SEA LINES OF COMMUNICATION CONTROL: A MARINE MISSION
SUBJECT AREA NATIONAL MILITARY STRATEGY
SEA LINES OF COMMUNICATION CONTROL: A MARINE MISSION
Major Forrest R. Lindsey, USMC
War in the Modern Era Seminar
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Quantico, Virginia 22134-5050
9 May, 1988
The Navy and SLOC Control 3
Types of SLOC Choke Points 7
Historic Examples 9
Lessons Learned 17
The SLOC Control Base 18
The Use of the MAGTF 19
The Notional SLOC Control Model 22
Actions to Implement SLOC Control 25
The Covert Base 28
Fleet Defense in Choke Points 29
Abbreviations/Acronyms Used 39
Author: LINDSEY, Forrest R.,USMC
Title: Sea Lines of Communication, a Marine Mission
Short Title: SLOCs; a Marine Mission
"The seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and for the conduct of
such land operations as may be essential to the prosecution of a naval
And if there ever was a modern mission tailor made to fit our
traditional role, it's the seizure and control of Sea Lines Of
Communication choke points! Thanks to the technological advances in "over
the horizon" detection and attack means, an amphibious ground-gaining
force is more capable than ever of denying large areas of the Earth for
use by an enemy.
This seminar will examine the evolution of naval strategy with respect
to global choke points and, in particular, the more renowned campaigns to
gain control of those key locations. With this background, new weapons and
techniques will be examined that can be used to augment our capacity to
interdict vital straits
Modes of application - from peaceful entry to amplify a friendly
country's capabilities, to forcible entry to secure a channel bordered by
a hostile country - will be examined. Tactics of surveillance and
interdiction will also be proposed, from a limited objective raid, to a
fixed base for interdiction held in the face of attack.
This seminar will conclude that the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)
is particularly and uniquely suited to conduct these operations. The
employment of Marines in this mission is an effective force multiplier
that can decisively affect the outcome of future wars.
In battle, there are always certain advantages that weigh in
one side's favor against the other. In aerial coMbat, altitude
over an opponent can give a fighter a decisive edge. On land,
the high ground, well used, can give a defender victory. On the
sea, the forces that hold the land areas framing the Sea Lines of
Communication (SLOCs) control movement between oceans and the
lifeblood of modern war. The strategic importance of SLOCs and
sea control itself has been appreciated since war first moved to
deep water: the control of straits has been a feature of
significant sea actions since the Punic War. Despite changes in
weapons and the ships that carry them, the fundamental of naval
war remain the same: the force that holds the SLOCS controls the
seas and the force that controls the seas will control the
outcome of the war.
In its traditional role as the "landward claws" of naval
power and with its unique balance of capabilities, the Marine
Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is best suited for the mission of
seizing and holding the land edges of the SLOCS. As part of a
Joint Task Force that controls the air, surface, and subsurface
fight and augmented with new weapons and target acquisition
means, the MAGTF can be a stategic force to win a future war.
This isn't a new idea; several authors have discussed the
use of Marines for this mission, in particular Major Gary W.
Anderson USMC1 and Commander Bruce VanhHeertum USN2.
This study is intended to expand some of these concepts and
to refine tactics in the light of some new developments. The
single most powerful change in technology that makes the use of
land forces for SLOC control inevitable, was a small event in the
1983 Falkland./ Malavinas War3. In the last few days of that
fight, the Argentine Army fired an Exocet antiship missile at the
HMS Glamorgan from a crudely converted trailer. The missile tore
a huge hole in the superstructure and killed 13 men; however, the
effects were much further reaching: a new form of coastal
artillery had extended from land to influence the battle on the
sea. It was the first shot in an inevitable metamorphosis of
The Navy and SLOC Control.
The Navy has a number of critical missions at the outset of
any major war as part of power projection and offensive and
defensive sea control. But no fleet, not even a 600 ship navy,
is capable of accomplishing all of these missions at once on a
worldwide scale. The Navy will need to stay mobile, flexible and
available to sortie against Soviet/Warsaw Pact units at sea,
particularly submarines, and to escort the crucial convoys across
the Atlantic to Europe. A Joint Task Force with multiple methods
of attack, deployed early against the jugular of Soviet seapower
could strangle it in its own back yard. In a tactical study4,
Vice Admiral Mustin states that
"the best means of protecting SLOCs and bolstering the full
alliance is by the conduct of sea control operations far
This is in consonance with the stated objectives of the
Navy's Maritime Strategy of attacking the enemy's naval bastions
at the outset of the transition to war. It is also a tacit
recognition of the unique weakness of the Warsaw Pact navies: all
of their bases, with their refit, rearm, and resupply potential,
can be sealed off by a few SLOC choke points.
Soviet Fleet Homeport SLOC Chokepoint
1. Northern Fleet Severomorsk/Murmansk Norwegian coast
2. Baltic Fleet Leningrad Danish Straits
3. Black Sea Fleet Sevastopol Bosporus Straits
4. Pacific Fleet Vladivostok Korea/Tsushima Straits
The potential exists to contain the Warsaw Pact forces in
their own restrictive waters and annihilate them in place.
Vice Admiral Must in also addressed the defensive nature of
"the Free World's imperative to keep the Sea Lines of
Communication open to satisfy its vital requirements becomes the
Free World's greatest weakness."
