MAGTF: Inefficient And Misunderstood AUTHOR Major Harry D. Persons, USMC CSC 1989 SUBJECT AREA - Operations EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE.: MAGTF: INEFFICIENT AND MISUNDERSTOOD THESIS: GCE Commanders are ill prepared to make aviation related decisions. The US Marine Corps has no formal school for the education of Marine ground officers that covers integration of the six functions of Marine Aviation into the MAGTF mission. Marine Corps doctrine calls for the G-3 of the GCE of a MAGTF to develop the courses of action for the MAGTF if it is a one GCE MAGTF. The ACE is relegated to doing staff estimates on the courses of action developed by the GCE G-3. A lack of understanding of Marine Corps Aviation capabilities has led to the assumption that the ACE is nothing more than a supporting arm for the GCE. The ACE should be considered a maneuver element of the MAGTF. It can delay, deceive, destroy and control. Only the missions of occupy and seize should be restricted for the GCE. Technological advances in aviation related weaponry occur continuously. Keeping up with the advances and modifying tactics is a full time job for aviation operators. For a ground officer to be schooled in aviation tactics and keep up with changes in hardware and tactics is impossible. SOLUTION: Recognize the ACE as a maneuver element of the MAGTF. This would force the MAGTF staff to develop the courses of action. All newly assigned MEF and MEB staff officers should attend a WTI class prior to assuming their positions on their staff. MAGTF: INEFFICIENT AND MISUNDERSTOOD OUTLINE Thesis Statement: GCE Commanders are ill prepared to make aviation related decisions. I. Ground officer training in efficient aviation utilization is minimal. A. Formal Schools B. On the Job training II. MAGTF Courses of Action are developed by the GCE Operations Officer. A. ACE allocates the number of sorties available to the GCE for the scheme of maneuver. B. ACE provides supportability input to the GCE Commander C. ACE is not given any authority in the formulation of the COA's, III. Intergration and efficient use of the six functions of Marine Aviation is poorly understood. A. Force multiplier aircraft. B. Multi-mission capable aircraft perform in several functional areas. C. Need for intergration of assets to maximize effectiveness, D. WTI Course exposure to the six functions. IV. Viet-Nam Mentality A. Marine Corps attitude is related to experience. B. Low surface to air/air to air threats of Viet-Nam has continued to dominate Marine Corps attitudes toward air utilization. V. Lessons Learned A. Top Gun B. Naval Strike Warfare Center VI. Threat Levels and Effect on GCE COA's A. Low B. Medium C. High VII. Options A. Educate the Ground Officers B. Change the Doctrine: Make the MAGTF G-3 responsible for developing the COA's with his staff. C. MEF and MEB staff members should be required to attend. the WTI execution phase. MAGTF: INEFFICIENT AND MISUNDERSTOOD The Marine Corps prides itself in being the only U.S. service organized as an air-ground team. The Marine Corps plans on deploying to combat areas as a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). Each MAGTF has a headquarters element, a ground combat element (GCE), an air combat element (ACE) and a combat service support element (CSSE). By doctrine the GCE commander "identifies, plans, establishes target priorities and coordinates the air attacks on both the first and second echelon targets in accordance with the ground scheme of maneuver."1 GCE commanders are ill prepared to make aviation related decisions. The GCE commander must have an understanding of the abilities and limitations of his supporting ACE in order to be successful and efficient. Currently the Marine Corps has no training exercise that incorperates all six functions of Marine aviation in conjunction with a manuvering GCE. Lip service is given to the problem at different levels of Marine education. All Marine Second Lieutenants attend The Basic School and receive a brief course on air capabilities. The small percentage of Marine Captains who are selected to attend Amphibious Warfare School receive another dose of aviation capabilities. Marine Majors who attend Command and Staff College concentrate on organizations and orders. Some attention is given to utilization of the ACE, however coordination of assets in order to maximize capabilities and minimize limitations is not taught to all students. On the job training is the only way for the average Marine ground officer to learn about coordination and limitations of the ACE, and only a handful of such billets are currently available. Marine Corps doctrine dictates that the GCE Operations Officer prepare courses of action for the MAGTF (in the case of a one GCE MAGTF),2 The allocation of numbers of sorties that the GCE can expect during the operation is furnished to the GCE Operationa Officer by the ACE prior to the developemnt of the courses of action. This is a "Bean Counter" approach to warfare. The GCE Operations Officer formulates his courses of action based upon numbers of sortiea available