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". . . From The Sea:"  Future Role Of The F/A-18 In The Marine Air-Ground Team
CSC 1993
                       EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:  ". . . From The Sea:"  Future Role of the F/A-18 in the
Marine Air-Ground Team
Author:  Major W. J. Miles, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  Marine Corps fixed-wing aviation, specifically the
F/A-l8 Hornet community, will experience fundamental changes in
its ability to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF)
as Marine strike-fighter squadrons adapt to the future naval
concept of operating from the sea.
Background:   Dramatic changes in the world are forcing the
United States to reevaluate its national security strategy.
Downsizing Navy and Marine Corps force structure is the logical
step to maintain consistency with a national security policy that
reflects more emphasis on regional security requirements.  The
Department of the Navy's white paper ". . . From The Sea" defines
the future of naval operations in terms of littoral operations
projecting combat power, shifting from open ocean warfare to
joint operations, from the sea.  The MAGTF and its organic F/A-18
aviation assets combine strategic mobility and diversity with
independent operational capability.  The Marine F/A-18 community,
with its expeditionary and flexible character is a vital
component to the Marine Air-Ground team and integral to
projecting power from the sea.  Ultimately, changes in force
structure, organization, and training requirements associated
with the integration of Marine F/A-18s into carrier air wings,
will affect Marine aviation's ability to support the Marine
Air-Ground Task Force.
Recommendations:  The Navy and Marine Corps must carefully
consider the ". . . From The Sea" concept as they restructure the
forces to maintain the combat capabilities of a future naval
expeditionary force composed of elements of the Navy and Marine
Corps team.
             ". . . FROM THE SEA:"  FUTURE ROLE OF
Thesis:   Marine Corps fixed-wing aviation, specifically the F/A-
18 Hornet community will experience fundamental changes in its
ability to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) as
Marine strike-fighter squadrons adapt to the future naval concept
of operating from the sea.
I.   ". . . From The Sea"
     A.   Historical background
     B.   Concept of littoral operations
II.  Marine Aviation Capabilities
     A.   Strategic mobility
     B.   Strategic diversity
     C.   Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) relationship
III. Advantages
     A.   Smaller force structure
     B.   Retained capabilities
     C.   Combined forward presence with expeditionary
     D.   F/A-18 integration
IV.  Assumptions
     A.   United States commands the seas
     B.   Future joint/combined operations
V.   Disadvantages
     A.   Historical carrier littoral operations
     B.   Hollow force
     C.   U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt adaptive force planning
VI.  F/A-18 Tactical Considerations
     A.   Navy air wing integration
     B.   Training
          1.   Carrier work-up
          2.   Individual training vs block training
          3.   Training officers
VII. Conclusion
     A.   Decreased training and readiness
     B.   MAGTF viability
     C.   ". . . From The Sea" a beginning
           ". . . FROM THE SEA:" FUTURE ROLE OF THE
     Dramatic changes in the world are forcing the United States
to reevaluate its national security strategy.  The apparent fall
of the Soviet Union and with it, the demise of worldwide
communist competition, places a higher priority on restructuring
U.S. military forces.  Downsizing the force makes sense and is
consistent with a national security policy that reflects more
emphasis on regional security requirements and less emphasis on
challenging a non-existent global threat.
     At the same time, domestic challenges in the U.S. consisting
of fiscal austerity, education, drug abuse, and the reality of a
new political party in the White House places pressure on our
military leaders to "cut the fat."  We must shape our forces to
meet the challenges of an unstable world with regional focus, not
solely by downsizing, but by restructuring U.S. military forces
without losing capability. (1:1-2)  The restructuring of U.S.
military forces will significantly affect the way the Navy and
Marine Corps operate and define their future roles and missions.
Emphasis on joint operations will be a key factor in the success
of implementing combat power from the sea.
     Marine Corps fixed-wing aviation will be no exception.
Fundamental changes being implemented will affect the way Marine
pilots train and execute their missions.  An increased emphasis
on carrier operations is a reality and will influence the way
Marine aviators do business, just as it influences Navy pilots
who consistently operate at sea.  Marine Corps fixed-wing
aviation, specifically the F/A-18 Hornet community, will
experience fundamental changes in its ability to support the
Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) as Marine strike-fighter
squadrons adapt to the future naval concept of operating from the
      ". . . From The Sea" is the U.S. Navy's and Marine Corps'
conceptual answer to the challenges of a changing global and
domestic environment.  Lieutenant Colonel Alan P. Heim, USMC,
writes in a December 1992 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings
entitled ". . . From The Sea: Steady as She Goes."