For the defense of our own vulnerable choke points, it is
essential that we take early and physical control of them. Some
of these choke points can be termed "war stoppers" for good
reason. Enemy control of any portion of the Bab El Mendab strait
would deny our use of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and
communication between forces in the Mediterranean and the Indian
Ocean. In the same fashion, loss of control of the Drake
Strait/Straits of Magellan and the blocking of the Panama Canal
would isolate the Eastern and Western halves of the United
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States, leaving heavy resupply and reinforcnment to whatever the
railroads could handle. The list goes on and on, and as the
strategist Norman Freidman has put it,6
"the more global the strategy, the more important is the
positive use of the sea. The world ocean becomes the highway
tying the elements of the maritime coalition."
To most of the Navy, this is preaching to the choir; they've
been working on SLOC control since Mahan7. But the use of
Marines in these plans has not been a popular theme. The
question among CINCs has been how to use the MAGTFs and who gets
them first, not necessarily what their naval mission should be.
Recently, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Gray8
outlined a mission of protecting the SLOCs with amphibious
operations at choke points. This is the best use of a unique
national asset: the prepackaged, modular combination of air
power, amphibious/airmobile ground combat power and the tailored
logistic support system of the MAGTF. As a naval force, used as
designed, a MAGTF with naval operating force augmentation can
take on the offensive and defensive missions needed to seize the
initiative early in a crisis.
This sounds like a natural extension of the experience and
doctrine the Navy and Marine Corps have put to work since World
War II on advanced naval bases, however this area has been
neglected in recent times for more visible contingencies. The
increasing power of the Warsaw Pact navies and the threat they
pose to our maritime capabilities makes fixed location sea
control an area for serious consideration and planning. The
potential targets for a SLOC interdiction base are the Surface
Action Groups built around the guided missile cruisers, the
Antisubmarine Warfare groups built around ASW carriers, and the
attack and fleet ballistic missile submarines. In the air,
long-range reconnaissance and antiship bombers such as the
Backfire, Bison and Bear threaten the fleet within the SLOCs from
bases around the world. The MAGTF has most of the tools needed
in its structure to take and hold an advanced naval base and
assume a surface attack/air interdiction mission. However, a
Joint Task Force including mine warfare units, attack subs,
Patrol Hydrofoil Missile craft (PHNs), antisubmarine/antisurface
/antiair warfare surface ships and antiship cruise missile
batteries would provide the depth of combat power needed to
conclusively influence the battle.
Further discussion requires that certain definitions be made
to outline the scope of the task of SLOC control.
Types of SLOC Choke points.
The maritime "key terrain" of the SLOC choke point, in a
two-dimensional sense, is the encroachment of land or ice on
areas between two seas. For the purposes of this study, I have
classified them as the Narrow Passage, the Wide Passage, and the
This is a strait, channel, or canal that can be decisively
blocked or interdicted by artillery fire, mines, blockships,
cables, or other means. This type of SLOC control is centuries
old and the narrower the channel, the easier it is to block. For
this study, a Narronw Passage is defined as one where the
narrowest point is no more than five kilometers. The main method
of interdiction for this type of choke point would center aronund
area denial methods to force all traffic into an easily monitored
channel. The main advantages of this form of SLOC denial are the
proximity of a supporting far shore to allow covering obstacles
by observation and fire and the relatively small requirements for
naval operating elements to maintain control. Some of the many
examples are the Danish straits to the Baltic Sea, the Panama and
Suez Canals, and the narrows of the Bosporus Straits to the Black
This is a larger strait where the borders are between five
and one hundred kilometers. This definition is based on the
assused capability of existing weapons and sensors to range
targets from land bases or aircraft within this area and
effectively control it. Because of this larger volume of air and
water to control, a Wide Passage will require a shore
installation combined with powerful surface and subsurface units
and aircraft to succeed. This larger three-dimensional
battlefield will require overlapping detection and attack means
to successfully stop the enemy. The primary shore-based weapons
would be medium and long-range antiship cruise missiles and
aircraft. Mines and other area denial weapons would have to
limited to preplanned belts emplaced at important portions of the
strait. Some examples of the Wide Passage are the Straits of
Hormuz, the Drake Strait/Straits of Magellan, and the English
This type of SLOC control takes in all other cases: in
effect all shores (or islands) with another shore more distant
than one hundred kilometers is an "edge". The SLOCs or "Highways
of the Sea" as Mahan has called them, lay alongside coasts in
most of their paths. A coordonated assault from an edge could
deny an enemy's movement along that area and that section of
ocean as effectively as a much more restrictive choke point. The
key weakmess in this form of SLOC control is the lack of a
supporting far shore: the control base can be avoided if it is
discovered. Its effectiveness is limited to the range of its
weapons and detection ability, however in the age of aircraft
this is a very large range. The main planning considerations for
an Edge Interdiction then are whether surprise is possible and
exactly how much interdiction is needed. This type of base has
additional use as a defense against an enemy amphibious assault.
Some examples are the Cape of Good Hope, the Greenland-
Iceland-United kingdom (G-I-UK) Gap, and the Norwegian coast.
Narrow Strait Defense.