and he determinea how the sorties will be used. After the courses of action are formulated the ACE Commander is required to produce a staff estimate on the different courses of action. The ACE staff estimate does nothing more than point out which course of action is moat supportable from an aviation standpoint. By doctrine the ACE Commander is not included in the preparation of the courses of action, where his expertice could be used to insure maximum utilization of the assets, not just the numbers. In this day and age of multimillion dollar aircraft with multiple mission capabilities (force multipliers) and dynamic aviation tactics driven by technology and the threat, it is a travesty to relegate the ACE Commander to a position of staff officer to the GCE Commander. The six functions of Marine Air are: 1) Offensive Air Support, 2) Antiair Warfare, 3) Assault Support, 4) Air Reconnaisance, 5) Electronic Warfare, 6) Control of Aircraft and Missiles.3 The separation of responcibilities between each of the functions is impossible. If, for example, and F-18 is on an antiair warfare mission (flying over the battlefield on a combat air patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying enemy aircraft) and his controller redirects his F-18 to engage a ground target (offensive air support) he could attack the target if he had the proper type of ordnance on his F-18. The F-18 is one of the worlds finest fighter attack aircraft capable of multiple missions. The capabilities of the aircraft are kept confidential and in places difficult for the average ground officer to keep abreast of. The only place in the Marine Corps where MAGTF air assets are brought together for employment, with live ordance, against a surface and air threat is a MCAS Yuma, Arizona. At Yuma, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1(MAWTS 1) is responcible for teaching two Weapon Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course each year to representatives from the different functions of Marine Air. Those who attend the class receive classroom training on intergration of air assets, then they fight an air war with all the different types of aircraft, ordnance and radar associated with a MAGTF. The attendees to the WTI Course are the recipients of the only Marine Corp air integration course with a practical application. The graduates of the course (WTI's) are suppose to return to their squadrons where they will instruct their squardon-mates on the utilization of all the assets of Marine Air. Parts of the six functions may be practiced by squadrons, but there is no place in the Marine Corps where all functions can be employed against an air and surface threat in conjunction with a GCE. Few non-aviators realize that it takes most fixed wing aviators five or six years to gain the required experience necessary to be able to fly the demanding sorties at WTI without killing themselves. The WTI's are the only Marines who have experienced the "Big Picture" in the modern era; in them rest the real corperate knowledge of how the six functions of Marine Aviation fit together in a coordinated effort. It is a severe loss to the Corps that after graduating and instructing for two years, the required pay back time for attending WTI, many of the WTI's leave the service for civilian employment. As they walk out the door they take with them the valuable investment the Corps has made in them. More importantly they have little opportunity to interact and educate their ground officer contemporaries, The Marine Corps has been famous for fighting its last war over and over again. It is true we are creatures molded by experience; the problem may be we have not experienced a high tech enemy in our history. Is there an active duty Marine who has experienced the horror of being bombed? Air superiorty has become an expected tactical advantage by the GCE. It is not a law of science that when the Marines are on the ground the air above will only allow friendly aircraft to fly in it. The Viet Nam mentality still exists today for many ground officers when they say, "when I want air, you give me air." This attitude has been nurtured by the aviation side of the Marine Corps. By doctrine the ACE is responcible for formulating and executing the antiair warfare (air superiority) plan for the MAGTF. The antiair plan is formulated in the famous "Bean Counter" approach of how many of ours does it take to counter the number that we know the enemy has. After the "Bean Count" analysis has been achieved the ACE informs the GCE that the remainder of the air assets are available for GCE utilization. The GCE then compares his close air support requirements and interdiction requirements against his allocation of air sorties. If the GCE "Bean Count" is less than or eaual to the ACE "Bean Count" then the war proceeds. Why is the ACE relegated to counting beans and not an intergral part of the formulation of the courses of action? Aviation has always worked best when a sanctuary has been established for air operations over the battlefield (air superiority). Tremendous technological changes have