Naval Gunfire Support Through The 21st Century CSC 1993 SUBJECT AREA - Artillery EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Title: NAVAL GUNFIRE SUPPORT THROUGH THE 21ST CENTURY. Author: Major Robert E. Hellar CG #2 Thesis: There remains a need for naval gunfire, and the Iowa class battleships are ready and able to fill the need through the 21st century. Background: As the soviet threat disappears, the United States Navy has adopted a strategy called "FROM THE SEA. This strategy calls for a shift in priorities from blue water to littoral operations and amphibious support. However, the recent decommissioning of the battleship fleet has left the navy without adequate naval gunfire support. While air-power has proven to be a formidable supporting arm, there still exist a need for naval gunfire. Technological developements have greatly improved the effectiveness of the battleships. Naval plans are to develope a naval gunfire alternative to the battleship. The cost of these programs is estimated at 1 billion dollars or more, and may not be available until the turn of the century. World events may not wait until the year 2000. The Iowa class battleships are ready and able to to fill the naval gunfire support role through the 21st century. Recommendation: Recommision the Iowa class battleships, to provide naval gunfire support until a suitable replacement is developed. Naval Gunfire Support Through The 21st Century OUTLINE Thesis: Todays naval gunfire capability is inadequate to effectively support amphibious assaults. There remains a need for naval gunfire, and the Iowa class battleship is ready and able to fill this need through the 21st century. I. Effect of "From the Sea" on navy strategy. A. Shifted emphasis from blue water to litorals. B. Mothballed entire battleship fleet. II. Historical role of naval gunfire. A. Tarawa. B. Iwo Jima. C. Okinawa. D. Desert Storm. III. Future role of naval gunfire. A. Low intensity conflict. B. Rapid response forces. IV. Airpower versus naval gunfire. A. Capabilities of air power. B. Limitations of air power. C. Advantages of naval gunfire. V. Naval gunfire today. A. View of Admiral La Plante. B. Capabilities of the Iowa class battleships. C. Technological Advancements. D. Replacement systems. 1. Cost. 2. Time to field system. NAVAL GUNFIRE SUPPORT THROUGH THE 21ST CENTURY The downfall of the Soviet Union, and the demise of its formidable naval capabilities, has rendered the United States blue water navy obsolete.(2:16) The United States Navy has adopted a strategy called "from the sea." This strategy calls for a shift in priorities from blue water operations to brown water or littoral operations and amphibious support. However, while the emphasis has shifted toward amphibious support, the entire battleship fleet has been mothballed. Today's naval gunfire capability is inadequate to effectively support amphibious assaults. Without the battleship, we are left with naval gunfire support that can offer no more than a five-inch gun to support amphibious operations. There remains a need for naval gunfire, and the Iowa class battleship is ready and able to fill this need through the 21st century. General Boomer, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, addressed the Command and Staff College in November of 1992. He stated that he was deeply concerned that our naval gunfire capability has become almost nonexistent. He recommends maintaining the battleship fleet, or replacing that capability with a suitable alternative to naval gunfire such as ATACM ship-to-shore missile systems.(1) During World War II, one of the lessons learned was the need for long term, sustained, preassault bombardments, prior to conducting amphibious assaults. At the battle for Tarawa, the Navy shelled the island for 4 hours, using carrier aircraft and seventeen fire support ships.(6) When the Marines began the assault, they found that the four hours of bombardment had little effect upon the enemy defences. In preparation for the attack on Iwo Jima. Naval gunfire shelled the island for 3 days. These fires were able to destroy numerous gun positions, but three days of fire was insufficient to adequately soften enemy resistance. By the time the war in the pacific had reached Okinawa, the need for long-term, preassault bombardment had been realized. The united States Navy began sending aircraft carriers to attack Okinawa, almost six months prior to beginning the amphibious assault. By the time the battle for Okinawa was complete, the navy had fired in excess of 700,000 rounds of 5-inch or larger munitions. On d-day alone, in the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever delivered in support of landing troops, 3,800 tons of naval gunfire shells from battleships, cruisers, and destroyers, exploded ashore. During the battle "at least one call fire ship...was assigned to each front line regiment during most of the campaign, and on occasion...each assault battalion had a destroyer on call." Naval gunfire was critical to successfully conducting amphibious assaults in the Pacific.(4) Naval gunfire recently played a critical role again in our defense. During Desert Storm, the first shots of the war were sea launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. Joint Pub 1 titled "Joint Warfare of the Armed forces, states that in Desert Storm "USCENTCOM launched sustained operations on land...Supporting these attacks were naval gunfire and an extraordinary focused application of air power."(7:66) Even in a large scale land campaign such as Desert Storm, naval gunfire played a significant role. With low intensity conflict and threats from third world nations on the rise, the need for naval gunfire will increase. According to reliable sources, there were 32 bona fide wars in progress throughout the world during 1990. With the further erosion of Soviet leadership and the absence of their stabilizing influence, we can expect these low intensity conflicts to persist. Traditionally, the United States' response to low intensity conflict has been to send in rapid response forces such as either the Marine Amphibious forces or army airborne forces. Rapid response forces are organized and equipped to be light and mobile, relying on supporting arms to provide the needed firepower. Without naval gunfire, the only supporting arm available is airpower. The Gulf war proved that todays aircraft are more accurate and more lethal, at delivering close air support, than aircraft of the past. Todays guided munitions, or smart bombs, have made battlefield air interdiction and close air support both accurate and cost effective. If we are able to maintain air superiority, the use of close air support will be able to fill the gap created by