The Marine Corps may have expanded its use of ground-based Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (SP-MAGTFs) in response to a shortage of amphibious ships to carry Marines around the globe, but Marine Corps leadership says the service is committed to these units even as the number of available amphibious ships is rising.
The second expeditionary sea base ship, USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB-4) will soon support forces in U.S. 6th Fleet, to supplement sister ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) in U.S. 5th Fleet. A hot production line of San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks (LPD-17) will soon transition to the LPD Flight II ships, bringing new capability and additional capacity to the Marine Corps at about one ship per year.
And yet, Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for plans, policies and operations, told USNI News that the increase in available shipping won’t decrease the Marines’ support for these ground-based forward-deployed units.
“I don’t see us in the future backing down from the Special Purpose MAGTFs. They provide a necessary and important capability: to make sure that we retain a threshold force in a particular combatant command’s region that can’t be covered by a MEU,” he said, referring to the ship-based Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Beaudreault said the Marine Corps’ job is to provide “force contribution of air/ground/logistics capability provided to an operational commander to use in accordance with its capabilities and limitations under the best advice from our [regional Marine Forces] commander. … It would be wonderful to have more amphibious ships because ships equals greater operational mobility and flexibility and a piece of U.S. sovereignty to do what we need to do from a location. But absent the availability, we will continue to deploy Special Purpose MAGTFs to do exactly that.”
Even as ship availability increases, Beaudreault said he believes the SP-MAGTFs – one in Morón, Spain, to support operations in Africa, and another in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility – have grown into an unexpected role in the theaters. Dubbed SP-MAGTF Crisis Response units, they have more and more involved
It is up to the regional Marine Corps Forces commander to decide how many personnel to send out on these missions and how many to keep in reserve to respond if a crisis occurred, Beaudreault said, noting that ultimately these envisioned crisis response teams have become a reserve of Marine presence and combat-credible capability for theater commanders to pull from as they see fit.
“We’re going to draw from this well to not just respond to crisis but to perhaps prevent a situation from escalating into a crisis. That can be a mission to deter, that can be a mission to shape, it could be a mission to do theater security cooperation in a specific location with a specific unit with a purpose, with an audience in mind,” the general said.
The SP-MAGTF is not employed “necessarily as one consolidated entity that is just sitting waiting for the big crisis to happen; they’re too valuable an organization with too much capability to just hold it for that,” he later added.
Though not really serving as the crisis response unit its name suggests, Beaudreault said Marine Corps leadership has had no concerns regarding how regional commanders employ the SP-MAGTFs and said, “it’s deployed, we’d love to see it used.”
As more ships become available, the general said he hopes the SP-MAGTFs can work with the expeditionary sea base ships to spend some time at sea, even if technically a land-based unit still. As the number of amphibious warships in the fleet grows from 32 today to the requirement of 38 or even more, Beaudreault said land-based SP-MAGTFs could still be sent overseas to be in locations where the afloat MEU isn’t, or to combine with the MEU and scale up the Marine task force if the security situation requires it.
“It’s always been our desire to try to put Marine Air-Ground Task Forces afloat principally. If we can do that from afloat, that is the preferred option. But if the demand exceeds the ability to sustain an amphib presence, then that’s where the Special Purpose MAGTFs will come in. And it may be that, hopefully in the future when there’s 38 ships, I still see a role for the Special Purpose MAGTFs to be a ready MAGTF – if nothing else, in CONUS – combat-credible, that can immediately augment a MEU” if a situation erupts.
Beaudreault’s words of support for the SP-MAGTF are accompanied by resourcing support: whereas the SP-MAGTF’s aviation assets had been trimmed previously –
Going forward, he told USNI News that “I’m excited about [the role of the SP-MAGTF]. I think it’s definitely not a static organization, it’s definitely driven by the security environment and the conditions that exist, and it’s definitely going to be drive by combatant commanders’ demand signals of what contributions a Marine Air Ground Task Force can best deliver to him.”
He noted that new networks, air-delivered fires and other capabilities would be added to the SP-MAGTFs as they come online in the Marine Corps, and the exact composition of each SP-MAGTF would be determined ahead of each rotation based on which location the unit will deploy to – CENTCOM, the Mediterranean, U.S. Southern Command or others – what the threat level is and what the commanders’ expected mission sets include.
“We may need to look at our assigned mission essential tasks for the future; maybe those don’t stay static as the conditions change in a place like the Central Command region,” he said.