          ". . . From The Sea" is an effort to change the
     course of naval strategy, articulating the role of the
     naval services in the new, uncertain security
     environment.  It returns naval focus to their
     expeditionary environment.  They will be organized,
     trained, and equipped to exert a positive influence on
     global events in peacetime, and to project power, as a
     key component of a joint and combined team during
     The key elements of Lieutenant Colonel Heim's observation
are the organization, training and equipment of Navy and Marine
forces.  These elements will influence the U.S. Naval forces
ability to execute a national security strategy of forward
presence and crisis response.  Consequently, the ability of
Marine fixed-wing aviation to complement the MAGTF and enable the
Marine air-ground team to accomplish its mission will also be
influenced.  Questions concerning future F/A-18 fixed-wing
organization, training requirements, aircraft, and associated
weapons systems must be answered.
     The concept, based on littoral operations, is the result of
unchallenged control of the high seas.  The decline of the Soviet
Navy allows naval strategists to concentrate on the more complex
littoral areas of the world, shifting from open ocean warfare to
joint operations, from the sea. (1:1)
     Littoral operations bring unique requirements to the Navy
and Marine Corps team.  The Navy must shift from a mindset of a
blue water navy.  The Marine Corps must realize that the basic
expeditionary nature of its forces will remain the same, but the
structure of those forces and the deployment requirements placed
on them will see change as the Marine Corps redefines its roles
and missions.  The Navy and Marine Corps are no longer separate
components coming together to occasionally execute amphibious
operations.  Instead, both services will work together, jointly,
forming a Naval Expeditionary Force ready to meet challenges in
every region of the world.  Marine Corps fixed-wing F/A-18
Hornets are an integral part of the ". . . From The Sea" concept.
     Understanding Marine aviation capabilities and its
contribution to our national security is critical when debate
focuses on downsizing and redefining roles and missions.  Marine
aviation enhances national security by providing strategic
mobility to the MAGTF. (8:par 3005C(1))  The unique expeditionary
character of Marine aviation allows for quick crisis response to
various regional areas.  Marine pilots train as naval aviators
and qualify to operate from shipboard platforms.  The ability to
operate from the deck of a carrier gives the Navy and Marine
Corps team flexibility with respect to its role as a component of
the MAGTF concept or a supplement to the carrier air wing.  The
F/A-18's multi-role capability lends itself to both joint and
combined operations in any theater.  Marine aviation's
contribution of strategic mobility to the MAGTF enhances U.S.
national security and complements the concept of projecting
combat power from the sea.
     Strategic diversity will be integral to the ". . . From The
Sea" concept. (8:par 3005C(2))  The Navy and Marine Corps white
paper defines the new direction of the Navy and Marine Corps
team.  The team will provide naval expeditionary forces that
operate from the sea.  These forces will be shaped for joint
operations and tailored for national needs. (1:2)  Marine
aviation units, regardless of mission, tailor themselves to
respond to any particular military situation.  Task organizing to
respond to various mission requirements is a fundamental
character of Marine aviation.  Integrated training with Marine
ground organizations facilitates the team concept between all
aviation units and Marines on the ground.  An intense individual
training approach, especially in the F/A-18 community, produces
weapons and air combat tactics experts capable of operating in
any geographical area and responding to any threat situation.
Lastly, forward deployed aviation units provide worldwide
regional expertise and forward presence.  The strategic diversity
of the Marine F/A-18 community and its ability to tailor itself
to respond to changing military situations, integrate as a team
with ground units, provide itself with tactical experts with its
own intense individual training, and routinely deploy to forward
locations, makes the Marine strike-fighter community a logical
component to the ". . . From The Sea" concept.
     Understanding the unique relationship of Marine aviation to
the overall MAGTF concept is prerequisite to comprehending the
MAGTF's contribution to national security.  Marine aviation is a
critical element which allows the MAGTF to operate independently.
(8:par3005C(3))  Marine aviation gives the MAGTF the capability
of fighting as a self-contained force able to respond to any
national security crisis.  The MAGTF commander can use his
aviation component to project power and shape the battlefield.