One of the most graphic examples of this type of defense is
the Turkish denial of the Bosporus straits to the British and
French forces in World War I. In 1915 the Turks, with help from
the Germans, had fortified the Mediterranean end of the straits
from Helles Point to the Narrows, with strong static and mobile
forces on both sides of the strait. There were fortresses at
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several locations, some with guns as large as 14 inch add there
were field artillery batteries that could and did move to
wherever they were most effective. There were extensive
minefields at several locations and the Turkish fleet covered the
Black Sea approaches.
These defenses cut communication between the western European
allies, Britain and France, and their eastern ally, Russia. They
also bridged the Ottoman Empire - most of the Middle East - add
Europe. If the Allies could have successfully forced the strait,
they would have severed the enemy forces in the eastern
Mediterranean area and given vital support to the floundering
forces of the Czar9. Churchill's and Kitchener's campaign was
designed to seize the high ground in the center of the Gallipoli
Peninsula on the Northern side of the straits, then envelop the
Turkish defenses. The campaign failed at enormous cost because
of the abilities of the Turkish and the German commanders, the
strong Turkish positions, and the superiority in numbers and
determination of the Turkish troops. There are a number of other
factors, including the primitive stage of evolution of amphibious
warfare, but in the end only one thing mattered: the straits
remained closed, the Ottoman Empire remained connected to Europe,
and the Czar's forces remained unaided.
For this study, the main attention should be on the defenses
within the strait. The Turks were able to deny the movement of
any naval forces with strong interlocking weapons. All obstacles
were covered by fire, particularly by the mobile field
artillery. The minefields were both fixed and drifting types and
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were illuminated by searchlight batteries at night to help the
guns acquire targets within them. The British and French
attempts to force the straits, first by naval force alone, then
by amphibious attack, were doomed by the mutually supporting
aspects the defenses and the very restrictive nature of the
terrain within the waterway and on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Wide Passage Defence.
The British control of the English Channel in World War II
is a good example of this type of defence10. At its narrowest
point, the channel is only 34 kilometers wide, close enough that
the Germans were able to fire at the English coast with long
range guns from their positions near Calais. Despite this
proximity, the British retained control of the channel throughout
the war because of their successful struggle for the control for
the air in the Battle of Britain, their employment of Radar, and
their strong surface fleet. With the exception of the occasional
U-boat attack, E-boat raids and the startling run through the
channel by the battlecruisers Scharnhonrst and Gneisenau11, the
Axis stayed out of the English Channel throughout the war. This
effort denied the Germans the shortest Sea Line of Communication
between their naval forces in the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea
aid their bases in southern France. This division of their
forces eliminated any thoughts the Germans say have given to
unifying elements of their surface fleet and allowed the British
to defeat individual German ships at their bases, rather than
face them as a fleet at sea. The allies were also denied freedom
of action within the channel by the German air and shore forces
on the coast of France and the channel islands, however the
British maintained offensive momentum to protect most of their
movements. The Germans used mines throughout the war to try to
limit British use of the Thames, but the British became quite
good at disposing of them. In the end, the British control of
the channel kept the Germans from mounting an invasion of Britain
and later, supported the allied efforts to build up and launch
the invasion of Europe.
This type of sea control is not new, but in the past its
effect was limited to the range of coastal artillery. Land based
aviation considerably extended the range of action from a coast
and when it was linked with naval surface and subsurface forces,
considerably changed the influence of land on the maritime war.
An illustration of this form of sea power is the German
interdiction of the Norwegian Sea from 1940 to 1945. To control
the vital SLOC from Great Britain to the Soviet Union, the
Germans built coordinated defenses using reconnnaisance and
surface attack aircraft, linked with U-boat wolfpacks and suface
attack groups built around the last capital ships of the German
Navy. Despite the threat of these dangers, the allies had no
choice but to send aid along the Norwegian coast to the
increasingly desperate Soviets. At first, the convoys got
through reasonably unscathed - the convoys were well escorted and
stayed as far north as possible to stay out of land-based
aircraft range. As the polar ice began to move south, forcing
the convoys closer to the coast of Norway, and as the Germans got
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better at detecting and "shadowing" the convoys with long range
aircraft, the losses began to approach 25%. Convoy after convoy
were savaged by a gauntlet of German attacks aud dangerous
weather add the situation was getting worse as the Arctic days
grew longer. The worst was to come that summer fob the sailors
of convoy PQ-1712. On 27 June 1942, PQ-17 set sail for
Murmansk with a cargo of 297 aircraft, 594 tanks, 4,246 trucks,
add 156,000 tons of general cargo. Of the 37 merchant vessels
that started out, 24 were sunk in a relentless series of
scattered attacks by U-boat wolfpacks and bombers. The convoy
was detected almonst immediately by long range reconnaisance
aircraft add radio intercept intelliagence and forces were
vectored into their path. On the 4th of July, the threat of a
surface attack by the battleship Tirpitz scattered the escorts
add forced the convoy to break up to defeid itself. The result
was a "duck shoot" where the survival of a ship depended on the
bravery of the crew aid a large measure of luck. As a result of
this disaster, the lifeline to the Soviets was interrupted until
the end of winter and Soviet confidence in the competence of its
Anglo-American allies was shaken.