occured in the surface to air threat since the Viet-Nam era, specifically surface-to air missiles and antiaircraft guns that are radar equipped for targeting. Do the Marine ground officers who are responsible for the formulation of MAGTF courses of action understand that aviation plays a dominant role in two of the three key elements of maneuver warfare? The first is the seeing of the battlefield, the second is the shaping of the battlefield, and the third is the maneuvering on the battlefield. How many Marine Ground officers are willing or able to plan for the ACE to perform the first two functions of maneuver warfare? The process is by no means simple, and in view of continually changing technolgical advances being made by our adversaries and our own forces, keeping up is a full time job. The US Navy was not satisfied with the performance of US Navy fighter pilots during the early portion of the Viet-Nam conflict. Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) was established at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California with the purpose of instructing fighter pilots on how to be efficient in the use of their weapons systems.4 Prior to the formation of Top Gun, the kill ratio for US Navy vs N Vietnamese fighter pilots was 2.5:1. Top gun graduates scored an impressive 10:1 kill ratio against N Vietnamese fighters. It should be noted that the US Air Force did not have a fighter wapons school during Viet-Nam and that their kill ratio remained about the same during the conflict. Both the U.S. Navy and Air Force fought against the same pilots and aircraft. Following the poorly executed US Navy air strike, in 1988, against surface to air weapons in the Bekaa Valley, the then Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, ordered the formation of Naval Strike Warfare Center (NSWC) at NAS Fallon, Nevada. The desired result of NSWC was similar to that of Top Gun, improve weapon system efficiency.5 At NWSC the emphasis is placed on integration of Carrier Air Ground assets against targets in different air threat scenarios. The results have been encouragin, the strike on Libya is an example. Capt Bob "Bubba" Brodsky, Commanding Officer of NSWC, recently commented. Tactical warfare today has entered a new era. It has became increasingly complex--the days of just strapping on an airplane and driving off to move mud, drop bombs on the bad guys, are gone forever....Lebanon taught us a painful lesson. 6 The US Navy saw a need to improve training for its pilots after experienceing unsatifactory results both fighter and attack. The US Marine Corps need not experience an unsatisfactory event to realize a major problem exists with MAGTF planning. Much of the current military mental gymnastic energy is applied to catagorizing war on the spectrum of conflict. Low intencity conflict (LIC) is characterized by a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war. Four examples are: insurgency-counterinsurgency, terrorism counteraction, peacekeeping, and peacetime contingency operations.7 The conflict spectrum continues up through high intencity conflict (HIC) which is the unrestricted use of military power by the belligerents.8 Completely seperate from the spectrum of conflict is the air threat spectrum which also runs from low to high. Low air threat is characterized by surface to air weapons of 25mm or smaller, medium air threat by radar guided AAA (anti-air artillary) and IR (infrared) SAM's (surface to air missiles), high air threat by radar guided AAA radar and IR SAM's, and aircraft. A dangerous situation may exist when assuming that a low level of conflict will have a corresponding low air threat level. Many Russian pilots can testify that the LIC in Afghanistan was not a low air threat senario. The Afghanistan rebel aquisition and use of the US made Stinger IR surface- to-air missile moved the air threat into the mid level. The lessons learned by the Russians were expensive prior to making adjustments to the air threat level. US Navy and Air Force tacticians, when planning the strike against Lybia in 1988, may or may not have been aware that the strike was executed in a LIC, terrorism counteraction, and that they in fact faced a high air threat level, an integrated air defence of SAM's, AAA and aircraft. Even if the most likely scenario for the employment of U.S Marines is a low intensity conflict there is no guarantee that a corresponding low air threat level will exist. In fact more and more countries and insurgents now have access to man portable surface-to-air missiles. The US Marine Corps has only one formal school which teachew employment of the six functions of Marine aviation against differing levels of air threat and how each level effects tactics and weapons delivery. That school is the WTI Course taught by MAWTS-1, however, no actual ground combat element is involved. It is somewhat ironic that the individual who will draw up the MAGTF courses of action and who will depend upon Marine Air for fire power has had little training in air integration. The Commandant of the Marine Corps has stated that the