Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Marines have a problem.

Their Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is a 40-ton behemoth designed to transport 17 rufftuff Marines (which is a full rifle squad; and let’s not get into the gender thing here) from landing ship to shore. It has all sorts of great stuff like composite armor, a big German diesel engine that can power it at sea (25 knots) and land (30mph), more weaponry than the early-1970s vehicle it replaces, ethernet capability (presumably not for Facebook and Twitter) and – in order to offset some of the weight of all that stuff – is made of aluminum. It has a range of about 30 miles.

The Corps wants almost 600 of them at god-knows-what-cost each, although the program has already burned 13 billion dollars (which didn’t used to be much, but the party’s over and those days are gone).

The Marines want this thing because it will continue the tradition of their “signature” move: attack over the beaches from the sea.

Although it now appears that the increased range of missiles capable of destroying the things has now outpaced the 30 miles the thing can travel; so to avoid the missiles (at least while you’re launching these things) you’d have to be more than 30 miles offshore. But then the things wouldn’t be able to get to shore …. You see why generals and Pentagon staffers get paid the big bucks. And of course, once it did get within 30 miles, then the missiles launched by the putative defenders would become a concern.

Maybe those missile sites would be taken out by carrier-launched fighters, or by Air Force planes, or by drones.

But when these flat-bottomed babies hit the beach they won’t – it turns out – be sufficiently armored against road-side bombs (the infamous IEDs).

NO PRAHBLUM! Thus ejaculate the Pentagoons: we’ll add armor plating to the bottom and solve that. They hadn’t thought of the IED threat before?

But/and then: if you add several tons of armor (and to an aluminum hull) the thing isn’t going to be able to travel as far or as fast, on land or sea (at 40-plus tons nothing short of a nuke is going to get this thing into the air).

NO PRAHBLUM! The extra armor can simply be carried, and applied when the big babies have hit the beach. (Who’s going to carry the armor to the beach?) And you’re going to have mechanics available on a hostile beach to do such redecorating under fire? So your 17 riflepersons will be tied down defending the mechanics. Or else those 17 will be doing the redecorating themselves ( with even the females manhandling those heavy chunks of armor?)

You see how really not-so-simple the old blood-and-guts stuff really is. Anyone who gets their idea of war from movies … well, even if the uniforms and chatter are period-perfect, you see where there’s more to it than appearances.

I blame the Gulf War and Saddam.

He sat still like a total dork for all the months that it took the US to laboriously assemble the cash and supplies necessary to field a powerful field force (when a good general would have hit those forces while they were still trying to get set up and ensure a supply of AA and AAA batteries for all their stuff). And then, when everything was ready, he sat still and waited for the hit.

Which gave Americans the idea that they really did have – in the Year of Grace One Thousand Nineteen Hundred and Ninety One – a military qualitatively equivalent to the Wehrmacht in 1940. And worse: gave Americans the idea that ‘Americans always win’ because that’s just the way History is set up and that will never change.

(It also gave the feminists the chance to claim that since Americans will always win, and since the USSR is gone, then there won’t really be any fighting any more, the military will be nothing more than Microsoft with a tougher dress code, and that consequently there’s no reason why women shouldn’t be allowed such a ‘rich’ employment opportunity. Ach, those were ze happy times!)

More specifically, although little media attention was given to it, there was an amphibious force that set sail towards the end of 1990, and arrived in the actual waters of the Persian Gulf in mid-January 1991 after a leisurely passage. At just under 20 ships, it was the largest amphibious force the US (and the Navy-Marines) had sent forth since 1945.

Their mission was to create a ‘threat in being’ – posing Saddam with the possibility of an amphibious assault from the Gulf even as he faced the powerful land force that he had generously allowed over the course of months to put itself together on his other flank. This Gulf force never made a landing – although one of its ships did hit a mine while detached on a special assignment.

The Marine Corps now wants to beef up the credibility of its ‘threat’ with the EFV. No matter that it may have a few teething problems; the important thing is that ‘the enemy’ will be presented with a darned thorny defensive problem if they are ‘out there', ready to come ashore in these things, 17 guys (or gals) at a time.

It seems to me that the first and foremost strategic mistake the Pentagon has made is to assume that any enemy will react as Americans do to such Wonderland excitements: with a serious and straight face and much basso profondo hemming and hawing and that cheerible yet cocky assurance that America – whether in its Leftist or its Rightist dampdreams – makes History and the rest of the world simply stands by for its seating assignment on the gravy train. Ach, those were ze happy times!

With the exception of a tribal chief still in possession of blowguns and spears, situated on a choice piece of beach-front real estate, the prospect of a flotilla of these behemoths waddling ashore (or not quite, alas) isn’t going to seriously disturb the sleep of any modern potential enemy.