The allies employed edge interdiction of their own with the
patrol bases on Iceland, connecting the Greenland-Iceland-Faeroes
Line, and successfully restricted German naval activity between
the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Though there were no
spectacular single victories to highlight the long and tedious of
antisubmarine patrols, the British, Canadian, and American
sevicemen on Iceland severely hampered U-boat and surface
movement through that SLOC for the duration of the war.13
When the preceding examples are analyzed, several key facts
1. A strait or an edge can provide interdiction for the
force holding any portion of it with some method to detect
shipping and attact it.
2. Conversely, if a SLOC is to be cleared of enemy
interdiction, the full lengh if the coast or coasts must be
cleared of enemy forces.
3. A combination of multiple target acquisition and attack
means greatly increases the value of the interdiction.
4. To conclusively control a SLOC, physical possession of
the land edges in the form of an advanced naval base is
These missions are part of the dual nature of SLOC control:
the force that intends to control a strait must have the ability
to attack any intruder and defend itself and friendly forces
within the SLOC Control Area. The greater the area to be
controlled, the wider the span of capabilities required for
offensive and defensive combat:
1. To detect and attack any intruder within the SLOC control
2. To be able to defend its own position against possible
3. To clear passage for friendly and neutral vessels through
the choke point.
The SLOC Control Base.
In view of these requirements, a land base to support SLOC
control is the best option. A land base provides a hardenable,
central location on control the operations of all of the elements
of the Joint Task Force. It also provides the continuity of
Command, communication, and control needed to link all elements,
even when some units are added or deleted during the course of
At the risk of coining yet another acronym, this concept
leads to defining the limits/responsibilities for the commander
of the SLOC control Joint Task Force. This area of
responsibility could be called a "SLOC Control Area" or an SCA
for short. This SCA would be that volume of air, land, and sea
that the task force must dominate to accomplish its mission.
This follows the pattern of the Amphib*ious Objective Area or
AOA, where all forces that enter that area fall under the
operational control of the Commander of the Amphibioua Task Force
(CATF) . For example, after a choke point has been successfully
seized and the commander of the Joint Task Force is ready to take
control, an SCA would be established. At that point, the Task
Force Commander would have no ambiguities about who has final
responsibility in the SCA and who controls the forces wihin it.
In this situation, once an SCA was established, all inbound
friendly forces would inchop to the Task Force Commander while
transiting the SCA and if the situation required it, would
contribute to the SLOC control mission until outchopped out of
The Use of the MAGTF.
The MAGTF's ability to land ashore at almost any point,
sustain itself, and strike deep with its own combined arms makes
it the right force at the right time for SLOC interdiction. As a
prepackaged versatile force, capable of attacking and defending
with its own ground, air, and combat service support, it is made
to onrder to establish a SLOC control base.
The mission of a MAGTF are twofold to secure a SLOC
1. Seize sufficient geographic area to support the Advanced
Naval Base and its missions.
2. Clear the bordering areas of the SLOC choke point of all
There are really only two cases in establishing a SLOC
control base: an opposed landing or an unopposed landing. In the
best case, the Joint Task Force would be reinforcing an ally, or
landing in an uncontested area. The more likely case, given the
inherent value of a Sloc control location, is an opposed landing
against a determined enemy. This is what the MAGTF is designed
to deal with and has long been the Marines' stock in trade,
however this course of action will require an increase in the
size of all elements and all other support in the required MAGTF.
The degree of control needed is another factor. The range
would be from complete closure to all possible forces - an option
that would require a very large and varied combination of attack
and detection capabilities and a large MAGTF to defend it - to a
small antiship attack site to create uncertainty in the mind of
the enemy commander. In the case of a full interdiction base,
the need for a larger defense force is commensurate with the
value this facility would have to us and the enemy. It would be
a focus of strategic power to both sides, one that would cause an
enemy to face severe losses if he chose to force it or he will
have to attempt to destroy it.
At the other end of the spectrum of options, is the use of a
smaller, specialized force, introduced secretly to "ambush"
selected naval targets. This would require a much smaller force
and less to support but could have a very large tactical value.
If the target was a specific asset, such as a carrier or an
amphibious task force or a formation of naval attack aircraft,
this site could have enormous strategic effect if it is
successful. Of nearly equal value, an enemy commander would have
to assume that his flanks were threatened in any of his
movements, creating uncertainty in his planniug and a requirement
to screen all possible threatening sites.
SLOC choke point control in every case is a balance of
enough detection and attack assets with enough support aud
protection to survive. For a Joint Task Force based on a MAGTF,
this amounts to something similar to a menu at a Chinese
restaurant; "with three you get eggroll." That is, the
foundation is the Marine Expeditiouary quit supplemented with
additional weapons and communicatious assets. As more capability
is needed, additional MEUs are composited to the origiual force
and more weapons teams are assigued. For a full-scale
interdiction base, this could consist of a Marine Expeditionary
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Force of approximately 55,000 men, augmented with additional
fixed-wing aircraft, cruise missile batteries, Radars, and an
advavced communication, command aid control capability
The National SLOC Control Model.