MAGTF's with their unique self-contained aviation capability, may
operate independently in all airborne assault phases.  Finally,
Marine aviation provides flexibility to the fleet/theater
commander so that he may employ the MAGTF independently as an
integrated joint or combined force.  Marine aviation as part of
the MAGTF is vital to the existence of the Marine Air-Ground
team.  The importance of Marine ground forces is unquestionable
with respect to maintaining a Marine Corps.  Just as evident is
the importance to maintain Marine aviation organic to the Marine
Corps to facilitate the MAGTF.
     ". . . From The Sea" requires naval expeditionary forces
that can maintain forward presence and respond to regional
crises.  The MAGTF and its organic F/A-18 aviation assets combine
strategic mobility and diversity with independent operational
capability.  The Marine F/A-18 community, with its expeditionary
and flexible character, is a vital component to the Marine Air-
Ground team and integral to projecting power from the sea.
     There are several advantages to gain from adopting the
concept ". . . From The Sea."  Fiscal realities will require a
smaller force structure and ". . . From The Sea" lays the
groundwork for a new focus.  Smaller force structure will require
that naval expeditionary forces to maintain capabilities in
keeping with a new national security strategy.  The focus will be
on ways to tailor U.S. Naval forces to be efficient and
responsive to U.S. security needs.  The document lays the
foundation so that the Navy and Marine Corps can direct doctrine
and establish force structure. ". . . From The Sea" is the
blueprint for fundamental changes in the way the Navy will
approach warfare.
     The concept of power from the sea illustrates the Navy's
responsiveness to a changing world and at the same time serves to
justify the continued existence of Naval forces, specifically
Naval aviation and aircraft carriers.  Tough realities exist for
Navy planners that may include less carrier air wings and
aircraft.  How will the Navy justify its force structure or make
up for potential losses in assets?  ". . . From The Sea" allows
the Navy to take advantage of the obvious forward presence of
deployed fleets and combine that with the expeditionary nature of
the MAGTF.  The Navy sees an opportunity to use Marine Corps
aviation assets, specifically the F/A-18, while it downsizes its
own forces.  ". . . From The Sea" solidifies the Navy and Marine
Corps team into a capable and responsive naval expeditionary
force.  With integrated Navy and Marine Corps carrier air wings,
". . . From The Sea" implies that Marines on the ground will have
all the aviation assets they require.
     The concept of littoral operations makes two assumptions.
The first suggests the United States commands the seas.  The
decline of the Soviet Navy into fragments of non-operational
fleets commanded by leaders of Russia and the Ukraine suggests
sea-power dominance by the U.S. Navy is one result of winning the
Cold War.  This assumption has some strategists believing that
blue water operations are gone forever.  Such a belief may be
presumptuous.  A drastic change in doctrine, adopting littoral
operations as the only future of naval warfare, may leave the
U.S. with a force structure ill-prepared to face the resurgence
of a global threat Navy.
     Second, ". . . From The Sea" emphasizes joint operations as
if to suggest that all future operations will be joint or
combined in nature.  Although joint operations consistently prove
their worth, the concept carries a price.  The potential cost
lies with losing the capability to function as independent
warfighting units, a historic strength of naval forces and the
     To assume that the ". . . From The Sea" concept of littoral
warfare will ensure uninterrupted aviation support for the
Marines on the ground is questionable to say the least.
Historical examples such as Guadalcanal, and most recently the
Navy's initial reluctance to operate carriers in the Persian Gulf
to support Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations, sends a
signal that a fundamental mind set change on the part of the Navy
must take place. (11:274-278)  The Navy proved that aircraft
carriers can operate in littoral regions, but it is extremely
premature to assume that the Navy is willing to sacrifice a
carrier or its air wing to support the MAGTF.  When the threat
environment is high and the tactical situation requires the
carrier to withdraw to the safety of blue water, what will happen
to the Marines' air support?  Is the carrier willing to send its
aircraft to the beach and steam away-with an open deck?  These
questions seek answers that define the future viability of the
     Downsizing and an emphasis on littoral operations may lead
to a hollow force.  Some will suggest that the Marine F/A-18
community should be absorbed into the Navy.  To separate the air
component from the MAGTF will render the Marine Corps ground
element impotent.  A Marine Corps without aviation questions the
need to have another light infantry force that is less capable
than the Marine Corps' counterpart in ground warfare, the Army.