retiring the battleships. As Anti-air and Anti-missile defense systems continue to improve, and as they become more widely distributed, they make air interdiction more difficult. While no one advocates replacing air power with naval gunfire, there are times when naval gunfire provides capabilities that air power alone cannot. The advantages of naval gunfire are that it is self-deployable and does not require host nation support or permission. Naval gunfire is not weather-dependent and can operate effectively in fog, snow. freezing rain, and thunderstorms. While anti-air defenses continue to become more lethal, there is still no defense against naval gunfire once it has been fired. Admiral La Plante served as commander task force 156/amphibious group two, during desert shield/desert storm. In a recent interview with Naval proceedings. He was asked, How important will Naval gunfire be in the future, and what is the alternative to the battleship for naval gunfire support? He said "It's immensely important when we're talking about a world of littoral vice blue water naval warfare....The solution is long-term. We wouldn't field anything until very late in the decade, if not early next century. In the meantime, I think the marines should embrace a technique used in Desert Storm, and that is the fire base concept. They lifted 155 howitzers ashore externally, flew in, dropped the crews....and in a very short time had rounds going down range. It was an artillery raid. That's not as reactive or as agile, certainly, as naval gunfire. But it is an interim solution that makes sense." (5:2) The reason, the Marine Corps depends so heavily upon our air power, is that we travel light with limited tank and artillery support. To take what limited artillery we have, and use it as land based naval gunfire makes no sense at all. Furthermore, artillery is the largest consumer of supplies ashore. Nothing requires more logistics support, than an artillery battalion which is engaged in battle. To attempt to supply them by helicopter, severely degrades the amphibious task forces ability to move assault waves ashore and sustain them. An artillery raid may have been the solution in Desert Storm, but this is not the answer to our naval gunfire shortages. While we wait until the next century to constitute a realistic alternative to the Battleship, the world political situation becomes increasingly more dangerous. Fighting continues to escalate throughout the former Yugoslavia. Tension in the mideast continues to rise, particularly between the Isreali's and palestinians. Economic conditions in Russia are strained, causing political turmoil which threatens not only Boris Yeltsin but russian democratic rule itself. North Korea continues to threaten South Korea. Combine this with North Koreans economic problems, and many experts believe the possibility for war in the Korean peninsula is imminent. Some believe that korea will not wait until the 21st century, but will more likely go to war in 1995 or 1996. The Iowa class battleship is unequal led in its ability to provide naval gunfire support. Their 16-inch guns are the world's biggest and can provide tremendous fire power. The battleships are constructed like no other ship in todays navy. With extensive armor plating along their sides and waterline, and thick layers of high tensile steel along their entire deck, they are almost invulnerable to conventional munitions.(8:3) This armor allows the battleship to remain close to amphibious assaults, or to move in close to hostile shores as a show of force. Technological developments have added to the effectiveness of the battleship. Remotely piloted vehicles now allow unmanned over-the-horizon observation of the target. This, combined with improved guidance techniques, allow for greater accuracies at greater distances and real-time bomb damage assessments. The developements of SABOT rounds and rocket-assisted rounds have increased ranges significantly.(9:2) The battleship is a versatile platform that with minor modifications could become an even more formidable ship. The elimination of the six secondary batteries consisting of 5-inch 38 caliber gun mounts, could reduce the ships crew by about 330 men. This space could then be filled with approximately 25 missiles per gun mount. These could be additional Tomahawk cruise missiles, or they could be a patriot style missile to provide anti-tactical ballistic missile protection to amphibious assaults.(9:3) These missiles could be linked directly to weapons control systems aboard other ships in an assault force. The reason the battleships have been mothballed is the shrinking defense budget. The navy is presently seeking a weapon system, or combination of weapons systems, to replace the capability lost with the retirement of the battleship. These systems include electrothermal guns. ATACM missiles systems, and a new five-inch gun. Initial estimates run from between $800 million to $1 billion dollars. With precision guided munitions the cost increases. Few experts believe that any of these weapons will be available to the fleet before the year two thousand. The shift from blue water operations to littoral operations is sound. The ability to support amphibious assaults has been seriously weakened by the loss of adequate naval gun fire. Air power has proven to be a lethal supporting arm, but the need for naval gunfire still exists. While several programs are under developement, the worlds conflicts may not wait until the year two thousand. The recently mothballed Iowa class battleships are still the world's most versatile, and the world's most powerful, naval-gunfire support ships. The battleships are ready and able to fill the naval gunfire role through the 21st century. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Boomer, General. Briefing. Command and Staff College. November 1992. 2. Cheney, Dick. Annual report to the President and Congress. January 1992: 16 3. Cheney, Dick. Annual report to the President and Congress. January 1993. 4. Isely, J.A. and Crowl P.A_."The U. S. Marines and Amphibious War." Princeton University press, 1951. 5. La Plante, Rear Admiral J.B. "The Path Ahead for 'Gators and Marines." Interview with Proceedings. November 1992. 6. Millet, Allen. Semper Fidelis, "The History of the United States Marine Corps," MacMillian Publishing, 1981. 7. Powell, General Colin L. Joint Warfare of the U.S. Armed Forces. 11 November 1991. 8. Selle, Cmdr. R.W. "Out with the Bath Water, Out With the Baby? Save All Four Battleships. Marine Corps Gazzette March 1992. 9. Selle, Cmdr. Robert W. "The Best kept Secret in Pentagon Room 4E-686." Naval Institute proceedings. November 1992.
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