For a Narrow Strait defense, the requirements could include
mine warfare units ton emplace minefields to block or channelize,
artillery to cover obstacles by fire and a short range antiship
missile battery, such as land based Harpoon. V/STOL aircraft
would be ideal for surveillance and attack because of their
ability to operate without fixed airfields and their fast
response time. Navy surface units and subsurface units would
provide the teeth in the ASW portion of the defense, assisted by
the MV-22s with dipping sonar and torpedoes. In this example,
command and control for the JTF would be based on shore and would
be organized to collect targeting information from all available
sources, choose targets and control the attacks.
This model provides the basis for expansion to the more
complex variations of this method of sea control. For example,
when the requirement is to control a Wide Passage, this
organization would be increased to include more sea control
assets, such as greater numbers of antisubmarine and surface
warfare vessels and longer range aircraft to support these
missions. Even though the degree of difficulty/uncertainty
increases as the area to be interdicted increases, the very wide
suite of weapons available will make this form of sea power very
difficult to overcome. Longer range antiship missiles, such as
land and ship based Tomahawk, and long range Air Force, Navy, and
Marine aircraft would make an enemy's decision to run this
channel dangerous for him. Because of this base's greater area
and greater tactical value - to us and to the enemy - a larger
MAGTF will be needed ton sustain and defend it. It will also need
much greater attention to logistic support, such as a refined
beach and port offload capability and an uninterrupted stream of
sea and airborne resupply. As part of the overall defense of
this larger base and the potential mission of air uninterdiction of
enemy antishipping bombers, the air defense will require a Combat
Air Patrol on station and antiair missiles to be effective.
Given a large enough mission, this would dictate that several
airfields will be needed to support the wide variety of offensive
and defensive aircraft. A large portion of these missions fall
well within the capabilities of the Air Combat Element (ACE) of
the MAGTF, reducing the number of carrier aircraft dedicated to
this mission and this part of the war.
If this is beginning to sound too complex or expensive,
consider the alternative: controlling a SLOC with a carrier
battle group (CVBG) would be effective, however it would tie down
critical naval elements in restricted waters at a time in the war
when they are needed to ensure our convoys get through. As noted
by other planners, this tactic is a form of "unsinkable aircraft
carrier" that can expand upon and surpass the capabilities of the
The value of this base will serve another, if negative,
purpose; it can attract the attention of significant portions of
the enemy's forces in his attempts to overcome it. This
diversion of forces away from attacking our shipping and into our
prepared defences puts the enemy where we want him; at our time,
at our place, and away from our far more vulnerable shipping.
Another threat that opposes the advanced base that must be
dealt with is a ground attack. This can range from the SPETSNAZ
commando raid to the attentions of a conventioual Motorized Rifle
Division or more. The enemy can come by parachute, helicopter,
vehicle or amphibious attack and pose the most dangerous threat
to our SLOC control base. The greater the danger, the larger the
MAGTF Ground Combat Element (GCE) needed to defend it. To many
this appears to anchor a large portion of our offensive power in
one place, however a base of this magnitude is of strategic, not
just tactical value. Any forces used to maintain this
interdiction base are well employed to provide an overbalancing
effect against the enemy's sea power. The additional benefit is
that this advanced base will, by virtue of its location, provide
a springboard for staging for future operations deep in the
In the the larger options - the Wide Passage or the Edge
Defense - command and control can be conducted from a flagship or
from a hardened command center on land. The communication needs
are going to be greater in any case and control of the air battle
will need the equivalent E2C Hawkeyes or the AWACS early warning
aircraft. For the greater areas of ocean to be swept for surface
and subsurface targets, P3 Orions, C-130 Hercules modified for
ocean surveillance, S3A Vikings or Remotely Piloted Vehicles
(RPVs) would be needed. Once a target is identified, these
aircraft can provide terminal guidance for the long range
antishipping missiles or for their own missiles. RPVs could be
used for Over The Horizon (OTH) reconnaisance and targeting by
using floating or flying relay links to the JTF command center.
Actions to Implement SLOC Control.
A joint task force, designed and trained from the outset for
the SLOC control mission, will perform better and have more
extensive capabilities than the historic examples that were
mentioned earlier, particularly considering the enormous
technological advances that have been made since then. All of
this combat power takes organization, and to get it into position
and working will take a step by step process.
1. Compose the Task Force.
a. Based on the mission, enemy, size of the strait, and the
forces available, a balanced force to fulfill those needs will
need to be assembled. Other factors, such as terrain, weather,
time and support available, and potential follow-on missions will
further affect the size and composition of the task force. At
least, the task force will require:
1.) Command Element (JTF and MAGTF)
2.) Intelligence and Targeting Element
Depending on the size of the sea area of the choke point,
this could include sensor teams, surface search elements (Radars,
RPVs,etc.), electronic warfare teams, and other assets. This
element would be responsible for tying in all of the data
together to provide targeting information for the attack
3.) Ground Combat Element
This element has to be large enough to land and defeat any
opposition, clear the enemy from shores within effective range,
and to defend the SLOC control base from attack.
4.) Air Combat Element
The ACE has to have sufficient assets to support the
landing, defend the base, and conduct reconnaissance and
offensive operations. The ACE can be augmented with aircraft
from the other services, particularily the specialized radar
surveillance and long-range attack aircraft of the Air Force and
a.) Anti air warfare.
b.) Air Defense
c.) Air Interdiction
e.) Surface attack
f.) Heavy lift
5.) Combat Service Support Element
The emphasis would be on large stocks of prepositioned
supplies, independent maintenance capability, and a heavy combat
engineer capability to conduct a long-term defense. Follow-on
CSS would require provision for an airfield and/or beach and port
6.) Antisubmarine Warfare Element (USN)
7.) Surface Warfare Element (USN)
8.) Antiship batteries
This could be a Navy unit, manned and maintained by the
Navy, or an addition to the Marine Corps Table of Organization.