At best, the largest US amphibious ships can carry 1500 or so Marines – maybe 1800 – to be put ashore either by helicopters or the hugely techy Osprey aircraft (a disturbing tendency to fall out of the sky on their own and underarmored like their sea-going associate).

Of these 1800 only some will be combat troops (although, yes, every Marine qualifies with a rifle at boot camp – one way or another). There will be administrative types, medics, cooks, maintenance folk, supply types in several variants – and all this without factoring in whatever factors must now be made for the imponderables of … ummmm … gender.

So how many fighters are you actually going to get ashore, 17 at a time, in these monsters? How many of these beasts can the average amphibious ship carry? How big a force of amphibious ships will you need to carry a major assault force? How will you protect that force?

And if you have contracted out all the non-combat jobs to ‘civilian contractors’, then how do you get them where they need to be? And if they come later, after you have ‘secured the beach’, then you don’t have much time to do that ‘securing’ because you’re going to need all those civilians to do all the non-fighting stuff. So any delay – and such things do happen – and you have a big problem.

The whole World War Two approach probably went to everybody’s heads: even then, when the Japanese obligingly abandoned garrisons without hope of reinforcement or re-supply on ocean islands where the Americans had almost complete control of the sea and air … even then it took staggering casualties to ‘secure’ the islands.

And that was with troops who didn’t grow up in a victimist and entitlement and consumerist culture and with a country that didn’t expect war (or life) to be easy and fun. What happens nowadays?

Frankly, I think that if this country was ever faced with the old enemy-held-island scenario, the only thing anyone would stomach is to nuke it with a tactical thingie and congratulations all around for being so ‘efficient’ and ‘sensitive’ at the same time. Yah.

But there isn’t ever going to be such a scenario again. No natives, no enemy-held islands.

Hell, that was clear in March of ’65 when the Marines made their organizational debut in Vietnam from assault landing craft, even though the ‘beach’ was crammed with welcoming local lovelies carrying leis and a South Vietnamese Army brass band. No doubt the Corps wanted to remind the world and the taxpayers about the glory of twenty years before. But they were headed into ‘Vietnam’, and there came a time when no amount of happy-times remembering could change that.

There is a certain point where the laws of physics kick in: no matter how ‘optimistic’ and ‘can-do’ you are (or say you are) there is a moment when reality will reveal itself and say that you can’t move something this heavy over this much distance and at that much speed. You can cry, you can demonstrate, you can take it to court – but the laws of physics are what they are.

This is the type of reality that in Our modern American reality has been pooh-poohed as ‘essentialism’ and ‘backlash’ and such. If you just convince yourself, or if we all agree to agree, then whatever we have chosen to agree to will become the new ‘reality’. It’s democracy!

For the past 40 Biblical years, ‘laws’ that sort of let you know how the world is structured have gotten tossed out with the various ‘oppressive traditions’ that were masquerading as reality. We have gotten the idea that if you can hugely change the latter without consequence, then you can probably ignore the former the same way. After all, being American means never having to accept consequences. Left and Right both assumed that.

Well, the Pentagon seems to have drunk the same Kool-Aid as the cadres of the Left.

The same ‘traditions’ that allegedly kept the assorted Identities under some sort of oppression also apparently kept the government under some sort of control. Who knew?

And it’s Memorial Day weekend. Have you checked your local cemetery to see if the local vets’ Post missed a few graves with their flags? Maybe the WW1 and Spanish-American and Civil War graves that have no relatives or friends left? I did – and shelled out a C-note to get some extra flags; real remembering and real memorializing don’t come cheap.

But in doing so, and thanking each grave’s occupant for his service, I also remembered common sense and clear-thinking and the conduct of a life un-bolstered and un-befogged by Kool-Aid.

Make this a multi-level Memorial Day.

Or else we shall meanly lose what they who fought have thus far so nobly advanced.

Am I a Tea-Bag drinker rather than a Kool-Aid drinker? Not in the least. The first responsibility of the Citizen is to govern the government, not to get rid of it.

And for that duty you have to report with a clear head and a steady hand. And a mind and heart focused on the great unfinished work remaining before Us.

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Blogger James said...

Did they really say that the solution was to carry the armor ashore??!! Mind-boggling!

12:01 PM  
Blogger publion said...

What they said was that the armor could be put on when they get ashore. But if it's an opposed landing on a hostile beach, it clearly won't be waiting for them on the beach. So somebody will have to carry it from the ships to shore, either on the vehicles or - and here you're adding another whole layer of complication - helos will have to chopper it to shore, making themselves targets and tying up more transport resources. Maybe this will mean buying more helos - and the ones we've got are pretty worn out from desert work.

12:27 PM  
Blogger James said...

I see. So this really means that the vehicles go in armored as they are, and the answer they gave is BS.

5:20 AM  
Blogger publion said...

Well, when a car-salesman says it it's BS; when your government says it it's (fill in the blank).

9:45 AM  

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