“In Africa, I think we’re always going to have to have the ability to respond over great distances. That’s the beauty of some of what we can learn through the SP-MAGTF as well, the distances that that organization covers out of Morón is generally from land to land but enormous distances – we’re going to face the same challenges in the Pacific. There’s a huge success story that we didn’t beat our chest over, that’s the redeployment of MV-22s from Australia all the way back to Hawaii that self-deployed back: helicopters, tiltrotors flew a tremendous distance to go from Darwin back to Hawaii, unnoticed. There’s no other organization in the world that can do what the Marine Corps just did and send a tiltrotor over that distance.”
and the story goes on as
it'sFriday’s bombshell that the
Before Friday, concerns revolved around the return of budget caps under the
But with the possible Democratic takeover of the House in next month’s mid-term election there is little certainty about what the funding for the Defense Department will look like in the short-term.
With Pentagon budgeteers ready to put their pencils down at the end of November, the surprise call from Office of Management and Budget Director
So late, in fact, that the services aren’t going back to rework their budgets to fit the new, White House-ordered top line. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan suggested as much Friday, and it was confirmed to me by a Pentagon official on Monday.
So, while budget numbers will change, it remains unclear how much and what will shift at the margins. While Shanahan was circumspect in this comments announcing the cut last week, he did confirm the $733 budget isn’t going anywhere: “We are not going to reverse course on all of that planning, but we will build two budgets.”
“It comes down to a judgment call of how fast we modernize,” Shanahan said. “I mean, that’s probably the biggest knob that we have to turn.”
But Shanahan’s mention of delaying research on hypersonic missiles might have been a signal to Congress — which is fully behind pumping more money into the field — that nothing is off the table.
“An often-used strategy in these kinds of situations is to offer up cuts that you know Congress will find unacceptable,” Harrison said, “then it puts the onus on Congress to decide what to cut or how to come up with more funding.”
But just as sequestration is slated to come back in 2020 and 2021, the dip in funding to $700 billion looks like it might be the new normal, as far as the White House is concerned. “It’s not just a one-year drop down,” Shanahan said. “It’s phased. You know, it’s a drop and then held constant over the FYDP,” or the five-year budget plan submitted with each year’s funding request.
But there’s risk in gambling. “While this method has proven to be smart politics in the past for some services and their unfunded requirements,” she added, “it doesn’t always work. It definitely didn’t work in 2013 and sequestration kicked in anyway.”
Shanahan appeared to anticipate that the order to trim $33 billion was just the opening salvo in what will be a back and forth between the White House, Pentagon and Congress. “We’ll go back and we will do as directed by the president and give him a $700 billion budget,” Shanahan said. “Then everybody gets to decide how to work with that.”
I believe the FFG will be an honest to goodness Frigate that will be decent enough to provide the US Navy with what it needs.That't quite a ramp up in fleet size, do how do you see the FFG competition concluding? Do you think their is an appetite/capacity for the future FFG (X) to become the Perry for foreign Navies in the Pacific/China Sea?
I wonder as the FFG design becomes the standard if we will see the USN start selling off the LCS ?
... goes on below due to size limitLast month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a mandate to the services:
During interviews this month, officials from Boeing and Lockheed Martin told Defense News they were excited by Mattis’ order to improve readiness, seeing it as an opportunity for increased government buy-in for reliability improvements and investments in data analytics and spare parts.
“I had a pretty long time supporting weapon systems from the flight line perspective before coming to Lockheed Martin,” said Bruce Litchfield, vice president of sustainment for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and a former commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center.
“Usually in Washington the focus is on new platforms and acquisitions and things like that,” he added. “To have a focus like this coming from somebody like Secretary Mattis to help and support and sustain our warfighting capabilities at the flight line level … that’s pretty exciting.”
Dan Gillian, Boeing’s F/A-18 program manager, said the mandate puts “a capstone” on the Navy’s existing efforts to drive up readiness.
Mattis’ Sept. 17 memo gives the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force until the end of fiscal year 2019 to hit the 80 percent target — an ambitious prospect given current mission capable rates, which in FY17 ranged from about 70 percent for the F-16 to
The Air Force has been the first service to hint at how it will boost those numbers. Earlier this month, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson laid out the first details of the service’s plan, which includes increases to maintenance staffing and making investments to improve supply availability.