9.) Mine Warfare Element (USN)
The emphasis in structuring the SLOC control JTF is the
overlapping attack assets and mutual support they give to each
other. Too mauy troops, ships and too much unnecessary equipment
will give the operation away and add to the support burden. The
Joint Task Force command element itself is dependent on the
complexity of the mission and the size of the force required. It
could be the MAGTF commander and staff or an augmented version of
it, or a Joint Force commander with his own staff could be
2. Seize Control of the Objective Area.
The Naval task force. organized around sufficient combat
power to protect the movement of the SLOC control joint Task
Force would escort it to the amphibious objective area (AOA).
For the MAGTF, this is a straightfoward exercise in the
amphibious assault skill: perfected over the last fifty years.
But, as anyone who has done one knows, they are anything but
simple. All parts of assembly, movement, and the assault are
critical and vulnerable. Once the Task Force reaches the
objective area, the real work begins; air supremacy must be
established and maintained, the waters cleared ot the enemy and
his influence, and the ground forces must don the same on land.
All portionns of the land onr ice area must be exhaustively
searched for enemy forces - all portions of the strait on both
sides where enemy weapons or detection systems can threaten
3. Activate the Sea Control Base/Sea Control Area.
As the AOA is being consonlidated, the antiship batteries,
radars, airfields, and command and control facilities are
established ashore. Once these actions are completed to a point
where the Joint Task Force commander feels he is ready to begin
operations, an SCA will be established and any unrequired naval
forces can be released to their next mission. Now that the door
has been closed on the enemy, the Carrier Battle Group (CVBG) or
other attacking forces can go after the enemy in his own waters,
free from the danger of further enemy reinforcement or the
possibility of his escape.
The Convert Base.
A covert mission task force or "ambush" force has some
differences in its organization and emplacement. The size of the
force needed would be governed by the minimus means needed for
the mission. Complete air and sea control would not be a
prerequisite and in fact, could jeopardize the surprise needed.
Instead, a smaller task force would be assembled and infiltrated
to seize the advanced base. Once in place, camouflage, emission
control, and mobility would be used to preserve security. As in
the case of the Narrow Strait interdiction, V/STOL aircraft would
be the primary air asset for reconnaisance, attack, and defense.
With no visible airfields to give the base's position away, the
V/STOL aircraft and support activities could be revetted and
camouflaged in several alternate locations.
Once ready, a typical installation would be alerted by
higher headquarters or organic intelligence assets of the
approach of an enemy target - such as a high value ship or
formation of ships - and an increased passive watch would be
initiated. Sensors in place would be coordinated with Forward
Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) equipped search aircraft or RPVs,
leaving active measures such as surface search radar to be
activated only when the target is identified and firmly in
range. Once the target is located, antiship missiles would be
fired in salvo and would link for terminal guidance from the
command center or the aircraft on scene to attack the specific
enemy target from several directions. After the attacks are
completed, the JTF would love to alternate positions or rembark
to move to new missions. A small force like this, such as a
Marine Expeditonary Unit with a V/STOL air element, a cruise
missile battery, an RPV battery, and radar could threaten
hundreds of square miles of ocean. This would require an enemy
commander to have to search his flanks with painstaking effort or
risk catastrophic loss.
Fleet Defense in SLOC Choke Points.
The flip side of this coin is that we run the same risk when
we enter a SLOC choke point, since the enemy can employ similar
weapons and tactics against us. Once again, the power and
mobility onf the MAGTF will come into play to detect and eliminate
enemy sea control bases. As our task forces approach within
striking range of land or ice edges, the MAGTF could provide
"flank security" by leapfrogging with helicopter or V/STOL lift
to search out and destroy enemy ambush locations ahead of our
ships. The flexibility of the MAGTF combined arms team provides
the necessary means to find the enemy and then "pile on" to
quickly and effectively overwhelm him.
The primary difficulty will be the enormous areas to be
screened because of the range of the enemy's weapons and
sensors. Because of this, the emphasis has to be on the air
mobility of the Ground Combat Element and powerful close air
support. As the fleet approaches the choke point, MAGTF elements
would be flown well ahead to engage any suspected enemy
position. If the ground ahead is known to have enemy forces
hidden in the vicinity, then the around forces will be deployed
early enonugh to ensure detection and elimination of the threat
As one element is in place on the forward flank, the next is
flown to the next screening position and the last is recovered.
This pattern is repeated until the fleet is securely beyond the
influence of the SLOC choke point.
Whether the MAGTFs are used to seal off or interdict enemy
maritime power in the SLOC choke points or to defend the Navy
from shore based attack, they will be functioning in the mission
they were intended for: land power projection for the fleet.
There have been a number of missions proposed for the MAGTFs,
including theater reserve, flank attacks to support the main
effort in the continental battle, or even using the Ground Combat
Element in one place and the Air Combat Element in Another.