Marine Corps will deploy as MEB's (Marine Expeditionary Brigades) and employ as MEF's (Marine Expeditionary Forces); both of these organizations contain all six functions of Marine Aviation. Technical advancements in friendly and enemy aviation capabilities, whether air-to-air, surface-to-air, air-to-ground or command and control, are changing continuesly. Keeping up with advancements and designing tactics to optimize capabilities is a full time job for aviation operators. For a GCE Commander or his G-3 to be aware of every neoteric advance in aviation and how it will effect the battle would require an officer of immense knowledge combined with a willingness and ability to keep up with changes. The staff planning for both the MEB and the MEF should be conducted at the operational level of war. The operational level of war "involves fundamental decisions about when and where to fight and whether to accept or decline battle. It requires broad vision, ability to anticipate, a careful understanding of the relationship of means to ends, and effective joint and combined operations."9 By definition the operational level of war is "executed at the MAGTF level or higher."10 The beat staff to determine the "when and where" and also weigh "means and ends" of the MAGTF is not the GCE Staff. The GCE Staff lacks the training and exposure to aviation integration and capabilities. Neither the MEB GCE nor the MEF GCE Staffs contain sufficient aviation officers to provide adequate insight into aviation considerations. Is there a Regimental Air Officer, the aviation staff officer for a MEB GCE, who can explain to the GCE G-3 that the six functions of Marine Aviation available to the MEG should make the ACE the Focus of Effort for the MAGTF in certain senarios? The doctrine of having the GCE G-3 develop the courses of action is an ipso facto agreement by the Marine Corps that the GCE will be the Focus of Effort. MajGen Dailey recognized the lack of integration when he wrote: We fail to force the issue durinf planning and excuting variuous exercises... the exercises objectives do not call for the advanced level of aviation play....the overriding reason for the failure to use air decisively is that exercises are designed for the ground Marines' benefit with little concern for aviation training objectives... How many exercises include proper employment of tactical aviation as a major consideration of the exercise objectives? How many include aviation as the point of main effort (now called focus of effort)? How many times has aviation been used to turn the tide of battle?.. This is an area that offers tremendous potential for us to improve our combat effectiveness. If the exercises limitations don't permit execution, then at least the intellectual consideration of possibilities will create an awareness of the capabilities and make them part of our normal approach in considering tactical options.11 The Marine Corps will be stuck in the quagmire of WW II thinking until it realizes that the ACE is not only a supporting arm but a maneuver element capable of accomplishing all the missions assigned to the GCE except for those of seizing and occuping. The ACE can delay, deceive, destroy and somewhat control. If the Marine Corps is willing to admit that the ACE is a maneuver element of the MAGTF that alone will would be the doctrinal change required to get the MAGTF Staff to develop the curses of action. Current doctrine states if there is more than one maneuver element in a MAGTF that the MAGTF Staff will develop the courses of action. The MAGTF Staff should be able to be more objective in the deciding of "when and where" and also weighing "means and ends." The ipso facto rule of making the GCE the focus of effort would be done away with and the MAGTF staff could weigh the abilities of each maneuver element to perform specific missions in order to acccomplish the MAGTF mission. The changing of the status of the ACE from a supporting arm to that of a maneuver element should not be interpreted as the infamous tail trying to wag the dog, but rather a necessary step required to more efficiently employ the MAGTF. All MEB and MEF Staff members should be required to attend the execution phase of a WTI Course prior to assuming responcibilities on their staffs. The knowledge gained and the exposure to aviation capabilities and weaknesses will undoubtedly pay dividends in the future. FOOTNOTES 1MCDEC, USMC, Tasking USMC Fixed-Wing Tactical Aviation, OH 5-3 (Quantico, 1982), p. 1-3. 2MCCDC, USMC, Introduction to Amphibious Operations,CC 2100 (Quantico, 1988), p. 1-SO-2b. 3MCDEC, USMC, Marine Aviation, FMFM 5-1 (Quantico, 1979), pp. 5-8. 4John Joss, Strike: US Naval Strike Warfare Center (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1989), p. 31. 5Joss, p. 27. 6Joss, p. 31. 7MCCDC, USMC, Ground Combat Operations, OH 6-1 (Quantico, 1988) pp. 2-6/2-7. 8Ground Combat Operations, p. 2-6. 9Ground Combat Operations, p. 2-4. 10Ground Combat Operations, p. 2-4. 11"Air Issues Reviewed," Marine Corps Gazette (February 1989), P. 24.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|