“That will mean shifting some money around in our budget, but we’ve put a plan together to do that,” she said in an Oct. 25 interview with Defense News.
The service will also make some major changes to the way Air National Guard units approach maintenance, installing a second maintenance shift and giving young active-duty pilots flying hours on Guard jets. That would increase the amount of time those aircraft could be flown over a given period, as active duty pilots can clock a greater number of flight hours than Guard pilots.
“It’s a way of seasoning them and getting them a lot of flying time and a lot of senior mentoring very quickly," Wilson explained.
While Wilson’s comments centered predominantly on what the Air Force can do internally to augment readiness, the aforementioned changes to the supply chains of the F-22, F-35 and F-16 will require support from industry — in this case Lockheed Martin.
Litchfield said Lockheed is engaged in preliminary discussions with the Air Force on what’s “in the art of the possible” to improve sustainment practices.
While the F-35, F-22 and F-16 are all very different aircraft with different maintenance challenges — from the low observable coatings of the F-22 and F-35, the age of the F-16 airframe, to ongoing issues with the F-35 logistics system — Lockheed believes all would benefit from moving to a conditions-based maintenance model that uses algorithms to analyze data and predict when parts are likely to break.
“We can start looking at data feeds from the jet,” he said. “We can start looking at probabilistic modeling of when things fail and inspections that are due and when preventative maintenance happens, and then bundle those so they have the least amount of downtime on the aircraft.”
The Air Force is already exploring how it uses data analytics for maintenance, having recently moved the C-5 and B-1 to a conditions based maintenance approach with
But for Lockheed, that data can also help it more proactively evaluate what spare parts might be needed and where.
“You’re really trading volume in the supply chain for velocity in the system,” Litchfield said. “So knowing when something is going to break, or knowing when an inspection is due, or knowing when a part replacement is, you forward deploy the parts and have them in the right place. That is, again, where artificial intelligence and advanced analytics come into play.”
Litchfield says that approach is helping Lockheed dig out from supply issues that have hounded the F-35 program, the services’ newest fighter jet.
As Defense News and other outlets have reported,
source:Boeing gets down to business on improving Super Hornet sustainment
While the Navy and Marine Corps have not publicly discussed their plan to meet Mattis’ mandate, increasing the availability of F/A-18s has been
During the week of Oct. 15, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson visited Boeing’s Super Hornet plant in St. Louis, Mo., to get an update on the company’s efforts to augment readiness.
Company officials briefed Richardson on upcoming production of
Will it be enough? It’s a start, Gillian said.
“From Boeing’s perspective, these levers that we’re pulling and the way we’re doing business differently are the way to attack this problem,” he said. “It’s not yet known if they are going to get us to 80 percent or not. We know the old way of business was not [working]. … We’re moving fast. Some things will work, some things won’t work, and we’ll adjust and continue to attack.”
Over the last six months, “most of the creative energy” has gone into figuring out how Boeing can help the Navy do its day-to-day sustainment work better.
One aspect of that effort involves an expansion of Boeing’s current role in Hornet sustainment. The company increased the number of field service representatives embedded with Navy this summer, with plans to keep adding representatives through the end of the year.
Boeing also has added engineers who will work with the Navy to isolate components and subsystems in need of reliability improvements, but the effort is still in its “infancy stages” and will require a comprehensive look at the Navy’s sustainment data.
Gillian acknowledged that when the future of the Super Hornet line was in doubt “maybe we didn’t do as good of a job on the reliability improvements as we should have done” but added that there is a “renewed focus and energy there for how can we attack troubled parts, troubled systems to make them more reliable.”
“We’ve seen some quick wins, I think,” he said. For example, by having more of its own experts working alongside the Navy, Boeing has also been able to help the service speed up the timeline to get a couple F/A-18s back online, accelerating that from 2020 to the end of this year.
Boeing is also working on creating what Gillian calls an “integrated demand” for the supply chain — in essence, looking out to Boeing’s production line, life extension lines and to the field to give its suppliers a stabilized forecast of the upcoming demand for parts.
There has already been some success on the supply chain front — in certain cases, parts that normally take maintainers a year and a half to take hold of have been expedited to a month’s wait — but with so many moving parts and so many changes to the program it will take time to fully optimize it, he added.
“In a few cases, we’ve identified some capacity constraints. Now we know about them and can go attack,” he said. “In most cases we’re finding that there is capacity out there to be consumed.”