These missions ignore the raison d 'etre of the Corps; to be an
integral part of the prosecution of the naval war. The MAGTF
concept has evolved to improve the synergy of combined arms with
mobility, a combination perfectly suited to modern war's
far-flung requirements and particularly for influencing the land
portion of the naval battle.
Quickly employed and augmented with the various specialists
in area denial, the MAGTFs in the SLOC control mission can at
least inflict casualties on the enemy and force the enemy to use
long, vulnerable lines of communication to support his naval
power. At best, we can seal the enemy in his own home waters to
destroy him in detail. The means are at hand now to develop the
weapons, tactics and doctrine for this vital mission and to train
Major Gary Anderson,who laid out the foundation of
recent thought on advanced naval bases in his articles "Defense
of Advanced Bases: The Forgotten Mission", and "Refining the
Choke Point Proposal", Marine Corns Gazette, Feb 83, pp41-45, and
Oct 83, pp28-33, respectively
2 Commander Bruce VanHeertum,USN, "Power Projection as
Part of Sea Control", Marine Corps Gazette, Sep 79, pp28-33. A
Bevan G. Cass award winning article which outlines the use of
Marine forces in their traditional role as an extension of sea
3 There are two items that bear on this incident: The
Battle of the Falklands by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, New
York, W.W. Norton, 1983, pp 296-297 and Lieutenant Colonel
Roger's article "Countering the Coastal Defense Cruise Missile",
Naval Institute Proceedinas, Sep 1987, pp49-55. Both have
descriptive accounts of the attack on the HMS Glamorgan.
4 This comes from an article by ViceAdmiral Mustin in "The
Role of the Navy and Marines in the Norwegian Seal" in the Naval
War Colleae Review, Mar/Apr 1986, pp2-6
6 I'm referring to Norman Friedman's article "The Battle
Group and US Strategy" in Defense Science 2002+, Oct 1984,
pp47-51. which strongly supports the idea of concentrating on the
7 For the purposes of this research, I've used Captain
Alfred Thayer Mahan's book Naval Strategy, Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1918. The most interesting and pertinent passage is on
pages 136-136 in which he describes the "Highways of the Sea",
and the critical value to sea warfare they hold.
8 General A.M. Gray is quoted on this and other subjects
by John Miller in his article "Power Projection: The Future of
the Corps", in the Seminar Report, Naval Institute Proceedings,
Dec 1987, pp2-7.
9 My primary sources of information on this subject were
Robert James' Gallipoli, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1965 and
Jeffrey Wallin's By Ships Alone: Churchill and the Dardanelles,
Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1981.
10 For a more detailed view of the defenses of the English
Channel, see The Narrow Seas by Reginald Hargreaves,London:
Sedgwick and Jackson Ltd., 1959, Chapter XXII, "The Sea That Is
the Wall of England" pp 470-495,
11 The subject is well covered in Fiasco by John Deane
Potter,New Yorker: Stein and Day, 1970.
12 The most well known (and controversial) account of the
suffering of the sailors in Convoy PQ-17 is David Irving's book
The Destruction of PQ-17,New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.
13 The subject of occupation of Iceland as an Allied base
in WW II is covered in detail in Lieutenant Colonel Donald
Bittner's book The Lion and the White Falcon, Connencticut:
Archon Books, 1983.
Anderson, Gary W., Major, USMC, "Defeuse of Advanced Naval
Bases: a Forgotten Mission", Marine Corps Gazette, Feb 1983. PPs
41-45. This and the following article are part of a series
written by the prolific Major Anderson on the use of Marines to
hold advanced Naval Bases. He also had to respond to detractors
in More choke Point Controversy, Marine Corps Gazette, Jul 1984,
Anderson, Gary W.,Major, USMC, "Refining the Choke Point
Proposal", Marine Corps Gazette, Oct 1983. PPs 28-29. This
article should be viewed as an excellent foundation for the
concept of choke point control. He also had to respond to his
detractors in "More Choke Point Controversy", Marine Corps
Gazette, July 1984, pp 19-20.
Bittner, Donald F.,Lieutenant Colonel, USMC, The Lion and
the White Falcon, Archon Books, Ramden Connecticut, 1983. The
role of Iceland as an Allied base in WW II is covered in
unflinching detail. A lot of popular myths go by the wayside,
particularily the "invitation" of Allied forces to begin with.
Freidman, Norman, "The Battle Group and US Naval
Strategy",Defense Science 2002, Oct 1984, PPs 47-51. Mr.
Freidman describes the use of Battle Groups to achieve sea
control and describes the pivotal role of the SLOCs to prosecute
a naval war.
Freidman, Norman, "The Maritime Strategy and the Central
Front", Hudson Institute Paper, May 1985. In this article, Mr.
Freidman describes the vulnerability of the Soviets to sea
interdiction and the possible scenarios of naval war wish the
Soviets. He is quite clear on the danger posed by Soviet
submarines and long range bombers.
Hanks, Robert J.,Rear Admiral, USN (Ret), The Unnoticed
Challenge: Soviet Maritime Strategy and Global Choke Points,
Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis Inc., Cambridge MA,Aug
1980. This booklet was written during the Carter administration
to bring attentionn to the Soviet threat to the maritime routes of
the Western Allies.
