. All the best, JCHjr