The U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, with its special purpose MAGTF,
currently steams to the Mediterranean with too few Marines to
really make a significant tactical difference.  The price to pay
takes the form of one less S-3 and F-14 squadron each, making the
carrier itself less capable of conducting its mission.  The
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt also takes with her a Marine F/A-18
Hornet squadron to illustrate full Navy and Marine Corps aviation
integration.  This exercise in adaptive force planning deploys
two elements of the Navy and Marine Corps team that have less
capability than either of the two elements when deployed
separately.  Efforts to show that the Navy and Marine Corps can
accomplish more with less, combined with budget realities (the
real driving force to future force structure), may give
strategists a naval expeditionary force that is ill-equipped,
undermanned, and lacking the mind set to conduct war at or from
the sea. (9:47)
     Tactically, what effect will increased shipboard operations
have on the Marine F/A-18 community and its ability to support
the MAGTF concept?  Post-Cold War era realities and a concept
that advocates power from the sea will find Marine F/A-18 strike-
fighter squadrons on board Navy carriers with increasing
frequency.  Integration into the carrier air wing will present
the ultimate training challenge to Marine aviation:  landing
aboard a Navy carrier.  At the same time, Marine officers will
experience inherent training problems associated with shipboard
     Marine Corps aviation training, which includes the Air
Combat Tactics Instructor (ACTI) qualification produces strike-
fighter aviators who are tactically more proficient than their
Navy counterparts (Navy Fighter Weapons School [TOPGUN] opinion
that compares Navy and Marine Corps aviators with similar
operational flight time).  The difference in pilot proficiency
results from training.  Shipboard operations drive the Navy's
training matrix.  The more time a Marine F/A-18 squadron spends
attached to a sea going air wing, the less time to train the
individual pilot.  As the Navy and Marine Corps reshape their
forces for the post-Cold War era, Marine Corps F/A-18 strike-
fighter pilots will see increased integration into carrier air
wings.  Increased integration of Marine Corps tactical aviation
into carrier air wings will have an inherently detrimental effect
on Marine fixed-wing aviation training and readiness.  A decrease
in training and readiness levels will ultimately affect a
squadron's ability to fully support the MAGTF and in turn, affect
the MAGTF's ability to support U.S. national security strategy.
     When a squadron comes under the operational control of the
carrier air wing, an intense work-up period begins.  Pilots spend
any hours conducting field carrier landing practice.  These
"bounce periods" are flown mostly at night and constitute a
considerable number of the available training sorties.  Factors
such as crew rest and field availability will limit the amount of
tactical training that a squadron training officer can
accomplish.  The 2-to 3-week work-up evolution will culminate in
initial day/night qualifications.  Once the air wing qualifies, a
series of at-sea periods begin.  These periods last from just a
few days to 1 or 2 months, culminating in a 5-to 7-month
deployment.  Typically, training and readiness levels begin to
decline from the beginning of work-ups through the deployment
     Navy fighter squadrons, long accustomed to the demands of
shipboard operations, invest heavily in the squadron training
officer.  TOPGUN graduates will form the core of a typical
fighter squadron's training program.  Unfortunately, shipboard
commitments supersede the training officers capability to
increase tactical proficiency.  Availability of aircraft and
parts, coupled with air wing training requirements while shore-
based, compounds the training officer's ability to execute the
training matrix.  Therefore, individual pilot training will give
way to a block training approach.  Block training allows the
squadron to train as a unit rather than concentrate on the
individual pilot.  In theory, the block training approach
enhances a training officer's ability to take advantage of
limited training time and available assets.  Block training helps
a squadron become fully combat qualified.  Unfortunately, the
block training approach is designed for meeting the minimum
acceptable standards.  These minimum standards fall short of the
readiness levels that typical Marine fighter-attack squadrons
strive to attain.  The discrepancy results from Marine squadrons
historically spending less time on board ships and having more
time to devote to individual training.  As Marine F/A-18
squadrons become more integrated into carrier air wings, training
officers will have fewer opportunities to rely on individual
pilot training for maintaining tactical proficiency.
     Typical carrier launch and recovery cycles do not facilitate
quality training.  Fuel becomes the critical factor that dictates
what the crew can accomplish before the recovery cycle begins.