Irving, David, The Destruction of Convoy PQ 17, Simon and
Schuster, NY 1968. This is the very detailed and as I understand
it, controversial book that details the fiascos and alleged
ineptitude that led to the loss of most of that convoy. Mr.
Irving spares no one - from the vacillation of the British
Admiralty, to the lack of coordinationn of the German forces - and
he gives a detailed and moving account of an event few would like
James, Robert Rhodes, Gallipoli, The Macmillan Co.,NY.
1965. With very simple drawings, James gives a blow by blow
account of the naval attempts to force the strait, then the
individual landings by the British and French infantry.
Kampe, Helmut, Vice Admiral, Federal German Navy (Ret.),
"Amphibious Objective: Baltic Approaches", Naval Institute
Proceedings, March 1988, pp 113-117. Vice Admiral Kampe's
article describes the growing threat of Soviet amphibious power
and its ability to seize the Baltic Approaches and control this
vital SLOC choke point.
Mahan, Alfred Thayer, Captain, USN, Naval Strategy.Little,
Brown and Co., Boston MA, 1918. This book contains a wide
variety of Mahan's thoughts on the battles of Napoleon, sea
battles with Nelson, and the recent (for 1918) conflict between
the Japanese and the Russians.
Marino, Jose T. Admiral, Chilean Navy, "Trouble in the
Southern Pacific", Naval Institute Proceedings, Dec 1986, pps
77-82. An important article for anyone interested in the SLOCs
closer to home. Admiral Marino provides a new perspective in the
sea control activities of the Soviets in the Pacific.
Miller, John G., "Power Projection: the Future of the
Corps", Seminar Report, Naval Institute Proceedings, Dec 1987,
pps 12-14. A synopsis of General Gray's speech before the
Amphibious Warfare Board at Camp Pendleton in October, 1987.
Mustin, H.C., Vice Admiral, USN, "The Role of the Navy and
Marines in the Norwegian Sea", Naval War College Review, Mar/Apr
1986, pps 2-7. In this article, Admiral Mustin tells of the
importance of northen Norway to NATO defense and the prosecution
of a major war in Europe at sea, one can just as surely lose it
Potter, John Deane, Fiasco, Stein and Day, New York, 1970.
An absorbing description of the WW II German effort to protect
the Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau from British attack by
running through the English Chanel!
Powers, Robert C.,Commander, USN, "Over the Horizon with the
Cruise Missile", Naval Institute Proceedings, Feb 1979, pps
108-110. Like the title says, Commander Powers wrote of the use
of aircraft, including RPVs, to control the targeting of cruise
missiles at long range.
Puleston, W.D.,Captain, USN, The Dardanelles Expedition, The
U.S. Naval Institute, Annaponlis MD, 1926. An interesting and
opinionated account of the Gallipoli episode in which Capt.
Puleston lays the blame for the loss of the battle directly on
the Sea Lord, Mr. Winston Churchill. The last line of the book
is particularly funny, considering the time period of this book:
"It is doubtful if even Great Britain could survive another World
War and another Churchill."
Rogers, Michael E., Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, "Countering
Coastal Defense Cruise Missiles", Naval Institute Proceedings,
Sep 1987, pps 49-55. This is the article that started me going.
Once I saw Lieutenant Colonnel Roger's depiction of the threat of
modern land based antiship cruise missiles, I could see its
application as a mission for the Marine Corps.
Stein, Benson M.,1st Lieutenant, USMC, "The Defensive Naval
Campaign: an Appropriate Mission", Marine Corps Gazette, Oct
1983, pps 26-27. Lieutenant Stein uses this article to relate
the past missions of the Marine Corps, such as advanced naval
base defence, to the MAGTF concept. He emphasises the naval
heritage of our missions and is not enthusiastic about "trendy"
new missions for the MAGTF
Underwood, G.L. Lieutenant Commander, USCG, "Soviet Threat
to the Atlantic Sea Lines of Communication: Lessons Learned from
the German Capture of Norway in 1940", Naval War College Review,
May 1981, pps 43-47. Lieutenant Commander Underwood outlines the
advantages the Germans gained from holding the Norwegian coast
and the Danish Straits. He applies these lessons to our present
situation vis a vis the Soviets, determining that the Soviet
Northern and Baltic Fleet would most likely be responsible for
countering NATO naval units in th North Atlantic. He recommends
that well coordinated operations using naval, ground, and air
componets be used to counter the threat.
AAW AntiAir Warfare
ACE Air Combat Element; the aircraft portion of the
ASW Antisubmarine Warfare
CINC Commander in Chief
CSS Combat Service Support; The logistic support part
of the MAGTF.
CVBG (Aircraft) Carrier Battle Group
E-Boat German torpedo boat (WW II)
FLIR Forward-Looking Infrared Radar; A night vision
GCE Ground Combat Element; The maneuver/artillery
portion of the MAGTF.
JTF Joint Task Force; A force made up more than one
MAGTF Marine Air-Ground Task Force
PHM Patrol Hydrofoil Missile craft
RPV Remotely Piloted Vehicle; Also known as a drone.
SCA SLOC Control Area
SLOC Sea Line of CommunicaLion
SpetzNaz Soviet Special Forces (Commandos)
U-Boat German submarine (WW II)
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