External fuel tanks will increase the fuel available, but the
extra drag associated with these tanks makes air combat training
unrealistic.  (Fuel tanks will normally be jettisoned in an
actual dogfight.)  Carrying extra fuel tanks also results in
airframe restrictions that inhibit the pilot's ability to fully
maneuver his aircraft.  Shipboard launch and recovery cycles do
not allow aviators to fly their aircraft to its maneuvering
limits.  The result is a decrease in air combat skills.
     The same problem exists for the air to ground capable
aircraft aboard ship.  Downsizing the naval force will find fewer
guns available for Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS), therefore the
training emphasis must be on Close Air Support (CAS).  Marine
Corps aviation prides itself on being the experts of CAS.
Increased operations in littoral areas and power projection from
the sea requires even more proficiency in CAS for both Navy and
Marine Corps pilots.
     Lastly, the basis that forms the training core of the
typical Navy and Marine Corps squadron is the training officer.
In Navy squadrons, training officers are typically TOPGUN
graduates.  Marine F/A-18 squadrons pattern their training around
a training officer that is TOPGUN, Weapons and Tactics Instructor
(WTI), and ACTI qualified.  The training officer cannot train the
squadron alone.  Both Navy and Marine Corps training officers
rely extensively on TOPGUN and ACTI graduates to administer the
training program.  Typical shore-based Marine F/A-18 squadrons
receive one TOPGUN quota or one WTI quota or both every 12
months.  Navy squadrons, because of shipboard rotations, receive
one TOPGUN quota every 18 months.  Increased Marine F/A-18
shipboard integration will increase the time between available
advanced tactical training quotas.  Increased time between
available quotas will make it increasingly difficult to maintain
the training base that most Marine fighter-attack squadrons have
become accustomed to having available.  The result will be less
emphasis on individual training.  The loss of training expertise
will manifest itself in an overall decrease in the training and
readiness of Marine strike-fighter squadrons and ultimately
influence the MAGTF's ability to fully project power from the
     Decreased training and readiness of Marine F/A-18 squadrons
will be detrimental to the MAGTF concept.  If Marine aviation can
no longer accomplish the mission, another service may fill the
void.  Potential integration of Marine F/A-18 Hornets into the
Navy will separate the air from the MAGTF leaving only a Marine
ground element with its associated combat service support with no
airborne supporting arm.  The true MAGTF will no longer exist.
The Navy and Marine Corps must take care as they pursue the
". . . From The Sea" concept to not restructure the forces in a
way that will lessen the combat capability of a future naval
expeditionary force composed of elements of the Navy and Marine
Corps team.
     ". . . From The Sea" represents a beginning.  Careful
attention to the details of downsizing and the shaping of future
roles and missions will dictate what capabilities the Navy and
Marine Corps team will have to support United States national
security policy.  Recognizing potential training deficiencies and
changing the mindset of a blue water Navy will put increasing
emphasis on imagination to find ways to restructure but maintain
capabilities.  As the naval force is restructured to reflect the
concept of power from the sea, Marine F/A-18 strike-fighter
squadrons will experience fundamental changes in organization and
training that will effect their ability to support the Marine
Air-Ground Task Force.
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          From The Sea," September 1992.
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3.   Harringan, Anthony.  Letter to U.S. Naval Institute
          Proceedings, January 1993: 20.
4.   Hastings, Major Thomas M.  "A Marriage Made at Sea."  U.S.
          Naval Institute Proceedings, September 1992: 59-64.
5.   Heim, Lieutenant Colonel Alan P.  ". . . From The Sea:
          Steady As She Goes."  U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings,
          December 1992: 26-27.
6.   Mackey, First Lieutenant William J.  "Marine Air in CAG's."
          Marine Corps Gazette, January 1993: 7.
7.   Miller, Admiral Paul David.  "Doing the Job with a Smaller
          Fleet."  U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, April 1992:
8.   U.S. Marine Corps.  Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. "The
          Role of the Marine Corps in the National Defense, FMFM
          1-2.  Washington, D.C., 1991.
9.   Valentino, Major Anthony, Executive Officer VMFA-312.
          Personal interview about F/A-18 training while attached
          to the carrier air wing.  Beaufort, South Carolina,
          March 6, 1993.
10.  Vlahos, Michael.  "And the Politics of Change."  U.S. Naval
          Institute Proceedings, February 1992: 47.
11.  Weeks, Stan. "Crafting a New Maritime Strategy."  U.S. Naval
          Institute Proceedings, January 1992: 30-36.
12.  Weigley, Russell F.  The Aierican Way of War.  Indiana:
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